Trigger Warning: suicidal thoughts
The week of the Meghan and Harry interview was incredibly draining for me. Watching and talking about #Megxit gave me an achingly empty feeling. At the time, I chalked this up to oversaturation of a topic that really has no substance. As Alistair Campbell discussed, the interview seemed only to entrench people further into opinions they had already forged. The situation only got uglier the longer it went on because, lets face it, conjecture can only get us so far. However, now that Piers Morgan has left Good Morning Britain, and a few weeks have passed, I believe I’ve processed the situation beyond a which-rich-person’s-side-are-you-on debate.
It was not lost on many women that the Meghan and Harry interview happened the same week as the Sarah Everard case came to light, as both represented issues of consent and misogyny. From the beginning, but especially after stepping down from being major members of the royal family, there has been speculation about Meghan’s intentions. Meghan’s divorcee status seemed to be bandied about as proof of her blackened moral character, as did her relationship with her father, and even her dealings with Piers Morgan. Meghan’s perceived amoral persona was used as a reason for her maltreatment, as if she deserved to be hounded by the press because she did not fit the picture of ‘moral woman’.
A lot of the arguments against Meghan in the malaise after the interview, were along the lines of ‘she should have known better’ or ‘she should have known what she was getting into’. How many times have we heard this said, or even thought this ourselves about a woman who was taken advantage of?
It is perhaps not surprising that the media who hounded Meghan Markle are part of the same culture which puts women on the stand to ask if they were drunk, provocatively dressed or ‘leading him on’. The implication that these things provide consent or prove that a victim is lying contribute to a culture of silence. The very same culture of silence which Meghan found herself in and led to her suicidal thoughts. Indeed, Piers Morgan’s defence after he belittled Meghan’s mental health was ‘I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report’, showing his role in upkeeping this damaging culture.
In fact, the toxic relationship between the media and the monarchy is perhaps best shown through the microcosm of Piers Morgan and Meghan Markle. Indeed, Alex Beresford telling Piers Morgan that Meghan Markle is ‘entitled to cut you off if she wants to’ is what made him leave Good Morning Britain forever.
And as the context of consent is applied to the situation, it becomes an increasingly apt lens to view the entire monarchy problem. Harry mentioned the special relationship between the press and the monarchy in the interview. He also described the monarchy as something within which he was ‘trapped’, and his father and brother are still ‘trapped’. It was almost as if, instead of talking about the richest family in the UK, Prince Harry was talking about escaping an abusive marriage.
There is an assumption that when in a position of privilege monarchs, celebrities, politicians then ‘owe’ the public something. Ultimately, what led Diana to her death was the tabloids belief that they were entitled to her body and her time. The relationship that the monarchy has cultivated between themselves, the press and the public is not healthy or consensual. Speak to a housewife from the 50s – a gilded cage is still a cage.