Spare us: Oban’s LIMEs give their verdict on Harry and Meghan (Part 1)
The ongoing drama of Harry and Meghan and their feud with the royal family has been the biggest royal story of the last few years. How people feel about the couple is often a proxy for their broader worldview, and usually divides along generational and political lines.
We were curious to know how attitudes to the couple might vary by country, so we turned to our Local In-Market Experts to find out. As you’d expect, views were nuanced, as they are here in Britain. However, Harry and Meghan’s accusations of the royal family’s racism – which Harry distanced himself from in his 8th January interview with Tom Bradbury, nearly two years after Meghan first raised concerns in the Oprah interview – had cut through internationally, which suggests that their public commentary has damaged the monarchy, and by extension, Brand Britain.
Part 1 of our two-part Harry and Meghan blog series focuses on South Africa, India, and the US. Part 2 – which is coming soon – will focus on Nigeria, Canada, and Germany.
Bela, in Cape Town, South Africa
As a country which takes family very seriously, we acknowledge and often sympathise with the royals. We follow the big events and as in other countries, their lives are blasted all over our local media.
But outside of that, many of us don’t get the hype – myself included. As South Africans, we’ve got bigger things to worry about. Our power goes out every day and corruption, unemployment, and poverty are at all-time highs. So you have to forgive us if we don’t follow the royal family as closely as others might.
That said, we’re no strangers to monarchy. In South Africa, we have tribal royalty in different regions which are officially recognised by the government. We understand that the purpose of royalty is to unite communities.
To us, the Queen symbolised colonialism.
There are many South Africans and ex-pats who still retain close ties to the UK, despite having lived in South Africa for most of their lives. South Africa was colonised by Britain between 1806 and 1961, and up until the end of her life, Queen Elizabeth was viewed as a symbol of colonialism in many parts of South Africa – which is why we didn’t go into as deep mourning as other countries did. However, as a woman, I recognise that she will probably be the last Queen of the UK in my lifetime, given that the succession will be Charles, then William and then George. Elizabeth’s death also brought up other topics surrounding British monarchs, like can we have our diamonds back?
When Meghan entered the royal family, we were elated to see a person of colour.
And when allegations of racism emerged, it was heart-breaking – but not particularly unexpected. As a country with a tragically racist past, we didn’t expect the monarchy to value a person of colour. When the British media were slamming Meghan, the majority of South Africa stood by her. The hashtag #VoetsekBritishMedia started trending (‘Voetsek’ being South African slang for ‘go away’).
But then, there was an incident in Cape Town, South Africa.
Meghan launched her podcast Archetypes. On the first episode with Serena Williams, she spoke about having to attend a royal engagement with Harry in Cape Town, South Africa – leaving baby Archie in the care of their team.
The heater in Archie’s room started smoking – but luckily the baby wasn’t in there. The heater was removed and everything was fine. However, when she spoke about it on her podcast, the incident was made out to be that the entire nursery caught alight. Needless to say, South Africans were so embarrassed! But when we found out that it was blown out of proportion, we were mad. The fact that Meghan referred to the British High Commissioner’s residence – an imposing, grand building – as a ‘housing unit’ also struck many as dismissive.
So, #VoetsekBritishMedia changed to #VoetsekMeghan.
Most of us view Harry and Meghan as a love story.
We streamed Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah, we watched the Netflix special, and Harry’s book Spare flew off our shelves. It’s not every day you get a behind the scenes glimpse into royal life, especially when things in your own country seem to be falling apart.
We were there when Princess Diana died and Harry feared that the same thing would happen to his wife, so he left the only life he knew. We saw the racism that Meghan faced. Despite the fire incident and bad press, I feel that South Africans stand with Harry and Meghan. Sure, they have their faults, and give tone-deaf speeches at times, but they’re still people.
Charles’s coronation is his moment to shine.
Charles had those ‘funny moments’ shortly after his mom passed – with the ink pen etc – but if you think of him as someone’s son whose mother had just died, surely he can be forgiven.
While we definitely want the best for King Charles, Harry and Meghan – for their own family’s sake – we also want to maintain a good healthy standing for business and trading purposes too.
While it remains to be seen whether Harry and Meghan will attend the coronation, our main hope is that the electricity will stay on long enough to catch a glimpse of the event.
Seema, in Delhi, India
As an Indian, it’s important to note that this story about the royal family and their ongoing feud is consumed merely as gossip in our country. We don’t feel emotionally connected to royalty because of its long association with colonialism.
