By Dr James E. Addicott (2022)
The moment that Beyoncé Knowles text the following message to Princess Meghan Markle, the moment a sub-text and meta-narrative of Black Power was revealed:
She admires and respects my bravery and vulnerability, and thinks I was selected to break generational curses that need to be healed.
Megan’s rejection of the British Royal Family was a race issue (an media attack by Black Power movements against colonialist powers and British White Power). Whilst Harry & Megan claimed in their Netflix documentary that they were subject to racism that was amplified by xenophobia stirred by the politics and media coverage of the Brexit, it was at the same time the case that their issues with the Royal Family was fuelled by long-standing race politics between the US and the UK, which would have been amplified by the Black Lives Matter movement. This is 400 year old narrative and the so-called “Megxit” and controversy surrounding Megan & Harry’s wedding, media attention and public relations strategy is simply another ‘spurt’ on a long-standing meta-narrative of racial, class and political antagonisms between so-called “White” and “Black” people.
Much of the tone of Megan’s discourse was also clearly influenced by social science and particularly the contemporary social theory of Black feminism and intersectionality. Intersecional theory tends to hold that Prince Harry and the Royal Family enjoy certain “privileges” made possible by their race, social class, appeal or attractiveness, physical abilities and general mental health or wellbeing. The acumination of such prosperity and wealth, according to the Vice media network (2022), has been made possible by a historical narrative of imperialism, colonialism and exploitation:
The royal family is a finical empire and figuring out its value is difficult because ‘it goes to any lengths to obscure it’. In 2021 a report revealed that the Queen had lobbied parliament to keep the wealth of the family a secret from the public. Another report estimates the family’s wealth to be around $28BN… the British monarchy is exempt from paying inheritance tax (‘like the rest of us commoners do’).
One way (the Royal Family) amassed wealth and power was through the Transatlantic Slave Trade… The 1562 journey of John Hawkins, the first English person know to have enslaved Africans in his cargo, was approved by Queen Elizabeth I herself. After Britain invaded Jamaica in 1655, the Royal African Company was set up by Royal Charter under King Charles II. It purpose was to control the West African slave trade and to control the British monopoly against the Dutch… Historic royal residencies like Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace that dated back to the 17th century were to some extent funded by slavery. So while it’s hard to tell just how much of the Windsor’s’ wealth derives from slavery today, it quite literally helped to build the roofs over their heads.
This reality of the wealth division between Harry’s family and the general public within Britain and the rest of the world, provides much of the moral basis for Megan and supporters, such as Beyoncé, to launch a ethical and morally-justified attack against Britain and the British Royal Monarchy (White Britian).
The Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan did not discuss any alternative meta-narratives of race in detail. What viewers were presented, instead, was the couples self-created ideology of their own relationship: intimacy, privacy, joy and simplicity (“the good life” or “the simple life”). It was their personal stoicism rather than any values of Black, Afro-American culture were upheld as the moral basis from which they could launch their critique of the Royal Family in Britain. However, stoicism and black power movements are quite different vantage-points for scoial commentary. The viewers were invited to consider how humbleness, simplicity and nature were the assets the couple could lay claim to in opposition to the vastness, complexity and wealth that the British Royal Family could boast of.
What was apparently odd and peculiar was that the couple’s self-cultivated ideology of humbleness, simplicity and the Good Life which the couple boasted of – such as catching chickens in a cage or enjoying countryside hikes with close friends – was juxtaposed to an unimaginable reserve of wealth that most viewers would never have the privilege of enjoying. On the one hand, this wealth was Royal wealth such as weddings at Buckingham palace or living at Sandringham Palace. On the other had this wealth was the wealth enjoyed by “Black” America’s entertainment industry – such as the $18m mansion of actor and director Tyler Perry in Los Angeles, USA; or the support the couple received from billionaire-couple Beyoncé Knowles and husband Jay-Z. The couple were caught between American and British wealth; “nouveau-Black” wealth verses traditional, “White” wealth. They were able to feed from both sources of wealth (Black and White) in order to weave and construct their own ideology of suffering, victimisation and exploitation. Identifying with victims of Grenfell Towers or people of colour (“POC”) members of the British Common-Wealth/former-Empire helped the couple establish their own credibility to audiences in Black-America.
