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What's in it for Harry and Meghan?
Here's my view - for what it's worth.
I remember well the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018. At the time I lived just outside Windsor where the wedding took place. My then wife and I drove into Windsor the night before, proceeding slowly through the town so we could take in all the sights. The next day we stayed home and watched the actual ceremony on TV, on the basis that we would see the whole event as it happened, rather than just one small part of it from deep within the crowd.
Watching the ceremony, I remember being very impressed with the quiet dignity of Meghan’s mother, as well as the touching moment when Harry’s father Charles walked Meghan down the aisle, as her own father couldn’t be there. I was pleased that as a nation, we were so ready to accept an American actress into our Royal Family. Our very own Grace Kelly!
Part of me had a small concern that Meghan might not fit in, but I thought that after the Diana experience, the Royal Family would be mindful to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. Rather naively, I thought they would have learned from past mistakes, and Meghan would be welcomed and supported.
How wrong I was! Not only did she not fit in, but it all went so spectacularly tits-up, that we now have the unedifying spectacle of the Sussexes apparently trying to take the Royal Family to the cleaners in the most public way possible. As I write, the first part of their Netflix series has landed, with Harry and Meghan setting out their grievances against both the Royal Family and the press.
I am not a particularly staunch royalist, nor am I an anti-monarchist republican – but probably somewhere in the middle. While I find the public shenanigans of the Royal Family somewhat tiresome, I do recognise that we need a head of state – and selection by birth is probably a better way than electing them every few years. As our late Queen proved admirably, this does bring an element of stability and consistency to the country. Just consider the alternative – regular elections, with no doubt a selection of clapped-out old politicians to choose from. And when you add in the inevitable partisanship of a contested election, you would end up with the office of the head of state regularly being flipped between left and right wing views. Hardly the impartiality the Queen was so famous for. Not to mention that the candidates would need to set out manifestos – so you know what they stand for before you vote. Which means they would be making promises as to what they would do if elected – none of which would have any credibility, given that the office is effectively powerless and ceremonial only.
So I am left wondering what Harry and Meghan want to achieve by this documentary (and his book due out soon). Apart from the money, which I am sure is substantial, there’s little they can hope to get by way of response from the Royal Family. This is an organisation which famously does not give a response to challenges, other than Her Majesty’s ‘recollections may vary’ comment on the interview with Oprah Winfrey.
And of course, this cuts the other way too. The Royal Family has not (to my knowledge) issued any public criticism of the Sussexes that necessitates them to respond in such a loud and robust way – indeed, I seem to recall that the only public mentions of them by the King have actually been quite positive. So for Harry and Meghan to feel the need to ‘tell their side of the story’ when the other side’s version has not actually been told, seems as if they are working to a different agenda entirely.
So, what is this agenda? Is it actually the press they are going after, and the Royal Family is simply being caught in the crossfire? Possibly, as the press have certainly whipped up negative sentiments against the couple, and Harry is understandably wary of them after what happened to his mother. But there are two reasons why this is a high-risk agenda. The first is that the press has both the means and the will to hit back very hard. As so many people in the public eye can attest, you poke the press with a stick at your peril. The second is that, despite their ability to hit back, the press no longer has the same level of influence that it once had. In this age of social media, public opinion is influenced as much by comments from well-connected influencers on Twitter as it is by a headline in the Mirror.
So, apart from the money, I cannot see what Harry and Meghan are looking to achieve, when they complain of a lack of privacy in such an intrusively public manner.
Which then begs the question: where will all this lead? In five years’ time, how will we look back on this? I can see it going one of two ways:
Option 1 – it all finally blows over, and Harry and Meghan settle into their life in the USA; she goes back into acting and he gets a slew of lucrative after-dinner speaking gigs and chat show appearances. They pop up in the press occasionally but are treated as largely irrelevant B-list celebrities.
Option 2 – any tensions there are in the Sussex household intensify over time, until they go down the well-trodden American celebrity path and get a divorce. Harry then crawls back to the UK with his tail between his legs, explaining that it was ‘all Meghan’s fault’, and he was really pro-Royal Family all along. Please can he be let back into the fold if he promises to behave?
Whichever is the outcome, I can’t see this ending particularly well for Harry and Meghan.
Apart from the money, of course.
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