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Culture

Royal Women in the Media

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, you’ve probably been sucked into the monarchy drama even from all the way across the pond.

While it can be hard to juggle all the different titles and names unless you’re an avid consumer of Netflix’s The Crown, you sure do know the women of the royal family.

For years, the media has subjected women who married into the royal family to extreme exposure and attention. While it is to be expected, the type of media exposure paid to these women is less than flattering.

Diana Spencer

Princess Diana, born Diana Spencer, was a force of nature during her time as a public icon, both inside and outside her marriage to Prince Charles. Though her sweet, bubbly character is what attracted the media and people around the world to her, this popularity quickly turned against her. Because of the world’s fixation on this down-to-earth former royal, Diana was extremely popular with the press. While this sounds like it would be a good thing, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The media was literally “on the scene” the day of Diana’s tragic, untimely death. Prior to the fatal car crash that killed Diana, her boyfriend, Emad “Dodi” Fayed, and her driver, Henri Paul, the Mercedes had been trying to get a storm of paparazzi off their trail.

“It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this — a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age,” Charles Spencer, who was Diana’s younger brother, said during the eulogy at her funeral Sept. 6, 1997.

The fascination with Diana originated from what her marriage into the royal family did for their public image. She was a youthful and down-to-earth breath of fresh air in a cold, rigid system.

Her activism rightfully won the hearts of spectators around the world. In 1989, she visited a Harlem hospital treating children with AIDS. During this time, the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, though uneducated, was rampant. There was an assumption by many that one could contract the disease simply by touching someone with it. So, when the princess stopped and hugged a 7-year-old boy with AIDS, she made a groundbreaking change in the way the disease was viewed and discussed.

It’s clear to see how the press overstepped boundaries and quickly turned Diana into a spectacle rather than a human being.

Kate Middleton

While Kate Middleton, who is the Duchess of Cambridge, now appears to grace headlines with comments about her elegant sense of fashion, she once did not toggle the spotlight in such a way.

Even now, the headlines highlight the difference in tone between Kate and Meghan Markle and serve as evidence that conveys how the press treats color and class as characteristics in its subject matters.

However, the duchess also once was the subject of cruel invasiveness by the paparazzi — a similar battle her late mother-in-law faced.

In 2012, a French magazine published topless photos of Kate when she and Prince William were sunbathing at a secluded location in Provence.

Additionally, paparazzi have intentionally taken off-guard pictures of the duchess when she’s having wardrobe malfunctions, like her dress blowing up because of the wind.

Meghan Markle

It is well known Meghan Markle has been brutally slammed by the press for just about anything you could think of. To deny that race or class has anything to do with it would be misguided.

From being unfairly criticized after Prince Charles’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis to being the subject of sexist headlines because of a pantsuit, the former royal has been dragged by negative press coverage ever since she entered the spotlight.

In a system that’s predominantly white, being an outsider is hard enough, but not fitting the mold of “whiteness” definitely played a role in the media’s assault on Meghan. Headlines discussing her “exotic DNA” and how she came “(almost) straight outta Compton” displayed a cyclical issue of invasiveness of the women in the royal family, but also demonstrated a new issue: racial insensitivity.

The highly publicized (and nonexistent) “feud” between Kate and Meghan further demonstrated the veracity of unfairness the media showed toward Meghan. Headlines would portray pregnant Kate with maternal words such as “tenderly cradles her baby bump,” while pregnant Meghan, who was doing the exact same thing, would be accused of “pride” and “vanity.”

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The coverage of women in the royal family has historically been proven to be inappropriate, sexist and racist. The invasiveness of these women’s privacy has not only complicated their lives, but also ended them. This troubling repetition of behavior after Princess Diana’s tragic death speaks volumes as to how the press and the royal family regards these women. Signing up for the royal family shouldn’t mean selling the rights of your life story to any journalistic vulture waiting to pounce.

Royal or not, these women are simply women.

Alexis is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in women's studies. Her ideal career would be one that incorporates her love for writing and her passion for social activism. For fun, she likes to read crime and romance novels, explore recommended podcasts, and binge watch New Girl. When she isn't curled up with a book or Netflix, she can usually be found enjoying the nature trails of Gainesville.
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