How the chance to abolish the monarchy became an abused moment of fame.
When Harry and Meghan left the royal family, we all hoped that this would spark a new wave of criticism towards the immensely wealthy and powerful institution that is the monarchy. Unfortunately, that’s not how things played out.
From a young age, Prince Harry showed a humanitarian outlook and a desire for equality. After he met Meghan Markle, he gained the confidence to speak out about the monarchy. Their journey of exposing the royal family all began with an interview with Oprah Winfrey, where the couple made shocking statements outing the royal family, the issues they had with the system and why they ultimately decided to step back.
For example, Harry discussed that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born.” When Oprah asked Harry what he was specifically stepping back from, he gave the following answer:
“This constant barrage. My biggest concern was history repeating itself (referring to his mother Diana). And what I was seeing was history repeating itself, but far more dangerous because you add race in, and you add social media in….”
This controversial interview had great cultural influence. The interview made the world view the monarchy in a different light and lose respect for the system. Not only was the public prompted to view the monarchy differently, but the interview also made audiences question the monarchy’s ethics for the amount of power that they hold. After the interview went viral, Harry and Meghan shared more of their story, creating a media frenzy with the release of a Netflix documentary series and of course, Harry’s infamous book, Spare.
Personally, I’d held hope for Harry and Meghan. Their split from the palace seemed like a progressive step in the right direction.
Seeing a mixed-race woman in an influential position was exciting. Her mixed-race children would also become the first ever seen in the British monarchy. It was discussed in the couples’ interview with Oprah that their children’s skin tone was seen as an issue by the royal family. The couple shares progressive political stances and advocates for humanitarian causes. As the royals shared more similarities with the public than others in the royal family, they brought a fresh perspective to the monarchy and, thus, a critical opportunity.
Although much of the public was initially on Harry and Meghan’s side, the couple continued to convince us why we shouldn’t side with them. Instead of focusing on the damage caused by the monarchy, they concentrated on what Harry’s family had done to him and his family trauma. However, this “family trauma” didn’t seem any different to anyone else’s. He was bullied by his older brother and had arguments with his dad. In their Netflix documentary, he said that “it was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me and my father say things that weren’t true”. Harry seemed to centre his attention on his personal life and trauma instead of using the opportunity to critique the monarchical system. While his personal life is interesting and important, his focus on these details distracts from the monarchy and ultimately shows that he chooses to use this opportunity for media attention and personal gain. His voice is important in the theme of the royal family and knowing what happens behind the scenes of the monarchy. However, he focused on the theme of personal life and trauma of which most if not all people have experienced. Instead of focusing on his main campaign, which we thought was to expose the monarchy, he decided to use the spotlight to cause drama for further fame and money.
A recent episode put out by South Park accurately represents the U.S public’s attitude towards the couple’s sloppy mission. After gaining lower popularity ratings in the U.S than Prince Andrew, for Americans, the couple had clearly gone too far. South Park depicted their decline in popularity through satirising Harry and Meghan’s plight for “privacy” as a “Worldwide Privacy Tour”, mocking the sheer amount of interviews and magazine features they’ve taken part in. Furthering their dig at the couple, the episode also retitled Harry’s book Spare to “WAAAGH”, emphasising the patheticness of his attempt to play the victim.
The word “victim” not only appears repeatedly in the South Park episode, but also in the couple’s many interviews as an attempt by Harry to gain public empathy. However, I don’t think any public member would see a wealthy, powerful, influential royal as a victim. The public knows the monarchy and its history in creating and maintaining the slave trade and colonisation. The public knows the amount of wealth that the monarchy holds, most of which has been stolen. The public knows the privileges the monarchy has and the power it holds. We don’t easily feel sympathy for Harry, we don’t see him as a victim anymore than we see the next rich, white, straight, powerful, famous, male as a victim.
Harry’s book Spare could have been the critical element. However, this was the biggest disappointment as the publishers hyped us up to get click-baited. Rather than writing a politically strategic and progressive book, Harry wrote something similar to a teenager’s diary. His book seemed to share a rather unwanted insight into his life. He blamed his brother Prince William for petty arguments and fights, sharing his rather dramatic opinion that “Willy was the heir I was the spare”. He discussed how he had the smaller half of the bedroom they shared as well as sharing unnecessary details of his life that nobody asked for, like his first time story and how the “older woman” treated him a “young stallion”. Respectfully, no one cares.
Instead of discussing a new step in British politics or providing a nuanced critique of the monarchy, he chose to provide a detailed description of applying Elizabeth Ardern cream to his frostbitten “todger”, a memory that so fondly reminded him of his late mother. After the book was published, I’m sure sales for the cream dropped immediately.
Harry and Meghan’s exit from the monarchy was their chance to sell a sob story, using their experiences to foster reliability with the public. However, they ultimately continued to dig themselves into a massive hole. Harry’s deep anger from his childhood is granted from the horrific events he has faced. Still, he has ultimately attempted to differentiate himself from the rest of us and make us believe he had it more challenging. More challenging than for those who did not grow up in palaces or with lots of money and opportunities. What could have made progressive global political changes became a sad display of privilege and ignorance.
What should happen to the monarchy? Abolishment. The abolishment of the system would be a start to acknowledging its oppressive colonial history and bring an end to the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for the luxurious lifestyles of the royal family. The royal family who don’t seem to make any more positive difference than those who are not royal; like Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and many more influential activists. It would eliminate the old-fashioned idea of receiving power because of a bloodline.
The colonies under the British monarchy could become fully independent. A reform of the monarchy would construct a more democratic system.We would no longer have a constitutional monarchy in New Zealand. We currently have unelected leaders and representatives making important decisions about our country that do not live here. For New Zealand, abolishing the monarchy could mean starting fresh with a better political system with less hierarchy and more opportunity for a Pakehā and Māori partnership.