- Rachel Burchfield
We need to talk about Meghan
Two weeks ago, when Harry and Meghan attended The Lion King premiere, they met so many celebrities – obviously Beyoncé. Elton John. Jay-Z. But it was a conversation overheard between Meghan and Pharrell Williams that really struck me.
“I’m so happy for your union,” Pharrell said. “Love is amazing. It’s wonderful…Don’t ever take that for granted, but what it means in today’s climate, I just wanted to tell you it’s so significant for so many of us. Seriously.”
“That’s so kind of you to say,” Meghan said.
“I mean this,” Pharrell continued. “It’s significant. We cheer you guys on.”
Then, Meghan reached out and touched him on the arm.
“Oh, thank you,” she said. “They don’t make it easy.”
Since then, rampant speculation has ensued as to who they are. Some have said it’s the Royal Family, with all of their rules and protocol. I don’t think that’s it. Some have said it’s the fans, who won’t let Meghan enjoy Wimbledon or prevent her from having any semblance of a normal life. Again, I don’t think that’s it. I think she’s referring to the constant, brutal, unrelenting beatdowns she endures in the media, the same press that, let’s be honest, assisted in killing Harry’s mother. And while Meghan might not physically be dying, it has to be a bit of an emotional death to every day be criticized for everything.
The renovations to their home, Frogmore Cottage. (Which, this week we learned, were not paid for by taxpayer dollars, as was reported in the press, but by the Queen.) Her relationship – did Harry snub her at Trooping the Colour? Did he ignore her at the London Series baseball game? Everything relating to Archie – her decision to not trot him out at the Lindo Wing, which, if you think about it, is a very weird tradition anyway, and, most especially, the private christening. Even this week, reports came out that Harry and Meghan were terrible to their neighbors, forbidding them from speaking to them or petting their dog. Every single week – and sometimes more than once a week – it’s a new headline, every one of them with the same message: Meghan is terrible. She’s difficult. She’s awful. She and Harry are just putting on a show and their relationship is a farce. Meghan is the enemy.
For comparison’s sake, Kate was never treated this viscerally by the press. But why would she be? She was everything everyone expected her to be in a Royal bride. She was British. She was young – a teenager still – when she met William, too young to have a career of her own, an identity of her own, and any semblance of a past (much less a divorce). She acquiesced to everything asked of her. There Kate was, in full makeup and with her hair blown out, on the steps of the Lindo Wing mere hours after giving birth. There she was, pushing the stroller towards the church for her children’s christening, revealing godparents and posing for photo calls and acquiescing. (I am not criticizing Kate, mind you; Kate, as the wife of the heir to the British throne, must play a very different role than the wife of the spare does. She is merely doing her job, although it is sometimes ridiculous what is asked of her.) And – I hate that I have to say this – but Kate is white.
Imagine this. You fall in love – deeply in love, more than you ever thought you could. You are, by the book, everything your partner is not really looking for. You’re divorced. You’re American. You’re an actress. (To which Philip, in his way, once told Harry “One steps out with actresses, one doesn’t marry them” – yes, he actually said that.) You’re biracial. You live in Canada at the time. You’re – different. But, yet, you fall in love and realize this person is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. This should be a fairytale, a happy ending – or, rather, a happy beginning – the start of something good. And, while it is all of that and more, it’s also awful. When your relationship goes public, the racial backlash against you is so strong that your normally tight-lipped partner issues a statement to the press decrying it. It’s that bad. Your partner’s brother – who himself courted his now wife for a decade – says your relationship is moving way too fast, and from that sprouts a rift that continues to this day. Eventually, it becomes clear that marriage is inevitable, so you must give up everything – the career you love, your home country of the United States and your adopted country of Canada, your family, your blog that you’ve enjoyed publishing, your social media accounts, hell, even your freaking dog who can’t make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to your new home in London. You give up everything and what do you get in return? A family that is baffled by you totally, that goes against every feminist bone in your body – Pantyhose? Rules about what nail polish you can wear? Rules about when you can touch your husband in public? – but you do it because you truly love this man. So here you are, in London now, engaged and happy, planning a wedding. Now that you are officially public fodder – with the diamond ring on your hand to prove it – the criticism begins. And it’s relentless. Nonstop. Fervent. Every week, something else. Pointing out, on a global stage, every mistake you make. Then you get married, and, soon after, get pregnant. This is the happiest time of your life, but also the most upsetting. Your new sister-in-law – who you actually like but really don’t have a whole lot in common with – is accused of hating you, just like everyone else. Rumors of a rift, a feud, ensue, when, really, you’re just trying to get to know her and establish a bond. They say you’re rude to the staff. Who are you to have an opinion? A mind of your own? You’re difficult. You’re too much. You’re a bitch. What did I sign on for? you must have thought more than once.
