Here’s a royal romance — redefined. Britain’s Prince Harry has not just confirmed he’s seeing American TV star Meghan Markle, he’s also asked for her dignity to be respected. Meghan has reportedly faced a harrowing time, being chased by media, her mother facing jostling camera-persons, friends and former boyfriends offered money to divulge secrets, newspapers and websites carrying vicious taunts about the mixed-race star. But instead of keeping a stiff upper lip, Prince Harry has issued a press release, noting the bullying intrusions, and requesting these stop and the couple’s privacy be respected.
This is a marked departure from Buckingham Palace’s usual — and contradictory — relationship with the popular press pursuing the royal family’s private lives. Harry’s mother, the late Lady Diana, was perhaps the world’s most celebrated star, and tragic victim, of paparazzi culture. Diana intrigued the popular press which chased her for pictures and courted her for quotes. Every time Diana smiled, wept or confessed, a million front pages bloomed. But Diana, often accused of playing the paparazzi too, lost a great deal to being a media infatuation. Chased in Paris by photographers, Diana lost her life in a high-speed car race. Prince Charles’s own attitude towards the press was tight-lipped, but that didn’t deter determined reporters from tapping into his phone conversations with Camilla Parker Bowles. The scandals the royals encountered only resulted in degrading an institution that otherwise represented dignified stability. The royals versus reporters contest caused even the stoic Queen to shudder at Buckingham Palace’s “annus horribilis”.
However, the young princes seem to have learnt from the past. By being open and modern about their love lives — William too courted, later married, Kate, his co-student and not royal by birth — they have stumped all those busy speculating. Without being patronising or flowery, they have accorded their partners due respect and demanded the right to solitude that every couple in love, royal or otherwise, should enjoy.