Last Wednesday, the New York Times published the Duchess of Sussex’s op-ed about her miscarriage, and all of the pain and grief we’ve had this year in particular. I thought her essay had a hopeful tone, not upbeat, but just forward-looking, that there exists the possibility that we can really see each other and check in with one another. Many UK charities made positive statements about Meghan’s op-ed, and she was even credited with an increase in visibility for issues like miscarriage and child loss. Obviously, some people are always going to be racist, snide and hateful, but those people were generally drowned out by the sea of well-wishes for the Sussexes. Tom Sykes notes, at the Daily Beast, that this might even be a “royal reset” for the Sussexes’ strained relations with the Windsors.
Immediately after reading Meghan Markle’s brave and brilliant op-ed about her miscarriage in the New York Times this week, The Daily Beast reached out to the offices of Prince Charles, Prince William, and Queen Elizabeth to try and get a sense of the mood in their camps. While Charles and William more or less stuck to the usual “no comment”, the response that came from the queen’s office was rather unusual. While saying that they wouldn’t comment, they did, noting this was a “deeply personal” issue, a phrase which, while not exactly warm, encouraging or supportive, appeared to at least show a modicum of empathy and compassion for Meghan and Harry.
Empathy and compassion, as anyone who has been watching The Crown, Peter Morgan’s devastating portrait of the Windsors on Netflix, over the past few weeks, are not exactly the royal family’s stock in trade. What’s also important is what didn’t happen next. The palace didn’t get on the phone to friendly journalists and start decrying Meghan—as it did when Diana revealed her bulimia all those years ago—as an attention-seeker or self-publicist.
For those who have spent the past few years observing the ruthless but, simultaneously, bizarrely cack-handed way the royals have sought to censor and control Meghan, the absence of approved royal sources slamming her is a welcome development. (However, it should be said that had they even attempted any such heartless criticism it would have been met with rightful condemnation by the public.) For Meghan, it will be a relief; not because she needs anyone’s permission to speak her truth, but, more prosaically, because a “royal row” narrative would have distracted from the message of the article itself.
This is not to say, of course, that there won’t be petty quarrels and sniping at Meghan and Harry again. There will. But it seems that even the famously hard-hearted Windsors saw the wisdom of not responding to Meghan’s pain in a critical way. That in itself feels like it could herald a major reset in relations between the Sussexes and the Establishment.
The Daily Beast also exclusively revealed that Harry and Meghan had discussed with his family her decision to write her convention-shattering piece, which is being widely hailed—much as was Chrissy Teigen’s photographic account of her miscarriage—as an attitude-altering contribution to the conversation around this everyday tragedy. Friends of the couple told The Daily Beast that they had discussed the “very painful” experience with Harry’s family.
The royal family deserves no medals for showing themselves to be human, but its senior members do appear to have finally accepted that Meghan—who has complained of being deprived of her voice and silenced as a royal—has a right to be heard. That is progress.
On the bigger question of whether this traumatic event will repair any rifts in the royal family, or even put things into perspective a little, it is probably too early to say. Meghan’s camp have been guarded in their use of language, pointedly saying that the painful experience has been “discussed” with Harry’s family. That in itself is encouraging, but they have not, however, used words to suggest that the royals’ input has been a great source of solace or comfort for Harry and Meghan.
Yeah, I noticed that too – for all of the negativity from the peanut gallery (commenters, tweets, etc), the palace didn’t actually send courtiers out to trash Meghan. But I think that’s more about those courtiers knowing that it would not end well if they tried to play the “we were blind-sided, how dare this impertinent American” game in this particular situation. Besides, there’s a limit to how many times the palace can reasonably claim to be blind-sided without looking completely out of touch. I also think that “not sending people out to trash and smear Meghan” isn’t quite enough for a “reset” in royal relations. If anything, this is a stalemate, and that might be the best anyone can hope for the future – the Sussexes are clearly building their future in California and the jealous, petty, hopeless Windsors don’t actually want them to come back. So a stalemate it is. Also: we’ll never find out for sure, but I would be interested in knowing when Harry and Meghan told the Windsors about her miscarriage and about the op-ed.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.