Then you have your firstborn. Again, the happiest times of your life juxtaposed with the most challenging. They’re mad because you kept the birth private. The Windsor Castle photo call wasn’t enough. They hate the name. You want to keep your baby private? they scoff. But he’s public property! Not realizing that your partner, the love of your life, is probably still and forever so incredibly emotionally scarred from being 12 years old and losing his mother in a violent Paris car crash, the result of the deadly combination of a drunk driver and a paparazzi chase, and from being trotted out in front of the entire world to walk behind his beloved mother’s coffin as it rolled through the streets of London that, yeah, maybe privacy is really important to the couple, hoping Archie can avoid the deep, abiding emotional scars that Harry carries. The press creates a narrative – Meghan is a bitch – and then writes stories every day to fit the narrative, everything from she can’t keep a nanny to she is ruining her marriage to she’s not losing weight fast enough to and to and to. And yes, you have Harry, and he’s everything, but you are in literally a foreign country, without your beloved mother, your best friends, and your work, which has always sustained you. You’re doing the best you can and it would be hard anyway, but the press – the relentless press.
They don’t make it easy.
The Duchess Commentary is a fan of both Kate’s and Meghan’s, but is not a place without opinions. If the duchesses do something I don’t like, I’m going to write my feelings on it. This isn’t a PR firm for Kate and Meghan. However, it is always coming from a place of love, affection, and respect for two women I personally look up to and admire very much. There is never hate, vitriol, or nastiness here. The same can’t be said for the rest of the media, which has now written a narrative of “Kate is perfect” and “Meghan is a bitch” and thrown every story idea possible into each of those buckets. It’s disgusting and vile and, as I’ve said before on the blog, I’m sick of it. Some criticism helps move one forward towards their greatest self. Excessive criticism can kill a spirit.
Something we need to make clear now: Since there are only two sons of the Prince of Wales – William and Harry – it is easy to peg them as equals in the Royal hierarchy. They are not. William is the heir to the throne. There are things he, and, vis a vis, Kate must do because of that position. Harry is not the heir. He is not required to do so much of what William and Kate must do, and he and Meghan should not be put on the same pedestal as William and Kate because the Royal structure is not designed to work that way. Charles, another heir to the throne, was one of four siblings. Did we have a coronary that Anne, who is the equivalent of Harry in birth order as she is Charles’ closest sibling in age, chose to raise her children, Peter and Zara, without titles and in a relatively normal life, out of the fishbowl? No. Did the press have a field day over Edward and Sophie’s children’s christenings? Do you even know their children’s names? Even Beatrice and Eugenie, the daughters of Andrew and Fergie, were only really well known after they wore those unfortunate fascinators to William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, when they were 22 and 20, respectively – grown women. So why do Harry and Meghan get put through the ringer?
No, Meghan, they haven’t made it easy. But it shows me how tough, strong, and resilient you are that you’ve withstood and continue to withstand all of it, and you show up, day after day, week after week, month after month, and work at doing good. You work at making a difference. You have had every deck stacked against you, but still, you rise. You remind me of a poem by my favorite poet, the great Maya Angelou:
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
Meghan, I know they have not made it easy, but you were built in every fiber of your being for this. Rise, Meghan. Rise. And know you have me – and countless others – cheering you on.