Never mind World War Three. How about the implosion of the world’s most glamorous couple? Welcome to Megxit.
Harry and Meghan think they’re going to escape press intrusion and live a more meaningful life by ‘stepping back’ from the British royal family, but they’re in for a nasty surprise. Their lives are meaningful now because they are integral to the royal family’s rebranding for the 21st century. Any reduction in their royal-ness reduces them to second-tier celebrities, and any missteps in that crowded second-tier lead downwards to tabloid hell, which is as meaningless as life gets.
And while it’s true that the press pursue Harry and Meghan because they’re glamorous young royals, the near-sacred status of royalty is precisely what protects them against unlimited press intrusion.
The language of Wednesday’s announcement is that nauseating blend of self-affirmation and Hollywood PR that is Harry and Meghan’s equivalent of baby-talk: ‘After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution.’ They want to ‘work to become financially independent’, while also ‘continuing to fully support’ the brand formerly known as Queen Elizabeth II.
Nobody believes this kind of gaseous hype. Most people are revolted by its moral aggrandizement. It confirms that neither of them understands the nature of royalty and its contract with the civilians. Meghan, to be fair, is late to the game, but Harry has no excuse. He was only meant to be good at one thing — being royal — and he’s failed.
It’s possible for a people to ditch a royal family — revolutionary Americans did just that — but it’s not possible for a royal family to ditch the people. You cannot resign from a contract that you never signed, and which was never written down. The only quick way out is the one that the Bourbons took, via the guillotine. The slower ways out, ‘stepping back’ among them, are illusory. Harry will be a prince forever, just as Edward VIII remained a king forever. Meghan will be a duchess forever, even if she ends up like Sarah Ferguson, still monetizing herself as the Duchess of York years after her divorce.
Harry and Meghan want to ‘carve out a progressive new role for this institution’. But there is no progressive new role for monarchy, other than renouncing titles and hereditary privileges, returning the palaces and parks to the people to whom they once belonged, and then rejoining us, the great unwashed, as Mr & Mrs Harry Windsor, the friendly and unassuming mixed-race couple down the street, him good with his hands, her always happy to join in with a singalong round the piano, and little Archie playing in the front yard. None of which is going to happen.
What they mean is ‘We want to use our status to lecture you ignorant plebs on institutional racism, environmental paranoia and other pet causes of the righteous rich — and because we think we can use our status as a soapbox, we’re going to retain as much of it as we can, titles and freebies and security details and exotic foreign holidays on Elton John’s private jet.’
And what that means is this: Harry and Meghan are going to intensify their exposure to the world’s media, but this time without the deference and protection accorded to full-time royals. And how did that turn out for Harry’s mother?
They will make documentaries for Netflix and will attempt to monetize their titles in the way that Barack and Michelle Obama are monetizing theirs. They will pretend to be financially independent of their in-laws, but they will become financially dependent on the kindness of rich strangers and the kind of people whose idea of fun is taking a ‘progressive’ private jet to ‘progressive’ fundraisers in ‘progressive’ Hollywood. The world will see Harry and Meghan for who they are, not what they symbolize. We will rapidly tire of their patronizing petulance, and only then will they finally attain the meaningful life they think they seek — as human sacrifices on the altar of celebrity.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of Spectator USA.