The Guardian view on Harry and Meghan: heavy is the head that wears the crown | Editorial

The Sussexes show monarchy can not be relatable while its politics are hidden but its members are conspicuously part of a grouse-shooting, landowning caste

Of royalty, Walter Bagehot wrote in The English Constitution, “we must not let in daylight upon the magic”. To preserve the charm and mystery of the monarchy required its workings to be shielded from the public. In lifting the veil, Prince Harry has spoken of a dysfunctional palace, where more than a whiff of racism lurked and suicidal anguish was dismissed. The interview that the Queen’s grandson and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, gave to their friend Oprah Winfrey painted a picture of a Britain under a thin aristocratic crust that was wreathed in a “toxic atmosphere” in which the Windsors were either willingly or unwillingly trapped. Royal life, the couple said, was stalked by the fear of the tabloid press. These charges cannot be treated lightly. Prince Harry is the ultimate palace insider, with a ringside seat at the royal circus for decades.

The monarchy’s soft power rests upon the great social – and political – pressure not to embarrass the Queen. The royal family has been obliged to protect her interests and shield her from criticism, aware that their fortunes are tied to preserving the monarchy’s hold over people. Prince Harry has broken this rule, and he seems to care little that he has done so. Like his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, he outmanoeuvred the palace because he was willing to bare his soul in public. Princess Diana’s fury with her husband and his betrayals did not threaten “the firm” until she died. The prince has fired a missile from California at the heart of the establishment while very much alive.

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As Meghan has learned, the monarchy is still built on breeding, ancestry and caste | Nadifa Mohamed

The treatment of the duchess by the royal family is, at its core, a sign of Britain’s inability to step into the modern world

They wanted to know how dark his skin would be. An unborn child about to enter the British royal family was already considered a potential worry and even a liability because one of his grandmothers happened to be African American, and the “stain” this might leave on his skin and their reputations had to be considered, and prepared for. These are among the many shocking revelations of Meghan and Prince Harry’s jaw-dropping interview with Oprah Winfrey.

I’m not wholly surprised that a royal family member expressed concern about the “reputational” impact of having a dark-skinned child in their midst – considering the long history of exclusion of anyone Roman Catholic, non-aristocratic or disabled from their rarefied world. Yet to add to that sense of rejection, Archie has not been given either a title or security.

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Shortsighted approach to transforming schools in England | Letters

Readers react to Gavin Williamson’s proposals for education reform, suggesting ways to bring about real change and highlighting the merits of a five-term academic year

Gavin Williamson’s ludicrous assertion that there should be a “transformative” moment in education (England’s school catch-up scheme ‘chaotic and confusing’, say headteachers, 7 March) translates as he wants to take some simplistic steps to make it appear that he is doing something to save his political skin. Thank goodness for Ofsted (I never thought I would write that), which is calling for evidence-based transformative moments.

Perhaps Williamson could start by reviewing a curriculum and assessment strategy that presents outdated, irrelevant content as embodying so-called high academic standards, but in fact disenfranchises many young people and is one of the roots of the mental health crisis in schools.

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Understanding depression and developing empathy | Letters

Dr Annie Hickox advocates for the powerful combination of medication plus talking therapy. And Laurel Farrington highlights how empathy reduces when we are anxious and stressed

As a mental health professional, I was glad to read Jenny Stevens’ description of her experience of antidepressant medication and how it helped her during a mental health crisis that was exacerbated by Covid-19 (I’m not ashamed medication got me through the pandemic – but we need talking therapies too, 2 March). Her account of the initial effects of medication on her sleep and her ability to return to day-to-day activities that helped keep her “sane and stable” will resonate with many who have had severe depression.

She rightly points out that despite the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, and her own recognised need, talking therapy was repeatedly unavailable to her on the NHS. The difficulty in accessing psychological support contributes greatly to the surge in antidepressant prescribing and increases the stigma surrounding medication by those whose agenda is driven by an anti-medication ideology and misinformation.

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Letter: Audrey Walker obituary

As an art teacher at South Hampstead high school, Audrey Walker made the studio the most popular place in the building – and what a studio, originally constructed for the Victorian painter Sir Ernest Waterlow, with huge north-facing windows. But my favourite memory of her involved a degree of terror.

My three best friends and I dared to cut school to visit the Young Contemporaries exhibition at the RBA galleries in Suffolk St (we had no idea of course that Audrey was involved in any way).

