They are 61 words that have taken more than 36 hours to hone. An ancient institution delaying action while a global audience of millions devoured Harry and Meghan’s two hours of television exposure, with Oprah as their host.
Present, in Buckingham Palace’s response, is a reference to race – the most toxic element of the claims made by the Sussexes. Missing is any outright condemnation of racism. And missing too, any direct reference to Meghan’s mental health and her assertion that the royals failed to help her.
Instead, there’s the mildest of regal push backs. A statement written on behalf of his grandmother, suggests that Harry’s unnamed relative may have a different recollection as to whether or not the conversation about the darkness of Archie’s skin unfolded in the way it was recounted to Oprah.
It’s a push back the Palace drafters may come to regret.
Crucially, the whole focus of the response is on this being a family dispute that will be resolved by the Windsors themselves. Privately. If it wasn’t so unbecoming, they might have been tempted to type that word in capital letters.
Of course, they aren’t a private family. The claim of racism is about a member of a dynasty that provides the head of state for 16 diverse countries. Oh, and also the Head of the Commonwealth, home to more than two billion people.
If Harry and Meghan are partial to a late breakfast, they’ll have choked on their muesli when reading the opening line about how the family they’ve left behind were ‘saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years’ have been for the couple.
It’s clear from the Oprah interview that the pair were signalling their discomfort, for some time, in metre high neon lights.
The aftermath of Diana’s death showed the world what happens when public figures lack empathy. More than twenty years on, the royals do try to show a human face. In their Oprah response, they’ve abandoned titles for first names and Archie also gets a look in.
The statement ends with a declaration that the Californian wing of the British royal family are ‘much loved family members’. Has anyone here picked up the phone to share that love with the trio? We’re unlikely to get an answer. It’s a private matter after all.
61 words later, the Queen will hope this is the end of the matter.
It won’t be. It’s too little, too late. This delayed, tame statement went for predictability when unpredictability – stepping out of the Windsor comfort zone – was what was needed.
It has left the advantage with Meghan and Harry.
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