This episode, small as it may seem, offers a glimpse into the political role the British royal family plays in cementing the UK's power abroad. And the human consequences of the partnerships the family helps to forge deserve greater scrutiny. By choosing to wear MbS’ earrings, Markle abrogated her opportunity to show solidarity with the Yemeni population suffering under a brutal war led by Saudi Arabia.
Although it seems the provenance of the earrings was leaked by the British royal family, the Queen & Co. are instrumental in securing arms deals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, displaying a willingness to signal righteousness to distract from negative press coverage, whilst continuing to act in solidarity with their monarchal counterparts in the Gulf and the wider region.
The manipulation of the press coverage of Markle points to the bad faith of the British aristocracy - a bad faith that is willing to aid the supply of weapons used to murder children in Yemen, whilst throwing dirt at the wall in the hope it protects the under-worked, over-paid, scandal-ridden British royal family. And by all accounts, the allegations of racism Meghan has laid against the royal family are credible and deserve attention.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the symbolic and diplomatic role Meghan played in furthering the UK’s partnership with the Saudi Arabian regime, which regularly jails dissidents and feminists, violates its peoples’ human rights, and is currently waging a destructive war on Yemen, the region’s poorest country. Meghan reportedly received the earrings in 2018 before appearing in Fiji donning the gift a few weeks after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
Many of the royal visits coincided with human rights crackdowns in the Gulf states
UK royals have forged close relations with dictatorial monarchs in the Gulf for years. According to Declassified UK, the British royal family met on an almost fortnightly basis with Middle Eastern monarchies since the uprisings in the region more than a decade ago. This includes 44 meetings with Bahrain, 40 with Saudi Arabia, and 28 meetings with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
These trips abroad by British royals are often planned to facilitate arms deals by UK companies, particularly BAE Systems which continues to sell billions of dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia where the equipment is still being used in Yemen.
Many of the royal visits coincided with human rights crackdowns in the Gulf states. For example, Prince Andrew (who has been marred in controversy since revelations of his association with Jeffrey Epstein) met the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on the same day that five activists were jailed in the Emirates.
In the UK, news coverage has been dominated by Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah, in which Meghan revealed that palace officials had expressed concern over the skin tone of her soon to be born child and that, whilst living with the royal family in the UK, Meghan had become so distressed she had experienced suicidal thoughts.
News cycles, therefore, have been incapable of covering a report published Monday 8 March that showed the UK government’s use of detention facilities for asylum seekers to Britain was wholly unable to provide a safe environment, particularly in the context of Covid-19.
Photographs from the inside of the highly criticized Penally Camp and Napier Barracks show accommodation in which people are forced to live so close that social distancing is impossible. “Be strong, things will get better,” an inscription by somebody forced to stay in the facility reads on a wall by one of the beds.
The report found that the UK Home Office failed to give contractors and staff enough time to prepare for new arrivals in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak which has so far killed over 125,000 people in the UK. The report also highlighted that many people had been forced to stay in the facility for far longer than the facilities were designed for.
The UK is led by - and continues to worship - a group of people who don’t care for anyone but themselves - and the friends in grand palace in the Gulf, of course.
“While COVID-19 restrictions had meant that some asylum seekers had been accommodated at Penally Camp and Napier Barracks for much longer than had been originally envisaged, the Home Office had been slow to recognize the impact on residents of prolonged isolation in accommodation that was not designed or intended for long-term stays,” the report says.
In 2019, the most common nationalities of those seeking asylum in the UK were Iran, Albania, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Britain, of course, has been at war with two of those countries in the last two decades. Furthermore, around 70% of those resettled as refugees in the UK between January 2010 and May 2020 were Syrians.
Meghan and Harry will dominate the press over the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the British ruling elite - from the royal family to its Tory politicians - fuel wars in the Middle East, excuses extreme violations of human rights, and throws those seeking refuge from countries to which the UK has been at war into inadequate and inhumane accommodation. When debating whether Harry and Meghan were right to fly to California, the larger issue remains: the UK is led by - and continues to worship - a group of people who don’t care for anyone but themselves - and the friends in grand palace in the Gulf, of course.
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