Harry & Meghan – A View from Down Under.

Last night, I watched Oprah’s infamous interview with Harry and Meghan. Harry and Meghan who? Of course, I don’t need to spell that out, do I?!! We all know exactly who I’m talking about.

Before you even ask where I sit on the matter, in typical Australian style, I’m going to state it straight up front. I support Harry & Meghan, and I also like the Queen.

I also want to say that back in 1981 when Prince Charles became engaged to this shy kindergarten teacher, Lady Diana Spencer, who was literally hunted by the press like the last deer on Earth, I was an impressionable 11 year old. The wedding took place the day before my 12th birthday, and I asked my mum and dad for the commemorative stamps. Meanwhile, I was frantically cutting up any magazine or newspaper clippings I could get my hands on, and was cutting and pasting them in a dedicted exercise book. While this may seem crazed and obsessed to the younger generation who didn’t live through the Diana era, it was all rather normal at the time. It’s what we did, along with wearing Lady Di blouses with the bow around the neck. I even remember that Gran had carted one of my poor friends off to the hairdresser to get a “Lady Di haircut”. My friend wasn’t really the Lady Di Haircut type, and has devoted much of her life to down to earth community service through Scouts. So, that gives some idea about just how crazed and obsessed we were about Diana. Certainly not everybody, but it was a phenomenon.

However, our generation didn’t just live through the royal wedding. We were also there when adorable Prince William was born, and particularly tuned in when Charles and Di brought him out to Australia in 1983 when he was just 9 months old. Back then, they were the ultimate “happy family”, weren’t they?!! Then, of course, Harry arrived. However, slowly but surely we were finding out that someone else had never left. Someone we didn’t even know. Shocking stuff. We see Diana in tears, or sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal. We see Diana and Dodi al Fayed on a luxury yacht. Or, maybe I wasn’t really paying all of that so much attention by then. That was 1997, and I was ten years out of school and had problems of my own. I had been living in Western Australia when I’d found out that I had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) which had somehow been there since my traumatic birth like a secret inner labyrinth. In July, I had surgery and flew back to my parents’ place in Sydney to recuperate. On 31st August, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed died in a horrific car crash in Paris while being pursued by the paparazzi. I remember the precise moment I heard the news. I was standing in one of my favourite ever book shops, Gleebooks (in Sydney’s Glebe) with a friend and he turned to me and said “Diana’s dead”. There was this moment. An understanding that the world had stopped, albeit only briefly, because in so many, many ways, Diana Princess of Wales somehow made the world go round.

I have tried to explain this Diana fever to my kids a couple of times. Of course, they couldn’t understand. I’m not even sure if I understand how one woman could have had such incredible appeal. We didn’t know her, but we loved her. Would we have laid down our lives for her? Probably not. However, would we buy a magazine with her photo on the cover? Most definitely, and I, too, am guilty as charged.

Of course, the greatest tragedy of Diana’s death was that her young boys lost their mum. That somewhere amidst this whirlwind of fashion, glamour, he said-she said, her ground-breaking acceptance of people living with HIV and how she put her own life at risk to prevent the use of landmines, we lost sight of the fact she was made of flesh and blood, and she was Mummy to these two young boys. Indeed, she was the only mum they had. We might have walked with them in our hearts as we watched those two young boys walk bravely behind their mother’s coffin with their father and uncle, but we didn’t know them at all. We weren’t there to pick up the pieces and help them get through it.

However, maybe each of us can do something to help Harry now. Help Harry who is now a grown up and has found his true love and soul mate in Meghan Markle, along with Archie and their baby girl whose on the way. The collective, or indeed the “unroyal we” over in the UK have a debt to that man. It was all very well for Charles and Diana to have had the mandatory two sons – the “heir and the spare”. However, they, we, whoever, can’t just throw him away now that William and Kate’s kids have knocked him off his perch. I’m not fully privy to the full scope of his charity work. However, Harry had clearly carved out a niche for himself with war veterans and the Invictus Games. He is really down to earth and lovely. So approachable. I’ll pinch one of Slim Dusty’s songs at this point: “I’d love to have a beer with Harry, cos Harry’s my mate.”

