World·Royal Fascinator

'Silence is not an option': Meghan adds her voice to those calling for change in wake of George Floyd death

Meghan Markle added her voice to those of people around the world who have been galvanized into protest and action by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last month, issuing a message of hope and encouragement to students at her former high school in Los Angeles.

'Only wrong thing to say is to say nothing,' Duchess of Sussex tells students at her former L.A. high school

The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle addressed students at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles in the wake of widespread protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died while being detained by Minneapolis police officers, one of whom kept his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes. (Duchess of Sussex via Reuters)

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Protests over racism, police violence resonate for Meghan

She remembers living in Los Angeles at the time of the 1992 riots — a culmination of years of racial tensions and anger at police brutality — when she was 11 or 12 years old. She saw the looting and "men in the back of a van holding guns and rifles," and remembers ash falling from the sky and driving home to find the tree outside her house completely charred.

That unrest came to mind for Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as she watched the protests and riots across the U.S. sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25.

And it came to mind as Meghan, whose mother is Black and father is white, delivered a virtual address the other day to students at her former high school in L.A.

"I can't imagine that at 17 or 18 years old, which is how old you are now, that you would have to have a different version of that same type of experience," she said as she shared her sadness about the persistence of racism across the U.S. with students at Immaculate Heart High School.

"So the first thing I want to say to you is that I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that you have to grow up in a world where this is still present."

Women protest against police brutality outside of City Hall in Los Angeles. 'I know you know that Black lives matter,' Meghan told students at Immaculate Heart High School in L.A. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

Meghan, who is now living in L.A. with her husband, Prince Harry, and son, Archie, after they stepped back from the upper echelons of the Royal Family two months ago, said she felt moved to speak out. 

She also said that she had wrestled with the question of what to say to the students given the days of protest that have followed Floyd's death last month.

"I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that I wouldn't, or that it would get picked apart, and I realized the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing," Meghan said in the graduation address, which lasted almost six minutes. 

Along with Floyd, Meghan mentioned other Black people killed by police.

"Because George Floyd's life mattered and Breonna Taylor's life mattered and Philando Castile's life mattered and Tamir Rice's life mattered."

Meghan ended her address with words of encouragement for the students, telling them they are going to lead with love and compassion, and use their voices.

"You are going to have empathy for those who don't see the world through the same lens that you do, because with as diverse and vibrant and open-minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that Black lives matter."

Meghan's message was retweeted by the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, of which she is vice-president and Harry is president.

The trust also shared other messages of encouragement in recent days on social media.

"Young people are vital voices in the fight against injustice and racism around the world. As a global community of young leaders we stand together in pursuit of fairness and a better way forward," the trust tweeted.

"Silence is not an option."

— With files from The Associated Press

Prince Philip turns 99

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip pose for a photo on June 1 in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle ahead of his 99th birthday on June 10. (Steve Parsons/The Associated Press)

Given Prince Philip's well-known disregard — perhaps even disdain — for fuss, it's more than likely he wanted as little attention as possible drawn to his latest birthday.

But when you turn 99, people are going to notice. And Queen Elizabeth's husband seemed up for at least a little recognition, posing as he did with her for a photo to mark the occasion at Windsor Castle, where they have been living in pandemic lockdown since before Easter.

Philip was born in Greece on June 10, 1921, and likely approached this year's recognition of the day with "as much indifference as all his other birthdays," said royal author and biographer Penny Junor.

"He doesn't like a fuss to be made of him. But not to have been able to see his family face-to-face will have been disappointing," Junor said. "But he is a great fan of technology so will almost certainly be enjoying Zoom and Skype calls."

At 99, Philip is the third-longest-lived member of the Royal Family in British and Commonwealth history.

The record for longevity is still held by Queen Elizabeth's late aunt, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, said royal historian and author Carolyn Harris. Alice died in 2004 at the age of 102.

Princess Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester, centre, died at the age of 102 in 2004. She was an aunt of Queen Elizabeth, left, and her sister, Princess Margaret, right. (Fiona Hanson/Reuters)

 
Following Alice in the longevity department is the Queen's mother, Queen Elizabeth, who died at the age of 101 in 2002.

The Queen Mother holds the record for longevity for a consort of a reigning monarch, but Philip holds a related record — he is the longest-serving consort in British history, at 68 years and counting.

And he is the longest-lived male member of the Royal Family in British and Commonwealth history, period.

"Over seven years ago, Prince Philip passed the previous record for longest-lived male member of the Royal Family set by Queen Victoria's son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught [and Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916], who died in 1942 at the age of 91," said Harris.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, celebrates her 100th birthday from the balcony of Buckingham Palace with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, on Aug. 4, 2000. The Queen Mother died at the age of 101 in 2002. (Ian Waldie/Reuters)

Last year, Philip also became the longest-lived descendant of Queen Victoria — like the Queen, he is a great-great-grandchild of the monarch who reigned from 1837 to 1901. 

