Wednesday, 25 November 2020

'I knew, As I Clutched My Firstborn Child, That I Was Losing My Second' - Meghan

In a deeply personal and heartbreaking piece for the New York Times titled The Losses We Share, the Duchess of Sussex has written about the pain and unbearable grief following a miscarriage. "It was a July morning that began as ordinarily as any other day: Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins. Find that missing sock. Pick up the rogue crayon that rolled under the table. Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib. After changing his diaper, I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right. I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second. Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal."

“Are you OK?” a journalist asked me. I answered him honestly, not knowing that what I said would resonate with so many — new moms and older ones, and anyone who had, in their own way, been silently suffering. My off-the-cuff reply seemed to give people permission to speak their truth. But it wasn’t responding honestly that helped me most, it was the question itself.

“Thank you for asking,” I said. “Not many people have asked if I’m OK.”

Sitting in a hospital bed, watching my husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine, I realized that the only way to begin to heal is to first ask, “Are you OK?”

Meghan continued: "Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few. In the pain of our loss, my husband and I discovered that in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage. Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning."

The Duchess touched on the collective effects of 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on so many, the loss of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the increasing feeling "we are at odds": 

'When I was in my late teens, I sat in the back of a taxi zipping through the busyness and bustle of Manhattan. I looked out the window and saw a woman on her phone in a flood of tears. She was standing on the sidewalk, living out a private moment very publicly. At the time, the city was new to me, and I asked the driver if we should stop to see if the woman needed help.

He explained that New Yorkers live out their personal lives in public spaces. “We love in the city, we cry in the street, our emotions and stories there for anybody to see,” I remember him telling me. “Don’t worry, somebody on that corner will ask her if she’s OK.”

Now, all these years later, in isolation and lockdown, grieving the loss of a child, the loss of my country’s shared belief in what’s true, I think of that woman in New York. What if no one stopped? What if no one saw her suffering? What if no one helped?'

Meghan has been praised for courageously sharing her experience. 

The Duchess closed with a poignant message for Thanksgiving "We are adjusting to a new normal where faces are concealed by masks, but it’s forcing us to look into one another’s eyes - sometimes filled with warmth, other times with tears. For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another. Are we OK? We will be." Meghan is described as a "mother, feminist and advocate" in the article. 

Click here to read the piece in its entirety.

I was so sorry and saddened to hear about Meghan and Harry's loss. I am glad they were able to get through the past several months without the world knowing and only share their experience when they felt ready. Meghan's words will mean a great deal to the many woman who know the same pain, the same loss, the same grief. In all they've been through, the strength of Harry and Meghan's love has been evident every step of the way. Meghan's words "watching my husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine" were incredibly moving to read. I know we're all thinking of them today.

Tommy's, a charity funding research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth thanked Meghan for breaking the silence. 

Sunday, 8 November 2020

UPDATED: 'Once Served, Always Serving': The Duke and Duchess of Sussex Mark Remembrance Sunday

In a moving and poignant tribute, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex marked Remembrance Sunday by privately visiting Los Angeles National Cemetery earlier today.

Remembrance Sunday holds a deeply special place in all our hearts in the UK, and for none more so than those who have courageously served their country. Prince Harry is a shining example of a man who served Queen and country. A man who was determined to receive no special treatment or favour because of his position. Captain Wales served for a decade - undertaking two tours to Afghanistan - the first member of the Royal family in twenty-five years to serve in a war zone. Upon leaving the army to focus on his duties, he vowed his time in the army would "stay with him for the rest of his life". A promise he has kept in the years since with supporting veterans, military charities and his inspiring brainchild Invictus at the very heart of his work.

All of the above serves to explain the enormous disappointment I felt this morning as I scrolled through the Sunday papers. On a day for reflection, it was quite shocking to see royal aides using today of all days to inform several newspapers -- including The Sunday Times and the Telegraph -- Harry "had hoped to return to the UK for the event".  He was told he would have "no official role" and "was not invited". Determined to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice, Harry made a personal request to Buckingham Palace for a wreath to be laid on his behalf. Not only was this "refused", quite clearly it was decided the next course of action was to inform the press. Harry is said to have been "deeply saddened" by this. It's an appalling situation and quite clear those who were actively against the couple during their time in the UK continue to behave with an astonishing degree of pettiness considering the significance of the day. The fact the Queen's grandson who commendably served in the armed forces was unwelcome at Whitehall alongside his family -- and the continued attempts to discredit him by attacking his commitment to the military -- is frankly rather disturbing at this stage, and perhaps a window on the internal situation which became intolerable for the couple.