So, this means I’m pretty unimpressed (understatement) that they’ve cut off Harry’s personal security. Given the position he was born into as the son of the future king, compounded with all the hype surrounding Diana and all he went through surrounding her untimely dead, and how the tabloids are still hunting him and Meaghan like sport, this is something the UK needs to take care of. You can’t love him as a cute little boy and feel overwhelmed with grief when he lost his mother, and then throw him to the wolves. That’s what happened to Diana. After her divorce, her security was withdrawn and we already know what happened there.

It’s easy to sit here in my armchair all the way over here in Australia and have all the answers to their problems, and I’ll acknowledge that even writing this is distracting me from getting my own stuff sorted out. However, I felt I had to stand up and be counted.

Meanwhile, I haven’t commented on the race issue. Discrimination is a horrible and often insidious thing, and as a person living with a disability, I experience that myself. Half the time people don’t even know they’re doing it, and there’s no point turning a relaxing, friendly situation into a confrontation. However, I am also realizing racism is one of those things it’s very hard for me to get as a white woman. I can try to imagine what it would be like to be a “woman of colour”, but I don’t know. Yet, I can listen. I can think about the words I hear, and look around the world I live in and decide whether they ring true. I can also try to find bridges across these seeming divides, and find a humanity with more in common than all that tears us apart.

I also know how hard it is to reach out for help. What it’s like not to be heard, and go back deep inside our bunker to try to regroup. Work out your next move. However, I’ve never had to do that under the glaring, incredibly critical judgement of the media spotlight, and I’ve never been vilified like Meghan Markle simply for being there. Or, as she put it, just “breathing”.

As an Australian, I am part of the Commonwealth (despite being a Republican). I decided to write this post as a one woman protest. It’s time to treat these two precious, lovely people as human beings. That the press has no right to push anyone over the brink and to crucify people just because they’re royalty. Moreover, they equally have no right to vilify anyone, overtly or more subtly, due to their nationality, race or tone of their skin. Just leave them alone.

In all of this I am reminded of one of my all time favourite quotes:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

I understand this is a controversial subject, but I’d appreciate your comments. You are more than welcome to disagree, but please keep your comments kind.

Best wishes,

Rowena

10 thoughts on “Harry & Meghan – A View from Down Under.

  1. Stevie Turner

    The Institution does not like loose cannons sounding off and washing dirty laundry in public. That could be the reason why security was cut off. I’m glad they’re happier now in their new life. I’ll re-blog this as it’s a good post.

  2. Stevie Turner

    Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    I, along with millions of others, watched Harry and Meghan speak their minds on TV. Diana did a similar interview in the last years of her life. Hmm… The Institution does not like loose cannons …

  3. maxwellthedog

    Truth to tell, I spent exactly zero time listening to anything about this story. I have taken the Gone With The Wind stance: “Frankly, I don’t give a damn.” 😁

  4. scooj

    I find the the whole episode rather sad. The British press is as disgusting now as ever it was. No loyalty to anything beyond selling more copy. Worse still is the sheer hypocrisy of both royalists and republicans in so many of the narratives surrounding recent events.

    I like your compassionate and measured ‘protest’ and tend to share your views. I like the challenges that the interview has thrown up to the British people who are still inherently unconsciously racist. Good post.

  5. TanGental

    Tricky this, isn’t it? The fact this has led to that tit piers Morgan leaving our screens is a plus. As for all the rest, it’s sad and hardly surprising given what a dreadful construct the whole idea of being born into a life of service/servitude must be like. I do take issue with what I hope is the sloppy thinking of one of your commentators who seems to believe every single one of our 67 million citizens is unconsciously racist. Racism is a problem everywhere, we do not have any sort of monopoly. My own take is it is rather troubling that a lot of people are extrapolating from the feelings of hurt and assuming it is fact. I just don’t know. I do agree that the tabloids are a disgrace, but again every democracy who has a free press has a disgraceful set of tabloids. Or at least the many anglophone countries I’ve visited such as the US Canada Australia NZ etc whose papers I’ve read. There is a balance between freedom of speech and the right to have an opinion and offend and cancelling people because you don’t like what they say. I’d much prefer people didn’t hurt others but if it’s a choice between free speech and being offended then free speech wins for me.

  6. Tails Around the Ranch

    I’m with you on this one, Rowena. They are a lovely couple and particularly after losing his mother to a menacing press, they deserve privacy and respect. From the press, the family and the people of the Commonwealth as well as the world. I wish them a long and happy life together.

