Immediately after reading Meghan Markle’s brave and brilliant op-ed about her miscarriage in the New York Times this week, The Daily Beast reached out to the offices of Prince Charles, Prince William, and Queen Elizabeth to try and get a sense of the mood in their camps.
While Charles and William more or less stuck to the usual “no comment”, the response that came from the queen’s office was rather unusual. While saying that they wouldn’t comment, they did, noting this was a “deeply personal” issue, a phrase which, while not exactly warm, encouraging or supportive, appeared to at least show a modicum of empathy and compassion for Meghan and Harry.
Empathy and compassion, as anyone who has been watching The Crown, Peter Morgan’s devastating portrait of the Windsors on Netflix, over the past few weeks, are not exactly the royal family’s stock in trade.
What’s also important is what didn’t happen next. The palace didn’t get on the phone to friendly journalists and start decrying Meghan—as it did when Diana revealed her bulimia all those years ago—as an attention-seeker or self-publicist.
For those who have spent the past few years observing the ruthless but, simultaneously, bizarrely cack-handed way the royals have sought to censor and control Meghan, the absence of approved royal sources slamming her is a welcome development. (However, it should be said that had they even attempted any such heartless criticism it would have been met with rightful condemnation by the public.)
For Meghan, it will be a relief; not because she needs anyone’s permission to speak her truth, but, more prosaically, because a “royal row” narrative would have distracted from the message of the article itself.
This is not to say, of course, that there won’t be petty quarrels and sniping at Meghan and Harry again.
There will. But it seems that even the famously hard-hearted Windsors saw the wisdom of not responding to Meghan’s pain in a critical way. That in itself feels like it could herald a major reset in relations between the Sussexes and the Establishment.
The Daily Beast also exclusively revealed that Harry and Meghan had discussed with his family her decision to write her convention-shattering piece, which is being widely hailed—much as was Chrissy Teigen’s photographic account of her miscarriage—as an attitude-altering contribution to the conversation around this everyday tragedy.
Friends of the couple told The Daily Beast that they had discussed the “very painful” experience with Harry’s family.
The royal family deserves no medals for showing themselves to be human, but its senior members do appear to have finally accepted that Meghan—who has complained of being deprived of her voice and silenced as a royal—has a right to be heard. That is progress.
On the bigger question of whether this traumatic event will repair any rifts in the royal family, or even put things into perspective a little, it is probably too early to say. Meghan’s camp have been guarded in their use of language, pointedly saying that the painful experience has been “discussed” with Harry’s family. That in itself is encouraging, but they have not, however, used words to suggest that the royals’ input has been a great source of solace or comfort for Harry and Meghan.
It didn’t take long for some pundits to begin sharpening their knives against Meghan: Camilla Tominey, an influential royal commentator for the Daily Telegraph where she is also a senior executive, sent out a breathtakingly harsh take in her weekly newsletter in which she wrote of Meghan’s decision to reveal her miscarriage.
“The piece she has written for the New York Times will only serve to further support the Mail on Sunday’s defense that Meghan has repeatedly invaded her own privacy,” Tominey wrote. “In describing how she watched her ‘husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine,’ she has disclosed one of the most intimate moments in her own marriage.”
Sadly, there will be many in the upper echelons of the British establishment who will peddle this line in the days to come. The clever ones will pretend to respect Meghan’s public statement on the one hand, while simultaneously undermining her or calling her stupid or shortsighted on the other.
They are on a losing ticket, not least because Meghan is clearly an extremely smart person. For example, she shrewdly used her piece not to wallow in her own grief but as a springboard to discussing the wider crisis that America finds itself in this Thanksgiving weekend.
Quite besides the political upheaval around the general election, more than 20 million Americans are on some form of unemployment insurance, and the TV news has shown heart-rending images of many Americans using food banks. A fresh wave of coronavirus cases may follow the holidays, making all these numbers worse.
Understandably the media have focused on the big news that Meghan revealed—that she had a miscarriage in July. But the second half of the article, in which she rails against the “siloed living” enforced by the pandemic, is full of signposts and clues as to how Meghan thinks she and Harry could be useful, and what they might do in 2021, when their pandemic-delayed Archewell foundation gets off the ground.
Harry is passionate about mental health. He has blazed a trail for the royals by talking about his own mental breakdowns occasioned by the grief he repressed for his mother, his paranoia, and the PTSD-like symptoms he suffers when faced with banks of cameras.
In her piece, Meghan writes: “We have learned that when people ask how any of us are doing, and when they really listen to the answer, with an open heart and mind, the load of grief often becomes lighter—for all of us. In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing.”
This seems to even a casual observer a very clear declaration that Meghan and Harry will continue to talk openly about their mental health challenges. Meghan will likely become a powerful advocate for helping women who have undergone miscarriages.
Omid Scobie, co-author of the revelatory and controversial Harry and Meghan bio Finding Freedom, who has been given privileged access into the world of the Sussexes, tweeted a screengrab of a text from a source on Thursday which detailed the Sussexes’ Thanksgiving arrangements.
“They are going to have a quiet dinner at home and are looking forward to celebrating their first American Thanksgiving in the states as a family. They plan to enjoy a home cooked meal with traditional Thanksgiving dishes, including recipes made with fresh vegetables from their garden.”
As America faces what Meghan accurately described as “a holiday unlike any before,” we can be quite sure that, along with continuing to process the trauma and grief of her miscarriage, Harry and Meghan will also be giving thanks for the many good things in their lives.
One of those good things appears to be that the British royals have finally accepted the futility of trying to stand in her way—even if to many it will seem an outrage that it took the loss of her unborn child to get that simple message through to them.