Oin the surface, Meghan Marklea and Prince Andrew couldn’t have less in common. A married in the Royal family and the other has never known a life out there. Meghan has forged her own path and identity for decades. Andrew, on the other hand, had charted his path for him from birth, and as the Queen’s second son, established a public identity that he always knew he would have to fulfill. However, they have one big similarity: they are, according to a recent poll, the two least popular members of the House of Windsor. This lack of popularity in itself is enough for many to make comparisons between the two. In reality, they couldn’t be more different from each other.
During her tenure as a working royal, Meghan was most often directly compared to the Duchess of Cambridge. She even commented on how this flow of comparisons made her feel during her much-discussed interview with Oprah in 2021† The Duchess of Sussex said after seeing the respective headlines about the two women doing essentially the same things, rocking their baby bumps and eating avocados: “I can now see what layers were involved there, and again, they really do look like a story of a hero and a villain.” Since I took a step back from life as a senior royalthis feeling that Meghan is portrayed as a villain only becomes more entrenched.
Harry and Meghan’s decision to speak publicly to Oprah about their experiences as senior royals may be the only tangible thing they share with Prince Andrew, who has his own high-profile television interview with Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis in 2019† Meghan’s admission of serious mental health problems and her claims of lack of support from the palace sparked much debate that continues to this day. From those who immediately sympathized with her, to the other end of the spectrum who mocked her for struggling both wealthy and mentally, it proved she is nothing but a divisive figure.
However, that both Meghan and Andrew were determined to get their own side of the stories across isn’t enough to cast them in the same role. Meghan’s attempt to tell her the truth seemed based on a sort of desperation to be understood, to refocus the stories swirling around her. Some of these were relatively benign things that were misunderstood. For example two sisters-in-law with underage spit leading up to high pressure wedding is not exactly unusual.
On the other hand, the allegations surrounding Andrew were the subject of a civil lawsuit. Virginia Giuffre accused him of sexually assaulting her three times† The truth of these claims has never been established by a court and Prince Andrew has vehemently and consistently denied them. He reached an amicable settlement of millions of pounds with Giuffre in February, releasing a statement that read: “Prince Andrew has never intended to defame the character of Mrs Giuffre, and he accepts that she is both a well-established “has suffered. victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks. Jeffrey Epstein is known to have trafficked countless young girls over the years. Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein and commends the bravery of Mrs. Giuffre and other survivors.”
However, many members of the public disagreed with his decision to pay Giuffre such a large settlement, when he had previously insisted on wanting his day in court. As a royal commentator Omid Scobie wrote for the independent: “Didn’t he want to use that moment to fight for his innocence? One last chance to prove he didn’t do the horrific things he was accused of? I know if I was faced with the same predicament, I would.” That seems to be a sticking point for many people. Whatever Andrew’s reasons were, the settlement left a stench.
It felt like a hodgepodge for many to prevent this already massive PR disaster for the royal family from spiraling further out of control. Despite the acknowledgments in his statement, it still cemented a more general sense that there was a lack of real accountability: With vast wealth, power, and privilege at your fingertips, it seems easy to buy one out of that path.
Ahead of the anniversary, it was clear that the public vote is still firmly against Andrew. A song titled “Prince Andrew is a Sweaty N*nce” started climbing the charts, and there was an immediate reaction when the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that the public be more “open and forgiving” and “go back a bit” . [Andrew] trying to make it right.” Both the Archbishop and Prince Andrew are said to have appeared at the Thanksgiving service if they had not tested positive for the coronavirus† This may have been a blessing in disguise for the royal family. In this context, Andrew’s appearance could certainly have detracted from what turned out to be a beautiful event.
Meghan’s Performance During the Platinum Anniversary Weekend proved that she certainly still provokes strong opinions. There is a large section of the public that seems determined not to like her. Those who favor her, however, are more than ready to defend her in the face of the barrage of criticism she receives. Meghan, like everyone who attended the Thanksgiving service, seemed delighted to be there and to have the opportunity to celebrate the Queen. The Sussexes may have played a smaller part in the proceedings than they ever would have, but they were clearly still important guests and at the heart of the matter.
That Meghan is second only to Andrew in the popularity polls is somewhat shocking. While Andrew certainly regrets his association with Epstein, it was ill-advised at best and shows a serious lack of judgment. Meghan, on the other hand, only had the audacity to be herself and take the necessary steps to protect her sanity. She may have messed things up, but the controversy that has been levied on her seems unjustified. In direct comparison to the seriousness of the allegations against Andrew, it’s hard not to be cynical: the only real threat she posed was that of the supposed tradition of whiteness.
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