By Monica Showalter
Meghan Markle, it seems, isn’t much of a scholar.
While much of the focus has been on her barbs accusing the British royal family of abnormal interest in her baby’s skin color and denying him a title and personal security protection supposedly because he is black and they are racists, what’s striking to me is how unprepared she was for the royal role she sought when she married Prince Harry. And not just ignorant, but willfully ignorant, proud of her ignorance, flippantly stating she never did “any research,” as if that’s something to be proud of.
Here’s the video of it, beginning at the 8:30 mark, with some choice quotes:
Oprah: “Everybody who gets married knows that you are really marrying the … family, too.”
Oprah: “But you weren’t just marrying a family, you were marrying a 1200-year-old institution. You were marrying the monarchy. What did you think it was going to be like?”
Meghan: “I will say went into it naively, because I didn’t grow up knowing much about the royal family, it wasn’t something that was part of conversation at home, it wasn’t something that we followed. My mom even said to me a couple months ago, she said: ‘Did Diana ever do an interview?’ But now, I can say ‘yes, a very famous one.’ But my mom doesn’t even know that.
Oprah: “But you were certainly aware of the royals…”
Meghan: “Of course.”
Oprah: “And if you were to marry a royal, you would do research about what that would mean…”
Meghan: “Woah, I didn’t do any research about that!”
Oprah: “You didn’t do any research?”
You can tell from the transcript that I transcribed that Oprah was a little flabbergasted.
Meghan claimed (not in the clip) that Prince Harry told her all she needed to know, so no need for that.
She also claims she didn’t know how to curtsy to the queen, which is a little hard to believe, given that curtsies are pretty common in stage performances with children, especially in dance, and as an actress from the get-go, she participated in many. In any case, she’s seen movies, and presumably, she’s seen ballet, where this act is common. But maybe she didn’t.
How’d that work out for you, Meghan?
Markle started out as a duchess with a fancy royal wedding, a revamped Frogmore Cottage, a high and honored place in British society, and now she’s back to seeking gig work in Hollywood, along with some emoting with Oprah. Maybe if she had researched what the royal position would be like, she wouldn’t have been in for such surprises. Instead, she’s unwittingly exposed herself to be a fool and the bad kind of fool: the one who doesn’t know it.
Her flip refusal to research her coming new life suggests a lot of shallowness, which is kind of what you expect in a Hollywood actress, but until now, most would have given to her the benefit of the doubt.
Anyone who has read anything about the unique, rarified life of the British royals would know that its demands are rigorous and include considerable personal sacrifice. It requires service for others and a lack of sense of self. It also includes bright camera glare and a thick skin based on the acts of a rude and tasteless press. In return, one could expect a life of luxury with few personal finance worries and a steady and high place in society. That’s the tradeoff, and the people who understand this can make it work.
I’ve met royals. I met Prince Charles as an exchange student at Oxford University in the 1980s, and the king of Jordan’s lovely sister. I have a friend from college who became a royal through marriage. They all showed considerable selflessness. Charles was kind and accommodating to all of us students, who were thrilled to meet a real royal for the first time. The king of Jordan’s sister, whom I met at an Asia Society event in New York in the 1990s, went out of her way to greet me after I’d been shoved out of the way by a fat, pushy United Nations official, and I wasn’t even dressed properly. (Embarrassingly, I was wearing a skirt and flip-flops). Yet she treated me so memorably kindly, and I told her how much she looked like her recently deceased brother. My friend who became a royal gave up her chance for a fancy wedding, donating her wedding money to the poor.
You see a lot of selflessness among people who are in the authentically royal life.
But Meghan didn’t. She didn’t even know there was something special about meeting the queen, given her lack of butterflies for the affair. To her, the queen was just some in-law old lady.
Nevertheless, she seemed to be canny of the politics. She was careful not to directly criticize the queen and, for that matter, her sister-in-law, Duchess Catherine, at least in name, because she was trying to influence public opinion to her side of things and knew that both are very popular with the British public and she’d be a goat if she did. Nevertheless, she threw them all under the bus, saying it was Kate who made her cry and the queen’s staff who were awful, as if any of this were important. It was to her, but that was the problem. She didn’t have any idea about the kind of enterprise she was on and, as a result, failed miserably. If she had researched the matter, maybe she would have had realistic expectations about what she could and couldn’t do and come up with a plan to make the best of it, assuming she really loved Harry.
And that’s another thing. Was there any effort to love these people in all this? If they were to be family, wouldn’t you do research on how to please them, how to understand them, how to contribute to their mission, how to support them, how to know what they’d expect? Couldn’t you spend a bit of time in England first to get acculturated, to know what Brits are really like, the good and bad of it, for sure? She constantly sounds like someone who’s a victim of culture shock and doesn’t realize it.
She claims she was lonely and demanded a shrink, and they said “no,” but did she ever try to get close to the family, maybe learn from them how they coped? That would have fixed the loneliness problem, but it doesn’t sound like it. She bagged her prince, and she was on her way, her career always coming first, and the royal family merely “the firm” and her vehicle, which for her cultural failure to assimilate, or even try to assimilate, she failed to achieve mightily.
She didn’t really give them a chance, and it’s pretty obvious she didn’t research the royal life because she’s neither a listener nor a learner. She didn’t try to adapt to anything as she joined their lives. She seemed to think they were joining hers.
She may have emoted something fierce with Oprah about how hard her life was, and as Andrea Widburg, in her piece here, said, plenty of things that didn’t sound terribly truthful — especially the one about her baby’s prince title, which at the time, she claimed she didn’t want. (New York Post columnist Maureen Callaghan is even harsher in her skepticism, rooted in her not so disguised slavering for fame.) But what strikes me most is that she jumped into a role and she wasn’t ready. If she did that in an acting role, she’d be panned. But she failed to research a big life role, including a sense of what she was getting into. She didn’t care about them, and she didn’t even care that she didn’t. She only cared about herself from start to finish, exposing herself as a fool. She seems a little big for her britches.