George Bernard Shaw famously observed that “the British and the Americans are two great peoples divided by a common tongue”. Never was that on more painful display than during Prince Harry’s bits in he and wife Meghan’s recent Oprah outpouring.
When it was the red-haired royal’s confessional turn, what fast became apparent was that over the last year, not only has the Duke changed countries, jobs and sunscreen regimens (I’m guessing that pasty English skin after all), he seems to have traded his Granny’s version of his mother tongue to wholly adopt the local Los Angeles argot.
There was all the talk about “sharing” on the subject of which Windsor relic expressed “concern” over their unborn baby’s skin colour he said “I am never going to share” and when pressed at another point he said he was “not comfortable with sharing that” and the odd “grateful” was slipped in there too good measure. On the subject of his relationship with brother Prince William, “There’s a lot to work through there.”
Still, the actual message of the interview was definitely not lost in translation as the Sussexes’ took precise and devastating aim at Buckingham Palace, charging The Firm with racism and horrifying indifference when the Duchess experienced suicidal thoughts during her pregnancy.
However, while the interview has been picked over and dissected their swath of claims, their body language, heck even CNN reported on the patio chairs they were all perched on there is one comment from Meghan about Kate that has largely been overlooked and which may just carry more than a hint of a sting to it than first meets the eye.
“Kate was called Waity Katie, waiting to marry William, while I imagine that was really hard & I do… this is not the same & if a member of his family will comfortably say we’ve all had to deal with things that are rude. Rude & racist are not the same.” Meghan #OprahMeghanHarrypic.twitter.com/2QWtDh24ef
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 8, 2021
Discussing her treatment by the British press, the Duchess reflected on how coverage of her had differed from that of her sister-in-law Kate Duchess of Cambridge: “Kate was called Waity Katie, waiting to marry William, while I imagine that was really hard, and I do. I can’t picture what that felt like. This is not the same.”
On face value, this seems fairly straightforward but look a bit closer; is there something more pointed going on here?
Let’s start with the fact that Meghan actually used, on camera, the nasty nickname given to Kate by the circling British press and which has largely lain dormant for years. She could just have easily made her point without wheeling out the epithet and said something along the lines of, “Kate was called nasty names.” Why use the phrase?
Next up, “waiting to marry William”. Was this Meghan mirroring the media’s perspective poor old Kate stuck in royal girlfriend limbo or was it a subtle reminder that now beloved royal had a long, dull road to royalty? No Cinderella story here.
Ditto, “while I imagine that was really hard, and I do. I can’t picture what that felt like”. Is this Meghan simply being empathetic or a subtle reminder that Harry and Meghan’s romance was a verifiable whirlwind? Her Prince didn’t spend the better part of a decade dithering about the place now did he?
In all fairness, this all could have been totally inadvertent and simply instances of clumsy phrasing after all the Sussexes spoke to Oprah for more than three hours. Even the most polished public speaker is going to suffer a moment or two of accidentally putting something a tad insensitively after such a lengthy interview.
What is most definitely not a moot point here is that, whatever Meghan’s underlying intentions towards her sister-in-law, their relationship is surely one of the biggest casualties of the royal couple’s Oprah tell-all, thanks to the American Duchess’ decision to tell the world that Kate had reduced her to tears.
Since 2018, rumours and reports have circulated that Meghan had made Kate cry ahead of the Sussexes’ wedding. Sitting across from Oprah, the 39-year-old took the chance to correct the record.
“No. [I didn’t make Kate cry],” she said. “No, no, the reverse happened.
“She made me cry and it really hurt my feelings I thought in the context of everything else that was going on in those days leading to the wedding that it didn’t make sense to not be just doing what everyone else was doing, which was try to be supportive, knowing what was going on with my dad and whatnot.”
There is no semantic tap-dancing going on with this one: Here we have the Duchess lining up her sister-in-law up in her sights.
Meghan went on to say she didn’t want “to be disparaging to anyone” and that the future Queen had “owned it, and she apologised, and she brought me flowers and a note apologising”.
Then she also said that she had “protected” Kate and, “I would’ve never wanted that to come out about her ever even though it had happened.”
Meghan said the row claims marked “the beginning of the character assassination” she had suffered and “they really seem to want a narrative of a hero and a villain,” proving that irony must be in short supply in Montecito.
The obvious question here is the same one that has reared its head again and again over the last week: Why?
Meghan could have countered the wedding tears story and bolstered her reputation here without throwing Kate so elegantly under the double-decker PR bus.
Factor in too that this full-frontal strike is unlikely to be forgotten by the Cambridges any time soon. “William is devastated by this interview,” royal biographer Katie Nicholl has said, “The Duchess of Cambridge is being dragged into this whole saga and William will hate that.”
Given the brothers’ bond also seems to be hanging by a thread after all, Harry said of his only sibling, “we are on different paths” one man’s wife taking a potshot at the other’s wife in prime time seems highly unlikely to improve things on this front.
So again, why? Offering up damaging revelations about not only Kate but Charles too doesn’t feel strategically savvy, it all feels unnecessarily personal and that could, in the long term, put more strain on Harry’s relationship with his family.
It is now less than 90 days until Prince Philip’s 100th birthday celebrations (which will be held on June 10) and Trooping the Colour (June 12) which is the Queen’s official birthday celebration. Both of these are family occasions meaning that Harry will be on the guest list.
As Her Majesty said in the palace’s concerningly brief response to the Sussexes’ Oprah allegations, “Harry, Meghan, and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
While it is questionable whether the Duke will zip back to London given his wife is due to give birth to their daughter around this time, the mind boggles thinking about just how excruciating the first reunion of the entire Windsor clan will be in the wake of the events of the last week.
Whether arcticly frigid or beset by clashing tempers and raised voices echoing up and down palace corridors, make no mistake, this day will be both painful and inevitable.
It might be years away, but at some stage in the future, Harry and Meghan will both have to face the royal family and look them in the eye and vice versa and odds on, it will be an agonising affair.
An agonising affair, that is, which we will all get to read about the next day given all the factions will likely race off to whisper their side of events into sympathetic journalists’ ears.
Some things languages spoken, postcodes lived in might change but when it comes to the royal family, some things will probably never change.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.