Anne T. Donahue is the author of Nobody Cares.
Scrolling through Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, reading report after report that Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, might be moving to Canada, I felt like Sally Field clutching her Oscar at the Academy Awards in 1985.
“You like me!” I whispered to myself, careful not to betray my embarrassing joy to anybody nearby. (See: the cat.) “You really like me!”
Because that’s what this all means, doesn’t it? That out of every country in the world, they like us best. Maybe because of something you did. Likely because they want to be friends with me.
I’m obviously joking. But it’s easy to read into a situation when you have no real insight.
Outside of official interviews, royal biographies or coverage in Hello, we have no idea what Meghan and Harry’s day-to-day life actually looks like. We know that in October, Meghan sued The Mail on Sunday over claims that the publication unlawfully published one of her private letters to her father. We also know, as per her 2019 interview with ITV, that Meghan’s been hurt and stressed by extensive media coverage. And we know how gleefully the British press have stoked the belief that Meghan and Kate Middleton hate each other – that following Meghan and Harry’s wedding, Kate even caused a rift between the princes.
So what I’m saying is that we don’t know much; we know what we’re being told, and as humans with empathy, we know that should we find ourselves in a position similar to Meghan’s, we’d likely be profoundly unhappy. To be chased by the paparazzi can’t be enjoyable or healthy. Who wouldn’t want to move away from a mecca of nonsense and bow out of the royal spotlight? Who wouldn’t be thrilled to break royal protocol and choose a road to financial independence and a future of one’s own?
This is the stuff of real fairy tales.
Because where Meghan and Harry’s wedding was painted with endless princess rhetoric (particularly since Harry, a prince, was marrying an American commoner), their actual marriage seems to be turning into something far more exciting. From birth, so many girls are groomed to believe that their destiny will one day be met when they finally meet their prince. And while we’re starting to finally move away from such unimaginative, damaging (and heteronormative) narratives, to see real change – announced on social media, no less – is a necessary rewrite of what being a “princess” even means. Two years ago, princess-dom felt like the shot of Meghan walking up a cathedral aisle to greet her prince and exchange their vows. But today, it looks like an abrupt “hell no” to living within a toxic establishment, a reclamation of one’s self amid the mythos that accompanies the royal family. It looks like Meghan Markle getting to be a person, not a princess. It looks like a couple opting to a forge a new path instead of sticking to what’s familiar and expected. Ultimately, it looks new.
The old guard don’t seem to have much time for it, though. True to form, Piers Morgan took to Twitter to told-you-so about Meghan, claiming that on top of breaking up the entire Windsor clan, she and Harry were scheming “Kardashian-wannabes.” His fellow journalists followed suit, continuing their attack on the Duchess by claiming she was responsible for every problem within Buckingham Palace and ruining everything. (Which, ironically, proves Harry and Meghan’s decision right – since living under that senior-royal spotlight clearly isn’t wonderful.)
And, to an extent, I get it – change can be terrifying. Even when dealing with the smallest of adjustments, it’s tempting to descend into despair because growing is painful, and the familiar – while not always good – is constant and safe. So imagine the fear that likely extends to change within an establishment that seemingly transcends time. Or the fear that the monarchy likely won’t look the same over the next few years, and that to sustain itself and adapt to our changing world, it needs to lean less on taxpayers and use its power and influence to begin giving back to them. To some, this idea is absolutely frightening.
But it shouldn’t be. Ultimately, Meghan and Harry’s choice to step back has sparked the type of change in which everybody wins. They’ve begun to help dismantle an institution that often seems a historical relic. And they’re very publicly choosing to stop putting up with the nonsense, on their own dime and in their own way – a power move. If they get their way, and a happy ending, that will make it even more of a fairy tale.
Even more so if they really do move to Canada. Our two new best friends, who really like us.
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