Vanity Fair just dropped their new cover story and hallelujah! I’ve been lamenting the fact that no American outlet has done a significant and deep dive into the Windsor family’s current dramas and here we go. Notably, VF didn’t ask Katie Nicholl to write this piece, with all of her sugary Middleton sources. This was written by Michelle Ruiz, and it was written for an American audience as opposed to the repressed, regressive psychodrama playing out in the British media and British public right now. The VF cover story is absolutely worth reading in its entirety, and unlike a certain Tatler cover story, this one was not written to embiggen the Cambridges and it doesn’t seem to be done with any of the Windsors’ approval. It does seem like there are some Sussex allies quoted, but mostly this is just straight analysis.
Diana & Meghan exposed the monarchy’s wooden ways. Like Diana in her day, “Harry and Meghan were suddenly too electric,” said Anna Pasternak. “They made the Cambridges”—Bill and Cathy, goes the joke—“seem dowdy, suburban, and rather dull. That does not go down well in the palace.” For continuity’s sake, the House of Windsor prefers to train the spotlight on the monarch and her direct heirs.
Pushing Meghan and Harry away: Three decades later, Meghan was staring down the paradox that had plagued her mother-in-law: The royal family demands duty from the women who marry in—to relinquish normal life (and their passports, according to Meghan) in service of the Crown. But if they’re too sparkly, the palace, like a sullen teen, gets jealous and resentful. It’s a no-win predicament familiar to women, and women of color in particular: You’re either too much or never enough. When Meghan and Harry announced their decision to step back as senior royals last year, the fusty palace establishment “started to push Meghan and Harry away completely,” Diane Abbott, the first Black female member of Parliament and former shadow home secretary, told Vanity Fair.
The monarchy is out of touch: Instead of protecting the monarchy, the Firm’s alleged unsupportive treatment of the Sussexes has only lurched the institution into existential crisis, fueling questions about its colonial roots and Britain’s systemically racist present. “The queen is a figurehead for an empire that refuses to understand that its days are gone,” said Kelechi Okafor, London-based host of the Say Your Mind pop culture podcast. “Diana came along…and then Meghan Markle came along, and everything started to fall to pieces.”
William & Harry are playing out their parents’ dynamic: “William and Harry are playing out the dynamic of their parents,” Pasternak says. Harry tracks with Diana, a rebel spirit fueled by fury at the tabloid press, blowing up the family’s cone of silence in a blockbuster interview. Meanwhile, she says, “William is very aligned with his father in his sense of duty above emotion.”
Speaking about racism: As president of the Football Association, William has spoken out against racism in the sport before, including in January, when he condemned “despicable” abuse against Manchester United player Marcus Rashford. In the fallout of the Oprah interview, the Duke of Cambridge found himself making a rare public statement to declare, “We’re very much not a racist family.” “It begs the question: Why didn’t you speak up against racism put out against your own sister-in-law?” says Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Ph.D., the British intersectional feminist activist and author of This Is Why I Resist: Don’t Define My Black Identity.
MP Abbott on the courtiers: She says this coterie strikes a “monolithically white, male, and upper class” profile—what Bonnie Greer, the American-British playwright and former deputy chair of the British Museum, calls “bloke culture.” According to Stott, who has raised money for the Royal Foundation, formerly shared by the Cambridges and Harry, stiff palace staffers “feel like they’re protecting them, but actually they’re doing a disservice to the royal family.” The entrenched male establishment at the palace seems unlikely to engage with the racial firestorm now burning outside. Meghan and Harry’s allegations of racism within the royal ranks is fueling a deeper reckoning on race in Britain. “If you can treat a princess that way,” said Parliament member Dawn Butler, “just imagine what ordinary Black women go through every single day.”
The future of the monarchy: “I think the monarchy as we know it will last as long as the queen is alive,” Abbott said. After her death, “I think there will be a big public debate…and I think what the royal family and their advisers did with Meghan will be part of the argument for change.” Abbott anticipates the debate to reach the floor of Parliament, with a “clamor to look at the current arrangement and maybe move to a more Scandinavian monarchy, where you don’t have all the pomp and ceremony.”
Wait, what?? “I’m not 100 percent sure that we will see Charles ascend to the throne,” Pasternak said. “The Sussexes have sparked something so fundamentally incendiary in this country that it is changing the face of Britain, and I think the monarchy as an archaic institution may well topple.” Busting the palace’s meticulous Operation London Bridge succession plan for the queen’s death would seem unlikely, but “it may be that there is such a groundswell of public opinion against [Charles] that it’s deemed by the firm preferable for William to ascend then because he’s younger, more relatable.”
Again with the pipe dream about William ascending to the throne instead of Charles. It won’t happen. What will happen is that Charles ascends to a weakened throne as a deeply unpopular and irrelevant king. And William, as Prince of Wales, continues to be a holy terror and people stop pulling their punches about what’s really going on with both Will and Kate. While this VF story came a lot closer to what’s really happening in the monarchy right now, there are still too few people actually laying much of the blame at Baldemort’s feet, which is where it belongs. Sure, Charles and the Queen could have changed things significantly. But William has f–ked things up completely.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid, WENN and Avalon Red.