The Crown Loses its Brightest Jewels


Kelly Christ, Opinion Editor

On Jan. 8, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their plans to step down from their obligations as senior members of the Royal Family to take on a “progressive new role in the institution.” In a statement posted to social media, the couple vowed to maintain their “duty” to the Queen while seeking to become “financially independent.” Their decision represents a crucial moment for the royal institution. The monarchy, if unyielding to change, cannot survive in modern society.

Prince Harry has always been seen as the wild child of the British royal family, creating controversy and filling British tabloids with scandalous headlines. Infamously dressing as a Nazi at a costume party in 2005, partying with Kanye West in 2007, and being photographed naked in Las Vegas in 2012, Harry has been something of a black sheep in the family. Despite these antics, Harry has long been adored by fans of the royal family. A recent poll named Prince Harry the second most popular member of the family ­— only behind the Queen herself.

Born in 1984, the Duke of Sussex is the son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana’s tragic death in 1997 when Harry was just 12 rocked the Royal Family and the global community as a whole. Much of the British public blamed the invasive media for Diana’s fatal car accident, as aggressive paparazzi followed her car before the crash. This forever changed the family’s relationship with the media, especially Diana’s sons Harry and elder brother William. At the televised funeral for the Princess, a young Harry collectively broke the hearts of everyone watching as he walked through the procession, at the smallest stature by far, carrying a note addressed “Mummy,” which he left on the casket. Since then, the general public has always had a soft spot for Diana’s boys.

To this day, Prince Harry’s life represents the heart of a son following the footsteps of his mother. He served ten years in the Armed Forces, with two tours of duty in Afghanistan. The Duke of Sussex remains dedicated to his military community, bringing public awareness to the need to aid veterans in their transition to civilian life and creating the Invictus Games, a sporting event with a goal “to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect of all those who serve their country.” He continues his mother’s legacy of philanthropic efforts towards HIV/AIDS, creating a charity for orphans in South Africa and making the controversial move to take a live HIV test on Facebook in 2016.

Harry’s courage and dedication to his philanthropic efforts are what keep Diana’s spirit alive. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that he fell in love with the Duchess of Sussex. Though most well-known as an actress, social activism has always been close to her heart. In many interviews, Markle recalls sending a letter to a company in protest of an advertisement that used sexist language to promote its dishwashing product when she was just 11 years old. Like Harry, she is unafraid to take on stigmatized issues. In one instance, Markle wrote an article for Time Magazine after a trip to India entitled “How Periods Affect Potential,” where she criticized the stigma around menstruation and how it affects female educational opportunities.

The way that Meghan Markle has been treated in the media, especially in the United Kingdom, is disgraceful. One recent article published by Vox highlights some of the worst examples: one Daily Mail headline read “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton” and the BBC reporter who was fired for comparing the couple’s son, Archie, to a chimpanzee. In one heart-breaking interview from last fall, Markle holds back tears after the reporter asks about her health amid the public scrutiny, saying, “Thank you for asking. Not many people have asked if I’m okay, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

Ultimately, the royal family failed to protect Meghan and Harry from this cruelty. Perhaps the institution’s history is inescapable. After living through what happened to his mother, Prince Harry’s patience with the media was practically gone even before he met Meghan. If the monarchy was not able to make up for its past mistakes and let history repeat itself, he will not leave his family in the line of fire.

The monarchy must change if it wants to maintain a place in modern society. Harry and Meghan’s decision is a turning point that they must successfully adapt to. The vicious scrutiny Meghan faced, in particular, undoubtedly contributed to this decision. While this is a lesson for the monarchy, it is also a message to the public. The legacy of racism and general intolerance that is imbued in the institution cannot stand any longer. Harry’s decision to marry a woman he loved, who happened to be a biracial American divorcée, was controversial on all levels to the British public but proves to be a love story worth celebrating.

One day, Harry’s brother William will become king. Just like Harry, the Duke of Cambridge is his mother’s son: he served seven years in the British military, married his college sweetheart Kate Middleton and remains dedicated to carrying on his mother’s activist legacy. William, Harry and Kate joined to develop Heads Together, a charitable organization for mental health outreach inspired by William’s own mental health struggles after Diana’s death. Also, like his brother, William frequently takes a stand against aggressive paparazzi to protect Kate and implements many efforts to protect the privacy of his three children. Prince William represents a new chapter for the monarchy, and he is a sign of hope that change is in the future.

When it comes down to it, the decisions of the Duke of Sussex place the well-being of his wife and son above all else. Knowing what his mother had to go through, it should be no surprise that this remains his highest priority. As Harry himself explained in a recent documentary, “If anybody else knew what I knew — be it a father, be it a husband, be it anyone — you’d probably be doing exactly what I’m doing as well.”