Oh, what to believe after Oprah’s gobsmacker of an interview with Meghan and Harry?
Some things do ring true, like Meghan’s unhappiness. The royal family cannot be an easy institution to break into – especially if you’re a headstrong, vivacious, independent American used to having your way and speaking your mind.
If there is even a shred of truth in The Crown – and there's no doubt is – the royal family is about as welcoming as the Arctic tundra. Remember that episode where poor Margaret and Denis Thatcher are invited to spend a weekend at Balmoral and they’re iced out, ridiculed during games time and sniggered at when they get all dressed up for dinner and everyone else is in chunky cardis and just-off-the-moors trousers?
Even the queen, who by all accounts had a rapport with Britain’s first female prime minister at first, was sneery and cold. So in some ways, Meghan was lucky: she told Oprah the queen was “wonderful” to her in the beginning and even shared her lap-rug in the car on a chilly day of engagements.
But then so much went wrong and Meghan was driven to the brink of suicide. There were claims of racism, uncaring palace officials, rigid rules that robbed her of her identity and silenced her voice. And she had no idea any of it was coming – because she had no clue what the British royal family was all about.
It isn’t hard to believe Meghan had a rough time. Diana suffered too, trapped in a loveless marriage, her problems all but ignored until they burst so harrowingly to the surface. Princess Margaret wasn’t allowed to marry the love of her life because he was a divorcee and spent the rest of her life reeling between men and misery. Charles was forced to go to a boarding school where he was so unhappy the memories still haunt him.
As one British journalist put it, the royal family is so steeped in cruelty and coldness they’re lucky they didn’t all have their heads lopped off in the 17th century.
Yet it’s hard to believe Meghan didn’t do a stitch of research into the family she was giving up career and country for. She claims she didn’t, that growing up in Los Angeles meant the British royals meant very little to anyone. She knew they existed, of course, but that was it – she knew nothing about Harry, nothing about protocol. Heck, she had no idea she had to curtsy when she met the queen!
Sorry, Meghan, it’s difficult to buy. You were pictured sitting on a wall outside Buckingham Palace when you were a kid – you knew enough about the family to know they were a big deal. And you did no research – none at all? You were giving up everything for this man; surely you at least typed his name into Google? Read up about his family? Knew about Diana?
Americans can be very head-in-the-sandish, but a woman like Meghan, smart, driven, ambitious, would surely have done her homework. Harry may have his charms, red-headed imp that he can be, but surely Meghan wasn’t so lovestruck she didn’t do some delving.
One thing is not in dispute though: the Oprah interview has thrown the royal family into major crisis. Some are questioning whether the monarchy survive. The best of the bunch right now is the queen – and she’s 94.
What will England be left with when she’s gone? Charles? He may have a way with plants but as a king he’s about as appealing as a bruised cherry tomato.
William is okay but there’s no way his dad will step aside for him. And by the time Wills does ascend the throne, what will be left?
It’s not hard to imagine that one day in the not-too-distant future, the royal family will be as memorable as, say, the royals of Belgium. They’ll still be there, probably, but people will find themselves asking, “who’s the king again?” Especially the Americans.