The Big Debate is a regular Badger feature which brings the spirit of competitive debating to the printed page. Two writers tackle a contentious topic, representing polarised views. They might not agree with what they write – on this page, they represent a viewpoint, not an individual. This week, they discuss whether Meghan and Harry are entitled to step down.
Issy Anthony – Comment Sub-Editor
I’ll start off by saying that I fundamentally don’t agree with the existence of a monarchy. I feel this may leak into my argument, although this may be a good thing. One of the reasons I have always found the existence of a monarchy weird is that as a child, I never dreamed of being a princess. It seemed tiring, and it saddened me that they weren’t free to be themselves, but instead had to follow some ridiculous standard of rules.
I think we often look at the royal family and their privileges, and wonder ‘why them and not me?’. But with Harry stepping away from royal duties, it has slowly become more clear to the public he is not doing this just because of Megan, but also for himself. Perhaps he grew up wondering, why me and not someone else?
Of course he should be able to leave if he wants to. He owes us nothing. To me, that is obvious, and I struggle to understand how people could feel differently. Our country is riddled with a classist system, and we seem to want to keep someone at the top of it. Why we idolise the Royal Family defeats me, and it seems to defeat Harry and Meghan too.
Even if, by some birthright, Harry did ‘owe’ it to the British public to stay as a royal, we have essentially pushed him out. The constant racist abuse aimed at Meghan in the media has been a disgusting display of the worst this country has to offer.
I recently saw a post on Instagram that has turned Meghan Markle into a verb-‘to Meghan Markle: to value yourself and mental health enough to up and leave a room/situation/environment in which your authentic self is not welcomed or wanted’. While meant as an empowering joke, they’re not wrong.
Why should Meghan stand by and allow this abuse to happen, when it was clearly so detrimental to her mental health?
In a statement released on the Sussex Official website from Harry, he states that Meghan had become ‘the latest victim of a British tabloid that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences’ and that he ‘cannot begin to describe how painful it has been’. How can we not sympathise with them? Truly, it’s a miracle they lasted this long.
Meghan gave up her life as an actress, moved to a different country and became part of a family with incredibly strict rules, all to suffer at the hands of the press because she was deemed ‘not good enough’.
If anything, this proves she truly married Harry for love, and not for the royal title, something that should be congratulated, not condoned. Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died when he was only 12 years old.
He states that his ‘deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happened when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces’.
The crazed paparazzi following the car are largely blamed for the crash that caused Diana’s death, and this clearly still haunts Harry to this day. He has to put the needs of his wife and child first, before the British public, and the lack of sympathy for this is astounding.
So not only was Harry’s mother harassed constantly by the media, his wife now is too, and to make matters worse, it is clearly coming from a racist place.
Let’s look back on the photo tweeted by Danny Baker of a man and woman walking, holding a monkey dressed in clothes, suggesting this was what the royal baby would look like.
A monkey is an infamous racist caricature, and he lost his job over the tweet, but unfortunately this was just the beginning of an onslaught of racist jokes made about Meghan over social media, and the tabloids’ attempts to find every detail of any ‘mistake’ she made, that when compared to Kate, she was often praised for.
It’s hard not to see this clearly has something to do with Meghan being mixed race, and truly shows the bigoted side of our country that has been growing recently.
Not only should we respect their wishes, we should be impressed by this courageous move
Even if Meghan had not suffered from the media, she and Harry should be free to leave the royal family, especially as they intend to be financially independent. Yet the disgusting behaviour of the public and the media means that it should come as no surprise that they want out.
Not only should we respect their wishes, we should be impressed by this courageous move, and hopefully it will lead to far less idolisation of the Royal Family, and a step away from this outdated tradition.
It is easy to understand why stepping down from royal duties seems tempting for Meghan and Harry, but in practice the complications may not outweigh the benefits. Not to mention the detrimental effect it may have on the monarchy. With their existence tied to royalty, is it fair to abandon the faith of many British people?
According to The Washington Post, Harry’s net worth is estimated to be around £39 million; mostly coming from inheritance. Meghan’s net worth is around £5 million, coming from her acting career. Ample to live a privileged lifestyle but still they will seek other occupations. Backlash is inevitable during their journey toward financial independence. A probable way they will earn money is through ‘selling access’ like many other celebrities. However, this raises concerns of hypocrisy. Though they have renounced their titles, they will still be profiting from them.
Disassociating themselves from the monarchy is more than difficult than it may seem. They said they value “professional income” but selling access to themselves can’t exactly be described as truly professional. Also, they will not switch to ‘normal’ citizen status in a heartbeat. For example, they will still have security provided for them, covered by a mandate from the British Home Office. Can they really split far enough from the royal institution to direct a real challenge to it?
Media mistreatment of the couple, particularly towards Meghan, has played a key role for their dismissal of the British monarchy. More than often the criticism has been very unfair and in bad taste. As stressful as it has been, I believe showing resilience is more powerful, it feels now as if the critics won in driving out their influence. The tension between the Sussex royals and British tabloid media has been one of the salient issues of 2019. The couple even sued The Mail on Sunday after leaking private documents sent by Meghan to her father.
Harry remarked more than once how he felt Meghan was becoming a victim of the media, as his mother did before her. Noble as this intention is to put his new family first, perhaps this decision could be counterproductive, especially in the short run. The backlash from the media and many fellow Britons has put them right in the spotlight they were attempting to avoid. In an already polarised nation, it seems insensitive to fan the fires of further division.
In dividing the nation and the Royal Family, the anti-monarch narrative has been growing. This rhetoric may not necessarily progress Britain. As one of the few European countries to still have a working monarchy, they can benefit from tourism and foreign interest in the Royal Family.
Millions in America currently watch The Crown on Netflix, an example of the significance of their image. In 2011, it was calculated that the overall profit the UK receives through the Royal Family generates around £160 million. The biggest spenders on royal tourism are the Americans, who travel across the ocean to visit castles that aren’t plastic – a major attraction being real monarchs still using them. They certainly play a role in stimulating the economy.
The British Crown has remained resilient for years, Harry jeopardising it may endanger its credibility. According to Robert Jobson, Royal Editor for The Evening Standard, not being a direct heir may reduce impact on the family. Nonetheless, his likeability in the public eye make him an important asset to making this money.
Harry and Meghan’s decision has sparked a debate on what role the monarchy has in Britain, and if after all they are still needed. The younger generation is ever-more sceptical of the role of royalty in 21 st century Britain. According to a Statista survey published in 2018, 25% of Britons aged between 18-25 oppose the monarchy.
Many firmly believe in the moral progress an anti-aristocratic rhetoric could bring to our world. However, there is a feeling that this spirit can be misplaced. The monarchy does not govern our laws and with a volatile political climate experiencing generational polarisation, is it wise to open these floodgates for speculation now?
For some across Britain, it’s almost an insult. In 2019, £2.4 million in taxpayer money was used to renovate their home. Although tourism generates more money, there is an intrinsic link between the Royal Family and its subjects within the taxation system. Benefitting from them before abandoning their post was sure to raise eyebrows. The people need to be considered; it is not a case for dismissing their needs – the comfort of privacy.
To marry into the British Crown, one must be wary of the level of increased responsibility and accountability. You would have thought Harry would have briefed her over the stresses of royal life before marriage. Economically and politically they are integral for stability.
Image credit: Firebrace