DOMINIQUE SAMUELS: This clash of the Royals was about culture03/08/2021
DOMINIQUE SAMUELS: This clash of the Royals was about culture… NOT colour
Who can forget the goodwill that gripped this country in the run-up to the wedding of Prince Harry and his bride-to-be?
Among BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) Britons like myself, these feelings were all the stronger.
Many of my younger friends, who perhaps had had little interest in the Royal Family, were overjoyed to see the charismatic, mixed-race Meghan – a thirty-something divorcee with an established career – bringing a new dynamic to the monarchy, one far more reflective of the wider world.
I saw her as a force for good: a catalyst for modernising the Royal Family and a potent symbol of 21st-century change.
The Queen with Meghan Markle at the opening of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, in Widnes, Cheshire in 2019
What a shame that that early optimism now lies in tatters.
Today, less than three years after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex walked down the aisle, those hopes have been dashed amid explosive accusations of racism within and without the monarchy – racism apparently so entrenched that it became one of the driving factors behind the decision for the couple to abandon the House of Windsor and the UK.
The shocking claims made to Oprah Winfrey have found support among members of the black community on both sides of the Atlantic, with some well known black British figures saying they feel horrified by the Sussexes’ claims and endorsing the Duchess’s sensational allegations of racism towards her and Archie.
Yet despite being mixed-race myself, I cannot join in this chorus of outrage and finger-pointing.
For a start, there are the internal inconsistencies.
Meghan admits she was accepted with open arms by the Queen, who breakfasted with her, gave her pearl earrings and a matching necklace, and even shared a blanket with her to keep warm during a drive.
You cannot offer warm words for the Queen, yet in the same breath claim the institution she heads is racist.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who is joined by her mother Doria Ragland, show their new son Archie to the Queen and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle
Meanwhile, though there were some questionable headlines, the media – as newspaper archives attest – was largely welcoming when Meghan arrived on the scene.
Sure, some eyebrows were raised about her more eccentric family members. But her mother, Doria Ragland, a model of grace and dignity, has been widely admired.
There is no doubt that Meghan received some racial abuse from the nastier corners of social media. I was horrified by it myself and felt nothing but sympathy for her.
Yet everything I have seen suggests that the problem behind the collapsing relations between her and the monarchy lay not with her skin colour but more who she is: an ambitious, proudly independent Californian with very different values from the conservative and often stuffy institution that she found herself in.
However much the deeply protective Harry had sought to prepare her, what a shock it must have been for this actress and yoga-loving blogger – steeped in the wellness culture of LA and loud about her unbendingly ‘woke’ views – to find herself in an environment governed not by the cult of the individual but by tradition, service and duty.
Whatever Meghan’s aspirations, she was always going to find herself just one cog in a much bigger and more important machine.
That cannot have been easy for her – and it seems that it became harder to bear over time.
Whatever Meghan’s aspirations, she was always going to find herself just one cog in a much bigger and more important machine
Finally, in her determination to have her voice heard – and as a woman with an acute political compass – Meghan surely knew that throwing race and racism into the equation this week would spark particularly powerful emotions and inflict maximum damage.
Harry, too, could not have been unaware how explosive a claim of racism against the Royal Family would be, and how badly it would wound the institution and family he had rejected.
All BAME people in multi- cultural Britain have experienced both casual and overt racism.
But the vast majority of this country welcomed Meghan with open arms.
The clash between this Hollywood princess and real royalty was one not of colour – but of culture. Now the reverberations from that clash are echoing around the world.
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