London, Mar 10 (PTI) Buckingham Palace is trying to keep things private as the fallout of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey continues to dominate headlines in the UK on Wednesday, including some female parliamentarians considering a debate in the House of Commons.
In a brief statement released in the wake of shocking revelations by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex around racist undertones within the royal ranks related to their son Archie’s mixed-race heritage and lack of mental health support for a struggling new bride Meghan, the palace tried to draw a line under the matter by indicating that Queen Elizabeth II was “saddened” to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years had been for her grandson Harry and his wife.
While acknowledging the seriousness of the claims, there was a clear palace stand that the couple’s revelations are only a version of the events.
'The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members,' read the palace statement on Tuesday.
Opposition Labour Party MP Holly Lynch, who had coordinated a cross-party letter from 72 female members of Parliament in support of the 39-year-old former actress and against the “colonial undertones” of her coverage in the British media in 2019, is among those exploring a Commons debate around issues of racism and mental health strains raised in the couple’s interview with the American chat show host in California.
“A lot of media outlets have not heeded those calls for a change, which is why we might start needing to think about a case to government about how we stop hounding women in public life and put them in a position where they feel suicidal,” Lynch told the ‘Guardian’.
The original letter highlighted that many MPs believed Meghan had been subject to racist treatment by the press.
“We are calling out what can only be described as outdated, colonial undertones to some of these stories,” it read.
Lynch noted: “The letter clearly did not make the significant difference to the conduct of some members of the British press that we had hoped that it would. So it is a timely reminder to us to use our voices as women legislators to say – what next?” The role of the media was further heightened as a senior UK breakfast television host for ITV’s ‘Good Morning Britain’, Piers Morgan, was forced to resign from his post after an on-air tirade against Meghan and her interview, saying he did not believe her.
'On Monday, I said I didn't believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I've had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don't. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I'm happy to die on,” he said, after stepping down.
ITV, the channel where the American CBS network interview was broadcast in the UK on Monday night, said it had accepted his decision and had nothing further to add.
The polarising effect of the issue was also reflected in opinion polls, which showed a clear generational divide over the matter – with younger Britons on the side of Meghan and Harry and older ones more cautious.
A poll by YouGov found that 48 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds sympathised more with the Sussexes, while just 9 per cent of over-65s sided with the couple. Only 13 per cent of the youngest age group backed the royal family, compared with 50 per cent of pensioners.
The Queen’s role as the head of state of some former British colonies of the Commonwealth, such as the Caribbean countries of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, has also come under some scrutiny.
“The fear in the Palace must be that the issues around race may have an impact on public opinion, in the Caribbean in particular. This will provide ammunition for the republican cause in the Caribbean,” Professor Philip Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, told ‘The Times’.
Harry and Meghan, who stepped back as frontline royals and relocated to the US last year, had revealed their reasons behind that move and also shared how there were concerns raised over the skin tone of their first-born son, Archie, even as they were told he would not be given a royal title and therefore not provided with security.
Meghan’s estranged father, Thomas Markle, is among those who believes the comment about skin colour has been blown out of proportion.
He told ITV: “I have great respect for the royals. I don’t think the British royal family are racist at all. I don’t think the British are racist.
“The thing about what colour will the baby be, or how dark will the baby be… It could be somebody asked a stupid question, rather than being a total racist.” Meanwhile, the palace has made it clear that it will not be drawn into any of the specifics.
‘The Sun’ quoted a royal source to say that palace aides would be looking into Meghan’s claims that she asked for mental health support but was refused help.
“One of the things that will be looked at is why on earth did poor Meghan go to the Palace HR department for help and not to senior members of the family? They have medical households full of medical experts that could have helped with everything,” the source said. PTI AK PMS AKJ PMS