WE ARE approaching 31 March, the date that marks the end of Meghan and Harry’s time as official royals.
This doesn’t mean we will be hearing less of them. In fact, critics of the couple would not be wrong to suggest that the ‘progressive new role’ which they suggested they were keen to ‘carve out’ when they announced in January they were stepping back from being full-time royals is not quite working out.
So far, the only role they seem to be playing is the same preachy one that attracted the initial criticism and accusations of hypocrisy which they say drove them out. In recent days, their Instagram page and website have been used to communicate some vacuous cliches about wanting to build ‘a digital neighbourhood’, while asking their followers to support each other through the Covid-19 pandemic. This couldn’t have sounded more meaningless, not least because they suggested that ‘now, more than ever, we need each other’. This was pretty rich from a couple who are now, through self-indulgence and not self-isolation, living in exile from their respective families in Britain and America.
Compare this with the Queen’s poignant statement a day later. In it, she spoke of the British people being up to the challenge that this uncertain period will bring. She also quashed the crass rumours of Prince Philip’s death that had been doing the rounds on social media in the last few days by confirming that she and her husband were at Windsor together.
The last line of the Queen’s statement is of particular interest. ‘You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part,’ it concluded.
For Harry to have published his own mission statement on Covid-19 a day earlier may suggest that as a soon-to-be-departed royal, he is no longer part of the ‘family’ mentioned by the Queen. But there’s another crucial point: because of their advanced years, and Prince Philip’s recent bout of ill-health, both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh fall firmly into the category of people most at risk of this disease. The monarch will inevitably look to the younger members of the royal family to take her place in supporting and providing solace to the nation. What an irony, therefore, that Prince Harry is on Vancouver Island enjoying yoga, long walks and cooking with his wife, after weeks of churlish statements and selfish requests, and not on home soil. Prince William, who will no doubt begin to play a much more prominent role in the coming months, could presumably do with his brother’s support.
The irony will not be lost on those whom Harry and Meghan let down in their petulant break for freedom, including the thousands who lined Windsor’s streets on their wedding day and the courtiers and advisers who lost their jobs overnight when the couple left Britain. In a further irony, it now looks as if Harry and Meghan will spend most, if not all, of the 12-month period that the Queen has suggested as a trial separation period from the royal family in isolation.
Last weekend, in a characteristic act of kindness, the Queen invited Meghan, Harry and their ten-month-old son Archie, whom she has not seen for some time, to stay at Balmoral this summer. The pandemic will almost certainly disrupt these plans, but in issuing the invitation – which they are thought to have accepted – she demonstrated the genuine love she feels for Prince Harry. Her gesture also knocks Harry and Meghan’s cliched Instagram post into the realms of insignificance. The Queen knows that actions speak louder than words. Instead of simply preaching about togetherness, she has made the first move in repairing the bonds that have been tested and frayed in the last few months.
For a couple who wanted more privacy, Harry and Meghan are annoyingly adept at reminding us all of their existence. Despite their imminent departure from official royal life, we now face being lectured by them over a digital platform that they presumably do not even manage themselves from their luxury Canadian bolthole. (We are still not allowed to know who is paying for them to live there, incidentally.) The whole exercise is further undermined by the fact that their Sussex Royal platform will be quietly dropped and rebranded in the coming weeks.
It is time to repay the kindness that both the Queen and the British people have shown this couple in facilitating their selfish desire to live independently. They must accept that especially now, in this nervous new world, hearing nothing from them would be most appropriate.