Since the world learned last week that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made the decision to “step back” from their senior roles within the royal family, become financially independent and split their time between Great Britain and North American, the public has been anxiously waiting for more details surrounding the news. The announcement, which is officially being dubbed “Megxit,” interrupts centuries of tradition and expectation. The royals gone rogue apparently took Buckingham Palace by surprise, and Queen Elizabeth is reportedly “disappointed” by the news.
There’s a valuable lesson in the couple’s decision to protect their family at all costs: Fairytale love stories don’t just happen. You have to create them for yourselves by saying “no thanks” to any foolishness or negativity that threatens your bond and choosing to go where you are celebrated not examined.
While Prince Harry reportedly met with his family to deal with the public and private fallout of this radical move, Markle retreated to Canada to be with their infant son, Archie. Coverage of this move by British media places blame on Markle for bending her husband’s ear to distance himself from the family. But those who have been paying attention have seen very different writings on the wall.
Since Prince Harry and his future wife began dating in 2016, there’s been both overt and covert racist undertones weaved into press coverage of their relationship. The Daily Mail took every opportunity to bring up Markle’s biracial identity – even praising how impressive it is for a descendant of slaves to hustle her way into the royal family. Lines like, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton” were enough to turn my stomach. The most vicious reports went so far as to use Markle’s own family against her – specifically with The Mail on Sunday publishing a handwritten letter Markle wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, detailing their personal rift.
These mean-spirited attacks have no doubt fueled Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to dramatically scale back their royal lifestyle and responsibilities. What’s been most disturbing to me, is how shocked others are that the royal couple has finally had enough. Did we expect Prince Harry to stand idly by while British gossip rags taunted his pregnant wife, and later the mother of his child? Did we think he’d just sit twiddling his thumbs while more and more articles dug into and mocked her past, conjuring up lies and drama? Would it have been better if they continued smiling and waving and complying, while TV commentators compared their son Archie to a chimpanzee? The couple chose to protect themselves in the truest sense of the word. Not only did the Duke of Sussex announce plans to take legal action against the crass gossip rags for their incessant bullying, but he’s also removing his wife and child from a life where their sense of safety and emotional wellbeing is compromised.
It’s important to note than Markle’s Blackness is not the only reason she’s been attacked by British media. As a 38-year-old divorcée, actress, American and a woman who is not of noble blood, trolls have deemed her unworthy of being with the prince. We watched Markle fight back tears as she told ITV News about how difficult it’s been to deal with the pressure while mothering a newborn. As anyone with experience being the only Black person in overwhelmingly white, affluent spaces can tell you, it’s impossible to be truly seen in these scenarios. Polished, poised, educated and charitable as Markle is, her Blackness will always be an impediment to acceptance. The thing white Britians just can’t see past. The thing that makes her just short of being “good enough.”
We all knew, Markle included, that trying times were ahead after she said wed Prince Harry in May 2018. She not only said yes to the man of her dreams, but to an institution rooted in colonialism, elitism and white privilege. While some hoped that Prince Harry marrying a Black woman signified that a modern, progressive future for the Monarch, they probably didn’t envision a change quite like this. Granted, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will always be famous. But what they’ve proven by writing their own rules is that toxic family curses can be broken. You can design the life you and your partner want, and you must distance yourself from anyone or anything that threatens your peace.
The couple is about to live out a real fairytale – one where they call the shots in their lives and refuse to subject themselves to the damaging consequences of being royal. Now that’s a happily ever after I can get behind.