Prince Harry is “well within his rights” to weigh in on U.S. politics because he lives in the country and his “wife and children are citizens”, according to a discussion on a new episode of Newsweek‘s The Royal Report podcast.
Chief royal correspondent Jack Royston and royal commentator Kristen Meinzer discussed Harry’s address at the United Nations last week marking Nelson Mandela International Day where he likened the “rolling back of constitutional rights here in the United States,” with the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 pandemic.
Discussing the content of the speech where the prince also revealed the touching association he holds between his mother, wife and Africa, Royston said: “it’s always nice to see him speaking about Diana and about Meghan.”
To this, Meinzer added that it was the political heart of the address which “stood out to me even more.”
“We all know that royals are not supposed to wade into politics, even though just last week on this show we were speaking about how William has been doing that lately,” she said. “But Harry is doing it and not subtly at all. This is very overt what he is talking about. He is criticizing the United States, what the government has been doing—pulling back rights on the people. That is not subtle at all. That is outright criticism of the U.S. government.”
Harry’s speech generated a wave of backlash from right wing political and royal commentators mainly for his comments regarding the United States.
The reference to the “rolling back of constitutional rights” in the U.S. closely follows the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which protected abortion rights. In a conversation with Gloria Steinem for Vogue, Meghan Markle said this provoked a guttural reaction from Harry, who she said identifies himself as a feminist.
One of the main voices of criticism relating to the prince’s speech has been the daughter of late Republican senator John McCain—Meghan McCain.
In a column written for the Daily Mail, McCain called Harry’s comments “confusing and wildly insulting” to Americans.
“COVID has killed more than 6.3 million people worldwide,” she said. “The war in Ukraine has killed tens of thousands. And the Supreme Court handed down a decision consistent with a widespread interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Those are not in the same league.”
“It is hard for me to understand why anyone should care what the Duke of Sussex thinks —let alone what he thinks about America,” she added. “He has lived here all of 20 minutes, yet he has decided that makes him an expert.”
To Royston, the prince’s willingness to speak out on political issues is a direct result from the freedom he gained by stepping down as a full-time working member of the royal family in 2020.
“I don’t think he ever would have done this if he was a working member of the royal family. However, he is out now and so really the royal convention of him not engaging fully in politics doesn’t really apply to Meghan and Harry anymore,” he told Meinzer.
“They have every right to go and say whatever they like about political issues. Here he has taken on a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court so this is about as controversial as it gets and he’s done it at the United Nations.”
On the criticism leveled at the prince, Meinzer said she believed that Harry had the right to speak in the way he did about the U.S.
“As far as ‘is this wrong for [Harry] to criticize what is happening in the U.S. right now?’ I don’t think so,” she said.
“He has lived here now for the last couple of years. His wife and his children are citizens of this country. What happens with our government directly affects him, his wife and his children. So, as somebody who lives here, I think it’s well within his rights to be concerned about what is going on with legislation in the U.S.”
“I think it’s totally fair for him to criticize and to have concerns about what’s going on here,” Meinzer added.
Also on the podcast, Royston and Meinzer discussed the recent publication of Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors, a biography written by Tom Bower, an author Royston describes as having an “almost mythical” reputation in the U.K.
The book has made a number of sensational claims including that the queen said “thank goodness Meghan isn’t coming” to Prince Philip’s funeral and that Harry changed his phone number without telling his family to please his wife. At least one of these claims has been questioned by a palace source.
Newsweek has reached out to Prince Harry’s representatives for comment on the content of McCain’s column.