Posted by / Category London /

Before I start this post I feel like I need to come clean: I like Prince Harry, and I have bumped into him a couple of times at my local Waitrose (if you must know, he was wearing a hoodie and had a couple of bodyguards ). Last week (in case you have been hibernating), he announced that he was going to marry his girlfriend Meghan Markle. I am very pleased for them and I wish them luck. I am, however, appalled by the general coverage of their relationship.

Why? Well, for starters, the tabloids don’t miss a single opportunity to remind all of us that she is (in no particular order) divorced, American, of mixed heritage and an actress. They could have mentioned that she is a modern, talented, gorgeous woman and has worked for numerous charities but no, let’s face it: it’s all about bringing her down. In fact, I don’t think that it is even about her. It’s because they think that she is the ‘weak link’. Attacking her is a way to attack Prince Harry and the monarchy. How brave, right? Surely they could pick a better target. Come on, guys! If you want to attack the monarchy, why don’t you just attack the monarchy and criticise the Queen or maybe the British Government?

This pattern is indeed quite disturbing, but somehow keeps repeating itself: recently, it’s Malia Obama who faced a wave of abuse because she had been filmed smoking and (dear oh dear) kissing a boy while at uni. Seriously? Don’t we have anything better to report? Malia Obama is a private citizen and can do whatever she likes. Are there laws against smoking and kissing? Once again, it wasn’t about her, it was about discrediting her father’s legacy. How is she responsible for her father’s actions and decisions? I don’t understand. In the same vein, there were attacks against Barron Trump (a child!). How low did we fall? It just never stops: using whoever is perceived to be the ‘weak link’ is becoming the trademark of lazy reporting. Overtones of sexism and racism seem to be back in fashion. It’s clickbait writing. And don’t you dare reply, because you will be told to lighten up. After all, ‘it was just some light-hearted dig’. Don’t you get sarcasm? You simply can’t win against a certain London elite, as Prince Harry found out when their relationship was disclosed and he dared complain. Unbelievable! Doesn’t anyone remember that Prince Harry’s mother died while being chased by paparazzi?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the public having the ‘right to know’? But does it entail going after Meghan Markle’s family and friends to try to dig up some dirt about her? Is this really the ‘right to know’? Is asking disgruntled friends and family members about her a reliable way to inform the public? How do you make sure that your ‘sources’ are not suffering from success envy? In fact, what purpose does it serve, other than trying to destroy her? And why are they going after someone whose only ‘mistake’ is to be in love (what can I say, I am still a romantic at heart!)? When did we become so mean-spirited? This world could do with a bit more kindness. Meghan Markle probably had to fight for everything she achieved. She deserves credits for it. But instead of celebrating success, we now seem to give an open platform to jealous and narrow-minded people. Why?

Meghan Markle has explained that she dated Prince Harry for quite some time before the relationship became public. She said, quite rightly in my view, that they hadn’t changed, and that it was public perception that had changed when their relationship was eventually disclosed. I think that she is spot on: public perception and reality are two very different things. One can be twisted and manipulated, but it doesn’t change the other. Good for her, because that’s what matters in the end.

So why the intrusion on their lives? Is it because she is an actress? Is it therefore ‘fair game’ for the media to go further than the simple facts because she put herself ‘out there’? Please…Where should the ‘right to know’ stop? Who makes up the rules?

Does Meghan have to give up who she is to be left in peace? Come on, she has nothing to prove: she is a strong, successful woman in her own right, with or without Prince Harry (and as much as I like him). And I, for one, can’t help thinking that she would have faced a lot less scrutiny had she been a man. After all, nobody talks about Angela Merkel’s or Theresa May’s husband, right? What is it with always being judged when you are a woman? When it comes to gender, double standards are alive and well. Even in this day and age, many people still expect different things from men and women. Not only are we judged on what we do, but also how we look, where we come from, who we marry, and how we behave (and obviously how we parent when we become mothers). Give us a break!

I totally understand and support that, over the past several years, transparency has swept the world. But this is not transparency: this is a self-created gossip craze that conveniently ignores any sort of accountability and perpetuates the good old reassuring macho stereotypes. It’s time for a change. I really wish that instead of justifying such reporting by the usual lame arguments, the press would try to improve the quality of its reporting.

On this note, I wish all the best to the happy couple, and I’d like to say to Meghan (soon to become the Duchess of Sussex) that I admire her for being a strong woman. Meghan, don’t change anything, keep being you, no matter what! And if I bump into you at our local supermarket, feel free to say hi. PS: the Yorkshire puddings are very good. And no, they are not in the pudding section. It’s a British thing.

  • James Casserly

    Totally agree with you Muriel. To be honest with you, I will disclose I am a Republican. I abhor the idea of a monarchy and wish it would be abolished. However the British media, especially the press, have become nothing more than nasty, bigoted, guttersnipes that indulge in scurrilous gossip, not actual journalism. I don’t want to see things go back to the days when the press doffed their caps to their “betters”, but there are real stories worth investigating. Like the Queen’s offshore accounts, or how the government can spare over £300million to help upgrade the palace but can’t find money for the NHS, and other necessary spending. Does the press only cover celebrity gossip because they believe the public want this, or do the public read it because the press produces it? Mind you, in an informal talk with a group of 17 year olds, an Irish journalist discovered that none of them have ever read a newspaper, and most get their news from Snapchat. So has the public dumbed down and are they responsible for the lowering of “journalism” to gutter standards? Not that this absolves the press from its responsibilities. Lastly, I do believe that there is in Britain, much like in Ireland, a strong element of begrudgery. People love someone until they are successful, then as soon as that underdog becomes a champion, they want to tear them down again. I find this strange.

    • This world could do with more kindness, and you are right, there are far better targets out there. I think that the headlines are driven by sales and sales only. Sensationalism is what drives some journalists, at the expense of accuracy. I wonder what will happen to real journalism in a few years!

  • I’m one of the CCL group. (That’s could care less.)
    Admittedly, I am not a Brit, but I still find the fascination the Brit’s have about their Royal Family ridiculous. If they were truly a monarchy (as in running the country), I might pay more attention. But, who Harry marries is nowhere as important as how the Brits are screwing their future with Brexit.

    • Exactly. Then why does everybody keep talking about it? It seems that the press priorities are all wrong right now!