Harry's friend and special forces soldier Dean Stott shared the following tweet - a sentiment echoed by many in the military community.

People reports:

'War hero Prince Harry asked to have a wreath of poppies laid at the national memorial to those servicemen and women who have fallen, but it was turned down.

Harry, who served in the British army for ten years and went on two tours of Afghanistan in that time, would have been in the U.K. in this period of remembrance if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t hit all travel plans. And he would have made a tribute of his own alongside some of his military comrades, sources have told PEOPLE.'

Veteran BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt had this to say.

Nonetheless, Harry was determined to share his support in any way he could. Speaking alongside several veterans on the Declassified podcast, Harry spoke of how much Remembrance Sunday means to him, describing it as "a moment for respect and for hope", adding remembrance is "a profound act of honour". The Prince continued, "It's how we preserve the legacies of entire generations and show our gratitude for the sacrifices they made in order for us to be able to live the lives we live today. Being able to wear my uniform, being able to stand up in service of one's country, these are amongst the greatest honours there are in life. To me, the uniform is a symbol of something much bigger, it's symbolic of our commitment to protecting our country, as well as protecting our values."

Harry added, "These values are put in action through service, and service is what happens in the quiet and in the chaos. It's what happens in the darkness, it’s what happens when people aren't looking. It’s what happens on and off the battlefield. It's about carrying out our duty as soldiers. For me as a father, a husband and as a human being, it’s about how we uphold these values in every aspect of our lives." Adding he firmly believes "once served, always serving".

Harry and Meghan laid bouquets of flowers the Duchess picked from their garden at the graves of two Commonwealth soldiers -- one who had served in the Royal Canadian Artillery and another in the Royal Australian Air Force. Canada holds a special place in Harry and Meghan's hearts, as does Australia, their first Commonwealth tour as a married a couple and the location of the last Invictus games.

A message on their wreath read, "In Memory of the Men Who Offered Their Lives in Defense of Their Country. To all of those who have served, and are serving. Thank you."

More from Harper's Bazaar:

'The couple, who only took their masks off when they were alone, also carefully placed a wreath at an obelisk in the cemetery that features a plaque that’s inscribed, "In Memory of the Men Who Offered Their Lives in Defense of Their Country." Harry—who wore his 2002 Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal, 2008 Afghanistan Operational Service medal, and 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal—wrote a message with the wreath that read, "To all of those who have served, and are serving. Thank you."

A source close to the Sussexes tells BAZAAR, "It was important to the duke and duchess to be able to personally recognise Remembrance in their own way, to pay tribute to those who have served and to those who gave their lives."

The choice of LA National Cemetery has a special meaning for Meghan; across the road is Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Health Care System building, which was used by her grandfather Alvin Ragland after he served in the US Coast Guard.

In a 2015 piece for The Tig marking Martin Luther King Day 'Champions of Change', Meghan wrote about her grandfather:

"When my grandparents decided to move the family from Ohio to California, my mom was about seven years old. A family of five, they packed up the car and took a road trip to Los Angeles. My grandfather told me this story when I was eleven years old. To me road trips were - “are we there yet?”s, the license plate game, the drive thrus for filler food (where McDonalds is less of a treat and more of the norm), photo ops by signs welcoming you from one state to the next, and stops at local restaurants to stretch your legs. “Things were different then,” my grandfather said.

Meggie, on our road trip, when we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken, we had to go to the back for ‘coloreds.’ The kitchen staff handed me the chicken from the back door and we ate in the parking lot. That’s just what it was. That’s just what it was.

That story still haunts me. It reminds me of how young our country is. How far we’ve come and how far we still have to come. It makes me think of the countless black jokes people have shared in front of me, not realizing I am mixed. Unaware that I am the ethnically ambiguous fly on the wall. It makes me wonder what my parents experienced as a mixed race couple. It echoes the time my mom and I were leaving a concert at The Hollywood Bowl, and a woman called her the “N” word because she was taking too long to pull out of the parking spot. I remember how hot my skin felt. How it scorched the air around me.

