SARAH VINE: How ironic that when Harry called his Pakistani colleague the ‘P’-word, he said it was ‘without malice’
As the dust from that neutron bomb of an interview begins to settle, and the full extent of the fallout becomes clear, it seems Megxit has become even more divisive than Brexit.
To her many (predominately young) fans, ‘Meghan’s truth’ is gospel, a heartbreaking tale of loneliness and victimisation.
They are grateful to her — and Prince Harry — for ‘sharing’ their ordeal, and angry with the perpetrators of their suffering: the British Press, the Royal Family, her family, old people, anyone who even dares question their actions, let alone voice the smallest bit of criticism.
To others, myself included, what they have done is morally and ethically contemptible.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey
Not content with turning their backs on the House of Windsor and the Queen at perhaps her greatest hour of need, they have decided to thoroughly trash the place on their way out.
They have declared open warfare on Prince Charles, Prince William and their respective wives, knowing full well that those they accuse cannot — and almost certainly will not — speak their own respective ‘truths’, to borrow from the canon.
This is not Harry and Meghan ‘finding freedom’. It’s them finding scapegoats, someone else to blame for all their misjudgments — and exacting a bitter revenge into the bargain.
It is a prolonged and thoroughly egocentric exercise in two people throwing their toys out of their gilded pram at a time when so many are struggling in circumstances far more traumatic than theirs.
But perhaps the most shocking element about this whole saga is the way they have taken one of the most explosive and emotive issues of our time — race — and weaponised it to devastating effect.
The accusation of racism — intimating that a member of the family ‘raised concerns’ about the colour of Archie’s skin — is simply incendiary.
Especially since the accusation itself is so vague and seems calculated to do so much damage without actually giving any real context or sense of how, when and in what spirit the alleged remark was made.
Being accused of racism in 2021 is almost one of the worst things that can happen to anyone.
In this case, it is almost as toxic as the allegations hanging over Harry’s uncle Prince Andrew — and appallingly damaging in the eyes of the younger generation and, in particular, America, where Harry and Meghan were clearly aiming to find favour with this interview.
Yet what the couple conveniently failed to mention to Oprah was the moment in 2009 when Prince Harry himself was caught up in an imbroglio over race.
This was after video footage had emerged in which he called a fellow cadet at Sandhurst a ‘Pxxx’ and another a ‘raghead’.
So objectionable were his remarks — which came after revelations of his proclivity for dressing up as a Nazi — that Clarence House issued a fulsome apology.
Yet what the couple conveniently failed to mention to Oprah was the moment in 2009 when Prince Harry himself was caught up in an imbroglio over race
‘Prince Harry fully understands how offensive this term can be, and is extremely sorry for any offence his words might cause.
‘However, on this occasion three years ago, Prince Harry used the term without any malice and as a nickname about a highly popular member of his platoon.
‘There is no question that Prince Harry was in any way seeking to insult his friend. Prince Harry used the term ‘raghead’ to mean Taliban or Iraqi insurgent.’
In other words, he didn’t really mean it. It was just a bit of barracks banter. And maybe it was. Maybe the soldiers concerned didn’t mind at all; or maybe they did but couldn’t really say very much because, well, you know — it’s Prince Harry.
Point is, Harry more than anyone should know how these things can be misinterpreted. How certain things can be said ‘without malice’. These are human interactions. Complex, clumsy, messy and occasionally inappropriate.
If it could happen to Harry — albeit admittedly in his ‘pre-woke’ days, before Meghan showed him the way — then could it not also happen to whichever member of the Royal Family it turns out to be who allegedly voiced their ‘concern’ about Archie?
Maybe it really was an act of blinkered, bigoted racism, the final straw that drove the couple to flee for America (although if you think Britain has a problem, the U.S. is arguably worse).
Maybe it was just a bit of a crass, clumsy joke that came across really badly, an attempt to ‘reach out’, as Harry and Meghan like to say. Or maybe it was just a mistake, a moment of insensitivity that was quickly regretted.
What’s certain is that the couple have chosen to interpret it in the most negative way possible, and then use it — as they seem to have used so much of their brief experience as a royal couple — to take maximum offence in order to cast themselves, yet again, as victims of a bigoted, sclerotic system that had it in for them from the start.
And, in so doing, they have turned the ire of their fans — and, as far as I can see, most of the West Coast of America — on the Queen and the Royal Family, provoked a raging debate around the monarchy and race which is, quite honestly, bordering on the psychotic.
But the worst part is this: there is not a head of state today, or at any time, who has done more to foster love and understanding between people of different races and cultures than the Queen, with Prince Philip (still in hospital, lest we forget) by her side.
The Commonwealth of Nations is her life’s work, her undoubted passion, one thing above all others that she truly cares about.
When Meghan joined the Royal Family, she and Harry were given plum roles within that institution. Rightly, it was felt that to have a woman of colour representing the Commonwealth would be a great joy and delight.
Meghan Markle told Winfrey that the Royal Family had tried to smear and silence her
Indeed, Meghan mentioned the Commonwealth at some length in the Oprah interview, explaining how important it was for the people she met on her tours with Harry to have someone like her there, someone with whom they could identify.
The great tragedy of Harry and Meghan is that they had the chance, through their work as royals, to really bring about a difference. Meghan especially, precisely because of her background, could have been a true inspiration.
To not only reject that opportunity, but to seek to tarnish the reputation of the Royal Family in this way, knowing precisely the anger and division it would cause, is an act of malice I simply cannot understand.
The Palace’s response today was a model of restrained elegance. ‘The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan,’ it said, adding: ‘The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.
‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.’
Or in the words of Meghan’s new best friend, Michelle Obama, when they go low, the Queen goes high.
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