Harry and Meghan aim to reset the dial over how the Royal family is treated by the media

Harry and Meghan aim to reset the dial over how the Royal family is treated by the media


By Peter Kane 

What is it about the mixed race, non-British, former actress who has married into the Royal family that seems to vex a section of the UK tabloid media so much?

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has decided enough is enough and has decided to sue the publishers of the Mail on Sunday. Her grievance relates to the publication of a private letter she sent to her father. Perhaps unfortunately for the publishers the copyright for a letter belongs to the author, so they might find they’re on thin ice in a court of law.

The wider debate that will accompany the court case will be a largely muddy affair with various people focused on their own agendas suggesting what the case is ‘really about’.

Some, likely the publishers, will talk about freedom of the press. Others will no doubt say the royal family should simply accept anything that comes their way because of their privileged, monied position. Yet more will decry the fact that a Royal family exists at all.

Like an argument where all the participants are drunk there will be self-righteousness and no willingness to consider other’s thoughts, opinions or feelings. And as is so often the case, points of view will be shaped to fit with existing biases. Those who already don’t like Meghan or Prince Harry or both, have quickly begun their attacks.

Piers Morgan for instance, the television presenter, has called Meghan “fake” in his response. That kind of focus is not on the merits of her case but on what people might think of her. Didn’t he have is own issues arising from fake photographs depicting British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners when he was editor of the Daily Mirror? No matter, self-awareness so rarely occurs these day.

Does being part of the Royal family mean they aren’t allowed to be treated with some human decency? Really, what family would deal well with a father who provides a private written letter from this daughter to a tabloid newspaper for publication and the titillation of millions of people?

We have a husband with a young wife and son who feels he has to defend them. Surely everyone has that right? Prince Harry’s own statement was emotional, seemingly honest, and human. He and Meghan obviously believe their court case is right in law. So why shouldn’t they have the same rights as others to have their say when they feel they have a genuine grievance?

Certainly it is hard to escape the possibility that some stories in particular sections of the media about Meghan are intentionally feeding a Brexit trope. For some she is the ultimate ‘brown foreigner’ who isn’t welcome in the UK. Shame on anyone who thinks that or who sells stories on the back of it.

Further shade has been thrown Meghan’s way through comparisons with the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Meghan has a relationship ‘history’ while Kate didn’t ‘date much’; the former has worn racy clothes whilst the latter is elegant; one likes to hang out with celebrities whilst the other is still friends with those ‘she met at university’ - you can guess which of these descriptions was applied to which Duchess.

In terms of public relations, there will be an inevitable wave of backlash but also support for the royal couple. The question for them is ‘what is the goal’? They feel they have a court case that will stand up. However, if the ultimate intention is to change the narrative on how they, and in particular Meghan, are reported, their action just might do that.

Kate Middleton successfully filed a complaint against a publication for using topless photographs of her while on holiday. The conclusion saw significant fines for the magazine, ‘Closer’, its editor and owner. Ever since there has been no repetition of similar type photographs and a decline in images which came very close to ‘upskirting’ of the Duchess.

Prince Harry has already announced that any monies secured by winning the court case will be donated to anti-bullying causes. He has also revealed private fears relating to the death or his mother, Princess Diana, and how he believes some media treatment of his wife is as destructive and personal as she once faced.

He has put all of his PR cards on the table. He will have been aware of the uproar this whole case will create. His messages though, whilst seen as emotional, have cleverly focused on reminding people of his mother; linking the media coverage he has an issue with to bullying; highlighting the fact that he will not benefit financially from the court case but good causes will; and ultimately, he is defending his family at a time when many families are under attack in these uncertain times. Many of us know how that feels.

There will inevitably be those who are angered by the couple’s course of action, and others will be backing them to the hilt. The thing that matters to them is changing the narrative, and if this unexpected shot across tabloid bows succeeds, they will deem it worthwhile.

Read the article in The Herald Digital here.

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