To Martin Luther King Jr., to Harvey Milk, to Gloria Steinem and Cesar Chavez, to my mom and dad for choosing each other not for the “color of their skin but the content of their character“…to all of you champions of change: Thank you."

The images were taken by Lee Morgan, an "Afro-American/Brazilian photographer, raised in New York and currently residing in Los Angeles, California". The talented photographer has worked with Vogue and Neiman Marcus.

Lest we forget. Below, a reading by Harry in 2016 of 'The Soldier' by First World War poet Rupert Brooke.

The Duchess was elegant in a black belted wool satin faille jacket dress by Brandon Maxwell (a great spot by UFO No More). Meghan carried a matching clutch and fittingly accessorised with a poppy on her lapel. 

Meghan's shoes are the Lorenzo pumps in black suede by British brand Jennifer Chamandi (with many thanks to UFO No More). "Flawless black suede is handcrafted by Italian artisans into a comfortable and supremely balanced pump."

Meghan wore the stylish shoes in two-tone for a visit to Dagenham in March.


In other news, the official website for Archewell is live and you can sign up for updates. It would appear the proper launch and announcement of plans for the non-profit is very much in the final stages of preparation.

It was touching to see Harry marking Remembrance Day in his own way, with his wife by his side.

UPDATE:  I just wanted to respond to a couple of points raised. With thanks to those who have commented respectfully, I appreciate it. On Remembrance Sunday, wreaths are laid by members of the Royal family, politicians, VIPs, forces and representatives. They are also laid by youth organisations, charities and members of the public. For example, royal photographer Athur Edwards was permitted to lay a wreath on behalf of readers of The Sun newspaper.

A wreath could have been left after the ceremony. I do think Harry's name could have been added to one given the work he's done with Invictus, Walking with the Wounded, the Endeavour Fund, Team Rubicon UK and many other military charities. Harry still means a great deal to the military community. Even if one feels he shouldn't be included, the only purpose leaking it to The Sunday Times serves is to humiliate him. Several other outlets followed up this story and confirmed it is true. By their own admission, Harry is still part of the family, so this ongoing leaking campaign from senior royal aides serves to only further widen the divide.

Consider Princess Madeleine of Sweden, who lives in the US with her family and opted to forfeit titles for her children. Madeleine has been able to return as she wishes, participate in family occasions and continue to work on the causes closest to her heart. If we look to 2019 (pre-Covid) we saw Madeleine at the Nobel Prize banquet, supporting a book fair in Sweden, attending her sister Victoria's birthday celebrations and official events associated with the day. She also attended a major charity dinner with her family and attended a series of meetings, etc.

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Most crucially, her mother's Childhood Foundation is the area she has worked in particularly (similar to Harry with the military), so she has conitnued this work both in the US and Sweden. There was never a question of her not doing so given her prior commitment.

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Imagine if every communication between Madeleine and the Swedish royal court was leaked and sensationalised. What purpose would it serve? I'm sure there were issues to iron out - the Swedes did it discreetly. The Swedish royal family were presented with a new set of cirucmstances and adapted and modernised recognising Madeleine is the daughter of a king and the sister of a future queen. They also recognise the benefit she brings to the Childhood Foundation with an appreciation for her wish to live her life in the US.

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Additional reporting from People:

'In fact, there was a wreath ready and waiting for him — the official organizers of the event, which honors those who have been killed and wounded in war, had created a display and set it aside for Harry.

But courtiers and palace officials decided that he couldn’t have his wreath added to those from other members of the royal family because he and Meghan Markle are no longer working members of the institution. 

Harry “understands that he doesn’t have the same formal role in the family as he used to,” a source close to him tells PEOPLE. “But he was saddened and disappointed by the decision.”

Robert Lacey recently penned a book on the situation. A respected royal writer, it was expected his book would be the antithesis of Finding Freedom. Instead, his view on the situation was enlightening -- to say the least. He has sources going back decades in the Palace. He had this to say on the wreath laying: "I think this is an indication that things are worse than we thought. If everything was hunkydorey there seems no reason why a wreath should not have been laid in Harry's name. If the Royal family or the palace wanted to co-operate then it would seem to be a perfectly reasonable request to make that could have been fulfilled. I don't think it augurs well for the prospects of a reconciliation. On the face of this, it would seem that Harry is keener on reconciliation or maintaining some sort of link than the palace is to granting one."