Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and dim millennial virtue-signaler, has complained that she and Prince Harry are ‘existing, not living’. We should all be so lucky to merely exist on millions of pounds of taxpayers money in a selection of posh country houses with a loving spouse worth somewhere north of £40 million; with a new baby who is seventh in line to the British throne and whose great-grandmother, according to the Church of England, has a hotline to God; with Elton John’s jet on permanent stand-by to whisk you off to the sunny and exclusive hideaways of the extravagantly rich and famous; and, perhaps most valuable of all, with those keys to the kingdom of a life of impossible luxury: the goodwill of the British people.
Not enough, apparently. There’s whole a bag of peas under this princess’s mattress. Not only does Meghan feel compelled to lecture us plebs about our casual racism and our ruination of the environment. As Meghan tearfully told ITV’s Tom Bradby in a carefully planned and completely disastrous documentary that aired on Sunday night, her stuffy in-laws aren’t treating her with the respect that court protocol has historically accorded to third-tier legal-drama actresses who’ve also done a bit of gameshow and catalog work.
‘I think I really tried to develop this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried,’ she moaned, ‘but I think that what it does internally is probably really damaging.’
The ‘point of life’, Meghan said, is ‘to thrive’ — like a Gwyneth Paltrow franchise, perhaps, or a plant treated with regular shovelfuls of richly steaming manure. Worse, Meghan implied that her in-laws haven’t been emotionally supportive enough.
‘Not many people have asked if I’m OK,’ she said of her starring role in the world’s greatest soap opera. ‘It’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.’
Worst of all, Meghan expressed an unconstitutional desire to be ‘happy’. That’s all very well if you’re American, with the pursuit of happiness as a constitutional right. The rest of the world, however, no more believes in the right to be happy than it does in the right to shove dog turds through other people’s letter boxes. And certainly not the British, who never get closer to happiness, or at least further from misery, than when they’re complaining about their lot while simultaneously claiming that their upper lips remain at attention.
Who are the villains of this latest plot twist? The British press. Yes, the same press that Meghan has courted. The same press to which Meghan’s friends and staff have leaked anonymous complaints about the unsatisfactory quality of palace servants. The same press with which Meghan and Harry colluded with in the making of their documentary, because Tom Bradby, he of the politely intrusive questions about Meghan’s feelings, is a personal friend of the couple.
This isn’t just short-sighted, hypocritical and entitled beyond the dreams of the grandest duchess. It’s also cruel to Prince Harry, and to Prince William too. Meghan claims to be protecting Harry, but by manipulating the press against her royal family, she’s actually bringing about his nightmare scenario: a return to the trauma of his parents’ divorce, when Charles and Diana competed for the nation’s sympathy through tell-all interviews, and to the media frenzy which culminated in Diana’s terrible death — exit, pursued by paparazzi.
In the documentary, Harry admits to constantly worrying that ‘history would repeat itself’. Anyone in his position would like to tell the tabloids where to stick their telephotos, though what that does internally is probably really damaging. He can’t, of course. So instead he’s supporting Meghan’s ill-advised virtue-signaling while suing the Daily Mail for publishing a letter written by Meghan’s layabout father.
Nothing is more likely to make Diana’s history repeat itself than this ingeniously thick-headed intimacy with the media, which colludes and exploits attention one day, then complains tearfully about it the next. If Meghan and Harry wanted privacy, they’d have it. Nobody forced them to sign up to Instagram, as they did earlier this year, at a time when Meghan, she now says, was feeling ‘vulnerable’ to the public’s attention. Nobody forced them to do high-profile plutocrat things like fly by private jet to New York City for a baby shower. Nobody forced them to make a documentary about how hard their lives are. They chose to do all this, and they’re still choosing to do it, even when they’re complaining about it.
What we have here is what Oscar Wilde called ‘two peoples, divided by a common language’. Not the English language, but the language of love and the language of public life. In America, and in Hollywood especially, talking about your feelings is a proof of personal authenticity. In Britain, it’s the opposite. We admire restraint and dignity. We’re acutely embarrassed by displays of emotion and demands for attention.
You can pop-psychologize that as ‘stiff upper lip’ anality, or you can call it an admirable respect for privacy. Either way, the royal family’s job is to embody that code, not maunder on like they’ve taken up permanent residence on Oprah’s couch — let alone write messages like ‘You are loved’ on bananas which, whether for reasons of Freudian symbolism or public health, are to be distributed to the prostitutes of Bristol. And yes, Meghan really did do that.
We don’t need the royals to lecture us about the environment. We have politicians for that, and we generally despise them as freeloading hypocrites. We don’t need to be lectured about life being unfair, either. We have the class system for that, day in and day out. What we want from the royal family is for them to at least act like symbols of our better selves when the cameras are out: to visit schools, hospitals and old people’s homes, to officiate at memorials to our war dead, to give medals to those who’ve served or entertained, to make small and polite conversation that pleases all and offends none
Instead, Meghan and Harry are acting like our worst selves: self-absorbed, spoilt, narcissistic and petulant, posing and preening and scheming as if life is a reality TV show and they deserve to win. When Harry and Meghan got engaged, the British were delighted that Harry, the boy who walked behind his mother’s coffin, had found love. In a nation divided by Brexit, their wedding was a feel-good national holiday. No one cared that Meghan was an American, or divorced, or had a black mother. But in little more than a year, they’ve managed to flip the public’s feelings from joy to irritation to contempt.
It’s not too late. All Meghan has to do is play the game by the rules of the game. The people who buy the tabloid newspapers are the ones whose taxes pay for the style to which she is not accustomed. Do it right, as William and Kate have done it, and the people will love you, so the tabloids won’t attack you. Do it wrong, however, and a replay of the Diana disaster is on the cards. That would be a career setback for Meghan, but it would be a right royal tragedy for Harry.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of Spectator USA.