Royal fans are defending Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from criticism over their recent public display of affection while mourning the Queen by pointing out that Zara Tindall and her husband also held hands as they left the Westminster Hall service.
On Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined other members of the royal family at a brief service honouring the late Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Hall. The duchess notably paid her respects by curtsying and the duke openly displayed his grief over his grandmother’s passing.
However, as Harry and Meghan departed the service behind the duke’s brother Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, they chose to hold hands in a display of support and affection that has since sparked mixed reactions.
While some have praised Harry and Meghan for the gesture, many others criticised the duke and duchess on the basis that hand-holding was “inappropriate” for the occasion.
“Meghan Markle holding Harry’s hand in church! Clueless and classless,” one person claimed, while another critic said: “As the family formally move away from the Queen’s coffin, Meghan holds Harry’s hand! How totally inappropriate! She has no idea of how to behave in an official state occasion and her behaviour is rude to the Queen and the royal family.”
There has since been an outpouring of support from people coming to the couple’s defence. Many have pointed out the double standard in the backlash, considering the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall and her husband Mike Tindall also held hands as they exited the service at Westminster Hall.
Others noted that Princess Beatrice held her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi’s hand during the funeral for her grandfather Prince Philip in 2021.
“People moaning about Meghan and Harry are saying nothing about Mike and Zara Tindall holding hands,” one person tweeted, while another acknowledged there hasn’t been a “peep of criticism” directed at Zara and her husband, before noting: “The abuse and double standard inflicted on Meghan is disgraceful.”
The hypocrisy of the criticism also prompted many to suggest that the backlash directed at Meghan was racially motivated.
“It seems strange that people only criticised Harry and Meghan for holding hands, not Mike and Zara Tindall. That tends to give the game away that people are racists,” one person tweeted.
Another said: “It’s been amusing to see how the ‘I’m not racist but..’ crowd slam the #DuchessofSussex for offering comfort to her husband at the END of today’s event but contort themselves to excuse Zara Tindall and her husband when they hold hands.”
“BREAKING: Conservatives are absolutely livid because Harry held his wife Meghan’s hand, but they’re not mad that Mike held Zara’s hand and nobody can figure out why,” someone else tweeted sarcastically.
This is not the first time that Harry and Meghan have held hands while paying their respects to the Queen. The couple also engaged in the public display of affection when they reunited with the Prince and Princess of Wales at Windsor Castle to greet well-wishers earlier this week.
While royal protocol does not prohibit members of the royal family from engaging in PDA, according to Myka Meier, royal etiquette expert and founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette, who previously told People “there is no actual etiquette or royal protocol that says the couple must refrain from PDA,” the royal family rarely does so.
According to Meier, the decision comes down to a matter of preference, as well as the “nature of the event they are attending”. However, body language expert Robin Kermode previously told the DailyMail that the Queen, who rarely held hands with Prince Philip in public, may have set a precedent.