It’s been two days since the Television Event of the Year, hosted by Oprah and starring Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Prince Charles stepped out today in London to visit a vaccine clinic and was reportedly in good spirits. And the photo op was…interesting:
Not a surprise. But also this is the British royal way, some might even say the British way, period: Keep Calm and Carry On. They know how to do this, they’ve been trained to do this. Which is one of the things Harry talked about with Oprah – specifically in this context. They smile for the cameras, automatically, they do not betray their feelings. Feelings are secondary to duty and appearance. For some, this is a noble approach and here, on this occasion, as Charles had committed to visiting with frontline staff and the public who are being inoculated, certainly his feelings and whatever drama is happening within his family, is secondary to making the people he was meeting feel seen…although, you know, some would point out that it could seem as though he’s now using Black people as props after Harry and Meghan talked about the racism within the family.
So is this going to be the official British royal response? Just…not say anything at all and surrounding themselves with BIPOC? And hope that people forget about it and move on? Charles was actually asked about Harry’s comments during the event; he said nothing but reportedly “chuckled”. Now there are interpretations about what that chuckle actually meant. Was he actually laughing it off, like it was no bother to him, like Harry’s hurts can be swept away? Was he laughing at the media for thinking he’d actually answer questions about something of that magnitude while walking from one door to the other, as if it were just someone wondering what he had for lunch? Or was he laughing because this family is awkward as f-ck, and sometimes when people are uncomfortable, they laugh?
While Charles and other royals might be playing at the keep calm façade right now, there is no way that there isn’t all kinds of tension behind the scenes. As I posted about yesterday, Harry told on his family, he dunked on his family, and there are a lot of royal historians saying that this is the British monarchy’s biggest crisis in decades. Especially because Harry’s subtly called into question his family’s transparency and his father’s leadership skills. Either way you look at it, Charles is in some heat. If you are not a fan of Harry, you might say that he’s gone rogue – and that’s on Charles for not being able to keep his inner circle orderly. If you believe Harry, then Charles has caused his own child pain and disappointment, which could be seen as a reflection of his parenting. After all, that’s what women are accused of all the time, non? That’s when we hear things like “what kind of a mother…?” tossed around. Harry has implied that Charles has assumed much control of the institution and that this institution had no interest in protecting a baby and a pregnant woman, while it continues to protect a member of the family who was associated with a dead rapist pedophile.
Remember, during the interview with Oprah, when talking about the institution’s refusal to publicly stand up for Meghan, even as 70+ female members of parliament wrote a letter calling out the British tabloid media’s harassment of Meghan, the Sussexes point out how the Firm was willing to lie to shield certain members of the family while not being willing to tell the truth when Meghan was being maliciously maligned. They didn’t have to say it but for most people watching, one name came to mind: Prince Andrew.
That’s going to be the challenge while the British royals consider their response to what was said in the Oprah special – and whether or not they choose to respond at all. Because even if they cherry-pick specific accusations to address, from racism to a failure to help with Meghan’s mental health, on the heels of them declaring that they’ll be investigating themselves about those suspect bullying reports (as if an institution can actually conduct a fair investigation internally), it opens up the door for critics to be like…oh, so have you dedicated the same resources towards the matter of Prince Andrew’s association with a sex trafficker?
People in the UK have been waiting for a palace response even before Oprah’s special was over. Early yesterday there was word that they were working on it but that it wouldn’t come before today. Right now, as of this writing, there are rumours that it’s coming before EOD …which is just about now in England. Because, of course, if they do want to make a statement, they’ll make sure it’s in time to get into the print edition for tomorrow’s papers. Should there be a statement today, my guess is that it’ll be in line with how these royals always go about their business – nothing fresh, sticking with the usual game plan, which is getting ever more archaic. Because a statement today or even tomorrow doesn’t leave much time to bring in a fresh pair of eyes, like a crisis management specialist or specialists.
Would they even consider outside crisis management? Like how corporations and celebrities consult with crisis management teams? That in and of itself would be so off-brand in their own minds. These are people who keep fortresses around themselves.
But it is a new world now. In this new world, the future king’s youngest son has told the world that his family is afraid of the Daily Mail. And I keep bringing this up because it strikes at the core of British royal identity. After all, this family expects people to curtsey and bow in its presence. Think about that. Oprah was getting at this during the interview – that there are rules, even among insiders, like in private (!), where one member of the family has to dip and bend for the other. In public then, they’re out here demanding that regular people like us bow and curtsey. I say “us” because I’m writing to you from Canada and technically, the Queen is my head of state, so if I were to meet her I’d have to do the thing and curtsey to someone who heads up a family who is, according to one of its members, AFRAID OF THE DAILY MAIL. How do they reconcile this disconnect?
It’s going to take a lot more than 48 or 72 hours of strategy. And what is this strategy? Are they frantically trying to dig up or fabricate more dirt on Harry and Meghan? Or will they actually be doing the work of trying to evolve their brand so that it can meet this moment and continue beyond it?