Whilst race-politics helps us to understand the broader sociological context within which the couple has positioned themselves – and/or found themselves positioned – something has to be said about Megan’s intersectionality discourse and assumptions about privilege and wealth. Let’s begin by making it clear that “Privilege” is neither something that can either be qualified or quantified. Marxist theories of capital accumulation are to some degree able to measure and quantify “capital” in their discussion of oppressed and oppressors. A prime example of this would be Thomas Piketty whose (2013) book Capital in the Twenty-First Century offered a fair and reasonable consideration of wealth imbalances in the contemporary modern era. The economic finances and assets that were measured gave readers a good understanding of economic inequality. The problem of trying to measure inequality through arbitrary, abstract and subjective concepts such as “disability” “privilege” or “attractiveness” – as well as aesthetic judgements such as “Black” or “White” – is that they are open to value-judgements of those qualifying and quantifying who is enjoys more privileges and who. The main point of Meghan Markle’s intersectional discourse is that it completely underestimated Megan’s own privileges and rested on the assumption that Megan – being “Black” and “Woman” – was systemically oppressed and a systemic victim. This assumption was simply reinforced when Beyoncé assured Megan that it was her calling and God-given duty to “break generational curses”.
Megan had a huge blind-spot when it came to her own privilege and wealth. Firstly, as the documentary/reality TV show revealed, Megan enjoyed the benefits and gains of the wealth the Royal Family enjoyed though weddings, private parties, luxury transport and accommodation. Secondly, Megan has established sub-narrative in the Black-American media industry. According to Steve Garner (2010) any definition of ‘racism’ must include all of the following three elements:
- A historical power relationship in which, over time, groups are racialised (that is, treated as if specific characteristics were natural and innate to each member of the group).
- A set of ideas [ideology] in which the human race is divisible into distinct ‘races’, each with specific natural characteristics.
- Forms of discrimination flowing from this [practices] ranging from denial of access to resources through to mass murder.
This blog has already identified the historical power relationship within which Megan & Harry’s discourse of “Blackness” and racism is embedded – a narrative that is as real and tangible as The Holocaust. Megan & Harry are able to tie their own ideology into racist narratives of “Black” verses “White” races – when arguable, neither of the couple are “Black.” Lastly, the couple are able to use ‘micro-aggression’ issues such as advice, rumours, newspaper reports and the general “feel” of Britain during the Brexit, to lay claim to discrimination and oppression.
However, none of this fully addresses the full sense of privilege, deservedness and entitlement that Megan clearly assumes. Psychologically, Megan was raised as so much of a princess that enjoying the privileges of a real Princess – Duchess of Sussex – just wasn’t good enough. The roaring crowds, the royal wave, the Royal Appointments, the palaces; just were not good enough. Contrary to the claim of intersectional theorists that privilege is the preserve of young, attractive, upper-class, anglophones of European heritage with pale skin and classified as “White” and “Male” (see Patricia Hill Collins: The Matrix of Domination), it was Megan who as a female, “Black” or “Ethnic”, non-European individual with mental-health issues, who felt systemically oppressed and frustrated. The idea the couple presented is that she could and would feel less oppressed in things were somehow different, and I am sure that many people around the world would agree. However, the video evidence the documentary of Netflix revealed was quite the opposite of oppression and discrimination. It captured science of lavish wealth, smiles and happiness, joy and pleasure; strolls along secluded beaches and jet-setting lifestyles, all of which were someone unsatisfactory to Megan who, by her own estimates, perhaps deserved more or better.
