And we’ll never be royals

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Thursday, August 24, 2023. More of the sunny weather with temps in the mid- to high-70s; very pleasantly in the Sun and slightly cooler in the shade — the “cooler” that makes you think of Autumn. I heard from Blair Sabol out in Arizona yesterday: they finally got some rain that took the temps down to the mid-70s which in that area hasn’t seen in years.

Harry and Meghan. Harry and Kate. Harry and William.

Diana’s boys. I was amazed (but got over it) by the media treatment and the readership comments about Prince Harry and Meghan and their taking up residence in California. As if it were the business of anyone besides the Prince and his duchess.

I look at the Post’s opening page every morning just to see what a mess it is out there (anywhere) and the way people are behaving with each other, even their elders and their children. Death, grim and vicious often marks the opener.  And not far down the column is something about Harry and Meghan. I don’t read it because it’s already become a movie, or a serial, and the two wives are the real stars as played by Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

And both brothers both married powerful women. You may not like the idea but that’s life. The story is an opportunity for the media to pick on someone decrying their behavior toward “The Royal Family.” Most of us humanoids in this non-Royal country, those who are “enchanted” by the Royals, are unaware that the family is no longer a powerful establishment.  

Kate and William, the present Prince and Princess of Wales, have fancy royal titles and probably large existence budgets, representing “The Royal Family.” But they are politically irrelevant. Their economic power is mainly a public relations expense. They’re good for tourism. So to speak. And they’re good in acting out an Important Persona. Or at least they used to be when Mother was alive.

Harry and Meghan
Photo © The Duke and Duchess of Sussex / Chris Allerton

Meghan and Harry are more of the same. Except, thanks to Harry’s duchess, they are more American in presence, ambition, and motivation. That may have been one of things that made her so alluring to Harry. He’d long known on some level that he had to get out of the situation as he was the younger brother of a man who would be king.

The boys’ grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, was the very last of whatever political power still existed for the British Royal Family. Its political power was an empire at the beginning of the previous century. But it now is a tradition that had lost its place with changing times; never to return.

What the Harry/Meghan marriage has brought out for us is the distinct hostility demonstrated by Kate’s non-smiling face. In a way it’s kind of funny because it’s so ordinary and commonplace. It’s not an unusual situation in a family when a marriage changes the political structure. It’s commonplace (rather than royal). It’s often blamed on the wives referring to their “hostility” toward other members of the family they’ve married into. 

Meghan is by nature an ambitious woman. You have to be to succeed by any measure in Hollywood. An actor’s life is deeply challenging. It requires a certain toughness just to succeed. Princess Kate is a tough one too but she came from a more stable and secure family that granted her a certain self-confidence.  

Both women had strong mothers. Although it could be argued that getting a (marriage) contract with what was the British Royal Family, especially a child of the middleclass British economy, required real talent and personal ambition that Meghan Markle could not have been aware of.

It’s also important to the story that Harry and his brother grew up in a house of a bad and unhappy marriage. This is not unfamiliar to many of us although, everyone pays a price which is usually paid in Worries and carried through life in one way or another.

Wills, as he was called, grew up in the same house but because he was the would/be “heir” he was already out and about for instruction by the time Harry was learning to read.  As a young boy William would already have a sense of being “special.” These are typical family experiences and where there is a bad marriage, it is more intense and troublesome.

David Hartley/Shutterstock

Charles probably thought he had a terrible time in his marriage to Diana, but it was nothing like the terrible time he gave Diana, mother of his sons. We ordinary people tend to overlook that aspect of growing up in a bad marriage. Fortunately for both boys, they had an obviously strong mother. Stronger, I should guess, than any members of the family she’d married into — and she delivered two heirs.

I have never met any of them. I’ve known some of their “closest” friends and relations and employees. One of them went over to London four or five times a year for his antiques business (high end) invited me to join him on one. A former journalist, he was a font of information on British history, and even his social associations were just that. 

In London one night we had dinner with a couple of antique shop owners who had previous careers as members of the Royal Household Staff. Footmen, they were (they are not “butlers”); retired but loved talking about life in the Family. 

The Queen Mum, photographed by Richard Stone, 1986.

They were never unkind in their affections and not-so, but enjoyed talking especially about the Queen Mother. They loved the Queen Mum. She was well aware of her title and her “superiority” in the household but she was also a woman with a real sense of humor and wit. And when she returned home in the evening from some formal affair, she’d often knock on their doors to join them for a little night-cap where laughter was the host. 

Elizabeth the Queen Mother was ambitious, too. Like Diana, she had only two children, one the monarch-to-be, and two: the other one, Princess Margaret. The “other one” was more work/need of attention but the Queen Mother always delivered. And then she had the misfortune of her husband dying at a fairly young age, with her young 25-year-old daughter becoming The Monarch. Even her title would be different: the Dowager Queen Elizabeth. Except, we see that was not her eventual title. She had a better idea: The Queen Mother. Why not?

Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation, June 1953, London, England. Cecil Beaton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was a commoner with a title in the family. By the time she was old enough she was down in London getting to know The World around her — that being the social Royal circles. That was back when David, the Prince of Wales, was about to become Edward VIII, and was unmarried. There were a number of women who thought they fit the bill and one of them was Elizabeth. She got the message fairly early, however, that the list was long. By the time the Duchess of Windsor came along, Elizabeth (the mother) had moved on to David’s brother George, who was not the heir but the Spare; and who had challenging health problems.

The British monarchy, which was a power center of history over the last five centuries, was once the most powerful nation on the planet. It was often repeated that its power lay in the fact that “the Sun never set” on its worldwide territories, referring to its international political power. They were also the financial power; the center of the world economy, as we were in the century just past.

Time changes things. Had some of merry old England’s citizens back in the 18th century not tired of its majestic form of bowing and scraping before the powers of the Throne, they wouldn’t have emigrated to the North American continent. Things would have been different.

HM King Edward VII or Bertie, as he was known in his family.

The Power of the Throne had been hobbling toward the end of Victoria’s reign. England, then now known as the United Kingdom, was, in its economic hey-day, the banking center of the West. Her heir, Elizabeth’s great-grandfather Edward VII, brought a restorative image to Victoria’s Throne.

This was in 1901, but the world coming into the 20th century was turning out to be quite different from the 19th. Because Bertie, as he was known in his family, was such a charming and interested fellow; and because of the genealogical  phenomenon of the British Royal Family which was related to almost all the other important royal families in the world, had he lived longer, there may not have been a World War I, and thereafter.

In England nowadays the Crown means nothing in terms of political or economic power — with the exception of the Bankers whose grip on the world economics remains. The under-40 generation of the Brits see no point to the Royals. They get publicity for showing up or presenting a “royal” image, but otherwise controversial stories like Harry & Meghan are the main support for the family’s Presence and Identification publicly. It’s been an historically long decline that probably began when England was the most powerful power in the world of the 19th century but Harry & Meghan’s marriage is keeping pointless controversy alive in a world fraught with real problems of leadership.

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