Lancaster University academic calls for wider debate on future of the monarchy and says "Conversations about whether it's Team Meghan or Team Queen are not particularly useful"

A Lancaster University academic who is the author of a new book on the Royal Family  says the issues raised by Oprah Winfrey's interview with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex should lead to a much broader debate about equality and the role of hereditary monarchy .

Lancaster University academic Dr Laura Clancy believes Meghan Markle s experience of life as a member of the Royal Family has exposed her to racism, sexism and misogyny and raises many important questions which require scrutiny.

She is hoping the candid interview with Oprah Winfrey, which has already sparked much comment, will prompt " a wider conversation" about the role of the royal "firm" and equality in British society.

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In the interview the couple talk about their experiences and expectations and reveal moments of heartbreak and issues about mental health.

Dr Laura Clancy

Speaking just hours before the British broadcast of Oprah Winfrey's interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which has already been broadcast in America, Dr Clancy said: "I think people get distracted through stories about individual royalty which talk about the Queen or what Catherine Middleton was wearing on that day ... that ignores a bigger question about the institution and state power. These are bigger questions which hopefully this (Oprah) interview will raise. Questioning what it means for us to have a monarchy in 2021. We live in a supposed democracy, what does it mean to have a monarchy that's about hereditary power at the top of our society? I think monarchy is often ignored in these conversations about equality. It's time that we talked about it in these terms."

.Dr Clancy's new book entitled Running the Family Firm: how the royal family manages its image and our money is due to be published in September by Manchester University Press and will, she acknowledges, be a timely contribution to such debate.

Dr Clancy, who lectures in media in the sociology department at the university, said: "Meghan is a mixed race American woman coming into a British institution upsetting a lot of those people who had an investment in reproducing the status quo."

She said Meghan had challenged "norms of whiteness" in such institutions and had become part of "culture wars".

Wedding day as Meghan joins "The Firm".

She continued: "I think what they've done (Meghan and Harry) is actually draw attention to these inequalities in a way that might make other people start to question them, by giving a first hand account of that. Having the first hand experience is really powerful in drawing these conversations to the forefront of people's minds... I suppose these questions of institutional racisms have always been there (but) to hear it from someone who has experienced it is what's got people talking."

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She continued: "I would say sexism is also a big problem. Meghan's experience is based in racism and sexism together. I think they are completely intertwined. They are not separate.

"Meghan comes from celebrity culture. There are both similarities and differences. They both use the media, both are very visible, but the Royals' relationship with the media is quite different. The way they are talked about is quite different.

"I hope that it does prompt much wider conversation. It needs a broader conversation about institutional power. Conversations about whether it's Team Meghan or Team Queen are not particularly useful. What we should be asking about is monarchy's place in society."

A charity premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in January 2019. Meghan told Oprah her distress was so great at that time she had just told her husband she did not want to live any more .Photo: Paul Grover/Daily Telegraph/PA Wire
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Dr Clancy, a republican who describes monarchy as "a colonialist, imperialist institution" with wealth built on empire, said : "I think it raises questions which have been around for a while but maybe haven't been so publicly discussed."

The academic said some of the tabloid press and members of the public on social media had commented about Meghan with "much more explicit racism".

Comparing Princess Diana's own outspokenness in her TV interview about the breakdown of her marriage she said nevertheless Princess Diana had not been treated the way Meghan had been: "That idea of a woman being above her station...that's about race. I think it's about race. That's quite clear in a lot of the headlines. A lot of the reports around her in some of the tabloid press, not all the media, have been quite explicitly about race."

The academic said she believed some reports were intended "to place Meghan outside the monarchy and the Royal Family....Certainly in some of the narratives we hear about Meghan, some of the words describing her a demanding, stories about her spending too much money."

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She added that by calling the Royal Family the firm people failed to pick up on its institutional role. " It definitely raises questions . 'The Firm' is referred to, than as an institution."

* Dr Clancy's book (£15.99) focuses on contemporary British monarchy from 1953 to the present day and explores its economic, political, social and cultural functions. She argues that the monarchy has escaped scrutiny as an elite in the context of the role of inherited wealth and “old” forms of political and institutional power perpetuating economic and cultural advantage.

*For more reaction to the Oprah interview see here * The Lancashire Post is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. For unlimited access to Lancashire news and information online, you can subscribe here