Nothing quite signals the end of summer like a daylong televised state funeral. As the U.K.’s monarch was laid to rest this week, there wasn’t much to do but quietly observe: Proceedings felt poised and proper, the surviving royals managing their perfected stiff upper lips as they publicly grieved.
Of course, everyone on the internet was talking about Meghan Markle, which appears to be Twitter’s resting state despite Markle’s withdrawal from public British life after she and Prince Harry relinquished their senior royal duties. Meghan participated in funereal procedures pitch-perfectly, objectively fulfilling the ambient obligations of any attendee—wearing black, being respectful, not causing a scene. Yet somehow the duchess is once again being slated for acting inappropriately. Let me count the ways.
The initial feeling of familial unity as the Waleses and the Sussexes stepped out to greet street-side mourners was palpable: a message of posttraumatic harmony between allegedly (allegedly, allegedly) feuding brothers and wives, of family patching up differences in a time of loss. Yet this sense of calm quickly descended into online commotion when Meghan carried her own flowers. With an unreadable, almost blank face at the procession, Meghan was accused of disrespectfully smirking. Both Sussexes were criticized for holding hands as they walked into Westminster Hall. Meghan’s also been criticized for acting, as if royal public engagements are not at their hearts performative.
I’m cataloguing these gripes to showcase how absurd, and frankly minor, they are in the scheme of burying a monarch. They feel like nothings, mere drips in the ocean of national mourning. Hating on a woman for holding her husband’s hand at his grandmother’s funeral is utterly unhinged. The latest headlines are calling Meghan a manipulative bully.
It’s difficult not to see the racism, or to explain away the vitriol for Markle—the droning, relentless persecution—as anything but racial prejudice. Meghan’s behavior is in line with the Firm’s expectations for her. There was the fuss about wedding tights, and she wore tights this whole trip. Not to be too glib in the face of what’s shaping up to be a campaign of rampant discrimination, but after vocal concern about the coloring of her kids, she bore two light-skinned offspring. What more do these people want? It’s impossible to watch (white) Sophie Wessex hold her (white) husband’s hand at the same event with zero criticism lobbed at them. For the record, I think Sophie is great—I just can’t stand the double standard; the extra expectations on the biracial couple. Let’s not sugarcoat the idea that a Black woman’s display of affection and intimacy makes people more uncomfortable. Black actions are seen differently. They are scrutinized.