The BBC Question Time audience and panel was divided in Merseyside on Thursday night as a question was asked about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The royals have this week courted controversy after they launched a lawsuit against a British tabloid for the publication of private letters between Meghan and her estranged father, Thomas. The newspaper in question has said it will “rigorously defend” the letter’s publication. To announce the news they were suing, Prince Harry issued a scathing statement in which he accused the tabloid “press pack” of mounting a “relentless” campaign to “commodify” his wife, Meghan Markle in what he feared would see history repeat itself after the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.
Speaking on BBC Question Time about the statement, panellist Melanie Phillips said: “We can all sympathise with where Harry is coming from.
“Those of us of a certain age who watched those two children – those two little boys follow that coffin of their mother – none of us could fail to be moved and have in the foremost of our minds that those young men would be traumatised by everything they had experienced as children.
“And they are marked probably forever for that. And we are all I am sure very sympathetic.
“But to perceive everything that is happening in the light of what happened to his mother is a deep, deep mistake.
“And it doesn’t take into account the fact that the criticisms that have been made and not vicious or spiteful. They are legitimate criticisms.”
Host Fiona Bruce then invited a woman in the audience who she noted had been “shaking her head” to intervene in the debate, as she appeared to disagree with Ms Phillips.
The woman said: “I remember when Princess Diana died and I remember there were photos of her dying in her vehicle offered to news editors.
“And they had the choice whether to pay good money for these pictures and print them or not.
“And those who chose not to print them I think that was the morally right choice.
“And the word Harry used was that she had turned into a commodity.”
“And that is true – especially female members of the Royal Family.”
But Ms Phillips was having none of it.
She said: “I don’t think the Duchess of Sussex is being turned into a commodity.
“I think people want her to behave rather like the Duchess of Cambridge is behaving – appropriate the Royal Family and in the traditions of the Royal Family.”
But the woman fired back: “In what way is not behaving appropriately? By wanting some privacy with her newborn baby?”
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Fellow panellist author Bonnie Greer also rushed to the defence of the Duchess.
She said: “I think Harry’s letter was quite restrained.”
Ms Greer went on to outline what she claimed was the “subtext running here” of an “insidious” narrative against Meghan that Harry had been forced to “battle”.
And another audience member said it was wrong of the British newspaper to publish Meghan’s private letter to her father.
Harry and Meghan have recently completed a royal tour of African nations, where they were enjoying markedly more positive coverage in the media.
But Harry chose to issue a furious statement amid the positive coverage, as he claimed it demonstrated “double standards in the press.
Commentators and experts have questioned the timing of the outburst while fans and supporters of the Duke and Duchess have staunchly defended it.
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