Meghan Markle’s miscarriage revelations highlight tragic royal truth

When it comes down to it, the reason The Crown has proven so popular is that it does something mundane but unprecedented: It humanises the royal family. Over the course of four series we see that they are just so … normal.
And yet we would never have really seen and understood this if it were not for the Netflix series, because to be a member of the royal family is to live a life brutally partitioned into public and private.
Now, Meghan Duchess of Sussex has, metaphorically speaking, taken a sledgehammer to that particular arrangement, publishing an essay about her hitherto unknown miscarriage in July this year.
In the piece, published in the New York Times, the 39-year-old writes that one morning, earlier this year, “I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right.
“I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”
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She goes on to take the reader into her hospital room with husband Prince Harry and describes “his knuckles, wet from both our tears.”
The Duchess’ story of her and husband Harry’s loss is eloquent and deeply moving. Her aim is to shatter the silence around pregnancy loss by the power of simply asking another person, “Are you okay?” as a means of healing.
With this Times piece, Meghan has deftly and powerfully demonstrated the awesome reach and impact that members of the Queen’s family can have to immeasurably change public conversations around taboo subjects or issues.
Reading Meghan’s piece, the thought struck me: This is the sort of thing that Diana, Princess of Wales would have done, had she been a young princess today and experienced a similar loss.
What Diana understood was the awesome power of her royal position to change public opinion with breathtaking swiftness and force. In the 1980s as HIV and AIDS swept across
the world, sufferers faced extreme stigma and ostracism.
In 1987 Diana was invited to the opening of an AIDS ward at Middlesex Hospital was photographed shaking the hand of a HIV positive man. Such was the fear and shame around the disease he would only be shot with his back to the camera.
The effect of this simple gesture cannot be underestimated in profoundly changing the public conversation about what had until then been seen as a deeply shameful disease.
Meghan’s piece is the 21st century equivalent of that moment.
The actress-turned-duchess clearly understands she can have her pick of any publication, title or platform in the world and that will happily help spread whatever message she wants the world to hear.
More than that, she understands the full breaktaking scope of her power and is more than willing to use it. She is willing to put her heart on her sleeve for the good of other women, the world over, whether it trounces royal custom or not.
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The impact of the Duchess’ piece will surely be seismic but it also throws up a particularly sad truth about royal life: That to be a frontline member of the royal corp is to accept the largely unspoken dictate that one’s personal suffering is meant to be kept, for the most part, firmly under wraps and out of the public eye.
If Meghan today was still a senior member of the royal family, if she had experienced a miscarriage and wanted to go public with her loss to support others experiencing the same trauma, I find it hard to believe she would have been given permission.
Consider this: Kate Duchess of Cambridge has three children and yet we don’t know, nor will ever know, if she too has suffered this horrendous tragedy that affects 10-20 per cent of pregnancies.
That is an extraordinary tragedy of its own.
In 2001 Sophie Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward’s wife, was rushed to hospital after collapsing at their home where she underwent emergency surgery. She had a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman then put out a statement to the press, which did not once use the words ‘pregnancy’ or ‘baby’ and who said “I cannot comment on the nature of the operation – this is medical in confidence. However, her condition is described as comfortable.”
Today it reads like they are trying to throw an awkward, embarrassed blanket over the whole situation; that the palace couldn’t bring themselves to openly address what had actually happened given it involved the ickiness of lady parts.
Nearly 20 years on, reading those cold sentences from a faceless palace spokesman makes me want to rage: How dare they use such anodyne language, such weasel words to mask the immense pain that Sophie and Edward must have been feeling?
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Meghan’s essay equates to a blunt, truly impressive refusal to follow in the muted footsteps of royal women before her.
What today’s news highlights so perfectly and so tragically is the underlying failing of the monarchy at this point in time to more substantially use their platform to smash taboos and to tackle the difficult but important issues society is facing.
We have seen Prince William, Kate, Harry and Meghan all take steps in this direction with each having spoken about their own personal mental wellbeing and all having worked hard on the issue of mental health.
But here’s the thing: Is it enough? Is it enough for the royal family to rely on their younger members to go out and bare their souls a smidge? Is it enough that they advocate about certain issues that are already fast encroaching on the mainstream, such as climate change?
The royal family could give a voice to the voiceless and could advocate on issues that are still on the margins such as trans rights. Instead, pre-COVID, the Court Circular was stuffed with visits to regional railway museums and endless charity roundtables.
They don’t have to worry about being voted out or missing preselection or being booted out of the cabinet. Taking a more controversial stance here and there might spark a few chuntering op-eds but it won’t see them booted out of Buckingham Palace. My point is: They can afford to take the risk.
And yet, they don’t.
When they speak, the world listens and they remain gallingly silent.
The more I think about it, the more I think the royal family has a moral responsibility to use their global reach to affect far greater change.
Tonight, Meghan has prove just how badly they are failing.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.