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The Duchess of Sussex has been encouraging Americans ‒ especially women ‒ to vote in the US elections on November 3. However, she has come under fire for doing what some people view as delving too much into politics for a member of the Royal Family. That said, Meghan and her husband Prince Harry stepped down as senior royals at the end of March and so are in uncharted territory as to what they are able to speak out about.
Professor Jenny Hocking argued that simply encouraging people to vote is not partisan, it is “above politics” and therefore reminds her of Diana’s work, which was also above politics.
The late Princess of Wales worked on issues like HIV/AIDS, homelessness and landmine clearance, which are all important issues that go beyond simple partisan, party politics.
Similarly, exercising your right to vote is not an issue favoured by either side of the political debate.
Prof Hocking told Express.co.uk: “There was quite interesting coverage of Meghan Markle’s recent speeches encouraging people to vote, which I happen to think is a wonderful thing.
“Because it’s an expression of a civic duty, not partisan, political duty as some people seem to suggest it was, but actually it’s a civic duty and responsibility and a good thing to vote.
“It’s a broader inference, it’s more like the sorts of things that I think Princess Diana was involved in, matters that were above politics in that sense, but actually were about broader, international and national concerns rather than party political concerns.”
Indeed, some of the issues being covered by working royals in recent years are arguably more political than encouraging voting.
Prince Charles and Prince William have both campaigned on the environment which, to some extent, is linked to party politics.
For example, the Green Party is a party whose flagship policy is to fight climate change, and different parties put a different level of emphasis on this issue.
Donald Trump in the US, for example, has previously called climate change a “hoax” and that global warming was a concept “created by and for the Chinese”.
On the other hand, while they have not explicitly come out in support of him, it is widely believed that Meghan and Harry are privately supporting Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the election.
This is partly due to Meghan’s previous comments about Donald Trump; she said in 2016 that he is “divisive” and “misogynistic” and partly because the couple’s values seem to line up more with the Democratic party.
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What’s more, Prince Harry has a personal relationship with Mr Biden, who has attended several Invictus Games along with his wife Jill.
Harry even appeared to take a swipe at Mr Trump when, in a Time100 video, he said: “As we approach November, it is vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.”
Meanwhile, Meghan asserted that this is the most important election “of our lifetime” and in a virtual event with When All Women Vote, she claimed that people who do not vote are “complicit”.
The very essence of a constitutional monarchy is that they should remain impartial in the political arena, but the Sussexes have stepped away from that royal life and, seemingly, the protocol and restrictions that came with it.
Prof Hocking, who is a member of the National Committee of the Australian Republic Movement, said she does not think that what Meghan and Harry do has any impact on people’s view of the monarchy and Royal Family as a whole.
She argued that they are now “celebrity royals”, no longer associated with the Queen and the royal establishment.
When asked how Meghan and Harry are viewed in Australia, she said: “Not with the same level of fascination it seems to be, for a fairly understandable reason.
“Look, I always feel like that has become much more a sense of them almost as celebrity royals, rather than reflecting on the monarchy.
“It’s become part of a different notion of celebrity and I’m not sure if it actually impacts on people’s feelings about the republic and so on to a great extent.”
She also argued that other members of the Royal Family have, at times, overstepped the mark in terms of discussing political matters.
For example, Prince Charles landed himself in hot water over the Black Spider memos, when he wrote to Tony Blair and several of his ministers about issues he cared about.
This year, letters dating back to 1975 were released after a four-year legal battle spearheaded by Prof Hocking, which revealed conversations that went on between the Queen, her private secretary and the Governor-General of Australia.
Ms Hocking claimed the letters revealed a “deeply disturbing” level of political discussion between the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris and the Governor-General of Australia Sir John Kerr in the lead up to the 1975 constitutional crisis.
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