Pauline Nevins: The tempest in the royal teapot
“The explosive TV chat.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you have to surrender your Britbox subscription. I activated the British streaming service in time to watch Piers Morgan, the co-host of “Good Morning Britain,” come unglued about the Oprah interview of Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, the former Meghan Markle.
Piers Morgan, you may know, is a provocative English broadcaster-journalist, who people either love or hate. Decades ago, he was the youngest editor of a national newspaper, the tabloid News of the World — known in my day as “news of the screws” — a salute to its salacious content. The only formal sex education I ever received.
American audiences know Morgan from his Celebrity Apprentice win in 2008, and several years later as a host of CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” — the former “Larry King Live” talk show. Larry was on the air for 25 years. Piers lasted for three. Morgan blamed the show’s cancellation on his outspoken opposition to America’s gun culture.
On “Good Morning Britain,” Piers was in fine fettle. He’d stayed up to watch the Oprah interview live. His reaction: “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.”
When a colleague blasted him for his ongoing attacks of the Duchess, Piers walked off in a huff. He later tweeted, “Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’m off to spend more time with my opinions.”
I’m not a fan of Morgan, but I saw merit in one question he raised.
During the Oprah interview, the Duchess dropped several bombshells. One was that during her first pregnancy, her mental health declined to the point she’d considered suicide. Her character was being assassinated in the press, she was not being defended, and she felt isolated. In addition, there was talk that since her baby was not to be given the title prince, he would not receive security protection.
Meghan said she appealed to a senior member of the royal household for counseling assistance. They wouldn’t, or couldn’t, help her. Piers raised this question: Why didn’t her husband, Prince Harry, arrange for her care? He’d publicly admitted to receiving counseling and was affiliated with several mental health charities.
The Duchess also revealed how distraught she was about racist articles in the British tabloids. Several atrocious headlines flashed across the screen during the interview. I sympathized with Meghan, but her surprise mystified me.
It’s well known that the press relentlessly pursued Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. And it doesn’t take much digging to uncover the British tabloid’s long history of bashing the royal family. The gloves came off back in the early ’70s when the press attacked the Queen’s “rebel” sister, Princess Margaret, over her various romantic liaisons.
Tabloid journalists described the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, an accomplished equestrian, as looking “rather like a horse.” They labeled an ex-daughter-in-law of the Queen, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who struggled with her weight, “the Duchess of Pork”… and these are the mild quotes.
Meghan dropped another bombshell when she revealed that before her son, Archie, was born, someone in the royal household raised concerns about how dark-skinned the baby might be. Oprah gasped. The Queen may have clutched her pearls.
The royal had raised the question to Prince Harry, who valiantly stated during the interview that he would never reveal who said it, thereby casting suspicion on every member of the royal household. Everyone that is but the Queen and Prince Philip, who Harry and Meghan asserted several times, were not the guilty parties.
Like Meghan, I’m biracial with a white husband. I have three children. Before I gave birth, those around me had the decency not to mention my baby’s skin color, even if the thought occurred to them. Before my second husband and I had our child, our one concern was that he might look like my husband’s late father. That thought may have occurred to Meghan.
Before Archie’s grandfather, the Prince of Wales, married Diana, the press dubbed him one of the world’s most eligible bachelors. And it wasn’t because of his looks. Harry could have responded to the baby’s skin color question with, “Have you seen my dad’s ears?” And followed up with that after centuries of royal inbreeding, Meghan’s African ancestry is a healthy infusion to the gene pool.
And speaking of grandparents. Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, responded to the same question by saying it could have been just a “dumb question,” that when “a Black person marries a white person, what you get, you get a baby. That’s what you got. You got a baby.”
Pauline Nevins is the author of the memoir, “Fudge: The Downs and Ups of a Biracial, Half-Irish British War Baby,” and “Bonkers for Conkers,” a compilation of personal essays. She lives in Colfax and can be reached at paulinenevins.com.
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