If anything, I relate to it as a classic Bollywood family drama with a very predictable ending. However, we have more entertaining and intriguing dramas in our own country and therefore we are not waiting with bated breath for the next updates from Harry and Meghan.
I see this story as an example of tabloid propaganda where every aspect of Harry and Meghan’s life is being raked over.
Meghan has been ridiculed by the media to build negative sentiment, with commentary on whether she is honouring old, rigid royal traditions – such as how she dresses or what make-up she wears. Adjusting to any new family takes time for a woman, royal or not, and she should have been given more time.
Meghan is a liberal, independent woman.
She has stood up for women’s empowerment through her philanthropic efforts. Her visit to India before her marriage won much praise from the Indian media. Equally, Harry’s open and transparent support for women – whether it’s his wife or mother – is evident. He was willing to cross the line even if it meant giving up his HRH status.
One can have a strong bond with family and still have disagreements.
The couple is showing their resentment for conflicts that remain unresolved. Their Netflix documentary was an attempt to tell their side of the story and there’s nothing wrong with that, in reaction to the personal attacks they’ve been subjected to by the media.
That said, there is hypocrisy in retaining the Duke and Duchess titles.
You give up all or nothing. Harry and Meghan’s approach of showing support for the Queen while simultaneously criticising the monarchy – the institution she headed for 70 years – was hard to fathom. I feel both parties have been getting a lot of traction in the media and the drama is just an attempt to stay relevant.
Erik, in Boston, USA
By and large, people in the US seem more sympathetic than not to Harry and Meghan’s story. I see news and polls that seem to suggest otherwise, but this is my reading of the sentiment here.
That said, people can roll their eyes when they remember that the couple have boundless resources allowing them to do whatever they want.
They left the royal family and went to live in a mansion in California – so it seems reasonable to ask what was the real impact to their lives and what statement were they really making by doing this?
People in the US view this story through the lens of monarchy, which is not always fully understood.
Royalty is a much more foreign concept than it is in Britain – but when you think about it, in America, we have our own quasi-royalty in the form of dynasties in politics, business, and entertainment. Think of the Clintons, the Bushes, and others like them – a succession of families at the top of the food chain in different areas of our culture. In fact, Harry’s interview with Anderson Cooper [to promote his memoir] was conducted with a member of such a dynasty, given that Mr Cooper comes from a branch of the Vanderbilt family.
From the viewpoint of self-actualisation – that is, living your own life and growing in the direction you want to grow in – Harry and Meghan’s story bumps up against a common American trope of self-made people often having scrappy, bootstrap beginnings. However, the royal aspect adds confusion because there is a lot that we don’t fully understand about the royal family and living under a monarchy – most of us haven’t experienced it ourselves, only read about or watched it on TV.
In this instance, we have a self-made person in Meghan, and a British royal who has elements of a self-made person in Harry. I say ‘self-made’ by virtue of his choice to forge his own path, compared to choices made by others in his position.
Americans’ relationship to Princess Diana and how the public here felt about her is an important element.
The US public came to love Princess Diana until her untimely death in 1997. People in the US got to know Harry from those early days and our impressions of him were formed back then.
In some ways, Harry was a vehicle for people dealing with their own pain and grief over Diana’s death. He was one very public face of that event and the US public’s relationship with him has grown since then, as we have had time to get to know and understand him. People watched Harry and his brother stay composed while shaking people’s hands and we saw that this was clearly difficult to do – to remain looking composed when inside he must have been distraught and grief-stricken.
It’s a common American trait to express emotions and opinions openly.
And so this dovetails with Americans’ sympathy towards Harry and Megan’s desire to tell their story in their own way, even if there are mixed feelings about the way they have done so.
For similar reasons, I think Harry seemed approachable and human when his partying was reported in the press. Harry didn’t have the burden of having to be king one day, and when I think of him I wonder, do we make certain mistakes because we perceive that we can’t be emotional until eventually pressure reaches boiling point? Harry grew up with a different destiny to William but was still subject to similar expectations regarding behaviour. As Americans, we have sympathy with someone trying to live their own life and how this may be much more difficult for someone in Harry’s position.
We are in the midst of our own evolution in race sensibility.
As a result, many people in the US view Harry and Meghan’s story through the lens of race – and for this reason, are predisposed to them.
I still think that Americans are more often than not on their side, but we don’t fully know what we’re looking at because we are interpreting this story through our own lenses of privilege, money, race, and historical baggage when it comes to the British monarchy.
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Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Harry and Meghan blog series, where we hear from LIMEs in Nigeria, Canada, and Germany.
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