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.