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bitchy | The Windsors are very upset that ‘Harry & Meghan’ analyzed the Commonwealth


One of the strongest parts of Netflix’s Harry & Meghan series is the added historical context. There’s the immediate context of the modern political situation in Britain, overlaid in the timeline of their relationship, notably everything having to do with Brexit and the rise of racist, right-wing politics within the UK (and America and Europe). But that wasn’t all – the series also delves into British’s bloody, shameful, colonialist history and its equally shameful history with the transatlantic slave trade. Both issues – British colonialism and the slave trade – are intimately connected to the British monarchy. The monarchy directly profited from the slave trade, just as the monarchy has been a tool of oppression in the colonies it “rules” over. The point is made within the series that the Commonwealth is just a rebranded “British empire,” and that the living imperialist history is the tie that binds. It’s been fascinating to watch the British media try to talk about these parts of the Netflix series without actually going into the larger conversations. Take, for example, this piece in the Telegraph:

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix documentary has been accused of attacking Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy after the Commonwealth was described as “Empire 2.0” in the programme. The series has landed a “direct hit” at the late monarch’s decades of work to lead the Commonwealth into a new era, royal sources believe, describing it as “deeply offensive” to her memory.

Contributors to the Sussexes’ series – part of their multi-million pound Netflix deal – called the Commonwealth a “privileged club of formally colonised nations”. They said it was an economic bloc that has kept countries “intergenerationally poor”, with millions of Britons described as having “incredibly painful” memories of the Empire.

The documentary also makes claims about the Royal family’s financing of the historic slave trade. Writer Afua Hirsch told viewers: “It’s often said that Britain had a Deep South that was just as brutal, that actually enslaved more Africans than the United States of America did. But that Deep South was the Caribbean.”

On Thursday, sources condemned the description of the Commonwealth as “appalling and factually inaccurate”, with one palace insider adding it was a “good job” the late Queen “is not here to have to see this”.

Another royal source said: “Some of this is deeply offensive to all those in the Commonwealth, and of course the late Queen’s legacy. The real risk is that people are learning about the Commonwealth for the first time through hearing this.”

A source close to the palace said there was a feeling of “sadness” around the documentary, in which the Duke and Duchess criticise members of their family, including the “formality” of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The feeling behind palace walls, the source said, was “that it’s quite sad that it’s come to this”.

“Today is a day when you’re reminded that they’re human beings,” they said of the Royal family. “It’s sad to see it playing out in this way.”

[From The Telegraph]

I’m sorry what??? “The documentary also makes claims about the Royal family’s financing of the historic slave trade.” As I always say, beware of the historical passive voice. The British monarchy was intimately and financially involved in the slave trade. That’s a fact, not a claim. None of those statements were wild accusations or claims out of nowhere – Afua Hirsch was dropping facts about Britain’s history of oppression, its history as looters of blood, sweat and treasure from colonized nations. Harry’s point, when he was on camera, was that you can’t simply brush that history under the rug and rebrand colonialism as a commonwealth of nations, especially not when the Windsors have all of the wealth which they stole from the commoners.

Now, is it slightly funny that QEII appointed Harry and Meghan to the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and then stripped them of those titles when they put their own safety and mental health first? Yes. The whole reason QEII gave Meghan and Harry those gaudy Commonwealth titles was tokenism – they all believed that they could throw a biracial Black woman into a fancy Commonwealth role and all of those Black folks in Her Majesty’s former colonies would be placated. The thing is, all of those Commonwealth nations watched as the Windsors and British press heaped racist abuse on Meghan. Plus, the fact that the Waleses and Wessexes went on back-to-back Caribbean Flop Tours didn’t help either. You can’t solve that kind of baked-in racism and oppression with one diversity hire.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.


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