Meghan and Harry’s bombshell Oprah interview is threatening to break up the Commonwealth as countries and commentators question whether they still want to be associated with the Royal Family.
Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s former Prime Minister, led calls to ditch Britain’s monarch as head of state following the interview, which saw the Duke and Duchess air claims of racism, emotional neglect, and bullying.
Mr Turnbull, a long-time republican, said Australia should seriously question whether the next monarch after Queen Elizabeth ‘should become our head of state’.
Meghan’s allegation that a member of the family asked what colour her baby’s skin would be also prompted a backlash in countries including Jamaica, South Africa, Barbados and India, with some saying it recalls ‘British colonial racism’.
It brings the future of the Commonwealth – a community of 54 countries, many of them former British colonies, which the Queen has spent a lifetime promoting – into question in the twilight years of her reign.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau (left) played down calls from opposition MPs to cut ties with the royal family, saying ‘now is not the time’ for those conversations, while New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern (right) gave a similar response, saying there is ‘no appetite’ for constitutional change
Mr Turnbull led the criticism on Tuesday, telling Australian media: ‘It’s clearly an unhappy family or at least Meghan and Harry are unhappy. It seems very sad.
Meanwhile Jacob King, culture minister of Barbados, said it is time for his country to ‘break the shackles of that colonial experience’ (pictured, the Queen on a visit to Barbados in 1977)
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, struck a similar tone – saying there is ‘no appetite’ for a ‘significant change in our constitutional arrangements’.
Reaction to the interview was especially fierce in Africa – encapsulated by one Twitter user in South Africa who wrote: ‘It’s Britain and the royal family. What did you expect? They oppressed us for years.’
Nicholas Sengoba, a newspaper columnist in the former colony of Uganda, said the interview ‘opens our eyes further’ on the merits of the Commonwealth and raised ‘unresolved issues’ within the country about relations with its former colonisers.
He questioned whether the heads of Commonwealth states should still be ‘proud to eat dinner’ with members of the Royal Family.
Meghan and Harry traveled to South Africa in 2019, where their impending split with the royal family became clearer and they even spoke of possibly living in Cape Town.
Mohammed Groenewald, who showed them around at a mosque in Cape Town, was still digesting the interview, which was only shown in South Africa on Monday. But he said that, more than anything, it sparked memories of ‘British colonial racism.’
Meghan and Harry’s complaints of racism show that it is time for her country to end its relationship with the royal family, said a retired professor in Kingston, Jamaica.
‘What it should mean for us is that we should jump up and get rid of the queen as the head of state,’ Carolyn Cooper said.
‘It’s a disreputable institution. It’s responsible for the enslavement of millions of us who came here to work on plantations. It’s part of the whole legacy of colonialism and we need to get rid of it.’