It’s the showbiz showdown of the century. In the red, white and blue corner, the heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle monarchy, Her 93-year-old Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, still undefeated despite all the sucker punches from her children, her grandchildren and the Russian Revolution. In the other red, white and blue corner, the gutsy lightweight king of the silver screen, 91-year-old Mickey Mouse, trained from beyond the grave by Walt Disney.
It’s the Monarchy versus the Mouse, the Old World against the New. The prize is the monetizing of Harry and Meghan. Each time the contenders retreat to their corners to close up their cuts, we seen them parading winsomely as they announce each round of this titanic contest — The Engagement, The Wedding, the Tearful Sub-Diana Complaints About How Hard Their Lives Are.
The purse is bigger than Ali-Frazier or Barack and Michelle’s retirement pot. The biggest prize in the history of show business: cross-breeding the elixir of class, monarchy, with the raw power of entertainment: from Holyrood Palace to the Hollywood Hills.
First, Harry and Meghan knocked out middleweight contenders William and Kate in a savage double-bill in which the claret flowed, and so did the brandy. Then, Harry and Meghan had the real Hollywood divorce: they ditched the blazers and regimental ties of the royal family’s usual PR handlers for a new set of trainers from Meghan’s previous career in Mixed Martial Arts. They trained in secret at a high altitude of self-regard, trademarking the ‘Sussex Royal’ boot-camp method. ‘Sussex Royale’, more like.
Then they shocked everyone. They’ve turned their backs on a gym that’s been producing champions for centuries — even if George III was punch-drunk and Edward VIII was disqualified for gouging. But they’re still demanding a cut of the purse from every one of their old team’s fights.
‘You don’t mess with the Mouse,’ they say in Hollywood. You don’t mess with 93-year-old hereditary monarch Elizabeth II either. She rules the royal roost with a rod of gold, and a scepter too. No wonder the weigh-in was nasty. As news broke that Elizabeth II has given Harry and Meghan 72 hours to sort out the beef, it emerged that Harry and Meghan have signed a deal with Disney, and that Meghan had secretly recorded a voiceover for Disney late last year.
Meghan is giving the fee to a charity for elephants. Is this a cuss to her in-laws, a hint that they’ve stayed in the ring for one fight too many, that they’re too slow on their feet, and that their thick hides and skulls mean they don’t realize they’re bound for the elephants’ graveyard?
This is classic royal behavior — the move known in Harry and Meghan’s spiritual home as ‘Hollywood accounting’. The royals get loads of free stuff, but so long as they combine their side gigs with a bit of official business and move the hard cash to charity, they can claim not to be doing real work of the kind that Harry and Meghan now aspire to do.
The problem is, the British media are all over this dodge. Long before Prince Andrew got knocked out by Jeffrey ‘Kid’ Epstein, the British tabloids had put Randy Andy through 12 grueling rounds and beaten him to a pulp over his dodgy dealings. Andy had the protection of the mob too — the royals, like gangsters gone legit, call themselves ‘The Firm’. Harry and Meghan are on their own now.
The IRS isn’t going to buy their line either. All the talk about whether Harry and Meghan are going to relaunch as the Duke and Duchess of Malibu ignores one fact: the IRS does global taxation. The royals have secret funds in places even Jeffrey Epstein doesn’t know about. The last thing HM the Q wants is a brown envelope arriving at Windsor Castle, asking her to explain the Firm’s financial arrangements. As she knows, the US government didn’t bring down the Mob for murder, but tax evasion.
Place your bets, grab your popcorn, and sit back to enjoy the spectacle of two nonagenarians, the last of the titans from the days when show business really meant something, pulverizing each other to a pulp for the legacy.
My money’s on the old lady. She may be quiet, but she fights dirty.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of Spectator USA.