Meghan and Harry’s interview highlighted ‘contradictions at heart of monarchy’

Meghan Markle and Harry: Expert on couple being ‘cut off’

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex opened up to Oprah Winfrey last month about their time in the Royal Family and why they left. It caused a storm across the world with several shocking allegations. The royal couple claimed a senior member of the Royal Family made racist comments about their son before he was born, and that Meghan was not adequately supported in her mental health struggles by the institution.

However, according to Professor Jenny Hocking, the interview also highlighted an inherent problem with the very concept of the monarchy in the modern age.

She argued that the idea of being head of state by birthright is antithetical and incompatible with the idea of a modern democracy, where there are expectations of electoral processes and accountability.

Prof Hocking, who is a member of the National Committee for the Australian Republic Movement, said Meghan and Harry’s interview “without a doubt” increased momentum for a republic in Australia.

She said: “Without a doubt, because it has highlighted the contradictions at the heart of a monarchy in a modern democratic state.

“I mean, the two are fundamentally incompatible.

“You cannot have a monarchy, which is determined by birthright ‒ no selection process whatsoever, purely by birthright, a hereditary title ‒ coexisting with a modern democracy where we have expectations of and requirements for electoral processes and people’s involvement in the choice of government.

“As it stands at the moment, the Australian people have absolutely no control or say over our choice of head of state.

“It is by birthright always and can only be a British monarch.

“And that may have logical previous imperial reasons, but now that we’re a fully fledged independent state, or appear to be, we ought to make that last step and to be able to choose a head of state from among one of us and not one of them.

“The major point, however, is that the interview has given greater focus to those questions, because of the way in which it highlighted just how out of touch and irrelevant the dealings within Buckingham Palace are to everyday Australians.”

According to Prof Hocking, there was a spike in membership for the Australian Republic Movement in the days and weeks after the interview.

This came after another spike last year that came after the release of the Palace Letters.

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The Palace Letters are correspondence between the Queen, her private secretary and former Governor-General of Australia Sir John Kerr in the lead up to the Dismissal in 1975.

The Dismissal was a constitutional crisis in Australia whereby Sir John dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam after he failed to pass his budget, and Leader of the Opposition Malcom Fraser was brought in as interim Prime Minister before an election was called.

Debate has raged in the decades since then as to whether Sir John had a right to do this and how much the Queen knew about it.

The Palace Letters, which were key to this picture, were sealed in the National Archives of Australia until Prof Hocking won a case in the High Court to have them released.

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They were finally published last year, triggering the peak in membership for Prof Hocking’s republican group.

The historian argued that these two events ‒ the release of the Palace Letters and the Oprah interview ‒ are two chinks in the armour of “royal secrecy”.

Both these events, she argued, has therefore triggered more discussion about the potential for a republic in Australia.

The interview in particular, she said, highlighted how “dysfunctional” the Royal Family is and how “out of touch” the institution is.

She said it “certainly sparked more discussion about a republic and about why Australia continues to have as its head of state a member – that is the monarch – of what appears now to be an entirely dysfunctional family and a totally arcane and out of touch monarchy”.

The Palace Letters: the Queen, the Governor-General and the Plot to Dismiss Gough Whitlam’ was written by Jenny Hocking and published in 2020 by Scribe UK. Details here.

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