Who Has the Right to Tell Their Story?
The quandary for Harry and Meghan
Before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s docuseries dropped on Netflix, the British press and the House of Windsor assumed the worst. Prince William even promised to set the record straight if necessary. These were bold words in a family where “Keep calm and carry on” has been the motto.
In the United States, a reporter on a major news network asked, “Why would the Sussexes even want to tell their story — if they want peace, why don’t they just disappear and live a quiet life?”
The Prince has probably had many fantasies about living a quiet life, but when you’re born to one of the most admired women in the world, and grandson to the longest reigning monarch, disappearing into obscurity isn’t an option.
Harry’s entire life has been a game of cat and mouse with the press. At first, it was with his mother, Princess Diana, running from and sometimes confronting the paparazzi, and later, after her tragic death, they began to follow him. Harry describes how the press drove off potential girlfriends throughout his dating days. He would’ve disappeared years ago if it was that easy.
Harry went to Botswana to get out of the public eye and find a space to be himself. Later, he took Meghan there, camping in a tent because he wanted them to know each other without the interference of the press.
When the world has been watching your entire life unfold, when people feel you’re their common property and owe them a picture before you can ski or go on a date, when people who don’t know you write articles every time you appear on the street, there comes a day when a person wants to tell their own story.
But can someone who has spent their entire life in the public eye tell their own story? And if they do, what will be the stakes? Will it sever them completely from the people they grew up with? Will it cost everything when they walk away? This is the quandary that Harry had to face. And he didn’t take the easy way out. He chose to tell his story with the woman he loves, which basically meant the end of life as he knew it.
It must be liberating for the Prince to finally be able to speak for himself. To control how his story is portrayed. And for Meghan, who has toxic, lying family members, it must be freeing to set the record straight on all the gossip. But this documentary is more than a story. It’s a clearing of the air so they can move forward to bigger and better things.
Long before they met, Harry and Meghan were activists seeking ways to improve the world. Combining their vision with their Archewell Foundation, they plan to motivate others and change the world with love. This documentary isn’t a cry for attention or even a plot to destroy the royal family, as some suggest. This is not about the royal family as much as it’s about restoring credibility in response to all the lies told about them.
As we’ve seen in the United States, racism sells papers and destroys lives. By falling in love with a woman of mixed race, Prince Harry has changed the course of his blueblood life. The result is an exciting and beautiful love story that some in the royal family would like to forget, but Haz and Meg refuse to be quiet.
Of course, whenever someone tells their story, another family member usually disagrees. The bottom line is that no two people raised in the same home will see eye to eye on everything. And that’s okay. People can tell their own stories, and if the family circle is a place of respect, members will appreciate the different points of view.
On the other hand, if the family is toxic and a narcissist is at the head, lines will be drawn, and whoever doesn’t tow the family line will be cast out as the scapegoat. When someone becomes the scapegoat, the other members will refuse to listen and do everything within their power to shut the storyteller up.
Because they are authentic, empathetic, and passionate activists, Harry and Meghan have a reason for telling these stories. They’ve embraced their mistakes. In their documentary, they tell on themselves as much as they share their heartbreaks. They bring truth to the table that some don’t want told. And those truths run in a deep fault line between the common people of color and the Monarchy. Telling the history of racism is a blessing for the common people. How wonderful to realize that one of the sons of the beloved Princess Diana gets it.
On the flip side is the wrath of the King. The King who chose Diana to be his bride while he was in love with someone else. The King who cheated on her and treated her terribly. The King who waited his entire life to be the King while his Queen mother calmly carried on. The King can finally have his day, but now one of his sons has gone rogue. A spare son who has taken the road less traveled. Surely we can see the King’s disappointment. He’s never been popular, but this son, like his mother before him, has stolen the hearts of the people. He’s his mother’s son and the people’s Prince. The King has no one to blame but himself for this prince’s very existence.
So yes, everyone has a right to tell their story — even princes who disagree with their father. But knowing what we do about kingly power, it doesn’t seem safe. There’s always someone who downplays a person’s story, but when your father is the King, you better hope he’s not a narcissist. You better hope he has some self-control.
It doesn’t seem safe for Harry to tell his story and even less for Meghan (don’t get me started on her family), but I applaud them for opening the doors and letting us inside their lives. And I, for one, have enjoyed listening to Harry and Meghan share their stories. I just hope this doesn’t end in a Shakespearean tragedy.
Cherilyn Christen Clough broke the rules when she started writing about her family’s secrets. Some claim she sold her soul to the devil, but she prefers to think of it as gaining freedom. You can read about her strange childhood in Chasing Eden A Memoir.