I was surprised when I read Victoria Murphy’s article about Harry and Meghan that was published on July 21 in Town and Country: this was an opinion piece. Is Victoria Murphy writing opinion pieces now? Since when? And what is her opinion on Harry and Meghan that we aren’t aware of? Or should I say that her readership isn’t aware of? Most of all though, I’m interested in this article because it is such a departure from VM’s common fare that I’m eager (should I say keen) to understand why she went through the pain of writing it.
Now in case, some don’t remember, Victoria Murphy (VM) was among the few journalists/Royal Reporters invited to partake in the last event Meghan headlined solo before leaving the UK, which was as the patron of the ACU. The other invited journalists were Bryony Gordon (from The Telegraph), and Omid Scobie (from Haper’s Bazaar, GMA, etc.). I remember reading a comment from a Squaddie about the reports these journalists published after the meeting, saying that on an emotional scale from warm to cold one should start with Bryony’s report, then Omid’s and finally Victoria’s. In other terms, VM was not overtly hostile to the Sussexes and acquitted herself with reporting what happened during that meeting objectively -probably why she was invited in the first place. And while she did report what happened during the meeting between Meghan and selected ACU students, she failed to frame it in the grand scheme of things as the two other journalists did; which is the reason why I was surprised she’d write an “opinion” piece from somebody who had been careful so far not to ruffle the feathers of the British Royal Family (BRF), or her Royal Reporters colleagues. VM has made her job to dutifully report the saga of the BRF, especially on US media, while riding the fence all along. Another reason I’m interested in this article is the reaction it provoked among the Squad, with some retweeting it as a favorable article (let’s be honest: not overtly hostile to Meghan); while others, zooming on the headline and the author’s past history, though it was rubbish.
That headline “Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Can Never Fully Break Their Royal Ties” is puzzling: did Harry and Meghan ever stated they wanted to break these ties? For one thing, Harry is the grandson of the UK’s reigning monarch, and the son of the future one: he’ll always be tied to the UK’s Royal family, whether he likes or not. But more to it, QEII made it clear that they -Harry, Meghan, and Archie- would always be part of the royal family. And let puts it at rest: despite VM’s claims, the “huge profile” that H&M enjoys isn’t because of their royal family tie. Harry is known because he’s Diana’s son and the grandson of QEII; his popularity is based on who he grew up to be and his achievements. And while Meghan got a boost in exposure marrying into the BRF, her popularity stems from what she’d accomplished before joining the BRF, while a senior royal, and the message of women empowerment she has stuck to all along. But of course, VM could not acknowledge that as the fence rider she is. I’ll come back to VM’s claim of that tie between H&M and the BRF later, because, as it turns out, this wasn’t the core of her opinion piece, despite the article’s headline.
One part of what her article focuses on the couple’s latest appearances and how it polarized opinion… In the UK, of course. I found it interesting that VM went to great lengths explaining the background of Harry’s comment about the Commonwealth: how it generated from an open letter to Commonwealth institutions from a group of young people, and how then the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) started conversations about “how colonization and injustices of the past should shape the future of the organization”. She even pointed out that QEII is the patron of the QCT: in other words, Harry was fulfilling the QCT’s mandate by using his reach to voice out the concerns of the Commonwealth’s youth. For once, VM did a proper journalist’s job when she brought in the pros and cons reactions to Harry’s opinion from outside the UK media bubble. What she failed to do though, is highlighting how well his statement must have been received within the Commonwealth, which remains a high priority on QEII’s agenda. As for Meghan’s speech for the Girl Up event, the issue I have with VM’s recount of it is not that she managed to draw links between Meghan’s experience within the BRF and the message she was sending to girls and young women around the world -after all Meghan’s experience is what makes her messages even more powerful. What I have an issue with is VM reducing the bullying Meghan has been submitted to and still is to this day as “the criticism (and online hate) she has received”. Who “criticized” her, and was the hate directed to her only online? And why? Again, VM is avoiding giving British media their responsibility in H&M harassment even though proofs of it litter the internet.
The second part of VM’s focus is, for once, honestly describing what motivates Harry and Meghan i.e. using their platform for good and intending to reach a worldwide audience with Archewell, their upcoming nonprofit organization. She also redresses the misconception that H&M left the BRF for more private life, stating that what they craved for instead was control over their lives and their work.
I can understand the Squad’s polarized (pun intended) reaction to this article: what is VM’s message in this “opinion piece” of hers? I mean since if she’s sticking her head out, what does she has to say that her readership is not aware of? Is it that because Harry and Meghan will always be tied to the BRF, whatever they do will reflect upon the Monarchy? And in that instance, they should be wary about choosing the causes they defend? Or is it that leaving the berth of the BRF was a pig-headed move that will backfire on them with those polarized opinions about anything they do? VM claims Harry and Meghan “have taken the BRF, the media, and the public into uncharted territory”. No, Harry and Meghan have taken their freedom from the BRF, and the global public is all open to listening to whatever they want to promote. And as for the British media (BM), Harry and Meghan will never be free of their biased opinion of them it seems, as BM is more than happy of using their appeal for clicks. Could another explanation for VM’s opinion piece be that knowing about the upcoming release of Omid Scobie’s book, she wanted to come clean with her opinion and at last take a stand -sort of? Or is it that VM wanted to portray herself as fair in order to secure more appearances on US TV networks?
See, it’s quite remarkable that a Royal reporter would set about writing an opinion piece aimed at the core of her daily job, and no one can figure out after reading it what it is she is about -make no mistake, that was intentional on VM’s part. What this reveals though is how unprepared the BRF is for this 21st-century world, nor their hangers-on such as the Royal reporters or the British media. That they can only analyze H&M’s vision through the reductive prism of the BRF as it stands today explains the disinterest of many people including younger generations for this institution.