Philip has always been steadfast in his support of the Queen. Those who know the royal couple well say the Queen often defers to him in private. And there will have been perhaps more frequent opportunities to do that in recent weeks.

Before Philip stepped back from public life, they saw a lot of one another because they were both based out of Buckingham Palace.

After Philip stepped down from public duties in 2017, he was based at a house on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, while Elizabeth had been remained at Buckingham Palace in London. But he rejoined the Queen when she went to Windsor before Easter, and they have been together there in lockdown ever since.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip tour Omagh, Northern Ireland, during their Golden Jubilee tour in 2002. The Queen has called Philip her 'strength and stay all these years.' (Paul McErlane/Reuters)

Junor said that to have one another's company "during this extraordinary period will have been a life-saver" for both the Queen and Philip.

"They are both very independent people and happy to do their own thing but to have been apart for so long would have been as lonely for them as for anyone else on their own."

During celebrations for her Golden Jubilee on the throne in 2002, the Queen offered a tribute to Philip. "He has quite simply been my strength and stay all these years," she told the crowds.

"And I and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim or we should ever know."

Joining the Great Reset

'Prince Charles thinks like a First Nation person,' says Assembly of First Nations national Chief Perry Bellegarde. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Our CBC colleague Jorge Barrera reported recently on Perry Bellegarde, the Assembly of First Nations national chief, joining Prince Charles in an environmental initiative:

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says he's helping Prince Charles promote an international initiative that aims to make greening the economy a centrepiece in the COVID-19 recovery plans of countries and corporations.

During a phone call in early May, the Prince of Wales asked Bellegarde to help promote the Great Reset, which is aimed at convincing governments and the private sector to put "sustainable business practices at the heart of their operations," according to Charles's website. 

The national chief agreed to lend his political weight to the cause in Canada. 

"He's asked me to be a champion, to help him here in Canada…. I was very honoured to be asked for that assistance," said Bellegarde.

"He's from Great Britain and we have a relationship with the Crown of Great Britain and as treaty partners. Who better to work together on this?"

Prince Charles asked Bellegarde to help promote the 'Great Reset' during a telephone conversation in May. (Netflix)

Bellegarde said he has read the prince's 2011 book, Harmony, which posits that current crises like climate change stem from humanity's growing disconnect from nature.

"It shows that Prince Charles thinks like a First Nation person, he embraces our world-view," said Bellegarde. "He's been talking about this for many years, how we are all connected and interrelated between humankind and nature and all of our relatives in the global world."

Charles launched the Great Reset initiative recently during a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum

"As we move from rescue to recovery, we have a unique but rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to learn lessons and reset ourselves on a more sustainable path," he said during the meeting, according to a tweet from his Clarence House account.

"It is an opportunity we have never had before and may never have again."

Bellegarde said he's been in contact with the prince's office for many months, but the connection goes back further. In 2000, an elder gave Charles the traditional name of "Sun Who Watches Over Him in a Good Way."

Royally quotable

"We try to bring them up with the understanding they are very likely to have to work for a living. Hence we made the decision not to use HRH titles. They have them and can decide to use them from 18, but I think it's highly unlikely."

— Sophie, Countess of Wessex, to the Sunday Times magazine, regarding how she and Prince Edward are raising their children, Louise and James.

Royals in Canada

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip chat informally with workers at the bottom of the 91-metre open-pit Gagnon iron mine at Schefferville, Que., on June 21, 1959. (Mike Milne/The Canadian Press)

When royal visits to Canada take place now, they are generally targeted trips of a limited duration focused on specific areas of the country.

Not so in 1959, when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip spent 45 days in the country, visiting every province and territory. The tour that began on June 18  is the longest they have made to the country and included the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

It also included some personal news, with the Queen finding out she was pregnant with Prince Andrew. While Canadians weren't told at the time, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was.

Royal reads

Queen Elizabeth rides her horse Burmese for the final time during Trooping the Colour in London in June 1986. (The Associated Press)

1.Legal turmoil continues to swirl around Prince Andrew and his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in a Manhattan jail cell last summer. [The Guardian]

2. There were a couple of firsts for the Queen in recent days. She was seen riding a pony at Windsor in her first appearance since she and Philip entered lockdown in March. And she took part in her first-ever live video chat. [CNN, BBC]

3. Burmese, a black mare given to the Queen by the RCMP, is among her favourite horses, which were revealed in a list published in Horse & Hound magazine. [Town & Country]

Cheers!

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About the Author

Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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