Meghan Markle & Prince Harry’s step back into private life

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to walk the world in more independent shoes

Meghan and Harry's news came as a surprise for everyone—including the Queen.

If you’ve scrolled through social media recently, you’ve probably heard about Harry and Meghan’s announcement. If not, I’m about to fill you in on all the royal drama.

On Jan. 8, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, took to their official website and Instagram to announce their plan to “step back” as senior royals and “carve out a progressive new role” in the monarchy. In their statement, the couple outlined their plans to divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America, focus on their family, become financially independent, and launch their own charitable venture.

The news came as a surprise for many—including the Queen.

After the couple made their announcement, Buckingham Palace released a statement, which reads, “Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

If you don’t understand all the fuss about Harry and Meghan deciding to take a backseat in the Royal Family (or if you don’t understand the Royal Family in general), fortunately, I’m here to break it down for you.

Harry and Meghan’s relationship is one filled with many firsts for the Royal Family, for a variety of reasons. First off, Meghan is a biracial American, making her the first African-American woman to be married into the family. Before meeting Harry and becoming the Duchess of Sussex, she was also a small-screen actress, philanthropist, and divorcée. While King Edward VIII was the first member of the Royal Family to marry an American divorcée  (when he married Wallis Warfield Simpson in 1928), and Prince Charles married divorcée Camilla Parker-Bowles back in 2005, for some reason, the royals and Britain seem particularly upset about the nature of a union like this when it comes to Meghan.

The Royal Family has always been under the microscope of the British tabloids, but the British tabloid press has been particularly critical of Meghan Markle for quite some time. Typical headlines criticize Meghan for “breaking” royal protocol: from not wearing pantyhose to sporting dark nail polish, to more serious comments related to her race, independence, and perceived American nature. When compared to the press of Prince William’s wife and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and Camilla Parker-Bowles, these critiques of Markle clearly have racist undertones.

In the couple’s 2019 documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan explained that the tabloids were negatively affecting her, implying that media attention has had detrimental effects on her mental health. When Meghan brought legal action against one of the tabloids in October, Harry likened Meghan’s treatment to that of his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident while trying to escape the paparazzi in 1997.

Instead of choosing to focus on all of Meghan’s achievements prior to joining the Royal Family—such as her successful acting career and various charitable endeavours—the media has decided to delve into private topics like her past divorce and her estranged relationship with her father. In lieu of celebrating a woman with a diverse set of skills and experiences, the British press continues to uncomfortably grapple with the fact that somebody ‘different’ has entered the beloved Royal Family.

The cowardly attempts of the tabloids demonstrate that they will do anything to restore a sense of normalcy and tradition. After months of these attacks on Meghan, her background, family, and character, I wasn’t shocked by the royal couple’s announcement. And I’m happy that Prince Harry is standing by his wife and questioning restrictive, damaging traditions. 

Meghan had to sacrifice a lot to marry Harry, from losing her privacy to being subjected to vitriolic attacks in the media. Perhaps it’s his turn to make some sacrifices.

On Monday, the Queen approved of Harry and Meghan’s decision after a crisis meeting of senior royals. Although her public statement explained that there will be a “transition period” before the couple can see their plans through, the statement said that she “respect[s] and understand[s]” their decision to lead an independent life.

Meghan Markle proved that fairytales really do come true by finding true love with a prince, but since becoming duchess, she has spread a far more important message—one of resilience. She’s proved that, sometimes, you have to trade in tradition and expectations for the best interests of yourself and your family.

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