There’s been a royal storm brewing – both in the media and behind palace walls – and there’s no sign of it abating anytime soon. In less than two months we’ve seen the public fallout from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah blockbuster interview and the death of Prince Philip at age 99. On Tuesday, Vanity Fair dropped it’s May cover story, “The Royal Family’s Continental Rift,” which delves into the intricacies of a family allegedly at war with itself.
Ever since Harry and Meghan officially decided to step back from royal duties in March 2020, the British tabloids have run amuck, fanning the flames of #TeamWilliam vs. #TeamHarry (or, more frequently, #TeamKate vs. #TeamMeghan) in a shocking display of rampant racism and misogyny. If you went by the tabloid narrative, Meghan is single-handedly trying to bring the royal family to their knees. She’s been accused of creating a divide between William and Harry (why? who knows.). She’s been called a gold digger, even though she was worth $3 million before she even met Harry thanks to her successful run on the legal drama Suits. She’s been blamed for everything, up to and including Prince Philip’s death (he was almost 100 years old, people!).
Now, Vanity Fair is doing a deep-dive into what actually happened between Harry and William, as well as Meghan and Kate. (Well, as much of a deep-dive as one can manage when it comes to the tight-lipped and private royal family.) Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from Michelle Ruiz’s reporting:
The lack of public support for Prince Harry
Something interesting that may have gone over a lot of our heads: although Meghan has received plenty of public support from friends such as Jessica Mulroney, Serena Williams and Lindsay Roth, Harry hasn’t received the same treatment from his own circle of friends. The reason: many of his boyhood chums are also on close terms with William. The side effect of siblings close in age (Harry turns 37 this year, while William is 39 in June) means a lot of shared friends and divided loyalties. As Ruiz notes in her Vanity Fair piece, you can’t go against one or the other, especially when one is going to ascend to the throne one day.
The conflicting public personas
Anna Pasternak, author of The Real Wallis Simpson: A New History of the American Divorcee Who Became the Duchess of Windsor, told Ruiz that the glamorous and popular Harry and Meghan “made the Cambridge’s [William and Kate] seem dowdy, suburban, and rather dull. That does not go down well in the palace.”
This harkens back to Princess Diana’s infamous 1981 tour of Wales where she overshadowed Prince Charles to the point that the heir to the throne was softly booed by some of the crowds. Diana, who used her charm, wit and empathy to relate to everyone she met, wasn’t rewarded for helping to modernize the royal family. In fact, all her hard work resulted in the silent treatment from Buckingham Palace.
As Ruiz writes in Vanity Fair, “The royal family demands duty from the women who marry in – to relinquish normal life (and their passports, according to Meghan) in service of the Crown. But if they’re too sparkly, the palace, like a sullen teen, gets jealous and resentful. It’s a no-win predicament familiar to women, and women of colour in particular: You’re either too much or never enough.”
William and Harry are like Charles and Diana
There’s the old adage that we all ultimately become out parents one day. This has already become demonstrably true in the case of William and Harry. As heir to the throne, William is all about upholding long-standing traditions, much like his father Charles. Harry, always the more rebellious of the two, mirrors his mother Diana’s spirit and desire to move away from the royal family and all the constraints and rules that come with it. As a result, Harry has paid a far larger price for his actions in the eyes of monarchists and Brits who uphold tradition.
An uncomfortable silence around global movements
When it comes to their philanthropic efforts, the royals remain tight-lipped on large global movements. Ruiz interviewed Kenya Hunt, author of Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonging in the Age of Black Girl Magic and deputy editor at Grazia UK, asking what she thought about the fact that, unlike Harry and Meghan, William and company kept silent on Black Lives Matter. “How does a conversation about racial equality and diversity jive with this institution that boils down to a single white Protestant family?” Hunt says.
It also begs the question as to why, when William has spoken out against racism in sports in the past, he hasn’t done so when it came to the racist tabloid attacks against his own sister-in-law Meghan – not to mention baby Archie who, upon entering this world, was immediately likened to a chimp by a since-fired BBC Radio host.
Public opinion remains divided
Following Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview, a UK-based public opinion poll revealed that 36 per cent of Brits still support the queen and the monarchy while 22 per cent sympathized with Harry and Meghan. However, only 16 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds back the Crown compared to a whopping 60 per cent of people over the age of 65.
Read the full Vanity Fair cover story here.