THE Sussexes have almost reached the end of the royal road. Meghan’s walk-on part in the world’s most admired royal family can already be compared to a preview of a failed TV soap, as well as a short diversion on her path to being a world brand, star of every size of screen and admired humanitarian.
It’s very different for Prince Harry. Diana, Princess of Wales, made sure that both her sons didn’t just experience the privileges of being royal, but also developed a strong profound sense of duty. Something that Meghan, who’s been steeped in the raw competitive world of me, me, me showbusiness, didn’t seem to understand, though she might have done with time. This sense of duty will be difficult for Harry to shake off, not least because the Queen has stripped him of all his military titles, nor can he wear military uniform again. No doubt these demands have caused him enormous pain.
And what about baby Archie, now ten months old? His parents have announced more than once that they want ‘to make the world a better place’ especially for Archie, while seeming to ignore the fact that grandparents and great-grandparents fill an irreplaceable role in a child’s development. Babies also have the power to bring people together. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much sign of them letting the Queen and Prince Philip, who are well into their nineties, see their great-grandson in the near future.
The couple’s last engagement before they finally step back from being working royals on 31 March will be joining other senior members of ‘the Firm’ for the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey this afternoon. After that they will no longer represent the Queen and will become financially independent, apart, that is, from Prince Charles slipping them considerable sums to keep them afloat until they start earning big time. I hope they realise that being mega-rich doesn’t guarantee that you will be happy.
Their swansong of royal duties over the last few days has been both deeply sad and cringe-making. Harry spent several hours last Sunday with his grandmother the Queen, who will be 94 next month. Despite his appalling behaviour when he quit, she by all accounts has been conciliatory and open-hearted, reassuring her beloved grandson that she will happily keep the door open if he, with or without Meghan, wants to come back as a senior royal.
Her tenderness was the grandmother part of her talking. Her priority as Queen of the United Kingdom is to keep the monarchy alive. This includes not allowing royals to cherry-pick the privileges they like but give little or nothing in return, abuse their titles, make money from their status and turn the royal family into a brand. Hence she insisted that from the end of March they could not use the name ‘Sussex Royal’. Or ‘royal’ anything.
Instead of accepting her decision with grace as the price they had to pay for independence, the Sussexes decided to take her on. An impertinent statement appeared on their website that the Queen was wrong and that ‘there is not any jurisdiction by the monarchy or Cabinet Office over the use of the word “royal” overseas’. But they wrote patronisingly that they would follow the Queen’s wishes as they did not want to appear petty. Their lack of respect was breathtaking. If Meghan knew no better, Harry certainly did. How did he allow it to happen?
One of their last calls on the royal stage, and their first public appearance in the UK since their bombshell announcement in early January, was last Thursday at the Endeavour Fund Awards, celebrating the achievements of wounded ex-servicemen and women.
The event made me squirm, especially when Meghan took to the stage and said it was ‘very nice to be back’, when we all knew she couldn’t wait to get away. She, of course, looked stunning in a £950 turquoise Victoria Beckham dress that clearly showed she has got her figure back. But her glowing cheeks, huge smile and open-eyed expression of wonder, originally seen at her first official appearance with Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games, makes you question how such a shining, happy person could be so ruthless.
Will we miss them? Yes. Harry, charismatic, full of fun and dedication, has been a huge asset for the royals. He told me he ‘wanted to make a difference’ rather than just cut ribbons, but now mostly looks a shadow of himself. Meghan was originally welcomed as a breath of fresh air who could help blow away a few royal cobwebs, but turned out to be a gale-force wind who could have flattened the Monarchy altogether.
Their departure could have been handled so differently. They could have walked away from what Harry called ‘the goldfish bowl’ with everyone’s blessing if they had been a bit more patient and waited to negotiate an understanding between them and the Monarchy so they could have issued a joint statement signed by both sides. Prince Harry knows full well that the monarchy doesn’t move quickly. Rare circumstances such as theirs have to be handled carefully. Meghan, of course, has precedents in moving swiftly on when she has had enough of a situation, a family member or friend.
Instead they behaved like spoilt children, stamping their feet that they couldn’t get their own way NOW, and stalked off. What was the rush? Surely the world could wait for them to leave with dignity. Remember, this is the same couple who have been telling us how to live our lives.
Meghan, as we now know, will not be thwarted. She’s talked freely about what she wants to do globally, rather than for Britain and the Commonwealth, and has made no secret of the breadth and depth of her ambitions.
Their leaving has, of course, little to do with privacy. Nor does it seem a good idea to turn Harry into a victim when addressing hard-nosed bankers and rich self-centred celebrities.
And if they are so besotted with each other, as various people ‘close to Meghan’ regularly tell American magazines, why are they so bitter? What sort of adoring wife encourages her husband to fall out with his grandmother, father, brother and friends, abandon his country and unique role, and to wage war against the media until she really needs them?