Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s breaking royal news sparked a media frenzy…and the breathless use of a single word to describe the drama: Megxit.
It blared in all-caps on the covers of the reliably sensational New York Post and London’s Sun the morning after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they were stepping down as senior royals. Forbes began tracking the “Megxit fallout,” while Fox News examined “Meghan Markle’s new life in Canada amid Megxit,” and the Daily Beast recapped how Megxit had “come to be.” One New York Times headline wondered: “Could ‘Megxit’ Be a Royal Fairy Tale for Canada?” The Daily Show teased its segment on the scandal with a tweet: “Thought the U.K. had had enough of big political separations? Meet Megxit.” Branded “Megxit” merch, including coffee mugs, soon surfaced online.
On Monday, Los Angeles magazine explained that “Megxit is a name coined by the Sun”—and a play on Brexit—to describe Harry and Meghan’s decision to seek financial independence and “split their time between the U.K. and North America.” But that’s not entirely true. In fact, the word Megxit is nearly two years old, and deeply rooted in internet ugliness.
Though “Megxit” is now being widely used as a clever catch-all for the Sussexes’ next step, it was, in fact, hatched by online trolls who have long used #Megxit as a rallying cry for a campaign of hate against the duchess. Since at least Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding in 2018, posts tagged #Megxit on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr (among others) have urged Meghan to exit the royal family and trafficked in racist and/or sexist abuse, including—but not limited to—portraying her as a nefarious social climber and “gold digger” that online haters call “MeGain,” spreading conspiracy theories that she was faking her pregnancy, and, much worse, using racial slurs.
Last February an analysis by the social data analytics firm Brandwatch found that nearly 3.5 million people had seen #Megxit in their Twitter timeline since the start of 2019, and “a whole lot of them” appeared on tweets that were “very negative about the duchess.” By April, Sky News reported on “extreme and malicious” “racist trolls” targeting Meghan on social media. One of their go-to offensive hashtags, according to Sky? #Megxit (along with #charlatanduchess and #maggotmarkle). In another analysis in August, Sky described #Megxit as a term used “regularly” in an “abusive” way on Twitter. (On 4chan and 8chan, it added, “a number” of anonymous messages posted about Meghan “include extreme hate speech which is too offensive to publish.”)
As a result, it’s been disturbing to suddenly see #Megxit go mainstream, minus any context about it origins. There’s a twisted irony to the fact that “Megxit” has become a cheeky term to describe the Sussexes stepping back and leaving the U.K. part-time, when cyberbullies have been viciously lobbying for an outcome like this—Meghan’s ostensible departure from the monarchy—for nearly two years.
Even as While “Megxit” is splashed across mainstream headlines and trickles into real-life conversations and text chains, hateful #Megxit posts have continued over the past week, likening the duchess to a royal Yoko Ono; accusing her of emotional blackmail; and calling her a “parasite.” Some have evidently been unaware of the term’s loaded nature, but unless it’s being used to describe cyberbullying, “Megxit” needs to exit the popular narrative.
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