This is an excerpt from The Royal Tea, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about the British royal family, featuring royal news and analysis, served piping hot. You can sign up here.
On Sunday, the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in honor of her 70 years on the British throne came to an end. There was pomp. There was circumstance. There were many moving tributes to her decades of service to her country.
What wasn't there? For the most part, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. They attended only one event — and didn't even attend the reception afterward with other members of the royal family.
Nonetheless, the most hotly debated topic by online royal watchers and some members of the British media of the four-day Platinum Jubilee Central Weekend was this: When appearing in public at a royal event for the first time since stepping back from royal life two years ago, were Harry and Meghan booed?
That depends on who you ask — or how you feel about Harry and Meghan. For the couple's legions of online fans, many of whom call themselves the #SussexSquad, the answer is an unequivocal no. For those who heartily dislike the couple, the answer is a yes (and totally supersedes whether there were also cheers in the crowd).
Nonetheless, because Friday's appearance was the last time we're going to see the Sussexes in the UK for a royal event for the foreseeable future, why don't we at least attempt to find an answer by examining the empirical evidence?
What are the facts?
On Friday, members of the British royal family gathered at St. Paul's Cathedral in London for a National Service of Remembrance in honor of the Queen's 70 years on the throne.
At big events like the Service of Remembrance, it's rare that you'll only have one news outlet or agency filming — cameras will be set up so that the area of interest is recorded from multiple angles.
And therein lies the problem with trying to find an answer to Royal Boogate: The location of the camera makes a big difference in the sounds from the crowd that you hear, because the bells of St. Paul's Cathedral were tolling and those things were really loud.
Below are video clips I pulled from the official Reuters and Agence France-Presse (AFP) feeds, and I'm including links to where those same feeds are posted on YouTube so you can verify them yourselves.
No, I didn't doctor them in any way. Yes, this is the kind of disclaimer you have to make when you write about Harry and Meghan.
Why? A narrative has emerged online that videos that seemingly show the Sussexes being booed are in fact edited videos of their entrance that have been dubbed with the crowd reaction to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife, Carrie Johnson, as they entered the cathedral. (Note: The prime minister was booed. Coming and going. This is a statement of fact.)
So let's get into it.
Question 1: Were they booed going in?
Boogate Verdict: Reuters definitely seemed to be closest to the cathedral, and the primary sound here is bells. You can hear some (faint) audible cheers at 0:08.
Boogate Verdict: AFP was closer to the crowd, but still, the primary sound in this video is BONG BONG BONG BONG. Maybe someone shouts, "BOO," at 0:10? Definite cheers and whistles starting at 0:11 and lasting through the end of the video.
And, for the sake of thoroughness, here's a first-person video from the crowd.
Boogate Verdict: What we have here is called undeniable evidence that at least some people were booing.
Question 2: Were they booed going out?
Boogate Verdict: There are definite cheers at 0:11.
Boogate Verdict: There are cheers beginning at 0:11 as Harry and Meghan start descending the steps, and then we have audible boos, beginning at 0:14 and lasting until the end of the clip (with the exception of a lone "Hooray" at 0:25).
And again, for the sake of thoroughness, here's a link to an Instagram story video by royal commentator Elizabeth Holmes, who was in the crowd outside the cathedral, in which she said a bus was blocking people's views of Harry and Meghan leaving and that the boos near her, at least, were directed at the bus:
Boogate Verdict: I know. This isn't a video. I have reached out to Holmes for permission to upload a video of her Instagram story, which includes a comparison of how the crowds near her reacted to Boris Johnson. The bus pulls up right after Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York left the cathedral — and they were the people who left right before Meghan and Harry. You can hear people booing the bus at approximately the time that the Sussexes would have been exiting St. Paul's. But of course, this is just one part of the very large crowd.
So what is the truth? Were they lauded, or were they jeered?
The answer is...both? The cheers were audible in several videos, but then, cheers are pitched higher than boos and therefore easier for the human ear to detect. There were audible boos in at least one of the agency videos and the video posted to Twitter by the proud anti-Sussex person shows that at least some people were booing.
I'm not sure about you, but I heard boos and cheers in the videos above.
And that's the point. I'm not sure about you. Or your feelings about the Sussexes.
Watching the reaction to Harry and Meghan's reception at the Platinum Jubilee has been an unparalleled display of confirmation bias in real time. It's like a royal Rorschach test: What do you hear in this video of church bells chiming? And what do you want it to mean?
If you need any proof of this, look at the replies to this tweet by Daily Express royal reporter Richard Palmer, who (accurately?!?) reported that Harry and Meghan were greeted with boos and cheers.
This is what makes finding the truth — and only the truth — in news stories about Harry and Meghan and, as we see in this case, even in what happens in public, so fraught with difficulty.
Those who love them refuse to accept anything except the most positive of narratives, discarding information that doesn't fit their worldview. (Like the fact that there were some boos for Harry and Meghan.)
Those that hate them eagerly seize upon the narrative that paints them in the worst possible light, ignoring information that detracts from or contradicts their worldview. (Like the fact that there were many cheers for Harry and Meghan — or that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, was booed at the FA Cup Final last month.)
We seem to have reached a point where nobody clicks on a story about the royal family — particularly a story about the Sussexes — with an open mind. Facts can be discarded if they don't align with your feelings.
And the truth is often a shade of gray.
On a smaller scale, take what Meghan wore to the Service of Thanksgiving.
A Sussex spokesperson told me Friday that — despite how it may have appeared on camera — the ensemble the duchess wore was the color greige, a combination of beige and gray.
Quite fitting for an appearance that is already being used to feed all of the black-and-white narratives swirling around her and her family.