• Maggie Tiojakin

A Royal Mess

NOTE #11

Hey you.

Good morning ️

I was 17 when Princess Diana died.

My mother read about it in the paper, and it left her feeling devastated for quite some time.

A week later, my mother and I sat in the living room to watch the funeral procession, aired live on television. The 4-hour event was excruciating, even more so because my mother couldn’t stop crying and lamenting the fates of Diana’s two sons throughout the procession.

“Oh God,” my mother shook her head, tears streaming down her face. “Those poor, poor, poor children!”

On the TV screen, Princes William and Harry trailed behind their mother’s coffin, eyes downward, their steps carefully measured, yet firm. They were flanked by their father, the Prince of Wales; their uncle, Charles Spencer; and their grandfather, Prince Phillip.

Dressed in black, both William and Harry seemed to have drowned inside their suits. William is only slightly younger than me; Harry was twelve.

“I can’t imagine how they’re going to grow up without their mother,” said my mother, the front of her shirt now wet with dripping tears. “Oh, how terrible! Just terrible!”

I remember my mother giving me the full background of Diana’s story. The betrayal, the disapproval, the pain of being married to the Prince of Wales. Because my mother’s own marriage hadn’t survived its infant years, Diana’s story became a lighthouse in the middle of a volatile ocean. Back then, in the 1980s and 1990s, being a divorcee often carried the image of a turbulent marriage and, in effect, a problematic character.

Diana’s grace under pressure, and her continued success in charity work, gave my mother the space she needed to feel justified in her own life story. However, it was clear to me, even then, that more than Diana’s death, it was the boys’ motherless future that drew my own mother to tears.

As the camera went for a closer look at the two princes, we got a glimpse of the boys’ internal struggles. William was visibly sad; but Harry was a mix of many emotions. Unlike William, there was rage in Harry’s sadness. You could tell from his sideway glances directed at the swarm of photographers surrounding him with a sense of dread and despise; and years later, you could still sense the same bitterness in the way he addressed that particular moment which was to be the longest walk in his life.

Recently, on March 7, 2021, Harry — now married to American actor, Meghan Marklesat with Oprah Winfrey to talk about those specific struggles. The interview was broadcast by CBS and, so far, it has attracted more than 20 million views worldwide (and still counting).

Central to the theme of the special interview was the couple's decision to withdraw from their royal duties back in 2020 — a move which the British media often dubbed as “Megxit” — and the subsequent fallout between the Prince’s new family and the family he was born into.

Throughout the two-hour interview, the royal couple spoke carefully and with measured convictions of the impossible bind they had had to endure in the House of Windsor.

Meghan’s voice trembled at times, as she recounted moments of hopelessness and depression; while Harry — who joined the interview at half time — appeared reserved and noncommittal.

In interviews and other appearances following the couple’s resignation, Harry firmly states the reason he is leaving the royal family is to stop history from repeating itself.

Harry gave Ms. Winfrey the same answer during the CBS Special; and when she pushed the envelope a bit further with a question whether by “history” he had meant his mother’s turbulent relationship with the media and the Buckingham Palace, the Prince gave the interviewer an affirmative nod: “Yes.”

Hailed as the hottest interview of the decade — on par only with another royal interview released in the mid-1990s of Princess Diana uncovering the lies and betrayal within her marriage to the future king of England — I couldn’t help but feel somewhat cheated, like I’ve been sold a bag of used tricks.

Because with everything else that’s going on in the world, and with the kind of time that we have to turn things around for the better, should we all be so invested in some other family’s dirty laundry?

And then it hit me. Toward the end of the interview, Meghan leaned forward and said, “Life is about storytelling. The story we tell ourselves, and the story we absorb from others.”

Somewhere in between is the story we tell others, and the many ways it can end or start a war.

On the TV screen, back in 1997, Sir Elton John sat behind a piano facing a crowd of mourners inside Westminster Abbey. He placed his fingers on the keys, closing his eyes.

The entire room was silent.

Cameras panned across the room and found William and Harry's faces. They were doing everything they could not to cry.

When Sir Elton John began to play Candle in the Wind, a song originally written in honor of yet another tragic figure, Marilyn Monroe, the room fell into a sad, heart-breaking spell.

The cameras found Harry again. There were confusion and anger in his eyes.

“Their fate is sealed,” said my mother, almost to herself. "This will be their story for the rest of their lives."


Maggie Tiojakin

Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer

B/NDL Studios

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