If you didn’t watch Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan last night, you were likely doing everything in your power to avoid it. Turn off social media, avoid the news, definitely avoid blogs, and refuse to speak to anyone for a couple days and – if you’re lucky – you might avoid being forced to engage with the royal family. Otherwise, congratulations, you’ve found more royal family content! To be honest, I feel like slapping myself for caring, for tying myself up in an elevated drama that is, ultimately, not unique in any way. Then again, that’s exactly why I found myself so riveted. Because if last night’s therapy session/product launch/gender reveal party told us anything, it’s that the royal family is, distinctly, not special.
Are Harry and Meghan Sincere?
Your read of Harry and Meghan’s trustworthiness is primarily rooted in your concept of human nature. If you think people are motivated by greed and power, you saw a masterful manipulation by an already powerful couple to amass even more influence. They cynically used their story of trauma to launch a lifestyle brand. If you think people are motivated by a desire to be good, you saw a wealthy and powerful couple trying to use their influence to help others. They admirably transformed their traumatic experience into a mental health foundation, while shedding light on corruption.
In reality, the truth is probably closer to “all of the above.” People are a tangled knot of motivations, desires, and dreams. Last night’s interview put those contradictions center stage. Meghan looked directly into the camera and told the entire world about the time she “didn’t want to live any more.” She told us about the racism she experienced, how she begged for help and didn’t get it. She talked about losing her child. Only a sociopath could intend anything less than vulnerability in these moments. Conversely, the couple launched a lifestyle brand last night. They wove a narrative in which they were the heroes and Harry’s family were villains. They made serious accusations and gave no receipts. The couple traded one form of royalty for another while ensuring they would remain extremely rich. What an absolute mess.
Why Does the Royal Family Exist?
Officially, the Queen is both the Head of State of the Great Britain and Head of the Church of England. Practically, she and her family appear to be the primary source of content for the British tabloids as well as the source material for a popular Netflix show. (The Crown, in turn, is primarily a show about how cruel and ruthless the royal family is.) As a Catholic, I’m not immediately opposed to ceremonial figureheads. I understand that adulation is part of human nature. What’s confusing is that the royal family seems to be uniquely terrible at their assigned role.
The royal family has more to do with tabloids than with the Church of England. The clothes they wear, the details of their weddings, their romantic affairs, and the way they spend their vacations, are all more important than their job. (Allegedly, they do have an actual job.) In its current form, the royal family is nothing more than the Official State Tabloid Fodder of Great Britain. It’s a depressing and, frankly, insulting charade.
Why Do We Care?
Ultimately, there is no need for anyone to care about the royal family. Meghan and Harry have everything they could ever need and more than any of us ever will. The isolation, depression, racism, and emotional abuse they experienced is not unique to them. But it’s that commonality that ultimately makes them so engaging. Because when we look at a Prince and a Princess and see ourselves, it allows us to tell a story in which we too are important. Our little squabbles with our in-laws, our depressive episodes, our difficult marriages, are themselves the stuff of fairytales. Or at least we want to believe they are. This, more than anything, is why the institution of the monarchy has endured for so long. Elevating our experiences allows us to process them fully. But this is the role of art, not of monarchy.
The royal family has outlived its purpose, and in its place are just regular people fumbling around for meaning. We don’t need a royal family, as much as we may want one. It’s time to let it go.