It’s good to be the queen, but it’s hard to be a prince. It’s getting harder still for Meghan and Harry, two ex-Royal Highnesses in search of a day job as of Saturday. They thought they could cash out, but now they’re being cast out. It’s going to be a hard Megxit.
This can’t be what Meghan and Harry imagined would happen when they surprised the world — and surprised the British royal family too — by announcing that they were ‘stepping back’ from their royal duties in order to step into branding opportunities abroad. They seemed to think their shock and awe PR move would win them everything they wanted, and secure them a lucrative perch halfway in, halfway out of The Firm, as the royals call the business of ruling: retaining all the perks of status and funding, but free to pick off lucrative commercial opportunities.
Instead the royal family has invited the prince and the showgirl not to step back, but to step off entirely. The queen’s statement was warm and personal, the words of a grandmother who knows the ways of the world. ‘I support their wish for a more independent life,’ she says, having denied herself the satisfactions and privacy of independence in a life of service. But what can she do? Kids these days, eh?
The queen is, she says, ‘ particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family’. Translated, this means ‘We did our bit and more, and welcomed her in. But Meghan couldn’t handle it, or wouldn’t handle it. Loser.’
The queen can afford to be emotional and magnanimous. She didn’t do the dirty work of the five days of negotiations that preceded this announcement. As is traditional, it was the flunkeys who put the knife in. The terms of this Megxit are medieval, the kind of soft banishment reserved for malcontents and miscreants who, being of the blood royal, couldn’t just be strung up by their innards.
Not only are the couple forfeiting their valuable ‘His Royal Highness’ and ‘Her Royal Highness’ titles. Harry is losing his military role, something for which they’re also receiving no money from the British crown. If they’re getting money from Prince Charles, it won’t be from the prince’s lucrative income from the Duchy of Cornwall, but in the form of cash gifts, the sort of thing dads all over the world do when their boy needs a loan to tide him over. They’ll also have to refund the $3 million that the British taxpayers so generously gave to Harry — estimated net worth around $40 million — to renovate the couple’s ‘cottage’. They’ll even have to pay rent on it at market rate.
Meghan and Harry are on some of the toughest royal terms since the Russian Revolution, which notoriously forced talentless royals into exile to scrape livings as tennis coaches in Berlin and restaurant violinists in Paris. And it’s not over yet…
Two phrases in Buckingham Palace’s statement should alarm the royal runaways. One is ‘there are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security.’ In other words, the British government’s Home Office will continue to provide protection to Harry when he’s in Britain, and to Meghan too, should she deign to drop by. But overseas, it’s up to their host governments.
Already, the couple’s plans to offset Megxit with a ‘Canada plus’ deal seem to be foundering. A constitutional expert has question whether Harry can take up an official post, a poll found a majority of the Canadian public unwilling to fund the couple’s security, and the wags are questioning whether Harry, who doesn’t speak French and has no advanced qualifications, would qualify for Canada’s points-based immigration system.
And if the couple have to pay their own way, they won’t be delighted to hear that, as far as Buckingham Palace is concerned, their hands will remain tied: ‘the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty’. There’s more: ‘royal sources’ have told the Daily Telegraph that Meghan and Harry may even have to forfeit their Sussex Royal branding, as the terms under which they can use it with royal approval are ‘yet to be ironed out’.
Freedom, it turns out, is just another word for still having a lot to lose.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of Spectator USA.