A tale of two influential women of two different times chained by a single date of 19th May.
On 19 May 1536, Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, was executed in the Tower of London after she was declared guilty for High Treason. And what exactly was that treason? Well, It was anything the Monarch and his parliament decided which suited their interests. This brutal historical event established the status quo of gender dynamics and the value of the life of a woman irrespective of her being a queen.
The Churches, the missionaries, and the subjects vilified the former queen while the Parliament, the Court, and the laws confirmed her demise. Both these tools were controlled by men in power. It also incentivized people to heap on women certain roles like giving a male child or being subservient to the husband.
It further led to a trickle-down event and female oppression was passed on to the next generations. Framed for the charges of witchcraft, Incest & adultery, Anne was loathed among the then common people of Great Britain. History remembers the trial to be a complete facade and know the beheading came at the cost of not being able to produce a male heir. Wish Henry knew that the gender of the offspring is completely dependent on male sperm. Henry just wanted to get rid of his wife and marry another.
Cut two 484 years later, Great Britain, a constitutional Monarchy exercises limited power over its subjects. The death sentence is banned and the Royals are supposed to do what they do best, nothing(as told in one of the crown’s episodes). In short, this is the modern-day monarchy whose duties are carrying out constitutional activities of the nation and the commonwealth which majorly includes attending events, giving speeches free of political views and that’s it. The biggest power here is the Media especially the British Tabloids who are sculpting the public discourse aligned to their ideologies.
Married into the royal family on the day of Anne’s beheading(19th May), Meghan Markle, a successful American actress, and wife of former Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, is also very evidently hated by the general public thanks to British Tabloid Press. The tabloid here is the power that controls the dominant narrative which includes white supremacy, xenophobia, and radicalism. Throughout the time of her marriage to the Prince, she has been portrayed as a usurper who cannot fit into the Royal family. A lot of the Tabloid’s baseless stories/opinions against her have racist undertones. BBC radio host Danny Baker tweeted a photo where he compared her son to a Chimpanzee. Queen’s cousin princess Michael of Kent wore a small blackamoor brooch on Christmas banquet at Buckingham Palace, reminding people that she will share the occasion with a woman of color. English Broadcaster Piers Morgan justifying the criticism against Meghan on his show said, “She disowned her entire family, her father, ditched all her friends, got rid of her husband and this person(Meghan) now is doing what she did to her family to now royal family” British media has time and again used Meghan’s estranged father to smear uncharitable words at her background.
Since this is a modern-day era where people can choose to do whatever they want without losing their heads. Hence, Meghan & Harry resigned as the senior members of the royal family. A decision which a famous media house ‘Atlantic’ called, the greatest sin.
Both Anne and Meghan are very different and strong women of their times but something brings their stories together. In both their cases, the privileged white males are dictating what the place a woman holds in their society.
Meghan has since been projected by the Tabloids as some witch who casts her spell on Henry(Harry’s real name) to run away from Royal duties. Anne was declared responsible for Henry’s exit from Catholicism and Meghan for his exit from the UK. In both these cases, Henry is a naive juvenile who always gets tricked by his cunning wife to take unexpected decisions. Interestingly, In a 2008 movie THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, they portrayed Henry VIII as a gentle self-righteous man abiding by the law while Anne, a cunning girl trying to beguile the monarch.
Meghan was also made to go through a media trial for her previous marriage and of course, deemed guilty because a divorced woman of color has fewer chances of being celebrated like Queen Elizabeth I, a Virgin Queen.
Henry VIII must have been extremely disappointed in his deathbed to note that after his reign, it was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I who carried his name as a monarch for 42 long years. Elizabeth I, who was probably less than 3 years old when her mother was executed, decided to never marry.
Elizabeth’s cousin Mary Queen of Scots was forced by the nobilities to abdicate the throne of Scotland and was according to some historians raped and later exiled. Her life and duty were dictated by the men around her. These are the men who built the law and create a structure around women.
These laws dictate their role in society like producing a male heir or adhering to these discriminatory norms. In the modern-day royalty, Meghan had to fight three battles. One of being a divorcee which threatens the idea of “purity”, the second of being a woman and the other being a black person.
Being black symbolizes that her ancestors were African slaves working under the British Empire, hence her existence within the royal family threatened the status quo of White Hegemony. The far conservative media is having a hard time dealing with it. This is forcing them to build a narrative that vilifies the anti-hegemonic discourse.
The hegemonic discourses disseminated by the British media lead to the success of the dominant belief and they successfully establish their narrative as common sense. The example of it is the general ‘consensus’ of Meghan Markle being the most hated royal among the common people followed by Camila Parkel. We can’t compare the dominant ideology of today’s Britain to that of Anne Boleyn’s but many discriminatory norms are still very prevalent. For example, preference of a male heir over female for the succession of the throne is no more tangible according to the new succession law but women not allowed to work independently as royal or constant misogyny at the hands of the Tabloids are still very perceptible.
Ambitious women are often deemed as witches. Anne Boleyn, besides having limited agency, used her wit to sit on the throne as a queen she long coveted. Little did Anne know that the Crown, the status, and the man she was fighting for are just not worth it.
Her final words were, “Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law, I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God to save the king and send him to long reign over you..” In her final words, she didn’t even blame the unjust law and the King because she accepted it as her fate, believing like everyone in those days that no one can question the Monarch who is apparently divine and only answerable to god.
Thankfully, Meghan Merkle has realized that all this sham in the name of duty and service bolstered by the Media is just not worth her time. She is a self-made woman who just happens to be the wife of a former Duke of Sussex and doesn’t need any prefix to substantiate her princess status. Meghan is currently living in LA with her husband and is continuing her career in the entertainment industry. Very recently she did the voice over for the Mark Linfield directed documentary film ‘Elephant’.
Meghan Markle who has been now calling out the oppressive media filed a privacy lawsuit against The Mail on October 1, 2019, for publishing her private letter to her dad whose preceding is currently underway. Last month, Harry and Meghan sent letters to the editors of The Sun, Daily Mail, Mirror, and Express stating that they will maintain a “zero engagement” policy with these tabloids stating their stories to be distorting, false, and invasive beyond reason.
Hence, we can say that she is no Queen Anne and knows to carve her path and survive in the end.
Image Source – Al Jazeera