California author and daughter of ex-cult member compares the Royal Family to an extremist sect

A US-based author of a book about cults whose father spent his teenage years being raised in a violent sect has claimed that the Royal Family is like an extremist group – while comparing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to ‘survivors of a cult’. 

In a piece written for Bustle, writer and language expert Amanda Montell, 29, author of the book Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism, claimed that the British Monarchy shares several similarities with extremist groups, including ‘extreme exclusivity, bizarre rules, secrecy, isolation and psychological warfare’. 

Montell – whose father joined the extremist California-based cult Synanon at age 14 – pointed to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex‘s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey as evidence of the Royal Family’s ‘cult-like influences’ – claiming that Meghan, 39, ‘touched on half a dozen pieces of evidence’ to support her theory.  

‘When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah Special aired on CBS earlier this year — and when Harry’s The Me You Can’t See episode with Oprah came out in May — I felt like I was watching interviews with people who’d survived a cult,’ she wrote. 

Amanda Montell, who wrote a book about cults, has compared the Royal Family to an extremist sect in a new piece for Bustle, using Prince Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview as ‘evidence’ 

The 29-year-old, from California, pointed out 'red flags' from the Sussexes' bombshell TV sit-down which she said 'prove that the Royal Family is a bit more cultish than some might think'

The 29-year-old, from California, pointed out ‘red flags’ from the Sussexes’ bombshell TV sit-down which she said ‘prove that the Royal Family is a bit more cultish than some might think’

‘Not a Synanon-level one. But Meghan touched on half a dozen pieces of evidence supporting my theory that cultish ideology influences communities of all stripes.’  

Synanon, which was originally founded in 1958 as a drug rehabilitation center later evolved into a Church of Synanon, before being disbanded in 1991 after several members were convicted of multiple crimes, including attempted murder. 

It hit national news headlines in 1978 when two members placed a rattlesnake into the mailbox of attorney Paul Morantz who was representing several former members in a lawsuit against the cult.  

The Church of Synanon is now widely viewed as one of the most dangerous and deadly cults to form in the US. 

Throughout her Bustle piece, Montell drew on her father’s experiences within the cult to call attention to what she believes are ‘cultish ideologies’ within the Royal Family – including the Monarchy’s adherence to strict protocols, the Queen’s ‘never complain, never explain’ philosophy regarding public statements, and Meghan’s claim that she had to hand over her passport and driver’s license when she joined the Royal Family.

The writer's father joined the violent cult Synanon when he was 14, and his experiences inspired her new book, Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism

The writer’s father joined the violent cult Synanon when he was 14, and his experiences inspired her new book, Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism

Montell did admit that the Royal Family is not structured in the same way as a typical cult, pointing out that the Queen is ‘just as bound to tradition as anyone’ and therefore cannot be compared to an ‘all-powerful leader’ like Synanon’s Charles Dederich, Charles Manson or NXIUM founder Keith Raniere. 

However, she claimed that the Queen’s position has left the Monarchy with a ‘lack of obvious power center’, insisting that this is ‘part of what makes the “cult” of the Royal Family so insidious’.   

‘In a sense, the Royal Family exists on a cult spectrum all its own,’ Montell said, suggesting that Monarchy’s ‘army of royal superfans’ are themselves under ‘some degree of cult-like influence’. 

The author proceeded to list the ‘red flags’ that she saw in Meghan and Harry’s interview – during which the couple made several very damaging allegations about the royals and their time spent working within the ‘The Firm’ – starting with the Duchess’s admission that she battled suicidal thoughts. 

‘On the extreme end: when someone reflects on their experience as a part of any group and says, as Meghan did, “It became almost unsurvivable” and “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” that’s a major red flag,’ Montell wrote. 

She added that ‘The Firm’ – a term that Meghan and Harry used seemingly to describe the institution of Buckingham Palace, which includes senior courtiers and advisers, headed by the Queen – was like a ‘pseudo Royal Deep State – a hazily defined force that secretly controls both the royals and the 400 employees who support them’. 

The author also spotlighted Meghan’s claim that she had to ‘turn over’ her passport, driver’s license and keys when she joined the Royal Family in 2016 and that she ‘hadn’t left the house in months’, claiming that these comments sounded ‘like quotes from the memoir of an ex-Scientologist’.  

Following the Oprah interview, it was revealed that Meghan had in fact taken at least 13 trips abroad between 2016 and September 2019, including traveling to New York for her baby shower, with sources claiming that she would have had to present her passport to officials in 12 countries that she visited during this time. 

