It had been more than an hour after Harry and Meghan Markle’s commented interview with Oprah – almost twenty minutes after the prince joined them – when Oprah asked if the couple had seen The Crown , Peter Morgan’s Netflix show that narrates the British royal family.
“We’ve seen a bit,” they both smiled demurely.
It seemed like an understatement.
“My grandmother was amazing at all times, and my father, and my brother, and all the rest of the family,” Prince Harry explained of his family’s encounter with Meghan. “They were really welcoming. But it changed a lot after the Australia tour .”
For all of us who were watching at home, the connection was perfect. It didn’t matter if we remembered the details of “the Australia tour,” the trip Meghan and Harry took in 2018 shortly after announcing their first pregnancy (I certainly didn’t). Any royal fan wanting to tune in to the two-hour tale would have seen the fourth season of The Crown , aired last November and covering the first decade of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles.
For those viewers, “Australia Tour” evokes one of the season’s main story arcs, in which Diana and Charles embark on their first tour of a Commonwealth country together , and Princess Diana becomes a darling. international heroine – naturally in the face of crowds, children and the homeless – while Carlos becomes jealous and the rest of the family, immune to hugs and not very given to praise for women, silently resents.
“It was the first time the family got to see how amazing he is at this job, ” Harry continued of his wife. “And that brought back memories.” That’s when Oprah posed the question: Could the family have been jealous of Meghan ?
“I wish we could all learn from the past,” Prince Harry sighed. Her family may not have, but it is obvious that Meghan and Harry have taken careful notes.
The interview was an undeniable success: Meghan was open and charming , going out of her way to blame the institution but no particular individual. Harry stuck to a script apparently crafted by Morgan: no one is to blame, but Carlos is the villain (the head of the royal family, on the other hand, is seemingly innocent of all wrong; the couple praised the Queen on several occasions) .
But they never pointed it out at all, instead they carefully led the audience there : Carlos stopped taking Harry’s calls; Carlos is “trapped” in the system of the monarchy; no one in the family spoke out in defense of Meghan, even as more than 70 members of Parliament voiced their support; Unidentified family members raised concerns about the skin color of Harry and Meghan’s first child . (In an interview Monday morning, Oprah said neither Queen Elizabeth nor Prince Philip were involved in those conversations, which doesn’t leave many suspects.)
In other words, Harry and Meghan cleverly hooked on Diana’s mythology at the time when she was most vulnerable and ready to take revenge, right where The Crown season four ends , when she decided that “the Firm”, as Everyone knows how to call the Royal Family now, she thought she was “a failure”, as she said in her explosive 1995 interview with Martin Bashir . And the pair positioned themselves as an alternate ending to Diana’s fairy tale turned tragedy.
Meghan’s open conversation with Oprah had echoes of Diana and Bashir, in particular their disclosures of tragic mental health issues. Then Diana appeared as if she were playing a role : she lined her eyes and lowered her chin to always look up at the camera and at Bashir. Of course, Diana got into that role at age 19, with nothing but fairy tales and Barbara Cartland novels to guide her, and she never got over a slightly childish understanding of her role and romanticism, though of course that did. gave a kind of naive power.
Meghan also wore smoky eyes , but as a former actress with a stronger foundation of life experience at the time of marrying Harry , she was more natural in front of the camera. She seems to know that the clearest path to empathy is to earn it, rather than dressing for it, and she wore a black Armani dress that telegraphed static good taste. Harry was wearing a J. Crew Ludlow suit, and as he crossed his legs towards his wife and approached her, his pants slipped to show his socks and even his calf. It was another wise contrast to his father, a regular on the eccentric Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row.
Above all, the conversation was a master class taking advantage of a powerful contemporary media obsession: revaluation. It’s hard to imagine that the interview would have worked so well for Harry and Meghan without the narrative template established by The Crown.
This is the era of the recent history review: see recent specials like Framing Britney Spears and Allen Vs. Farrow , and the reshuffle of Monica Lewinsky as a bullying advocate. Society was wrong then, and it is time for a more enlightened generation to put things right. Never mind that feminist journalists and critics sounded the alarm about Britney at the time, and that this is the third or fourth review of the Allen case in the last ten years. So Meghan and Harry ask us to consider their situation, and to stand on their side, in light of everything we now know about what happened to Diana. It is an opportunity not only to retaliate retroactively, but to redress the injustice in real time.
People within the palace were rumored to fear that The Crown would undo two decades of Prince Charles’s public relations work. During her life, and especially after her death, Diana was always presented as the abandoned woman , the aggrieved wife and the misunderstood of the family. After his death, Prince Charles hired Mark Bolland, who started a stealthy, decade-and-a-half advertising campaign in which the prince was carefully portrayed as a doting father and environmentalist. Bolland helped to tastefully present his marriage to Camilla as the inevitable result of two soul mates, united at last. (Also Read: Elon Musk’s girlfriend earned $5.8 million in 20 minutes using NFT)
But Diana’s counter- narrative was already leaking before The Crown after the 20th anniversary of her death in 2017. The Crown has endorsed this narrative, or at least the sexiest version of it, and Harry and Meghan have been riding she skillfully, even tactfully. Carlos is the villain again – at one point, my entire Twitter was full of people tweeting “He stopped picking up the phone !!!” – and Meghan is the Diana of this alternate universe, if her husband is. she would have wanted enough for the paparazzi to leave her alone.
Like all royals, Harry and Meghan are absurd – it’s hard to imagine them hiding at Tyler Perry’s house, or making a $ 100 million contract with Netflix, and not wincing. They are in touch enough with the public conscience that Harry can utter phrases like “this job” and Meghan can speak of “living a real life” – her phrase about having a union to protect her in her previous job was a smart appeal. to millennial sensibilities – but they keep hanging out in Montecito, talking to Oprah because she’s a friend who attended their 2018 wedding and, as we were reminded at the beginning of the special, a neighbor.
But Harry has been revealed as one of the most skilled media manipulators of the Royal Family . One of her earliest confessions, sitting down with Oprah and Meghan, was a prepared comparison to her mother: “My biggest concern was that history would repeat itself. He clarified that he was referring to Diana, but royal watchers might be forgiven for thinking of another couple who could be a more accurate predecessor: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, also known as the abdicated King Edward and his divorced wife. Wallis Simpson, who left the Royal Family to live in exile in Paris, fraternizing with celebrities and fighting with the king over money and titles.
All of that was covered in the third season of The Crown , in 2019. Part of the paradox of the series is that everyone already knows what happens, but everyone still watches it. When Elizabeth Debicki steps into the role of Diana next season and presumably reenacts the interview with Bashir, the parallels with Meghan’s fight will no doubt resurface. It appears the pair are getting ahead of tragedy by scripting future seasons themselves. (Also Read: Jobs with a future in 2021: The greatest potential lies in these technologies)