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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In a hurricane of media activity, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have been front and center the past few weeks inserting themselves into the culture wars of the moment. Sadly, instead of seizing an opportunity to actually do something positive for race relations, they are stirring a divisive pot.

This week, “Finding Freedom,” the highly-anticipated account of the former royal couple’s relationship was released, and it is about as measured as a Rachel Maddow soliloquy on President Trump. The authors, journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, pledge to not have interviewed the Sussexes, but according to the Telegraph, the book presents “a one-sided, highly biased, self-pitying account of the relationship” that blames the couples’ woes on the press, the palace and even institutional racism.


Last month, the Sussexes released a video apologizing for the “uncomfortable’ past of the Commonwealth” and whining about the handling of Meghan Markle’s suit against the publication Daily Mail on Sunday.  

Few could deny that Meghan was not cut out for royal service, but tragically, just when as the moment presents for her to lend her voice to benefit humanity, she defaults to Hollywood self-promotion.  

Beautiful and well-spoken, Ms. Markle was ideally-equipped to be the perfect post-modern, 21st century princess, and to weigh in positively on the divisive racial tension confronting us at the moment. As a biracial woman, fully-accepted into society’s highest circles, hers could have been a unique voice to provide real evidence of progress in the racial divide. Alas …

It’s hard to fathom the Duchess of Sussex comprehending the meaning to Britons of Queen Elizabeth II’s public addresses during the pandemic, or the historic link of the queen’s poignant “We will meet again” theme. Hard, too, to imagine her engaging in the kind of activities that Harry’s brother and sister-in-law, William and Kate, undertook such as Zoom-calling medical care teams to show gratitude or video-calling bingo to retirement home residents.  

By contrast, Meghan Markle seems better equipped for celebrity. By marrying Harry, arguably she’s moved up in that category. But once achieved, it seems that she had no sincere or lasting interest in her country-by-marriage and no aptitude for humanitarian service like her former fellow “working royals.” Unlike royalty, celebrities have no civic responsibility (though they frequently, foolishly meddle in politics, usually without credibility or qualification). 

Pursuing their personal agendas and fortunes, Meghan and Harry have chosen to put themselves in that celebrity camp, abandoning a more consequential purpose.

At the height of the global pandemic, the duchess engaged in court proceedings against the Daily Mail on Sunday in which she submitted documents to the court attacking the monarchy for not sufficiently defending her against negative publicity. Someone who has been in the public eye, as Meghan has, should know better.

Even before they left royal service, the Sussexes started down a path of personal political gesture that is anathema to a constitutional monarchy. The only American member of the royal family, Meghan, presumably in protest to President Trump, declined to meet the president of her native country on his official visit to Britain. (Not that he minded.) Considering the many times Queen Elizabeth, in furtherance of her diplomatic responsibilities, has had to meet leaders she found objectionable, and done so with grace, Meghan’s behavior is all the more regrettable.  

Having departed British shores, the Sussexes have started popping up to take divisive, rather than healing, stances in the contemporary culture wars. Back in July, Harry made a video, apologizing “… that we haven’t got the world to the place that you deserve it to be.”

Understandably, the Sussexes have hardly endeared themselves to a British public who cherish traditional royal service. By contrast, much of America has been delighted to accept the couple with open arms, spinning the fable that Meghan was cast out — not for her selfish personal failings that defy royal service — but rather, due to — wait for it — racism. Though not all of us on this side of the ocean are embracing of our American duchess.  

At the time of their wedding, Harry said, prophetically, “whatever Meghan wants, Meghan gets.” The wealth and privilege of the ex-royal-cum-social-justice-warrior couple is at odds with their current narratives, but they fail to see the irony. 

The great shame is that Meghan, warmly accepted into the pinnacle of British — and global — society, was uniquely placed to champion and advance the progress of race relations, but instead, has taken another path. Let’s hope that the next American catching the eye of a member of the British royal family has the qualities and motivation to make both nations proud. 

• Lee Cohen, an American columnist, is a fellow of the Danube Institute and a specialist on the U.S-U.K. relationship. For years, he advised the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.


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