Spare us: Oban’s LIMEs give their verdict on Harry and Meghan (Part 2)
In Part 1 of our Harry and Meghan blog series, Local In-Market Experts in South Africa, India, and the US shared their international perspective on the royal drama. In this second and final part, we hear from LIMEs in Nigeria, Canada, and Germany – and find out whether Harry and Meghan have changed perceptions of the monarchy and by extension, Brand Britain.
Tomi Etta, in Abuja, Nigeria
Nigerians face significant issues like fuel scarcity, financial insecurity, and the unfortunate presidential election which recently took place. But conversations about the royal family and their dramas are still ongoing amongst Nigerians.
The anecdote in Harry’s memoir Spare involving a leopard in Botswana generated interest here [in the book, Harry wrote about facing down a lion and emerging unscathed, which he interpreted as a sign from the late Princess Diana that everything would be okay]. The story that Harry consulted a medium in Africa to contact his late mother also attracted quite a bit of amusement in Nigeria, mainly because it reinforced the stereotype of Africa’s penchant for the supernatural.
Attitudes towards Harry and Meghan, and the monarchy more broadly, are split.
Some believe that the monarchy had nothing to do with the occupation of Nigeria, while others see it differently. Equally, some in Nigeria support Harry and Meghan, while others are unsympathetic to their situation.
I remember when the Oprah interview first aired, it brought out the self-loathing of some Nigerians on social media who believe that white people are superior. But other Nigerians expressed outrage at the mistreatment Meghan and Harry received from the royal family. The allegations of racism negatively affected the way some Nigerians viewed the monarchy and the UK.
Nigerians expressed excitement when Meghan revealed she is 43% Nigerian.
In one of her podcast episodes, Meghan revealed that she had carried out a genealogy test which showed her to be 43% Nigerian. After this revelation, some Nigerians felt a sense of sisterhood with her, even giving her local names and praising her work ethic which they linked to her Nigerian roots. Supporting fellow Nigerians if someone from another country is messing with them is a Nigerian thing to do.
That said, there are criticisms too.
Some Nigerians feel it is time for Harry to move on from his mother’s death and not use it to curry sympathy. Some feel that Harry betrayed his family by airing their dirty laundry in public. Celebrity and Big Brother Africa winner, Uti Nwachukwu, wrote tweets condemning Harry for turning his back on his family and saying that loyalty to family is a crucial value. He wrote that even if Clifford Orji (a well-known kidnapper and cannibal) was part of his family, he would stick to him rather than his wife. Uti Nwachukwu further expressed that if the Harry and Meghan situation happened to Nigerians, they would call the wife a witch and a home wrecker.
On Meghan being 43% Nigerian, Twitter influencer Daniel Regha criticised Nigerians for celebrating Meghan’s news, pointing out the irony of supporting someone with ties to the royal family after condemning them for their actions during the colonial era. He wrote, “When Queen Elizabeth died, most Nigerians were quick to condemn the entire royal family due to their acts during the colonial era, but today the same Nigerians are jubilating because Meghan Markle claims to be 43% Nigerian. So what changed? Nigeria my country.” There may be a sense of cognitive dissonance among some Nigerians who previously condemned the monarchy but now support Meghan because of her Nigerian heritage.
Nigeria has a large and influential entertainment industry, and the opinions of popular celebrity bloggers like Linda Ikeji may carry significant weight among Nigerians. She criticised Meghan for making Harry abandon his traditional role and not respecting the historical and cultural significance of the monarchy. On an Instagram story, she wrote that Meghan ‘commonised’ Harry.
As for my own opinion, I do not follow the royal family’s drama but it is hard not to pay attention to this.
I believe that Harry is out of touch, perhaps due to his upbringing and wealth. However, I admire his support for his wife, and the couple’s resilience in the face of criticism and negative media attention. I do not hold any particular allegiance towards the British monarchy as British colonialism has had a negative impact on my country and still does. I hate the racism faced by Meghan and believe the British monarchy is certainly not above scrutiny. However, if I were in Meghan’s shoes, I would use the opportunity to address racism as a global issue and use my royal position to create opportunities for people of colour (donating money to Africa does little – it rarely reaches those who need it).
Caroline, in Montreal, Canada
Views on Harry and Meghan divide along generational lines. Some older Canadians support the monarchy by default and may not be as aware of the tensions and difficulties that led to Harry and Meghan stepping away from the royal family. By contrast, younger Canadians see Harry and Meghan as outside the paradigm of royalty and support their decision to refuse to be persecuted by [what they perceive as] a racist, controlling family. Middle-aged Canadians remember Charles and Diana’s split and recall the terrible restrictions enacted upon Diana by the royal family’s ‘men in grey suits’.
People who are sympathetic to Harry and Meghan are grateful that they highlighted the issue of racism.
Times have changed, we are more aware of the need for equity for all people, and to make reparations for past wrongs. As Canadians we have many laws and policies to uphold this, and so many applaud the fact that they stood up to, and publicised, what they believe to be wrong and hurtful actions by the royal family.
At first, they sought refuge in Canada in a beautiful and remote part of our country, at the Milles Fleurs mansion in North Saanich on Vancouver Island. They chose us! We felt seen! Canada is a safe space and so we were glad they chose here for their place of exile.
