Meghan Markle

Charlie Hebdo criticised for 'offensive' cartoon

Image in French magazine depicts Queen kneeling on Duchess of Sussex’s neck

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French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has sparked outrage with a cartoon depiction of Queen Elizabeth kneeling on the neck of Meghan Markle, echoing the death of George Floyd. The controversial publication’s cartoon comes after the Duchess of Sussex, and her husband, Prince Harry, told US interviewer Oprah Winfrey of apparent racism within the royal family, though they did not criticise the Queen. But Markle said courtiers refused her permission to leave Kensington Palace on occasion and that she once only left twice in four months, leading her to experience severe loneliness and suicidal ideations.

In the cartoon, published on Saturday and titled “Why Meghan quit”, the Duchess of Sussex is depicted saying, “Because I couldn’t breathe any more”.

Halima Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s race equality thinktank, said that it was “wrong on every level”.

“The Queen as George Floyd’s murderer crushing Meghan’s neck?” she tweeted. “Meghan saying she’s unable to breathe? This doesn’t push boundaries, make anyone laugh or challenge racism. It demeans the issues and causes offence, across the board.”

Prince William this week defended the monarchy against accusations of racism made by the Sussexes, saying: “We’re very much not a racist family.”

The cartoon also angered some of those fond of the Queen, as she is shown in an extremely derogatory light – red-eyed, gurning, with hairy legs.

In 2015, 11 people including the top editor and some of its leading cartoonists were killed as brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi attacked the magazine’s Paris headquarters after the magazine published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Two days later, a friend of the brothers, Amédy Coulibaly, took hostages and killed four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons last year.

In France, where secularism is enshrined in the republic’s constitution, the magazine is seen as an important symbol of a country not bound by religious rule. But others view Charlie Hebdo as provocative and inconsiderate of the serious issues faced by oppressed groups.

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