Will the tea ever stop spilling about Meghan Markle and the British monarchy? Admittedly, we in the media likely hope not, since that milkshake continues to bring all the clicks to the yard. But as human beings (and Black ones, at that), it’s been increasingly cringeworthy to cover the growing impasse between the royal family and its first self-identified woman of color. In the immortal words of Lauryn, Lady of the Hill: “It could all be so simple...but you’d rather make it haaaaaard.”
Case in point? It’s been several years since the first attacks upon Meghan emerged in the British media; almost three since the royal wedding; nearly two since the birth of son Archie, and just over one since the Sussexes retreated from their roles as senior royals and abandoned the United Kingdom in favor of the United States. But now, just two weeks after the couple sat down with Oprah to air out how unprotected they felt by the powers that be at the palace, the royal family are said to now be “considering appointing a diversity tsar under new plans to modernize the monarchy,” according to the Guardian, which also reports:
The move comes after Buckingham Palace conducted a review of policies, procedures and programs currently in place and found that not enough progress had been made, with an acknowledgment that “more needs to be done”.
It comes after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex claimed in an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey that a member of the family had made a racist comment about their son, Archie...
While the work being undertaken around diversity predates the couple’s interview, their comments will be taken on board as part of the process, it is understood.
The aforementioned comments, of course, include Meghan and Harry’s claims that at least one other senior royal (though not the Queen or Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) expressed concerns about the potential skin tone of their unborn child. These claims were compounded by revelations that Archie was denied a royal title, and the Sussexes denied palace-funded security after stepping down from senior roles. Meghan is now pregnant with the couple’s second child.
However, if a “diversity tsar” is to now to be appointed at the palace, the initiative also comes after it seemingly opted for the retaliatory option first, launching an investigation into over-two-year-old claims by royal staff that they felt “bullied” by Meghan during the brief months she was in residence.
Is it just us, or does it seem like the time to hire a diversity tsar might’ve been when you realized your very (very) public family was going to become more diverse?
Nevertheless, the Guardian reports:
As part of the drive encompassing Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace, it is understood that aides will undertake a “listen and learn” exercise over the coming weeks, which will involve speaking to a range of businesses and individuals about how the monarchy can improve representation.
The move to improve diversity will include LGBTQ+ and disability representation and is said to have the full support of the royal family. It aims to seek independent views to help assess and improve representation.
Again, this seems a tad too little, too late, no? But a royal source reportedly told the outlet: “This is an issue which has been taken very seriously across the royal households. We have the policies, procedures and programs in place but we haven’t seen the progress we would like and accept more needs to be done, we can always improve.
“Therefore we are not afraid to look at new ways of approaching it. The work to do this has been underway for some time now and comes with the full support of the family,” the statement added.
The Guardian also reminds us of the initial statement released by the palace in response to the explosive interview: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately...Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
There may be love, but other recently surfaced reports give some credence to the lack of protection the Sussexes discussed feeling in their interview—though the extent to which the royal family is responsible remains up for debate. Last week, the New York Times revealed that Daniel Portley-Hanks, “a veteran Los Angeles private investigator known as Danno, whose résumé includes several stints in prison and decades of clandestine work for a range of clients, including several British tabloids,” was procured by British-based tabloid The Sun to uncover private information about Meghan when she began dating Harry.
According to the Times, Portley-Hanks reportedly used an online service “with a vast database of restricted information about individuals and businesses, and pulled up a trove of details—home addresses, cellphone numbers, Social Security numbers and more—about Ms. Markle, her parents, her siblings and her ex-husband. He then sold it to the U.S. editor, James Beal, for $2,055, according to an invoice reviewed by the New York Times.”
More from the Times:
Armed with this information, The Sun jumped into high gear, producing a stream of gossipy, thinly sourced “exclusives” over the next week. One discussed how Harry, desperate to go out with Meghan after first meeting her earlier that year, “pursued her and besieged her with texts until she agreed to a date.” Another featured an unflattering interview with Ms. Markle’s half sister, Samantha, who described Ms. Markle as an ambitious, callous social climber who all but ditched her family when she became famous.
Mr. Portley-Hanks, now 74 and retired, said his data also put the Sun onto the trail of Ms. Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, a former Hollywood lighting director, who fell out with his daughter in a bitter exchange of letters and interviews that would continue to play out in the tabloids even after Ms. Markle married Prince Harry, in 2018.
As the Times points out, it is legal for licensed private investigators to access this type of information for use in civil and criminal cases, but “it is a violation of U.S. privacy statutes for people to pass these reports on to news organizations” or similar third parties.
Portley-Hanks says The Sun circumvented the law “with a nod and a wink,” saying in an interview that the tabloid “sent me a letter I had to sign that said I wouldn’t use any illegal methods to locate people or do background checks...Then the reporters came back to me and said, ‘But if you want to get work, keep doing what you’ve been doing,’
“I strongly believe that James Beal knew that what I was providing him was obtained illegally,” Portley-Hanks added in an affidavit, which is now in the possession of Harry’s lawyers. Presumably, it will be used to bolster evidence in his phone hacking suit against The Sun and the Daily Mirror; not to be confused with Meghan’s ongoing invasion of privacy suit against several British tabloids.
In all, it helps further explain why the Sussexes found the prospect of life far from the palace and out of the glare of the British press appealing. “We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health,” Harry recently told fellow Briton and evening talk-show host James Corden. “I was, like, this is toxic,” Harry continued. “So, I did what any husband and what any father would do—I need to get my family out of here.”