  7. suzannenewnham

    thanks Rowena for your compassionate article. I didn’t watch the interview for all the detail – just the headlines ever since Harry and Meaghan were first announced to the world. While I have never been smitten with royalty, the zeal of gutterpress and overbearing paparazzi have been prominent and nauseating – similar to the hounding of Diana. King Edward VIII abdicated for love, Princess Anne was treated bitterly by the press, rejected titles for her children to be a further step removed from the family’s clutches, and went on to forge an incredible life of hand-on charity work. As for the Queen’s sister Margaret – she was denied the love of her life to fit in with royal expectations and as a result happiness was never hers with disastrous consequences throughout her life. I wish Harry and Meaghan all the best, for continued strength, a long and happy life together, and with their children.

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, Suzanne. This interview has stayed with me, particularly where they were holding each other’s hands so tight at the gala performance that their knuckles had turned white.
    My mothers cousin lost a child and worked in the restaurant business and about 30 years after her death, he did a radio interview and spoke about how they kept the lights dimmed at the restaurant so so one could see they were crying.
    As much as they are royalty and have these extraordinary lives which seem so different to ours, we are all human and we have more in common than we expect. It i shard to keep in mind, but a truth.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  9. Rowena Post author

    That whole issue about freedom of the press is an interesting one, isn’t it! It’s what I love about blogging, which to me is the ultimate perhaps in freedom of speech. I have no editor. i can say what I think. Fortunately, what I think is more about calling out injustice and speaking up for equality and caring for people. I’ve gone soft. I’m quite glad we exported Rupert Murdoch and I view him as an ex-Australian and I believe he has American citizenship.
    It is easy for me to talk about how racism has improved over the last 20-30 years when I’m white, and I know how often I experience a lack of understanding about what it is like to have a disability, what it is like to be so vulnerable to covid. However, I remember how racist jokes used to be the norm and these are gone. I remember that dreadful British show: “Love Thy Neighbour” and we had “Kingswood Country” here. These shows wouldn’t go to air now.
    I agree with you that racism is everywhere, and there’s always an “us” and “them” to varying degrees. I guess this is also what makes St Paul’s command to “Love your neighbour as yourself” in Romans so radical. Or perhaps it’s easier to love your neighbour, but not the person from across the road, the other side of the tracks, which also takes us back to keeping up with the Jones’s …or not. I’m having trouble keeping up with the dog, let alone myself.
    BTW speaking of dogs, after dropping my daughter at ballet tonight, I spotted a dog walking along the footpath by itself and it looked lost and I think it was wandering onto the road. So, I pick the dog up and take it home, but leave it in the car due to our three. The dog had no collar. The other problem was that the local vets were already shut. The other compounding issue was that it was parent-teacher night. It was supposed to be via zoom. However, we couldn’t get all the log ins to work and so had requested calls on my mobile. So, we headed off with the dog to the only vet that’ open about a 20 minute drive away and I talk to two teachers in the car about stuff like talking too much in class and why she should be doing a higher level of maths and that she should be heading towards becoming an independent free-thinking woman and not just hanging out with her friends all the while with this random lost dog on my lap, which turned out to be a 16 year old maltese Shiatzu. Even compared to mellow Lady, this dog was docile and to be fair 7 x 16 should entitle her to lie on her red velvet cushion undisturbed except she it seems chose to wander off. We have a local Facebook group and I posted a photo of the dog there and hoped some frantic owner would be in touch. Meanwhile, we drove back to where we found her and thought we’d give the dog the opportunity to find its way home. She started wandering across the road and seemingly had no idea. We took her home and it was starting to look like she was going to be here for the night Then, bingo. I had a message. Turns out another lady had found the same dog on Sunday and she’d been staying with her for 2 days. She’d just dropped the dog back at 5.00pm and I picked her up at 6.00pm at the latest. Must’ve almost gone in one door and out the other. When we knocked on the door and said we had their dog, they said she wasn’t missing and had just come home. This dog was pretty quiet and could possibly just sleep on their bed at her age, but..
    Speaking of dogs, I have Zac on my lap under the keyboard, Rosie is asleep on the bed and Lady must’ve gone outside to bed, which is where I’d better head off to. I watched a pretty intense movie tonight about a tragic fire which took place in the Ghost Train at Luna Park in 1979. 7 people were killed…one adult and six kids. Awful.
    Anyway, I’m off to the dentist at the unRowie-like time of 9.20am after a filling fell out on the weekend.
    Hope you’re going well.
    Love & best wishes,
    Ro

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