If there were anything to be learned from watching the Megan & Harry series, it was on the one hand the symbolic statements it made about continuing transatlantic race politics, but on the other hand the harmful psychological effects of raising your child with too much self-belief, purpose and sense of (‘God-given’) purpose. When you child has become so-much of a princess that being an actual princess is unsatisfactory, that should be considered a problem. Popular phycologist Ms Jacobson reported to the Express tabloid newspaper that princess syndrome is: “about putting yourself at the epicentre of every story and being overly concerned with how things appear.” Such a syndrome remains engendered to such a degree that it does the phycological issues associated with it some degree of injustice. Academics have researched “Princess Syndrome” as something projected onto female students at male-dominant university campuses, as a way of acceptably bullying female students. However, it should be possible to open-up the consideration of Princess Syndrome into a more general issue of what Max Weber called a ‘calling’. In this light, Gods’ calling is something that would give someone the sense of entitlement or worthiness to become a Princess, Prince, King or Queen. In The Protestant Ethic, Weber argued the protestant calling provided the: ‘valuation of the fulfillment of duty in wordily affairs as the highest form which the moral activity of the individual could assume’ (p. 80). God’s calling would give humans an moral benchmark to which they could valuate their actions in accordance with a greater, overarching and higher external power. If Kanye West claims that “I am God’s vessel” as a means of justifying outlandish, morally unacceptable and racist behaviour, then Weber’s theory of the moral and ethical culture that encourages capitalist exploitation, would begin to make sense. Coupling this sense of God-given duty and purpose, with the moral high-ground that Black power movements, intersectional and racist discourses provide, would only exacerbate Megan’s sense of self-purpose, duty and entitlement. In many ways, her duty was more important to herself than any Royal Duty – to such an extent that she seems more privileged than her husband, who should apparently represented the near-pinnacle of privileged, globally. Is privilege a good goal for black power, particularly when it is shrouded by an ideology of humbleness and stoicism?
As a sociologist who has been trained to study imperialism, colonialism, gender and sexism, race and social class, then I was personally intrigued by Megan & Harry’s interview with Opera, and was curious to discover what more their documentary would reveal about current race politics between the US and UK. In many ways as a Brit and as an observer of Royal Affairs, I think I would agree with the majority of the general public in the UK who feel that more could be done to address historical issues of wealth accumulation and irregular distribution, institutional racism and social class, etc.. However, the Megan & Harry documentary did the couple more injustice than it did benefit. If they were attempting to cause damage to the Royal Family in order to repay some of the historical damages caused by transatlantic slavery or colonialization, then their documentary actually had the opposite effect. It made the Royal Family look humble, united, “family-like” and popular; whereas Megan & Harry framed themselves as self-absorbed, lonesome, disconnected, privileged and entitled. If they wanted to present themselves as icons of Black Empowerment movements, then what a poor way to do so. This documentary has simply created a huge void which I am sure that William & Kate will happily fill as part of their ongoing Royal Duty.
There were gains to the documentary. The most genuine and applaudable aspects of it was Megan’s defiance and determinism. There are issues that this blog has detailed that should be challenged and addressed. In no way should a rejection of Megan & Harry’s self-centredness take our eye off the ball. Harry’s acceptance and appreciation of American and Afro-American culture was quite staggering. If any evidence were ever needed to demonstrate just how accepting and “colour-blind” British people can be, particularly those within circles of power and elite, then his embrace of people and family’s needs to be credited for what it represents – a genuine humanism. It is more of a matter of politeness in Britain that people do not discuss matters of race or label or determine people as “Black” or “White”, which is a race politics in and of itself, however the want and striving for a more equal, fair and indiscriminate future Britain is surely an admirable and desirable ambition? Through the couples embrace of American race politics and framing themselves within racist narrative and discourses, the couple lost sight of this.
 Kimberle Crenshaw (1989) argued that a ‘focus on the most privileged group members marginalises those who are multiply-burdened and obscures claims that cannot be understood as resulting from discrete sources of discrimination’ (p. 140). See for example, See: Patricia Hill Collins: The Matrix of Domination and the Four Domains of Power (diagram below): https://blackfeminisms.com/matrix/
 Empire of Dirt from Vice https://video.vice.com/en_uk/show/empire-of-dirt
The Dark Secret Behind the Royal Family’s Wealth (Zing Tsjeng), also see: https://video.vice.com/en_uk/video/the-dark-secret-behind-the-royal-familys- wealth/6323113f9a2f36547d45c942
 Meghan Markle has ‘princess syndrome’ as psychologist calls it ‘very American’ condition
 Weber M (2003) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Dover Publications, Inc..