Canadians are ethnically diverse in our cities and tend towards British heritage in our rural areas. While some new Canadians may have cultures which are strongly family first, most second-generation-and-later Canadians are sympathetic to those who choose to step away from family members they find hurtful.
That said, Canadians are modest people.
Even our CEOs rarely make above $200,000 per year. So we are not used to excessive wealth and don’t have a lot of empathy for very rich people with ‘first world problems’. Sure, Harry and Meghan experienced troubling family issues, but they also have money, good looks, and plenty of opportunities. So why can’t they stop whining about their problems?
Harry and Meghan are celebrities and therefore have to keep the PR wheel turning.
Some of us are sick of their competing claims for privacy and attention. It’s not very Canadian to have two Oprah interviews, a podcast, a book that includes details on your private parts, and a six-hour Netflix documentary series, though certainly some Canadian actors moving to the US have done similar activities. While it took place before the advent of social media, we long for the example of Princess Diana’s ability to bear difficulties with grace, and her polite criticisms of the royal family.
Harry and Meghan ran from the royal family and hid out on the western edge of Canada. But when it came time to set up house, they chose California. We feel snubbed and we know that they chose California as a base because it is close to the fame-making machine in Hollywood.
These days, everyone in the public eye is viewed through the prism of celebrity.
Harry and Meghan don’t want to be part of the royal family anymore? That is their right and so be it. They do not take up any more space in our lives than Gwyneth Paltrow, Wayne Gretzky, Nicki Minaj, or anyone else who gets splashed over the tabloid papers every week at the grocery store.
Canadians have the Queen on our money: on all our coins and on many bills.
This is a reminder of our connection to the monarchy. In schools we used to sing God Save the Queen; that tradition is no longer but most schools still have a photo of the Queen somewhere in the building. Or they did, until her passing last year. What will happen now? Will a photo of King Charles be put up in its place?
For many Canadians, this transitional time between the Queen’s death and Charles’s coronation is a time to reflect on how we want to interact with the royal family in future. And the abrupt exit of Harry and Meghan has stirred up mixed feelings for Canadians.
As a part of the Commonwealth, we feel a kinship to other faraway countries like Australia, New Zealand, India, and the Bahamas.
In fact, we have reciprocal agreements that allow us to travel and work there, which makes it feel like we are on the same team in many ways. For example, Canadians aged 18-30 can live and work in the UK for up to two years. And we see a lot of young Aussies coming to Canada to work via those Commonwealth connections, many of them flocking to ski resorts like Whistler.
Because English is spoken across most of Canada, we feel related somehow to Britain, and the royal family is a natural extension of that. On the other hand, in the province of Quebec, which calls itself a nation and requires French to be the only language of business and government, even though Canada is a bilingual country, the view of England and the royal family is not as generous.
The oath of allegiance to the monarchy that politicians must swear has long bothered Quebec sovereigntists and now it is possibly a thing of the past. This past December, the provincial legislature passed a law making it optional for members to swear an oath to the King. However, Canada’s constitution requires elected officials in legislatures to swear allegiance to the country and its institutions, as embodied by the Crown and the current monarch. So Quebec’s very unconstitutional law, which quite a few Quebec legislators have chosen to ignore anyway, is not really legitimate. If anything, it probably says more about Quebec’s view of England than actual perceptions of the monarchy.
The majority of Quebeckers don’t look too kindly on the monarchy because in the 1700s the British and the French battled it out over the territory of Canada; the British won. Of course, the rest of Canada likes to chuckle at the province of Quebec – they always have to do something different to show their uniqueness.
Older folks who remember Queen Elizabeth’s coronation often have a rosier view of the monarchy than younger Canadians.
Many seniors in Canada truly loved the Queen and believed she stood for something traditional that was worth preserving. On the other hand, folks with a progressive political stance understand that the world has evolved, that racism is unacceptable, and that perhaps it is time to move on from the antiquated idea of rich white folks who preside over us.
Nick, in Freiburg, Germany
Many people in Germany view the Harry and Meghan story as just another tale in the long history of the British royals, with the media exaggerating the situation. There has been some annoyance amongst the German public about Harry and Meghan’s continued use of their Duke and Duchess titles.
There has also been a sense of missed opportunity.
Had Harry and Meghan remained in the royal family, they could have been instrumental in building a new, modern chapter for the monarchy, particularly with their focus on important social issues such as mental health and diversity and inclusion.
After Meghan’s appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, there was some criticism that she had embarrassed herself. [The show involved Meghan carrying out pranks in public at Ellen’s direction, including wearing cat ears, pretending to meow like a kitten, and doing squats in the street.]
Overall, though, my sense is that interest in Harry and Meghan is not high.
When the Queen passed away, it was news here too, and there has been interest in King Charles’s recent visit [he has visited Germany over 40 times in his life]. But what Harry and Meghan do, does not seem to matter to most people. In fact, if I were to randomly ask people in the street, I doubt most people would be able to identify the two of them correctly.
I really liked the TV show Suits [a US cable TV show which was the high point of Meghan’s acting career]. I feel she was more liked and more popular back then. Continuing on the show would probably have suited her reputation better, no pun intended.
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