TELEGRAPH columnist Bryony Gordon has defended the Duchess of Sussex from criticism about her ‘wokeness’. She applauds her for using her position in the royal family to promote ‘body positivity advocates, mental health campaigners and climate change activists’, as well as for talking ‘about racism and sexism and all those other isms out there that make the world a miserable and unforgiving place’. In her judgment, ‘if the worst thing you can say about a representative of our elite is that they are “woke” to social injustice’, that’s cool with her.
In her defence of Meghan’s guest-editing stint at Vogue that has brought her in for some criticism, Gordon does acknowledge that the Royals ‘have an obligation to remain above the political sphere’. It’s fine when Prince Charles does it, she remarks, seemingly oblivious to the controversies he has caused in the past. The Duchess has not used the September issue of Vogue to call for a general election or to say that she thinks Donald Trump is a nasty little man with an attitude problem, which apparently makes it all right. All she has done is to ‘republish a piece of writing by the author Matt Haig that encourages women (and men) to be comfortable in their own skin’ and to ‘big up women like Sinead Burke, a disability rights activist, and Greta Thunberg, who would like to keep the planet safe for us all’.
The fact that one is a high-profile political activist whose zero-everything campaign would make the planet much less safe, and who hardly needs any extra publicity, and the other is a well-known ‘mental health campaigner’ who writes: ‘I don’t care about your body. I am a beach. I literally don’t give a f***’ is irrelevant, apparently.
Elsewhere this special Vogue issue has been criticised for being ‘packed full of “woke” celebs who share Left-wing views’. One, the poet Haig, was ‘one of just three people Meghan and Prince Harry followed on the SussexRoyal Instagram page’, the other two being Meghan’s defender, Bryony Gordon herself, and far-Left TV personality Jameela Jamil, who called Beyoncé a ‘stripper’, Miley Cyrus a ‘vagina without a platform’ and told Rhianna to ‘put your m*nge away’. The Duchess, however, selected Ms Jamil for the cover of Vogue for being ‘kind and inspiring’ to women.
Bryony Gordon shares the real concern of the Sussexes (and the Cambridges) with mental health. The Duchess is active in her promotion of the ‘charitable initiatives they [she and Harry] get behind’, but there is a fine line between promoting a good cause and promoting oneself by association with a good cause. Today many causes are as political as they are charitable, and some have murky moral provenance: the environmental/birth control movement that the Duchess and her husband have got behind may be ‘Left friendly’ but it is deeply controversial, if not suspect.
Gordon might have a point about the Duchess’s campaigning if every other actress, singer, comedian and aspiring celebrity (not to mention the BBC and those exemplars of Left-wing thinking, the advertising industry) were not continually conveying the same message – that of the woke elite on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now the same celebrities, with their ‘colourful love lives’ and countless partners, are jetting around the world telling the poor that they are having too many children. They are as out of touch as the court of King Louis XVI; at least Queen Marie Antoinette (allegedly) said that if the poor had no bread, they could eat cake. The new progressive aristocracy admonishes the poor to eat neither cake nor bread, and turn vegan to boot.
Meghan was one of Hollywood’s royalty but now that she is a member of a real royal family there is bound to be more scrutiny of her words and actions. This is the negative side of her position, privilege and wealth.
Gordon opines: ‘Love them or loathe them, the royal family are well worth the £1.24 we each pay every year.’ This is beside the point. Support for the monarchy remains remarkably stable, which is exactly why they would be well advised not to stray into politics or ideologically controversial matters. It risks antagonising as many as it pleases, or more.
We are so used to the Queen, who has given unstintingly to public service without anyone being able to divine her personal feelings on anything remotely controversial, that it is almost a cliché to remark that this is the source of our constitutional stability. Should Meghan alienate the support of the vast majority it can serve only to embolden the dormant anti-royalist campaign; the far Left would have no greater pleasure than in abolishing her along with every other royal.
The Duchess of Sussex – mixed race and from a single-parent family – began her royal fairy tale with a huge fund of public goodwill. Both the marriage and the public welcome for it was a genuine celebration of today’s open and non-discriminatory society. However her apparent self-obsession and need to build her own ‘brand’ is in danger of squandering this goodwill. There are no signs as yet that Prince Harry wishes he had never acquired a ‘woke’ princess, but if the couple awaken public opinion to the dubious benefits of republicanism, they may find that the opposite of ‘woke’ is ‘broke’.