Montell said that Oprah's sit-down with Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, was like 'watching interviews with people who’d survived a cult'

Montell said that Oprah’s sit-down with Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, was like ‘watching interviews with people who’d survived a cult’

Can the Royal Family REALLY be compared to a ‘cult’? The ‘red flags’ from Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview, which author says ‘prove’ the Monarchy’s ‘culty’ ideologies 

  • Royal protocols and traditions such as dress codes, curtsying and bowing, and royal orders: Montell suggests these mirror ‘time-consuming tasks and formalities’ that are used to assert authority over cult members
  • Meghan Markle’s struggle with suicidal thoughts and her description of royal life as being ‘almost unsurvivable’: The author simply said that the Duchess of Sussex’s comments were a ‘major red flag’ about the royals
  • Buckingham Palace’s ‘no comment’ policy and the Queen’s belief that the royals should ‘never complain, never explain’: According to Montell, this ‘culty’ motto could be seen as a means of ‘silencing’ members of the Royal Family
  • Harry’s suggestion that his brother and father are ‘trapped’ in the Royal Family and Meghan’s claim that she had to ‘turn over’ her passport: The author claims that these comments sounded ‘almost like a former NXIUM member speaking about their family members still inside’. Montell also stated that Meghan’s claim she had to hand over her passport, driver’s license and keys is akin to cult leaders trying to ‘quickly separate members from the outside world’
  • Prince Harry claiming that The Firm has an ‘invisible contract’ with the tabloids and that the royals are ‘scared’ of the media ‘turning on them’: Montell interpreted the Duke’s comments as suggested Princes Charles and William are afraid to leave the Royal Family because it might ‘make the press turn on them’, which could in turn lead to a bitter public backlash, and she loosely compared this to the harsh consequences imposed on former cult members when they try to leave 
  • Public comparisons between Kate Middleton and Meghan, persistent reports of a feud – and the Duchess of Sussex’s claim that she was ‘not protected’ by the Royal Family: The writer suggested that the Royal Family’s decision not to issue a statement shutting down reports of a feud between Meghan and Kate could be compared to a cult’s attempt to maintain power ‘by creating enemies’ within its ranks
  • Meghan stating that the Royal Family ‘is nothing like what it looks like’: Writing that ‘no cult is 100% evil’, Montell asserted that this comment is similar to the remarks made about extremist groups, which ‘three kinds of deception’ to lure people in, including ‘painting a rosy picture’ of what life will be like once you join

Insiders therefore suggested the Duchess’ passport may have simply been taken for safekeeping, but claimed she still would have used it for her trips abroad. 

However, Montell still described this as a method of ‘isolation and behavioral control’ and compared it to the way in which cults ‘exert power’ by ‘quickly separating members from the outside world and enforcing strict parameters on their freedom’. 

The author also used Harry’s description of his father and brother as being ‘trapped’ within The Firm, Meghan’s accusation that the Monarchy ignored her plea for help with her mental health, and the fact that members of the Royal Family are expected to remain politically neutral and therefore cannot vote as examples of this. 

‘For his part, Harry talked about his father and brother almost like a former NXIVM follower speaks about their family members still inside,’ she wrote, adding: ‘Insidiously, in a cult-like environment, this level of control doesn’t seem like isolation — at least not at first — because the group paints it as a privilege.’

Oprah’s now-infamous question to Meghan about whether she was ‘silent or silenced’ was also referenced as a ‘red flag’ by Montell, who noted that ‘an unhealthy group… will limit your ability to speak at all’ – claiming that ‘this seems to be the Royal Family’s M.O.’  

Traditionally Buckingham Palace has adhered to a strict ‘no comment’ policy, following the Queen’s belief that royals should ‘never complain, never explain’ with regards to speculation and reports about the Monarchy which are published in the press. 

During her interview with Oprah, Meghan referenced this policy, explaining that she was instructed by the Palace to always answer ‘no comment’ when stories about her were published. 

For Montell, this serves as another ‘red flag’, with the writer suggesting that ‘silencing can also be a form of gaslighting’. 

‘…When no one is taking your truth seriously or even allowing you to express it, you start to question your own perception of reality. Culty? I think yes,’ she wrote.

Montell also claimed that the Royal Family’s many traditions and protocols are also evidence of its ‘cultish’ tendencies – including the rule that royals are supposed to bow or curtsy to more senior members. 

For example, if following strict protocol, Meghan – whose husband Harry is sixth in the line of succession – should curtsy to Kate Middleton – whose husband William is second in line to the throne. However, in reality, these formalities are rarely followed to the letter.

The writer went on to call out the fact that the royals have long implemented a dress code, the rules of which vary depending on the event or engagement that they are attending. In general members of the Royal Family are expected to dress modestly, and it has often been reported that the Queen prefers the women in the family to wear dresses or skirts instead of trousers. 

Once again however, these rules have become increasingly relaxed over time – although Meghan did opt to wear nude tights for her first official appearance as a royal in keeping with tradition. 

Montell also referred to royal orders – an honor given to female members of the royal family by the reigning monarch – as ‘symbolic, NXIUM-style sashes and brooches’.  

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