Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey has sent ripples across both sides of the Atlantic and raised speculation about the future of the Sussexes’ relations with the Crown and Meghan’s potential political ambitions in her home country.
Sputnik reached out to royal biographer and author of the book The American Duchess; The Real Wallis Simpson Anna Pasternak, who spoke about Meghan’s ambitions and her possible endgame in all the unfolding drama.
Sputnik: What do you make of the Harry and Meghan interview and the Royal Family’s reaction? How will the spat unfold?
Anna Pasternak: I was very disappointed in Meghan and Harry’s interview. I felt it was completely unnecessary towards the Royal Family. And it’s had a very unfortunate result in Britain that it’s become very divisive and it’s divided people in terms of generation. So, the younger generation tend to support Meghan and Harry and feel that what they said was valid, whereas older generations feel that it was incredibly disrespectful to the Queen and the monarchy and they don’t feel that there was enough substance in what was said. So, of course, Meghan really hit the two kind of nuclear buttons of mental health and race. And it’s incredibly damaging to the monarchy to be seen the world over as racist. Personally, I don’t think that the Royal Family is racist, and I don’t think that a lot of the press coverage on Meghan was racist. I think the issue is one of character more than colour.
But Meghan supporters don’t want to hear that. And it places the monarchy in a very difficult position because their mystique has come from them not getting involved in sort of tit-for-tat spats and now, they’ve had to become involved. So, the Queen made her statement, which I thought was perfectly, perfectly pitched, actually, what it was saying was we don’t agree with all of this. We’re not going to get involved on a kind of minute level. But we hear your concerns and the future for the monarchy in many ways, this is a big, big crisis, much more so than Diana’s “Panorama” interview, which was just criticising Charles. She didn’t criticise the institution of the monarchy in the way that Meghan and Harry have done. And so it really remains to be seen whether the monarchy can modernise sufficiently to become relevant today.
Sputnik: How might the accusations of racism alter the perception of the monarchy in the West and change this institution in the eyes of the public?
Anna Pasternak: Well, obviously, as the head of the commonwealth, the Queen presides over vast countries of people of colour. And that has been incredibly important to her. If those subjects of those countries felt that the head of the commonwealth is racist, that’s very serious and very damaging. And in Britain today, in the world today, it’s an incredibly sensitive topic – race.
So, it couldn’t be more damaging for the House of Windsor. And that’s why I think that Meghan and Harry knew exactly what they were saying and they wanted to inflict this damage because they feel that they can be responsible for modernising the House of Windsor, which I don’t think they will be, because the one reason that the House of Windsor has survived so long is in a way because they haven’t changed and they haven’t succumbed to external influences. They’ve kept going with a ruthless survival instinct. So, I think Meghan and Harry, yes, they have this huge support in the States in particular, and they think that they can be this instrument of change for the monarchy. I think they’re going to be surprised. I think they’re going to find that is not possible.
Sputnik: What are your thoughts on the parallels being drawn between Meghan Markle and Princess Diana?
Anna Pasternak: I think Meghan is very happy with those comparisons. And I think she very much wanted to come across like Diana in that interview. However, I think the major difference in terms of the monarchy is that Diana had a huge respect for Britain and for the country, and actually she didn’t want to undermine the monarchy. She absolutely had reverence for the institution that her sons were born into, whereas Meghan, it seems to me, has dipped her toe in royal life, decided it wasn’t for her because she didn’t have the platform that she thought she was going to have. She didn’t have the world global stage, that she could espouse her views and that didn’t work for her. So, I would question that she’s truly like Diana because I think Meghan wants to shake things up and yes, she wants to modernize, but I don’t think at her heart she has the same care and concern for the members of the Royal Family that Diana did.
Sputnik: How do you assess the possibility of Meghan becoming a politician in the US?
Anna Pasternak: Yes, I can absolutely see that happening. I think she is a woman whose ambition knows no bounds. And that’s why I think she was so shocked when she came into the Royal Family, because, as I say, I’m absolutely convinced that she thought this gave her this new global platform, far bigger than any stage set of “Suits” and then didn’t like it when she was told that she couldn’t have a voice, that she had to remain as a member of the Royal Family, apolitical and impartial. And I think that she confused royalty with celebrity. So, I think to go and run for president of the United States is perfect for her because she will be able to have her voice in the way she wants it. And she’s already shown herself to have a massive following now. So, maybe all this has played into her hands perfectly. She has very rich and powerful supporters in America and she has a huge movement behind her.
I’m often asked about the comparison between Meghan Markle and Wallis Simpson. And everybody says that she is like Mrs Simpson because she’s another American divorcee who married into the Royal Family. And although Harry wasn’t going to be king, she still had a very difficult time with the Royal Family as well as Simpson did. But the point that I really feel it’s important to make is that from the moment of the abdication, when Edward’s family completely rejected Wallis Simpson, she never once spoke out against the Royal Family and she did everything in her power to try and repair relationships between her husband and his family. And my real concern about Meghan is how divisive she is, how she’s made a habit of falling out with members of her family, her father becoming estranged from them. She seems to me to have mainly her own agenda in mind. And that is very different from Wallis Simpson. And I think that that’s one of the things that concerns the Royal Family, is that she does not seem to be in the mood for healing or mending bridges. She seems to be wanting to smash them down.
Sputnik: Right. I’ve heard the opinion that she somehow outplayed everyone.
Anna Pasternak: I think in one sense she did outplay everyone. But in another, I think she’s going to think she’s cleverer. I think it’s going to seem that she’s cleverer than she is, because I do think that this will backfire on her. I honestly don’t think, I suspect she’s already surprised by the level of rage and fury towards her from this country when she – by many people and again and not by others – when she assumed that by having this interview, everybody would be sympathetic. And for somebody who says she’s so happy and they’re so happy in California, the thing that concerns me is why, why do this? Why wreak revenge on your husband’s family, which is basically what this interview was, because happy people who are secure within themselves, they don’t need to court public opinion in the way that she seems to need it. So, to me that suggests, yes, she’s very ambitious, but there’s also a raging insecurity because otherwise you live with your bad press as everybody in the public eye knows, you have good days and bad days. And the people who survive that don’t let it affect them internally. But she is very influenced by public opinion. And if she were to run for president, she’d have to let that go. As anybody in a position of the public eye knows, you cannot have it all on your terms.
I think the Royal Family are going to do everything in their power not to have this public slanging match across the tabloids. So, I think it was appalling that Oprah’s friend leaked details at the weekend of a conversation between Harry with Prince Charles and Prince William. That is, that is not extending an olive branch, that is upping the ante. And it seems to me that Megan is going to act in a way that until she feels she’s been sufficiently heard by the Royal Family, she’s going to keep talking out to the press, which, incidentally, is exactly what she accuses her father of doing. And she is now doing the same thing. So, what I found distasteful about the interview was at no point did she take responsibility for her part in how this all played out. She was very happy to lay the blame on everybody else, the press, the palace, the British people, supposedly racist, but she didn’t take accountability for her part in any of this. And that suggests to me somebody who is not, as I said, is secure within themselves or actually as clever as she purports to be. What I was astonished by the Oprah interview is that for all her therapy speak, she has far less self-awareness and far less emotional intelligence than I would have imagined.