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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend a Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in central London, on March 12, 2018.DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

It is rare to speak of monarchy and modernity in the same sentence, other than to underscore their inherent contradiction. The former is steeped in tradition and does everything in its power to preserve it. It acquiesces only begrudgingly to contemporary norms, such as, say, equality. But the savviest monarchs usually come around, if not out of enlightenment, then at least in the interest of self-preservation.

The longevity of the 1,000-year-old British monarchy stems precisely from its ability to adapt just ever so much when it needs to. There have been bumpy stretches, of course. But the British Crown rebounded from Charles I’s beheading in 1649 with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and has repeatedly repelled threats to its survival ever since. Change has been a constant.

Once, a long time ago, change meant surrendering absolute power and answering to Parliament. Later, it meant accepting various forms of religious accommodation. In the 20th century, it meant bowing to public opinion and becoming “working royals” who maintain an endless schedule of ceremonial and charitable duties in order to earn their keep.

The House of Windsor is only nine years older than the woman who has now led it for the past 69 years. Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather, George V, changed the family name from the German-sounding Saxe-Coburg during the First World War. Since then, the Windsors have modernized the institution of monarchy more than most of those who came before them.

Divorce is no longer an obstacle to inheriting the throne. Nor is lineage. The Duchess of Cambridge was a commoner before her marriage to Prince William. Kate Middleton was confirmed in the Church of England, though this was a personal choice and not a requirement to marry the future king. Succession laws were changed after Kate and William’s wedding to ensure female offspring had equal rights to boys.

The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, seemed, at the time, to have finally lifted the royal taboo on mixed-race marriages. Indeed, the Queen was likely much less comfortable with Meghan’s U.S. citizenship – memories of Wallis Simpson, for whom Edward VIII gave up the crown, loom large in the family, after all – than with the colour of her skin.

Now, however, Meghan’s assertion, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, that an unidentified member of the Royal Household expressed “concerns and conversations about how dark [her son’s] skin might be” has forced Buckingham Palace to address allegations that the Duchess of Sussex had been a victim of racism from the moment she stepped into royal shoes.

Meghan also told Ms. Winfrey that she had contemplated suicide while pregnant but had been denied support by the palace. And she accused the latter of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her while covering for the lies of other royals. Buckingham Palace, she implied, applied a double standard toward her and made her feel like an unwelcome interloper.

A palace statement issued almost 48 hours after Meghan’s interview was broadcast in North America said the “whole family” was “saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.” If that sounded a bit disingenuous – did no one in the Royal Household think to ask them before they fled Britain last year? – what followed did not. “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

Meghan’s harshest critics saw her interview as a desperate grab for attention by a B-list Hollywood celebrity who fears the clock is ticking on her 15 minutes. The decision to air the interview while a 99-year-old Prince Philip lies in hospital struck some as tasteless. But others saw a brave effort by Meghan to speak her truth, defend her son and husband, and effect positive change. I am somewhere in the middle, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It is never a bad thing to remind privileged royals from whence their legitimacy derives. In that respect, Meghan’s very public takedown of her in-laws, no matter what you think of the timing or packaging, may end up doing the Windsors a favour by forcing them once again to embrace change. No institution in society can survive without adapting to the times, and the times call for the British monarchy to finally address its colonialist, racist past.

At 94, the Queen is an expert at damage control. She has safely guided the institution she heads through seven turbulent decades amid rapid social change and arguably far greater challenges than those posed by Meghan’s interview. I doubt she is going to mess it up now.

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