Our view: What crit­ics of Meghan’s fam­ily don’t get

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS -

Though a prod­uct of a by­gone era, the Bri­tish monar­chy con­tin­ues to make it­self oddly com­pelling.

Wit­ness this week­end’s wed­ding of Prince Harry and the Amer­i­can ac­tress Meghan Markle. Markle is a di­vorced, Amer­i­can, bira­cial older wo­man. She also — as the Bri­tish tabloid press has breath­lessly re­ported — comes with a royal coach-load of fam­ily bag­gage.

Not long ago, this would have been un­think­able. Harry’s fa­ther, Prince Charles, was all but forced into a love­less mar­riage to the for­mer Diana Spencer, who was 13 years his ju­nior and prob­a­bly not ready to make a lifechang­ing de­ci­sion. As far as the royal fam­ily was con­cerned, she met the two cri­te­ria that mat­tered: She was noble and, most likely, a vir­gin.

Now we see how far the monar­chy has come. It took a small step to­ward moder­nity in ap­prov­ing the mar­riage of the fu­ture King Wil­liam V to com­moner Kate Mid­dle­ton. And it has taken a great leap — a long over­due one — in ap­prov­ing Harry’s mar­riage to Meghan. It should be com­mended.

The Bri­tish me­dia, par­tic­u­larly its tabloid press, how­ever, are an­other mat­ter. They seem to have ap­pointed them­selves as the de­fend­ers of the dis­grun­tled tra­di­tion­al­ists dis­com­fited by the fact that the Wind­sors are about to com­min­gle their royal blood with that of some Amer­i­can ruf­fi­ans.

They can’t get enough of the fact that Markle’s fa­ther — who di­vorced her mother in 1987 — has been be­hav­ing er­rat­i­cally, blow­ing hot and cold over whether he’d at­tend the wed­ding and stag­ing a pa­parazzi en­counter in what was ap­par­ently a botched at­tempt to gar­ner sym­pa­thy.

They have taken even greater de­light in go­ing af­ter Markle’s half sib­lings, who’ve thrust them­selves into the spot­light to crit­i­cize her, pro­mote them­selves and — in some cases — try to cash in on the sit­u­a­tion.

Piers Mor­gan, the tabloid ed­i­tor and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity who once worked for CNN, called Markle’s fam­ily “the worst kind of vile, dys­func­tional money-grub­bing mis­fits.”

One won­ders why all this in­tense crit­i­cism. Is it to put these way­ward re­la­tions in their place?

Hardly. Grant­ing them a plat­form and re­peat­edly draw­ing at­ten­tion to them does just the opposite.

More likely, con­sid­er­ing the smug­ness and the judg­men­tal tone, the pur­pose of the put-downs is to un­der­score what is un­de­ni­able but should be un­re­mark­able: Nei­ther Markle nor her fam­ily is per­fect.

The tabloid press doesn’t seem to un­der­stand that many of its read­ers iden­tify with Markle, maybe even more so af­ter all the re­portage. They look at her mixed racial her­itage, di­vorced par­ents, failed first mar­riage and dys­func­tional fam­ily and say — Yes! That’s me.

The world is full of peo­ple like Markle. They come from bro­ken, blended, re­assem­bled, mod­ern and un­con­ven­tional fam­i­lies. They might have var­ied racial and eco­nomic back­grounds. And they might have re­la­tions they would not want over for Easter din­ner.

What they have in com­mon is they know that what matters most is what they make of their own lives.

It’s funny how the Bri­tish monar­chy, whose pri­mary his­tor­i­cal pur­pose has been to con­fer sta­tus and le­git­i­macy through birth, seems to un­der­stand this. It’s both sad and funny that the self-ap­pointed guardians of cul­ture that re­side in the Bri­tish me­dia do not.


Fans out­side Wind­sor Cas­tle on Thurs­day.

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