Yesterday’s bombshell announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—aka Prince Harry and Meghan Markle—are retreating from their senior royal family roles in a bid to become more “financially independent” shocked a lot of people. But many who had been following how the royal couple are treated by the British press undoubtedly saw this coming.
More specifically, the often-sleazy behavior of Britain’s notorious tabloids—and their relentless coverage of Meghan’s personal life—left supporters of the royal couple unsurprised by the sudden retreat. As many commentators have pointed out, the publications are not above targeting Meghan for her divorce, or her biracial heritage, or any number of personal issues, and that nonstop, breakneck coverage has often bordered on harassment.
Think what you want about Meghan Markle. But don’t let anyone tell you she wasn’t the victim of the most vicious racism and media bullying here. Grateful to them both for being so open about mental health challenges as they step back from royal life. Has been painful to watch.
— Megan Murphy (@meganmurp) January 8, 2020
Indeed, a poll conducted last year by YouGov bears this out. When asked which member of the royal family is treated the most “unfavorably” by the media, 39% of survey respondents said Meghan. No other member of the family came anywhere close. The next on the list was Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with 8%.
When broken down by gender and age, the results are even more compelling: 43% of women think Meghan is treated the most unfavorably, while almost half of young people (44% of 18- and 24-year-olds) feel the same. (Worth noting that this group is also too young to remember similarly vicious behavior toward Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, who died in a 1996 car crash while being pursued by paparazzi.)
Big changes are already afoot, however. In their newly launched website, Harry and Meghan announced yesterday a “revised” approach to how they will engage with the media. Crucially, the couple will no longer participate in the U.K.’s decades-old “Royal Rota system,” the pool that allows British media to cover royal happenings. Many entrenched U.K. newspapers are part of this pool, including the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Sun, and others.
Rather than play by the old rules, Harry and Meghan say they now plan to engage with “grassroots media organizations and young, up-and-coming journalists” going forward.
It looks like #Megxit has already begun.