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Meghan has been mistreated for years – but her interview still shocked me

It was upsetting to hear that she felt suicidal and that there were ‘concerns’ about how dark her child would be. But her race has been used against her since she entered British life

I stayed up late to watch the Oprah interview. As I watched it, I thought: “Lord, give me strength!” Like me, Meghan is independent, well educated, career minded. Like me, she is a woman of Black heritage. I felt her pain. It was very difficult to listen to Harry and Meghan’s story and not feel sorry for them, because I believed what they were saying.

It was the comments about the colour of Archie’s skin that really got to me – that an unnamed member of the royal family had expressed concern about how dark Archie’s skin would be – when Meghan was still pregnant. I can’t remember what time in the morning it was, but I jumped out of bed in rage. Who in their right mind thinks that is an acceptable conversation to have with someone? What kind of family thinks whether Archie is darker is a concern? Will he be loved less, compared with his cousins? That was shocking.

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On International Women’s Day, let’s give feminist groups the funding they need | Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh

In Cameroon, and across the world, grassroot organisations like mine have been on the Covid frontline. Now we need proper support

When Covid-19 first entered Cameroon, where I live and work, I knew that women would be among the worst affected by the ensuing crisis. Across the world during the pandemic, violence against women and girls has soared, and women are also bearing the brunt of the economic fallout.

These same dynamics are at play in Cameroon, but many women here now find themselves in a doubly difficult situation. As the world has gone online, digital gaps in Cameroon have left the majority of women disconnected, unable to access education or connect with one another. A 2015 report revealed that only 36% of women in Cameroon were internet users – and very little has changed since then.

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit shenanigans have met their reckoning in Northern Ireland | Simon Jenkins

The PM’s greatest ‘untruth’ was about the Northern Irish border – the honest route now is to let voters choose where it should be

It was only Achilles’ heel that was vulnerable, but it still killed him. The Northern Ireland border was Boris Johnson’s greatest Brexit “untruth”. He told the taoiseach there would be no border in Ireland. He told Northern Ireland’s unionists there would be none in the Irish Sea. He told everyone he would leave Europe’s customs union. Johnson was, as the saying goes, “averse to the despotism of facts”.

The latest car crash is Johnson’s decision to abrogate yet again the Northern Ireland protocol with the EU. He is refusing to regulate a customs border in Belfast. Since this implies breaching EU customs control, Brussels is angry and is threatening legal action “very soon”. We have previously seen problems with some food supplies getting to Northern Ireland as a result of the end of the initial Brexit transition period at the start of the year. Trade is not about chauvinist rhetoric but about people’s lives.

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A million people have left Britain. What does this mean for the country? | Jonathan Portes

Covid-19 led to an exodus that Brexit will make harder to reverse. But a slide into insularity isn’t inevitable

When my family immigrated to London from the US in the early 1970s, we were going against the tide: inner London’s population shrank by a fifth that decade. But since then, we’ve become accustomed to an ever-growing population, particularly in London and the south-east of England, driven both by inflows of people from abroad and rising life expectancy. Over the past 20 years, the UK’s annual population growth has averaged about 400,000. And despite an ageing population, that has propelled growth in the labour force and the economy as a whole: in the same period, the UK created nearly 6m additional jobs.

That changed in 2020. With Covid-19 pushing the number of deaths to the highest in a century, and birthrates falling, it seems likely that more people died than were born for the first time since 1976. Alongside that, however, was a dramatic exodus of foreign-born residents from the UK. The latest Office for National Statistics figures suggest that a million people have left the country. This would represent by far the largest fall in the resident population since the second world war, with London especially hard hit.

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It’s time to recognise the women who’ve kept the UK going during Covid | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

This International Women’s Day, let’s give real power to those in our families, hospitals and care homes who are working so hard

That so many women have found feminism is something to celebrate this International Women’s Day. During the late 1990s and early 00s, the era in which I grew up, we were told that the fight for gender equality was over. The battle had apparently been won: women were sexually and economically liberated. But for the past half-decade or so writers of my generation have been looking back on that time and asking, “What the hell?” This has most recently manifested in a reexamination of the story of Britney Spears.

It seems obvious to me, now, that there was nothing at all empowering about the sexualisation of a girl who was barely out of childhood, dressed in a school uniform and pigtails for the titillation of men. But it just goes to show how strong that postfeminist empowerment narrative was, that the documentary Framing Britney Spears continues to peddle it. As the writer Tavi Gevinson has written so astutely, it is “eager to characterise Spears’s early image as an expression of female power rather than the corporation-sanctioned sexualization of a 16-year-old”.

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