Editor’s Note: Peggy Drexler is a research psychologist and the author of “Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family” and “Raising Boys Without Men.” She is at work on a book about how women are conditioned to compete with one another. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers. View more opinion on CNN.
Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, have announced they’re stepping back from — and essentially quitting — their roles as senior members of the royal family. As part of that move, they’ll spend some of their time in North America and “work to become financially independent.” Who knew that was even an option?
Queen Elizabeth has yet to give the couple her blessing, CNN understands. Still, in a statement that the couple released on their Instagram, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex assured the world they would continue “to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.”
Nothing to see here but a modern, young couple looking to build a life together on their own terms. Right?
Not according to the popular British media, which has put the “blame” for the exit — disdainfully dubbed by some as “Megxit” — squarely on Meghan, just as it’s blamed her for everything else that they grouse has gone royally wrong since she came into the picture.
According to the tabloids, it’s Meghan who helped foster the alleged rift between Harry and his brother William. They’ve blamed Meghan for allegedly failing to get on with her sister-in-law Kate Middleton. And, the tabloids would have us believe, Harry has reportedly deserted all his old friends and become “more private and withdrawn” to spend more time with Meghan’s “Hollywood friends.”
Inside the Royal family
Now it’s widely speculated that Meghan is the one who hates it in England, who wants to move back to California or Canada. The press has described the move — Meghan’s move — as selfish.
Is it any surprise? Whenever men don’t behave as we’d like, who better to blame than the wives? Just consider the popular comparisons on social media likening Meghan to Yoko Ono, whose romance with John Lennon was widely blamed for breaking up The Beatles. Just look at Angelina Jolie, who bore the brunt of the blame for Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s divorce. Quoting “a source,” Page Six reports that Meghan has “taken total control” of Prince Harry’s life, as if he weren’t a grown man and former captain of the British army.
“People say I’m too critical of Meghan Markle,” tweeted commentator Piers Morgan. “But she ditched her family, ditched her Dad, ditched most of her old friends, split Harry from William (and) has now split him from the Royal Family. I rest my case.” And we asked for your opinion … why?
Which brings us to the question: Isn’t this what Britons wanted? From the moment Meghan and Prince Harry announced their engagement, the media has blasted and belittled her, hardly ever forgetting to identify her as a divorced American actress with a black mother.
Race, in fact, has been a huge factor. One of the earliest pieces, which ran in the Daily Mail, declared, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton” and painted her hometown as “plagued by crime and riddled with street gangs.” It “couldn’t be more different to London’s leafy Kensington,” the piece read. Later, BBC host Danny Baker was fired for comparing Meghan and Harry’s baby, Archie, to a chimpanzee.
They ran her out of town and now they’re mad she’s leaving.
All families come with traditions that spouses are often asked to accept and uphold, and the royal family is by far no exception. Certainly, one might argue, Meghan knew what she was getting into.
But, well, so did Harry — he did, after all, marry an “American actress.” And besides the very important fact that it is common for wives in the 21st century to equally share decision-making on the future of their families, Prince Harry has his own rich history as the royal rebel who has previously expressed his own discontentment with royal life.
Perhaps it’s true that Meghan is trying to find, and exert, her power within her new family. But she’s a 38-year-old mother; isn’t that her right? Certainly, forgoing some of the financial protections offered by the royal family — and perhaps risking the loss of even more of that wealth going forward — is nothing to scoff at. Why not view the couple’s attempt to (at least in part) go it on their own, and define themselves as people outside of the monarchy as bold, and brave? Who says they can’t have a “normal” marriage?
Queen Elizabeth, perhaps. But not Meghan.