ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

How did the Palace Fail to Protect a Black Family?

The job was just too hard

Photo by Antonio Pires on Unsplash

The highlight of my young life was marching in the coronation Parade. My hand clutched the Union Jack as I heartily sang God’s blessings on the Queen. Not every day you celebrate the crowning of a monarch who reigned over a quarter of the world. I’ve remained a royalist ever since. After Diana gave her interview intimating that Charles was unfit to be King, I was livid with her.

When the Sussexes announced their departure from England, I thought that it was ill-advised. As far I knew, Meghan was not involved in scandals like Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, Princess Diana, Prince Charles, The Duchess of York, or even the Duchess of Wessex.

Every royal has had their share of bad press but since their engagement, the Duchess of Sussex has three hurdles

  1. She is an American

Britain and America are divided by more than a common language. The English have a complex culture where understatement and politeness are used as weapons to dismiss, frustrate and annihilate.

A college professor who teaches in business school surprised me when she declared that despite the language difference, American students find it easier to adapt in the Japanese workplace than in the British one.

The British respect meal breaks and holidays. My American nieces consider it normal to be contacted by their bosses after working hours. Even if emails do not demand action until 9 am they could be perceived as harassment in England.

2. Her Family

Joining the Royal Family is not having a Lottery Win. It did not seem to matter that her paternal relations were not close enough to attend her previous wedding. It does not seem to matter that they have fractured relationships with other family members. Publicly demanding to be invited to a relative’s wedding was also distasteful.

Claiming that Meghan promised to look after her father did not show her father in the best light. Parents sacrifice for their children to give them a better life, not as insurance for old age. Children support their parents because they love them, not as repayment for services rendered.

The dysfunctional nature of the family grievance should arouse our compassion, not our judgment. However, these stories have given the press and the public pegs on which to hang their malice.

As a retired family therapist, I know that folks are not responsible for toxic family members but they cannot be unaffected by them. Most of us have a relative whose narrative of our shared history makes us doubt we are kin. If this family is as transactional as their behavior indicates, Megan would have been forced to make some difficult choices.

She did not earn a footballer’s income to afford to buy them homes and bankroll injudicious spending. Yet, she is painted as disloyal and ungrateful. Other voices addressing her warmth and kindness are not heard.

3. Her Race

In Britain, it is considered impolite to discuss money, race, or anything that makes people uncomfortable. It could be argued that when race and class intersect, people are more comfortable with class than race. Nevertheless, Meghan had a triple whammy. She was not local, her family did not behave well or from the money class and she was not white. Each on its own presents a challenge but each exacerbated the others.

Implicit bias is unfair but not obvious until challenged. During my first week in a new job, I went to the administration office to discuss transportation. A pleasant young man told me to go to the second floor. That was the wrong office. I returned and again asked for help. He blushed, apologized, rose from his chair, and showed me the way.

He had assumed that I was a non-professional worker instead of a manager. I laughed to put him at ease. Implicit bias is pervasive and destructive because, unlike this young man, most participants are unaware of it. These folks resent being called racists because they never set out to be unfair or mean to non-white people. They just act reflexively on assumptions learned with their bedtime stories.

During a visit to Nairobi, its rush hour traffic, so much heavier than in London bowled me over. African stories of mud huts and witch doctors molded my childhood. Drought and famine on the continent dominated the British media. These tales did not prepare me for the beautiful architecture and the bustle of a sophisticated metropolis.

There were huts when I went on safari. I did see poverty but I also found technology and enterprise. Fortunately, I recognized my bias and realized the effects of conditioning.

Hoffman, an African American, recently declined to join the TEGNA, Inc. Board Lougee, the CEO. Years before, Lougee, its CEO had crossed paths with Hofman at a business luncheon. They conversed congenially; then Lougee gave him his keys to get his car.

Before this incident, Lougee might have considered himself unbiased, but his action told the truth. This often happens. Good people could be racially insensitive without realizing it. The Palace is no exception.

How did they help their newest member?

We will never know for sure but I know that they missed several opportunities to assist the Duchess.

a. With so many resources at the disposal of the Palace, a cultural advisor should have advised Meghan that she should not appear too confident. She should never acknowledge that she did a great job. That is the role of others. She should avoid using words like “awesome”. It sounds phony to British ears except we are in Church.

I hope that she never suggested that she would reform the monarch or bring in the fresh air. If she did as her detractors complained, she should have apologized. That comment was unwise and pretentious. If she said nothing of the sort, why the negative story? Who gains?

After all, everyone makes mistakes. Even the royals themselves mess up.

b. The disagreement with the Duchess of Cambridge was a minor family matter but it did enormous damage to Meghan’s fragile public image. True or false, we had already heard the story of Meghan demanding a specific tiara.

The rumor that the selfish Megan made Kate cry was an opportunity missed to put the record straight. Kate recently had a baby and Meghan was perceived to be a bully. To watch the fallout and do nothing was negligent of the Palace.

c. This alleged disagreement with Kate supported the narrative that Megan wanted to upstage everyone. So it was easier to believe that she announced her pregnancy at the wedding of Princess Eugenie to take the spotlight away from the bride.

