By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Few hours back, as I watched the trending media story of the instituting of a law suit against a British tabloid by a member of the influential British royal family Prince Harry, to stop what he perceived as serial harassment of his beautiful mixed race wife Meghan, I had a flashback of a personal experience.
This beautiful memory is that of the encounter between my late dad- Mazi Okorieocha Osonduagwuike Onwubiko with the girl who would then go on to become my lawfully married wife Miss Ugochi Izuagba (now Mrs. Ugochi Onwubiko).
The setting was at my daddy’s country home in Arondizuogu in Imo State and the momentous period was the yearly Christmas pilgrimage I usually do to celebrate the holy season with my parents.
But this very year, I went home with my then fiancé Miss. Ugochi.
As tradition demands, I introduced her to my dad as the lady I had discussed with him that I planned to marry.
My father, who was a legend in terms of discipline, took a second look at both of us and made a profound statement which exactly conveyed his impression that this time around, I should decide that Ugochi is the chosen one because he would not like to repeat that kind of pre-wedding ritual of introduction.
His instructions were respected and the rest is history even as that was the last time I saw my dad alive. I was sad that he was not alive physically to witness the union he foretold.
However, the nexus between this personal story and that of Meghan and Princess Diana is what happened in April 2015 when we had our son prince Naetochukwu Nnadozie. I was in faraway Malaysia and about the same time he was delivered, I was under the doctor’s knife undergoing intensive six hours surgery.
When I awoke from a successful surgery with the aid of intercessory prayers by Blessed Tansi, I saw my baby through a video call and the memory of my dad flashed back at me.
Right inside of me, I can see the striking resemblance of my son to my dad and I made up my mind to name him after my granddad who everybody said I reincarnated. Mind You, as a Roman Catholic church adherent, I don’t believe in reincarnation but certain occurrences do happen that validates the African traditional belief system that supports reincarnation as a practical reality. These coincidences even in physicality between my Dad and my Son are striking.
My dad was an embodiment of goodness and friendship and was the wisest man I have ever physically encountered.
Again, the nexus between the aforementioned personal experience and the theme of my reflection today is because of identical value system that both late princess Diana and her daughter-in-law Meghan share.
Princess Diana became famous especially for doing charitable works amongst the poor around the world and vigorously campaigned globally to ban landmines during warfare.
Princess Diana visited and met many victims of landmines in several African nations that were ravaged by war.
The late mother of Prince Harry was also a universal icon of glamorous dressing and was chased around by resilient but “irritatingly unstoppable” freelance photographers who practically chase her around to get her photos.
Princess Diana’s photos sold papers in their millions but again, the gossip mills did not help matters even as every of her moves during her separation from her estranged husband Prince Charles were all over the British soft sells and tabloids. There was no significant separation between her private life and what these uncontrollable and unethical media published. But in the case of Princess Diana, Prince Charles was never there to protect her from the intrusive press. Rumours had it that Prince Charles did not show intimate love for his wife because of his attachment to another woman whom he later married after his celebrated divorce with Princess Diana.
Meghan on the other hand just like her Mother-in-law Princess Diana is famous and is one of the best known American celebrities long before she married Prince Harry.
However, her domestic issues with her white dad are exactly what have generated the bad blood between the media and this usually friendly and lovely couple.
There are other salient similarities between these two ladies going by recorded accounts of the circumstances of their meeting with both of their husbands.
I will start with Princess Diana whose history is so well known that most media organizations dedicated significant coverage to her whilst she lived just before she met her untimely but gruesome death in an accident in France.
For instance, the British Telegraph has a rich collection of her history. The copy of August 27th 2017 gave us these hints.
Born Diana Frances Spencer on 1 July 1961, her father, Edward John Viscount Althorp, was the only son of the 7th Earl Spencer. Her mother, born Frances Ruth Burke Roche, was the youngest daughter of the 4th Baron Fermoy.
The Spencers had served the Royal Family for generations. Diana’s great-grandfather, the 6th Earl Spencer, was Lord Chamberlain to both Edward VII and George V. All four of her great-aunts on the Spencer side became members of the Queen Mother’s household and her father was equerry to both George VI and the Queen.
Palace historians quoted by the British media say that after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975, she became known as Lady Diana Spencer.
On their historic meeting preceeding their marriage the media recalled that Lady Diana met Prince Charles at Althorp in 1977; she was 16 and he was 29.
The Prince it would be recalled was a member of a shooting party as a guest of Lady Diana’s eldest sister, Lady Sarah.
As the romantic story goes, the Prince and Princess both recalled later that the meeting could be seen as the first landmark on the road to their marriage three and a half years later.
After Lady Diana spent a weekend at Balmoral as the guest of Prince Charles, a tabloid headline of 8 September 1980 proclaimed: “He’s in Love Again”. This sparked the press’ obsession with Diana, which would follow her until her death, reports The Telegraph.
The paper stated that only a few months later, on 24 February 1981, Buckingham Palace announced: “It is with the greatest pleasure that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh announce the betrothal of their beloved son, the Prince of Wales, to the Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the Earl Spencer and the Honorable Mrs Shand Kydd.”
