Will this be the tipping point for Commonwealth monarchies such as Jamaica?
By Ricky Browne
It is the strangest of fairy tales, where instead of rescuing the damsel in distress, a Hollywood princess rescued a Prince trapped in an antiquated system of privilege and expectations.
On Sunday the Mountbatten-Windsors, known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, opened the lid on their life in Britain’s royal family, in an interview with the Queen of talk show, Oprah Winfrey.
While the wide-ranging interview covered many topics, including how the tabloid press behaved towards them, it was their public airing of the Royal family’s dirty linen that was the lead story across the media, especially in the UK
Duchess Meghan, told about how Prince Harry told her that a member of the Royal family had expressed some concern over the potentially dark skin colour of the yet-to-be born baby.
Although neither she nor Harry would state who had made the comment, Oprah later said she understood that the person who made the remark was neither the Queen nor her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. That would suggest that the most likely person could be Prince Charles or Prince William, as the views of anyone else would carry much less weight.
The Duchess also spoke on how it was Prince William’s wife Kate that had made Meghan cry and not the other way around, as the press had reported. She said that Kate later apologised and gave her flowers, but the impression was given that there was ample room for Kate to have corrected the press.
But perhaps most disturbing was how the Duchess said she had contemplated suicide while pregnant, and could get no help from ‘the firm’. And how they felt it was necessary to escape the confines of Royalty, first by moving to Canada, and then to California.
While Harry expressed disappointment with his father Prince Charles and the state of the relationship he now has with his brother William, both he and Meghan spoke well of the Queen and their relationship with her.
The Sussexes didn’t get paid for the interview with Oprah. But there was lots of money being made anyway.
The 90 minute interview with Oprah was broadcast on CBS in the United States – sold to them for between US$7 and US$9 million dollars according to the Wall Street Journal. The programme has also been sold to several other countries, and is to be broadcast in the United Kingdom on Monday via ITV.
In the US there were some expectations that the interview would have more viewers than the Super Bowl. In fact it was likely to have been a lot less – about 17.1 million according to the WSJ, as opposed to 91.6 million for the Super Bowl.
Over in the UK, it was expected that the interview would have some 10.6 million viewers – potentially the largest audience of any programme this year. ITV normally gets about three million viewers for its programmes on that Monday night slot.
Meanwhile, ITV hoped to triple its money through the sale of adverts, which could be as high as £120,000 for a 30 second ad. Normally a 30-second advert in prime-time would not cost more than £30,000.
While it may be quite simple to add up the financial benefits of this programme, to various TV stations and to Oprah Winfrey – it is harder to calculate the financial damage that this may bring to British royalty.
Could the suggestion that the monarchy is a racist institution be the tipping point for countries that are on the cusp of deciding whether or not they should be republics?
The programme will have hardened lines between those who support the monarchy and those who do not. And it is likely that there will be an increase in antimonarchist views – especially when people consider the Princess Diana story.
Public support for the Queen is likely to remain high, and her image has not been hurt in this interview. But the same cannot be said for many other royals, including the Sussexes themselves, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Charles.
It took time and considerable effort for the Royal family to build back lost public support over how it handled the life and then death of the ‘People’s Princess’ Harry’s mother Diana.
The interview was a hit in the United States and will probably build Harry and Meghan’s image in the United States as celebrities of some substance. But their popularity in the UK will likely be hit – and Harry, who has been a public favourite for years, may come across in a negative light.
But the British monarchy is also the monarchy for several other constitutional monarchies in the Commonwealth of Nations. That includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica where Queen Elizabeth II is head of state.
The ties that these countries feel to the British monarchy are weaker than they are in the UK. And it might not take much for some of these countries to say enough is enough – and go the way of Barbados, which says it is about to become a Republic. You can read more about the Barbados decision here: https://matt-haycox.com/queen-set-to-lose-300000-of-her-subjects/.
It isn’t the first time Barbados has said it is on the verge of becoming a republic, and Jamaica has previously made that claim too. But it is unlikely that anyone will want to depose the much-respected Queen while she is on the throne. But this interview could be another nail in the coffin.
While the former white dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand may be happy to continue their ties to British royalty, it is possible that black-majority countries such as Jamaica may have a rethink soon.
There are currently 16 members of the Commonwealth of Nations which are constitutional monarchies and have the Queen as their head of state: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts, St Lucia and St Vincent in the Caribbean; the former white dominions of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and the Pacific island countries of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. That is a total of 15 Commonwealth realms, plus the United Kingdom makes 16.
Meanwhile the Royal family can take heart that as bad as things may look, they aren’t doing as badly as some other Royal families around the world.
Over in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is accused of having a journalist chopped up into little pieces in the Saudi embassy in Turkey.
Over in Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is accused of locking up one of his daughters, and possibly another who hasn’t been heard from in years.
And over in Thailand, the King Rama X is held in extreme low regard, although it is illegal for his subjects to do so.
Closer to home, the former King Juan Carlos of Spain is living in exile in Abu Dhabi, having been accused of corruption – unfairly accused in the eyes of many of his supporters.
But the world in general is more interested in the British Royals than they are in those other Royals – so any pleasure they may take from that will be limited.