The Duke of Sussex told voters to ‘reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity’ while the Duchess called the presidential race the ‘most important election of our lifetime’ as the couple urged Americans to use their right to vote.
Speaking in a Time 100 video message, Harry admitted he was not eligible to vote in the November 3 election – adding that he had never voted in the UK either where convention dictates that royals should keep well clear of politics.
But while Harry and Meghan did not endorse a candidate, their intervention sparked criticism from viewers who said it was none of their business.
‘Why’s a UK prince and his wife getting involved in a U.S. election? What business is it of his? Didn’t we fight a war to end interference from the British Monarchy?,’ asked one.
Another said it was ‘obvious’ that the royal couple were supporting Joe Biden, given Meghan’s criticisms of Donald Trump before she became a royal – saying their intervention was ‘unacceptable for royal family members’.
‘Why would a prince of the realm of the UK encourage U.S. citizens to vote in a U.S. election? How can this be allowed?,’ asked another.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spoken out about the upcoming U.S. election, in a stark break with British tradition that prohibits royal involvement in politics
For his part, Harry said: ‘As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity’
‘Every four years we are told the same thing, that this is the most important election of our lifetime. But this one is,’ said Markle, 39, in the video clip broadcast as part of the Time 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Markle continued: ‘When we vote, our values are put into action and our voices are heard. Your voice is a reminder that you matter, because you do and you deserve to be heard.’
For his part, Harry said: ‘As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.’
Harry urged Americans to be careful about what kind of content they consume online.
‘When the bad outweighs the good, for many, whether we realize it or not, it erodes our ability to have compassion and our ability to put ourself in someone else’s shoes. Because when one person buys into negativity online, the effects are felt exponentially. It’s time to not only reflect, but act,’ he said.
Harry also referenced the fact that, because he is not a U.S. citizen, he will not be able to vote in November.
He added that he had never been able to vote in the UK, despite being theoretically eligible in the last five general elections since he turned 18.
Although British law does not explicitly forbid members of the royal family from voting, the expectation that royals remain apolitical is considered sacrosanct, and in practice they never participate in elections, by voting or otherwise.
But since announcing plans to step down as senior royals in January and moving to North America, Meghan and Harry have quietly expanded their involvement in politics as they forge their own path.
Markle has made her position on the 2020 election clear in a number of appearances in recent weeks, expressing enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket
How British royals are expected to keep out of politics
Under Britain’s constitutional monarchy, powers which theoretically belong to the Queen – such as appointing ministers and approving legislation – are exercised in her name by political leaders.
This system means that political decisions are taken by the elected government rather than unelected royals, while keeping the monarchy as a symbol of the British state and its traditions.
The royals’ political neutrality, which the Queen has scrupulously observed for 68 years, is key to maintaining this balance and to preserving the monarchy’s popularity.
King Edward VIII had to abdicate in 1936 because the government refused to support his planned marriage to American divorcee Wallis Simpson – fatally compromising his neutrality.
While there is no explicit law preventing the Queen or her family from voting in elections, doing so would be an unacceptable breach of protocol.
The Queen holds weekly conversations with her prime ministers and she is entitled to ‘advise and warn’ them when necessary, but the nature of her advice is never made public.
Prince Charles is also known for writing a series of letters to ministers on policy subjects, some of which were made public in 2015.
This week, feminist activist Gloria Steinem revealed that Markle had joined her in cold-calling Americans and urging them to vote.
Steinem told Access Hollywood: ‘She came home to vote. The first thing we did, and why she came to see me, was we sat at the dining room table where I am right now and we cold-called voters.’
‘Said ‘hello I’m Meg’ and ‘hello I’m Gloria’ and ‘are you going to vote?’ That was her initiative.’
Meghan also told Steinem she was ‘so excited’ to see fellow mixed-race woman Kamala Harris nominated for vice president, in another strong hint that she is backing the Democratic ticket.
Before marrying Prince Harry in 2018, Markle was no stranger to politics, ridiculing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during a 2016 appearance on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
She said Trump was ‘misogynistic and divisive’ and indicated her support for Hillary Clinton.
Harry is a friend of former president Barack Obama, interviewing him on a guest-edited episode of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme in 2017.
‘Part of my role and part of my job is to shine a spotlight on issues that need that spotlight, whether it’s people, whether it’s causes, issues, whatever it is,’ Harry said at the time.
‘So I will continue to play my part in society and do my job to the best of my abilities so that I can wake up in the morning and feel energised.’
Despite the Obama friendship, the couple avoided a constitutional row by inviting neither the Obamas nor the Trumps to their 2018 wedding at Windsor Castle.
Over the past few weeks, Meghan has taken part in multiple interviews and summits – having reportedly grown ‘frustrated’ at her inability to get involved in politics while she was working as a senior royal.
Last month, she joined Gloria for a ‘backyard chat’ in which she made it incredibly clear who she plans to vote for come November, expressing her excitement at seeing a woman of color on the Democratic ticket – Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris – and explaining that the nomination was particularly meaningful to her because she is biracial.
Last month, Markle (left) joined Gloria Steinem for a ‘backyard chat’ in which she made it incredibly clear who she plans to vote for come November
Over the past few months, Markle has moved to become more politically active and taken part in multiple interviews and summits – having reportedly grown ‘frustrated’ at her inability to get involved in politics while she was working as a senior royal
‘I’m so excited to see that kind of representation,’ she said. ‘You know, for me, being biracial, growing up, whether it was a doll or a person in office, you need to see someone who looks like you in some capacity.
‘As many of us believe, you can only be what you can see. And in the absence of that, how can you aspire to something greater than what you see in your own world? I think maybe now we’re starting to break-through in a different way.’
Meanwhile, she has also taken in voter appeals, at which she made a bold plea to women across the US to take part in the 2020 presidential election, speaking out about the need for ‘change’ at an online voter summit, while telling participants: ‘If we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem.’
Meghan made her stance on the 2020 presidential race clear when she addressed viewers at the When All Women Vote Couch Party – an online event organized by non-profit organization When We All Vote, which was founded by ‘her friend’ Michelle Obama.
Appearing as the opening speaker at the summit, Meghan expressed her ‘excitement’ at taking part, before telling those involved with the organization: ‘We need [your work] now more than ever.’
‘I’m really thrilled that you asked me to be a part of this,’ the mother-of-one began, adding: ‘I think this is such an exceptional time [and I am] happy to be here for my friend Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, and to kick off the When All Women Vote Couch Party.’