Charles and Diana married on July 29, 1981 at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, three weeks after her 20th birthday.
The bride wore an Emanuel designed gown with 25ft train. Diana’s nerves were clear to all – she mixed up the Prince’s names calling him Philip Charles Arthur George instead of Charles Philip.
But that did not stop the Archbishop of Canterbury commenting that the marriage was “the stuff of which fairytales are made”.
The wedding as the media recalled took place in front of a congregation of 2,500 and the largest worldwide television audience ever recorded at the time, some 750 million people.
This writer couldn’t enjoy the rare privilege of watching it because basically, then I was still in Primary school and most homes in Nigeria, a third World country, had black and white television that operated analogue system and not digital broadcasting. However, the separation of the couple was also a media event which I watched on television and read in the press in the 90’s.
The separation happened dramatically when in December 1992, Prime Minister John Major announced the couple’s “amicable separation” to the House of Commons, with Diana announcing her withdrawal from public life on 3 December 1993.
This media reports didn’t come as a surprise because by the late 1980s, Charles and Diana’s separate lives had become public knowledge so reports Telegraph.
The media recounted that Princess famously signaled that her marriage was over in 1992 when she posed for pictures alone outside India’s Taj Mahal – regarded as the world’s most romantic building – while on a royal visit with her husband.
When she was asked by the media what she had thought of the Taj Mahal, the Princess said: “It was a healing experience, very healing.” Asked what she meant by that, she replied: “Work it out for yourself.”
Two years after the separation, in November 1995, Diana took part in a famously open interview for the BBC current affairs show Panorama.
Princess Diana died following a horrific car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. This autocrash is however not the closing of the chapter because of series of investigative activities to determine the exact cause of the accident that led to her tragic death. Even after what seems like closure with the announcement by Metropolitan police that it was an accident, speculations are still rife just as the public life of Princess Diana’s two boys including Harry has generated renewed interests around the life and times of their glamorous Mum.
The union between Harry and Meghan can almost be likened to that of Prince Charles and the mother of Prince Harry, Princess Diana.
The only difference is that currently, due to the misfortune that befell his mother, Prince Harry has become a strictly private person.
His passion does not lie in showcasing to the media his domestic issues.
He is strong in maintaining a balance between what he and his wife do domestically and what gets published in the media.
He jealously protects his wife Meghan and would not like what happened to his mum to be repeated.
Harry does not wish that lightening should strike twice in the same place. He had just warned that the same forces that led to the death of her mother are after his wife Meghan.
This commitment to protect the privacy of his marriage has been tested by a section of the British press who went as far as publishing private letters sent to his wife by her Dad, the American.
Harry has had enough so he has legally fired a warning shot.
The Guardian of Britain reports why Harry is suing the mail on Sunday .
In a statement taking aim far beyond the Mail on Sunday, Harry accused tabloids of waging a “ruthless” campaign of vilification of Meghan, and comparing her treatment to that of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
The timing of Harry’s intervention meant it dominated the last two days of a tour funded by the Foreign Office and designed to throw a spotlight on issues and concerns the government wished to highlight.
Palace sources indicate the timing of the announcement was based on specific legal advice. It is understood the claim was filed on Sunday 29 September, and processed by the court on Monday. The particulars of the claim would need to be served within 14 days, and within another 14 days, the claims documents would be accessible to the public.
While this may explain the timing on the announcement of legal action, it does not, however, fully explain the timing or content of Harry’s statement. I think the statement by Prince Harry goes to reinforce the suspicions and conspiratorial plots that Princess Diana may have been assassinated. However, Prince Harry has embarked on a huge legal fight.
The law firm Schillings he hired, acting for the Duchess, has filed a high court claim against the paper and its parent company – Associated Newspapers – over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.
Harry has also accused the paper of misleading readers by strategically omitting paragraphs, sentences and specific words – “to mask the lies they had perpetrated for over a year”. The newspaper denies this.
“The paparazzi in Diana’s day wanted to elicit a negative reaction, wanted her to burst into tears or lash out,” said Stephen Bates, author of Royalty Inc. “I think the coverage has been pretty snippy about Meghan, sometimes with reasonable cause, private jets and all that. But she is in no way comparable to Diana, because she has been much better shielded, and she’s in a much less vulnerable position, and a much less vulnerable person.”
PR consultant Mark Borkowski said the statement risked the pair being “a little too open about what they think about the media”.
“The royals normally keep the media at arm’s length but this is not an arm’s length move. Harry is determined not to play the media game. There is no charm left, this is an open declaration of war,” he told PA. “He has drawn a line in the sand and that line has been crossed. There will be a lot of people who support him, but he will also be losing a lot of friends.”
It is not the first time Harry has moved to defend Meghan’s over her treatment by the media, so recalls the British Guardian newspaper.
The Guardian reports that in November 2016, he confirmed he was dating the US actor and lashed out at the “wave of abuse and harassment” she had faced from publications.
His communications secretary Jason Knauf outlined the difficulties Meghan had experienced since news of their relationship broke in a statement which said she had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment”.
This litigation certainly would shake the table, as it were.