Palace officials are not incompetent so they knew that the criticisms of Meghan were very focused. They chose not to intervene.

d. Folks attacked Megan because they thought she disrespected tradition and arrogantly refused titles for her son. The Palace again remained silent. As a royalist, I’m forced to conclude that the inaction of the palace gave aid and comfort to Megan’s attackers.

e. Archie’s Title- He could have been a lord or an earl.

As the rules stand, the grandson of a king is entitled to the title of His Royal Highness. Why could not Archie be given a junior title to be elevated when his grandfather becomes King. Long may the Queen reign but she is ninety-five.

When Charles is King, Archie will be in the same position as Prince Andrew’s or Edward’s children. None of them is a Miss or Mister.

Princess Ann’s children have no title because Mark Phillips, their father refused one to the approval of the British then. Titles are not inherited from the females. To deny Archie a title and allow the world to believe it was his mother’s wish was disingenuous and dishonorable.

I believe Meghan when she claimed the Palace did not protect her

Harry and Megan are not perfect; but I wonder if these people of privilege, power, and property ever understood the effects of racism. The fact that they dismissed, minimized or ignored it is not surprising. They have never been victims. I’m sure it was a wake-up call for Harry too.

When the couple wanted to do less to reduce their exposure, the discourse was about them turning their backs on the country. They were disloyal. Not only did they not protect them, but they also made them targets.

I recall some protesting that William had taken too much paternity leave and hinting that he needed to step up.

There was even talk that the Cambridges have to raise their game with Megan on the scene. The portrayal of the Cambridges as paragons of virtue at the expense of the Sussexes seems well-timed.

Why is it a problem if Harry wants to do less for the time being?

The Duke of Windsor abdicated. He admired Hitler. He got a title and an allowance from the reigning King.

Their Royal Highnesses Beatrice and Eugenie are not working royals but have their titles. Why could the Sussexes not keep their theirs?

Lots of folks think that that they are whiners. Meghan should be grateful she married a prince. Some say that they should have kept quiet and not aired dirty linen in public. Yet, these were the same folks who praised Diana and Charles for their interviews admitting adultery.

Why should the Sussexes have needed to set the record straight and how should they have done it? I don’t know, but the Oprah interview helped.

The scores of negative articles unleashed in the British press immediately after it made the case of racism far more eloquently than the couple themselves. Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors denied racism in the press but has since resigned. If despite the paper trail, folks can still deny their actions, no change is possible.

When Prince Harry had a gap year in Africa, he returned with a girlfriend. He expressed surprise at the intense media interest. After all, she was South African but not black. William was with him when he got his Nazi uniform for a costume party. They were much younger, thoughtless, and naïve. The older generation of his family, I guess is even more so. Now, decades later, he actually has a bi-racial wife and direct experience of the pain of racism.

The comedian Dan Baker, who dressed a monkey as Archie, their son, crossed the line. That should have been a wake-up call to the palace. By their inaction, they sent the wrong messages.

During the Oprah Winfrey interview, I felt sadness and disappointment at the golden opportunities discarded. Few can imagine Meghan’s loneliness surrounded by deference but isolated from genuine conversation. It was a pernicious environment as she was uprooted from the familiar, exposed to relentless racist attacks while pregnancy hormones made her own body feel different.

The Palace could have done a better job of portraying the couple’s dilemmas. How refreshing if they had said that the racism was affecting the Duchess’ health and well-being. To do that would have validated Meghan’s claims and elevated the discourse of racism for the public and the Commonwealth. It would have reined in the press who criticized her for doing similar things as the Duchess of Cambridge.

Her clothes, shoes, tights went against the rules; yet the Duchess of Cambridge did the very same things with positive comments. They both cradled their baby bumps. Megan was slammed for it.

Obviously, the mission of courtiers is to protect the monarch and her heirs. The unfairness to others is collateral damage.

There was a rivalry between Princess Anne, Diana, and the Duchess of York. Maybe there is some competition between the wives of William and Harry. The papers who were critical of the Duchess of Cambridge and her low record of royal duties now laud her and spurn the Duchess of Sussex.

Prince Harry mentioned things worsened after Australia. Unlike the senior Duchess, who was very sick during her first trimester, the new, older Duchess had a successful tour. The Queen and her family are humans with the full range of emotions: jealousy, inadequacy, inferiority, envy, superiority, and pride.

Behind the scenes, there is a struggle between tradition and modernity; the needs of the Family and those of the Firm.

Against the backcloth of these stressors, this is a twenty-first-century love story. A prince falls in love with a black foreigner. The popular press condoned by the Palace persecuted her. He loved his country but loved his wife more.

By turning a blind eye to racism and allowing untruths to be unchallenged, what did the Palace expect a caring husband to do?

Diane would have been proud of Harry’s role as husband and so should his Dad.

I remain a royalist, but I hope the Duke and Duchess live happily ever after.

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Verbieann Hardy

Verbieann Hardy

Trying hard to be a Jesus follower. I write about life, spirituality, and relationships as I age with grateful grit. More about me at www.thirdactwriting.com.

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