Picture: CBS
Picture: CBS

Why America is on Team Meghan in royal battle

It's a story Americans have heard before and they didn't like it then.

While the British press almost implodes at the upcoming Oprah interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, US audiences are having a very different response.

The tale of an American woman's royal dream gone wrong is not a new one.

American double-divorcee Wallis Simpson almost brought down the monarchy. When Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 in order to marry the woman he loved - the treatment of Wallis outraged the US.

Prince Harry and Meghan at home during their interview with Oprah. Picture: CBS
Prince Harry and Meghan at home during their interview with Oprah. Picture: CBS

And the same sentiment is felt today, according to a royal historian.

"A lot of Americans were critical of Britain, thinking that they had treated Wallis Simpson unfairly," says Arianne Chernock, Associate Professor of History at Boston University.

She says American audiences are a lot more sympathetic to those they see being wronged.

"I think that there is an opportunity here for Americans to express a moral superiority," she says, explaining there has been a tension, or rivalry over treatment, between the two countries, particularly when it comes to women in the royal family.

"Diana was popular in America because her treatment here was more casual and generous," she says, as was that of Fergie, who also revealed all to Oprah in 1996, saying royal life was "not a fairy tale".

"Rapport has always been most powerful with the women who are under immense scrutiny."

This week, ahead of the interview, The Times revealed royal aides claimed Meghan bullied staff.

"The sources approached The Times because they felt that only a partial version had emerged of Meghan's two years as a working member of the royal family and they wished to tell their side, concerned about how such matters are handled by the palace," they wrote.

"The complaint claimed that she drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member."

Meghan is interviewed by Oprah on her own before being joined by Harry. Picture: CBS
Meghan is interviewed by Oprah on her own before being joined by Harry. Picture: CBS

The Sussex camp replied they were "victims of a calculated smear campaign" and the Duchess was "saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself".

The palace issued a statement on Wednesday saying they are launching an investigation.

It comes after a trailer for the Oprah interview showed the host asking Meghan, "Were you silent or were you silenced?" and stating, "you have said some pretty shocking things here".

Why are Americans so fascinated by the Royal Family, despite gaining independence from them almost 250 years ago?

"It ties back to the path not taken. Even post George III, very quickly Americans warmed again to the royal family and we still feel the intimate familial connection," says Chernock.

"It is not our monarchy that we have to pay taxes for or scrutinise, so it allows us more of an abstract, often romantic approach."

Members of the Royal Family have long enjoyed a positive reception in the US.

William and Catherine had A-list actors lining up like starstruck fans when they visited Hollywood in 2011.

 

Diana, Princess of Wales enjoyed rock-star treatment in New York - as fans saw in the last season of The Crown - culminating in her choosing to auction off her dresses there in 1997.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived part of the year in the US and when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited in 1939 as the first reigning British monarchs to set foot on American soil, they were mobbed by wellwishers.

Now Harry and Meghan have become Californian residents, it's no surprise they are getting a better reception in the US than the UK.

"There is no place in the world more infatuated with the royals than America. Americans are possibly more in love with them than the British," says Dan Wakeford, editor-in-chief of US entertainment magazine People, which has just launched a royal spin-off.

 

"We felt it was only natural to launch People Royals. Americans adore the history and tradition - and the most famous, complicated family in the world," he says.

"The Windsors embody our fantasy of 'happily ever after' and project a steadfastness and a promise of perfection in these chaotic times."

It's this sense of tradition in an ever-changing world, that is seeing the royal family enjoy increasing popularity, at a time when you might expect it to be waning.

"It has to do with the longstanding nature of the institution, that distinguishes the royals from other kinds of celebrities," says Chernock.

"Their celebrity status doesn't fade. Every generation gets someone new."

And this generation really delivered, says Zoe Nauman, an LA-based British/Aussie journalist. "They love the idea an American has managed to marry into the royal family. It's the ultimate coup," she says.

"She proved she's better than those who have come from 'good breeding', as they would say in Bridgerton.

"And not only that, she essentially stuck two fingers up to the Queen, then stole Prince Harry and brought him back home with her."

OPRAH'S TOP CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS

Harry and Meghan's tell-all will surely take its place in the list of Oprah's top celebrity chats. Who can forget these top newsmakers?

TOM CRUISE

Who could forget Oprah's 2005 interview with Tom Cruise? Not us and we've tried. An exuberant Tom leapt on the sofa and shouted, "I'm in love!" about his then-girlfriend Katie Holmes. None of it, including their marriage, aged well.

Sarah, Duchess of York, with TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey in 1996.
Sarah, Duchess of York, with TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey in 1996.


MICHAEL JACKSON

Her 1993 chat with Michael Jackson became the most-watched interview of all time, gaining 90 million viewers.

"People wonder why I always have children around. It's because I find the thing that I never had through them," he said.

WHITNEY HOUSTON

The troubled pop star gave Oprah one of her last interviews in 2009, when she talked about her abusive relationship with Bobby Brown and drug addiction, famously saying, "We were lacing our marijuana with base."

FERGIE

Before Meghan, there was another disgruntled duchess on Oprah's sofa. Sarah, Duchess of York opened up about life in the palace in 1996, saying, "You didn't marry the fairy tale, you married the man" and how she couldn't "play the game".

JAMES FREY

He was the author of the best-selling memoir A Million Little Pieces, until a furious Oprah, who had championed it in her book club, smashed James Frey into just that, when he admitted he invented a lot of it, in 2006.

She later apologised to him for being so harsh.

Originally published as Why America is on Team Meghan in royal battle



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