The British press has turned on Harry and Meghan after their shock decision to step back from their roles as senior Royals.
- The British tabloid press condemned Prince Harry as being selfish for turning his back on Royal duties
- Left-leaning commentators said the right’s rabid reaction confirmed Harry and Meghan’s choice to step back
- Support also came from some sections of politics, reminding people of Harry’s past military service
On Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stunned Royal watchers around the world by announcing they would be working towards becoming financially independent and dividing their time between the UK and North America.
“We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties,” a statement from the Duke and Duchess read.
But it appears they did not inform the Queen, Prince Charles or any other members of the family of their intention to make the announcement.
That, combined with an already fractured relationship with the media, sent many Royal pundits and commentators into a frenzy.
Broadcaster Piers Morgan, an outspoken critic of the pair, labelled them “the two most spoilt brats in history” in a particularly spikey column in UK tabloid The Daily Mail — a sister masthead of the Mail on Sunday against which Harry and Meghan have launched legal action.
He called upon Queen Elizabeth to “fire Their Royal Hustlers”.
“… at the age of 93, and with her 98-year-old husband Prince Philip suffering ill health, she’s [the Queen] had to suffer the repulsively rude indignity of being treated like a piece of insignificant dirt by her own spoiled brat grandson and his scheming, selfish D-list actress wife,” he wrote.
@piersmorgan: The taxpayer should not be paying a single penny to support Meghan & Harry’s new life as duty-free celebrities. Not. One. Penny.
The first 17 pages of Thursday’s Daily Mail were devoted to the story, while rival tabloid The Sun claimed the Duchess of Cambridge’s 38th birthday had been “ruined” by Meghan and Harry.
@KensingtonRoyal: Thank you everyone for all your lovely messages on The Duchess of Cambridge’s birthday!
The Daily Mirror, a left-leaning newspaper, was also scathing of the move, saying Harry was guilty of hypocrisy.
“Harry has selfishly turned his back on the institution she has fought to modernise and secure for him and his children,” chief feature writer Rachael Bletchley wrote.
Harry and Meghan vs the media
Paul Connew, a former editor of the Sunday Mirror, told the ABC the decision to reportedly not inform other members of the Royal family of their move showed “a certain degree of arrogance and self-obsession”.
“The whole thing is steeped in their obsession that they’re media victims,” he said.
On their recently-launched personal website, Harry and Meghan also announced they would no longer be participating in the Royal Rota system — a way of giving British print and TV news exclusive access to Royal family engagements.
“They say that they’re going to really give access to credible media organisations focussing on objective news reporting,” Connew said.
“That’s the sort of media control that Vladimir Putin exerts on the old East German Stasi.
“I mean this is beyond satire.”
A different view from the US
Chris Ship, the Royal editor for ITV News, told the ABC the media in Meghan’s native United States may have concluded Britain and its ruthless press were not welcoming for her.
“There was perhaps some anti-American feeling, perhaps some misogyny, perhaps some racism — those we were the accusations that were levelled at certain elements of the British press for example,” Ship said.
“The fact is — when you look at the media here — their job is to hold the Royal family to account and to provide that scrutiny.
“And the question will be whether some of the tabloids went too far in that job or whether actually they were doing their job, which is to scrutinise the Royal family and to make sure that they are accountable.”
Support for the Sussexes
But not everyone was scathing in their assessment of Harry and Meghan’s decision.
Guardian columnist and feature writer Hadley Freeman said the right-wing press and the Royal family itself had left the couple “no choice”.
“For truly exclusive insight into Harry and Meghan’s thinking, the Daily Mail need not have looked any further than its website’s front page on Thursday morning: the site ran no fewer than 14 stories tearing into the couple,” she wrote.
“The same commentators who sneered at Meghan for being dazzled by royalty now condemn her for wanting to leave it.”
The couple also found support from shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who is running to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party.
“I think without doubt this young couple have been through some terrible times, I think they have had appalling media intrusion, I’m afraid, some of it really quite aggressive and not really easily forgivable,” she said.
“So I think that we should let this young family make their own decisions about what’s best for them.
“And we mustn’t forget that Harry has done a great deal of service to our country, not least, frankly, on two tours in Afghanistan when he put his life on the line.
“He has done a great deal of good for our country.”