Last week, as Britain tuned in to watch Oprah’s highly anticipated interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, many pondered the effects it would have on the British public’s perception of the couple. Sure enough, on Friday, various outlets focused on a post-interview poll which suggested that for the first time, Prince Harry’s popularity had dropped below 50% and Meghan’s support sat at a measly 10%. Despite the moving revelation that Meghan had considered suicide, the allegations of racism against the royal family, and the furore caused by Piers Morgan’s anti-Megan rant, this poll illustrates that the interview may have actually diminished the reputation of the couple amongst British audiences.
In this regard, the monarchy can breathe a sigh of relief. Despite the interview having been labelled by Reuters as the “greatest crisis this century”, the institution itself has emerged from it without too great a loss of face. Of equal interest, however, and something that has arguably not been given enough attention in the media thus far, is what the interview means for American audiences, and their perceptions of the royals.
In an ironic twist, over two centuries after their emancipation from British colonial rule, the United States has found itself caught up in a royal mess. Given that Meghan herself is an American, the country has a stake in the success of her marriage. However, beyond this, the interview could have a huge impact on US attitudes towards the monarchy —which until now have been remarkably positive and deferential.
CNN described the interview, which aired in the US a day earlier than for UK audiences, as “seismic”. Royal historian Sarah Gristwood affirmed this in her post-interview assessment, arguing that regardless of how Britain reacted to the accusations, the real damage done was to the “international reputation” of the family. Immediately, The White House indicated their allegiance to Meghan Markle, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki arguing that it took “courage” to speak out in the way she did. Psaki’s comment, spoken on behalf of President Biden, illustrates the US administration’s dismay at the revelations within the interview.
Far more important than the view of the political elite, a YouGov poll found that US audiences were twice as likely to support Harry and Meghan than their British counterparts. Why is this? Beyond Meghan’s nationality and the couple’s recent relocation to the US, there is also an interesting trend in the ways in which reactions on social media, particularly those from American celebrities, have taken the interview as a reminder, or even an exposure, of Britain’s sordid history of racism.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted following the interview, describing it as “withering” and drew direct parallels between the racism described regarding Archie’s skin colour and Britain’s position as “The Kingdom which first brought slaves here 400 years ago”. Serena Williams, who is a close friend of Markle’s, wrote that “I know first-hand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of colour to minimise us”. Following America’s past year grappling with its own institutional racism, the interview may serve as an enlightening symbol that Britain’s history, and indeed present, is equally sordid and divisive.
What effect will America’s general support of Harry and Meghan have on long-term attitudes towards the royals? Following the interview, news outlets reported that Boston Tea Party memes dominated Twitter during the telecast, and #abolishthemonarchy immediately trended, and continued to do so for a considerable amount of time. Despite movements in the UK towards a general vilification of the young couple within mainstream press and political circles, the US has voiced markedly more support for Harry and Meghan and has cemented that support by extending antipathy to the very institution of the monarchy. Even if this does not result in a long-term decline in popularity, this is a significant blemish upon the royal family’s generally adored position within the American mainstream.
Image: Bruce Detorres on Flickr