Has Meghan Markle struggled with racism? Do the press’s and Royal Family’s dislike of Meghan have racist roots?
In Spare, Prince Harry debates whether the press’s hatred of his wife Meghan is because of racism. Meghan, a biracial woman, has been the subject of harassment for unknown reasons since she first started dating Harry.
Keep reading to learn why people dislike Meghan Markle, racism’s part in it, and what the couple has done to stop it.
Racism Within the Royal Family
Is it possible that the Royal Family’s dislike of Meghan had racist roots? Possibly. During an interview with Oprah, Meghan said that a member of the family had raised “concerns” to Harry about how dark Archie’s skin would be when he was born. Both Harry and Meghan have refused to say who that family member was, on the grounds that it would be devastating to their reputation.
Harry later tried to deny that this comment was a racist statement; he claimed that it was “unconscious bias” on the part of the family member, and added that his understanding was that racism and unconscious bias were not the same thing. However, he’s arguably wrong on that point: The definition of racism does not require it to be a conscious choice. Notably, Harry doesn’t mention this family member’s “concerns” in Spare, or imply that the family is racist at all: He talks at length about the press’s racism, Meghan Markle’s tense relationship with the Royal Family due to disapproval from the family, but never mentions any racial bias coming from the royals themselves.
Throughout their relationship, Harry and Meghan have faced constant stalking and harassment from the media—particularly the British tabloid media. Furthermore, the press has constantly published untrue stories about Meghan. Meghan has also received near-constant threats from people who’ve read and believed the negative stories about her.
Because Meghan is biracial, much of the coverage is also racist—sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly. Stories have portrayed Meghan and her family as poor, bad-mannered, and addicted to drugs—none of which was true—in the process playing into anti-Black stereotypes. Some articles have questioned what effect Meghan’s mixed-race heritage would have on the royal bloodline.
(Shortform note: A side-by-side comparison of how the press has treated Meghan and Catherine (Prince William’s wife) shows a stark contrast that adds credence to Harry’s claims about the harshness of the media response toward his wife. For example, the Daily Mail gave a detailed, positive rundown of the various candles and toiletries that Catherine requested for her wedding, but called Meghan “dictatorial” for requesting air fresheners at hers. One poll found that most journalists believed that Meghan had been treated badly by the press—even many who didn’t find the coverage racist still agreed that it was unfair.)
The persecution and threats eventually drove Meghan into hiding. She began suffering from panic attacks, which she’d never experienced before. At one point, she confessed to Harry that she was having suicidal thoughts. Harry compares their situation to the media harassment that led to Princess Diana’s fatal car crash and says he feared losing Meghan like he’d lost his mother
(Shortform note: When Meghan first went public about her suicidal thoughts during an interview with Oprah, Good Morning Britain anchor Piers Morgan said that he didn’t believe her—he called the entire interview contemptible and sickening. His co-host Susanna Reid immediately scolded him for his response. Furthermore, the mental health charity Mind put out a statement shortly afterward saying that it was “concerned” about Morgan’s remarks because it was crucial that people struggling with suicidal thoughts be able to reach out without fear of shame or rebuke.)
The Press Coverage of Meghan’s Father
Paparazzi also targeted Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle. At first, they stalked and harassed him as they did Meghan, but eventually—whether because they paid him or because they had something to blackmail him with—he cooperated and posed for pictures. Then, the new story became that he was a con artist; that he was pretending to run from the press while actually working with them, and staging “candid” shots for money. Worst of all, Harry and Meghan couldn’t fight this story, because it was true.
(Shortform note: Meghan won a copyright infringement case against the Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter she wrote to her father attempting to repair their relationship after this incident. The Mail was ordered to pay her an undisclosed amount of money. Meghan is now estranged from much of her paternal family, though that distance doesn’t stop her father and half-sister from criticizing her publicly and frequently.)
Suing the Press
Harry and Meghan tried on many occasions to use the Royal Family’s lawyers to sue the press, but Harry says they were constantly brushed off or ignored. Finally, in September 2019, Harry decided to hire a private lawyer and sue the worst offenders himself. Harry’s family confronted him about taking legal action against the press, saying that it would harm their public image, but Harry pressed ahead with it anyway.
(Shortform note: Despite the Royal Family’s negative reaction to Harry suing the press, Prince William and his wife have been much more aggressive than Harry in protecting their privacy. In response to these efforts, the newspapers have argued that the royals are public figures who don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) have ruled in favor of William and Catherine in the past, saying that the papers had no reason nor right to photograph them when they weren’t carrying out official duties.)