"For those fascinated by or fond of the royal family because they are human, Harry and Meghan's "shocking" move seems entirely unremarkable."Mark Jones (Flickr)

The Royal family is special: not just in terms of their right to rule (illogical or divine, depending on your stance), but also in the moral conundrum they can present to members of the public. For many, despite their awareness of the issues surrounding the monarchy, the family itself is a soft spot.

The monarchy is anachronistic in many ways, but, nonetheless, I felt a definite warm glow when watching the recent royal weddings, and I know others who paid a large amount of postage to obtain the Australian copy of People magazine which published William and Kate’s honeymoon pictures.

Contrary though they seem, these guilty-pleasure attitudes can be easily explained by psychologists as a natural fascination with our fellow species members who reside at the top of the social group. The rise of social media has only exacerbated this by giving us unprecedented access into their lives, in turn forcing our perception of the family to evolve in a contemporaneous fashion. For those fascinated by or fond of the royal family because they are human, Harry and Meghan’s ”shocking" move seems entirely unremarkable.

“It is easy for a journalist to criticise Meghan’s behaviour against the plethora of trivial standards and traditions which constitute the royal brand...”

On the other hand, some support the family because of their apparent transcendence of the human condition. They are something more: a symbol, a brand, a pillar of continuity. There is still an expectation that monarchs exist within a sharply delimited set of parameters – on limited edition china, on balconies, in Sandringham, with dress codes, which is certainly the attitude on which many of the most ridiculous media responses to ”Megxit" have been based.

This is partly a reflection on the inflexibility and conservatism of the palace over the years – back in 1936, the mere idea that King Edward VIII might marry a woman with two living ex-husbands shattered the parameters of the constitution and forced his abdication. 60 years later, the Sussexes’ measured and sensitively worded explanation of their very human need for respite has caused similar chaos. The responses from the palace itself as well as media outlets have been suffused with words like ”emergency" and ”complicated“.

Among the public, similar confusion reigns. Comments on an Instagram post picturing Harry and Meghan at a community kitchen after their announcement include those asking “thought you weren’t royal anymore?” and others imploring them to “choose” or “make their mind up”. This conflation of the royal role with certain qualities, and the neat separation of these qualities from the human being once the role is relinquished, is incredibly outdated. It harks back to a medieval theory which proposes a separation of the king’s natural, mortal body from his immaterial “body politic”, which consists of policy, government and power and simply transfers to the next ruler after death.

Meghan is not the head of state, but the expectation that she is a vessel for a larger, immortal tradition is cited every time she is judged for diverging from tradition (by putting her hands in her pockets, or closing her own car door) or chastised by a journalist writing from the perspective of the Queen or Diana’s ghost.

Of course, the real danger with this outmoded tendency is the incredible ease with which it can be used, consciously or subconsciously, as veneer for blatant racism. This racism, endemic throughout the British press, has fuelled Meghan’s treatment – producing headlines linking her avocado consumption with mass murder (Kate’s avocado consumption was previously celebrated as a cure for morning sickness) and articles which call her DNA exotic. It is easy for a journalist to criticise Meghan’s behaviour against the plethora of trivial standards and traditions which constitute the royal brand, and allows them to avoid stating outright that Meghan’s African heritage does not tally with their expectation of a princess.

Until this bizarre insistence on a royal prototype is torn down, it is all too easy for the media to use the family as a canvas for their racism and hypocrisy. This will be tricky, given the wider family’s determination to maintain the unvarying, uniform image which stirs and bolsters the subconscious prejudices and expectations of those observing it. Nonetheless, the more human they become – the more distinguishable from fairytale archetypes and their cold, dependable Madame Tussauds waxwork figures - the bigger the gap between those who like Harry, William, Kate and Meghan and by extension the royal family, and those royalists for whom the reverse is true.

As the royal ”scandals" pile up, the former group will find it harder and harder to justify their indulgence in the pomp and parades, whilst the latter group will be forced to confront the real reasons they support the royal family. Once they can no longer herald it as a symbol of unity and inspiration, they will be forced to admit they support it as a symbol of elitism, prejudice and colonial power.

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