So you wanna be Royal?

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Cloud coverage over Carnegie Hill. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  Last weekend’s early Spring weather reverted yesterday to grey and colder — although not too — with temps in the low 40s. Otherwise the bustling city life looks like January dull.

The talk, if you want to hear some serious tones, is about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. People have been asking me what I thought of Meghan (whom I don’t know, never met and never even heard of until she hitched her star to the Prince). 

There is a certain pleasure in these conversations which are ultimately The Judgment. In very much the same way people pass judgment on others’ private lives — especially family members, neighbors, and celebrities. Of course Meghan is to blame for all this.

What I think. (Yeah, who asked ya?) This domestic drama, an updated classic of The Prince and the Showgirl, has occurred at a very grim time in our world. The Harry/Meghan story is pure entertainment. It’s an upper (the downer side is somebody else’s). It enlivens everyone to a drama that is A Family Story as well as the Same Old Story. (And The Crown). Prince Harry chose to change his life with This Woman. 

An interesting woman, you must admit. A beauty, bi-racial — a small matter to most but a big one to the Big Ones out there — and independent like a modern woman. Yes, she married The Prince but she was also a successful working actress. Someone described her as a “B” actress. No, the important word is: “working.” That means “ambition,” a word that at its purest has no gender. A working actress, and ambitious, and so, the beauty met the Prince and he was gobsmacked. A lot of us have had that experience — possibly once anyway — and it is Powerful.

Meghan Markle was probably gobsmacked in her way too. After all, he was the famous orphaned son of the most famous woman in the world in her lifetime. And he’s been a kind of a hero for his family and country, going around the world participating with all kinds of us/ordinary people at public events. Even serving in the Afghanistan debacle. A man for all seasons. 

How could she not be impressed if she caught his eye that first time, and vice versa? She might not have shown that to him. Women are very talented at keeping those things to themselves. The boys not so much. And so it all came together, however tabloidally.  

And was it his title, grandson of The Queen, Her Majesty and everything? The most powerful (and respected woman in the world). And rich too, even without their money, richer than any of those multibillionaires. So Meghan met the Prince and this was his resumé. Who wouldn’t be impressed? People have married for a lot less and were still impressed.

When they married they were a storybook couple. She even walked down the aisle without an escort/father (or the Prince of Wales who offered). Of course it wasn’t her first trip down the aisle, and who knows, maybe it won’t be the last. But it was storybook.

I get all my info on this matter from the Daily Mail online. It’s a celebrity story. Everything today is celebrity — royalty, society, business — a story that only requires your reading the headline to get the gist. The gist I’ve been getting for sometime now is that a lot of people don’t like Meghan. They always refer to the couple as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Or the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

There were official objections made public about their deciding not to live in the royal apartments at Windsor, but instead in a separate large but unimpressive cottage that cost more than a million in renovations. Then she got pregnant and the baby Archie was born. Her mothering came under criticism. They were being too private and not showing him off to the world in quite the way someone else thought they should. Then there were the frequent rumors that she and her sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge and one day to be the Queen as wife of William, were not that chummy. Ever hear of sisters-in-law not getting along? No? Never?

Then Meghan complained or was quoted as complaining that no one ever asked her if it was all very difficult for her. Boo-hoo. She married into this ancient embellishment known as The Monarchy and people are supposed to sympathize with her “burden”?

Yesterday the Daily Mail had three stories about her and Harry and this Huge (Royal) Family Crisis. Evidently Harry can be whiny, according to some press reports. About what, I don’t know. They call it “whingey” over there. (I prefer whiny.) Evidently he also has mental health “issues” having to do with his mother. All children who lose their mothers at a very young age often have “problems” related to that loss all their lives. It is the most profound loss to any child no matter who no matter where. 

He once told Oprah (I read in some caption) that every time he sees a camera or a flash he thinks of his mother. He was, after all, the youngest, and sad little boy who followed her casket in ceremony. No doubt being as famous and familiar as he is to millions of us, his mother often comes to his mind. The mother who died in a tragic car “accident.” The one who was cheated on by his father who is now reported to be “incandescent” with rage that his youngest son wants to go live somewhere else (like “North America”) instead of back at the palace. 

“Bertie”(right) with his mother Victoria (center) and Russian relations: Tsar Nicholas II (left), Empress Alexandra and baby Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, 1896.

Most people I know tend to side with the father, Charles, the Prince of Wales who has spent his entire adult life in waiting for his mother’s final departure. His essence has been tied up in The Wait. Most people I know tend to imagine that would be a really interesting way of life. And comfort. Waiting. For Godot.  When Victoria (the previous longest-running British monarch) died in 1902, her heir, Bertie, then the Prince of Wales (Charles’ great-great-grandfather) was an old 62. Asked how he felt about his ascension (finally) to the throne, he was said to have replied: “too late.”

There is this idea of tradition that is attached to the British Royal Family. It is classic, from the remnants of history where the official behavior matched the official behavior of their religion, and provided the rules (and laws) of behavior for everyone else – once referred to in monarchies as “subjects.” But history shows that none of it is cut in stone. It’s politics ad infinitum.

Forbidden love — Capt. Peter Townsend and Princess Margaret. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Back in the 1950s when Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister Princess Margaret was having an affair and wanted to marry a man named Peter Townsend, it was disallowed because Townsend was a divorce. I’m not sure the reasoning, but it amounted to the rule: no divorced monarchs. The way it’s looking now — Margaret’s nephew, the Queen’s eldest son, Charles will be the next monarch and his queen, Camilla is his second wife – divorced from his first, if you didn’t know — and she too had been previously married and divorced. And so have millions of other couples all over the world.

The denouement. Harry and Meghan evidently want to move to North America. Where he will be two things: Widely recognized and acknowledged as an authentic Prince, and where he will be liked and listened to. He’s a brilliant ambassador in the 21st Century. He has the power of personality that embodies goodness. This is the kind of power his grandmother possesses in our society today. He is the only other one in that family who possesses that quality, at least in his public image internationally. Like everything else with us humans, it is genetic. He is his mother’s son, as well. As royal as they are or were among us, they are, after all, only people.

Naturally this reality takes in the speculation that Meghan Markle will tire of the Prince a few years down the road. She’ll go off to what might look like better ports in the storm of fame and fable. She’s naturally ambitious. It’s been reported that she wants to move forward in business. And why not? It’s quite possible, even ordinary in these hectic times. It’s also quite possible that Harry might find the grass greener elsewhere himself. After all he is a man of his times. But that is only one possible outcome, as it is for all couples. There are other more agreeable, even happy outcomes, however — which are also possible.

Besides which, the “rules” have changed radically in a lifetime, after decades, even centuries of previous rules. 

A half century since Margaret was disallowed marriage to a divorce, Elizabeth’s eldest son and heir was allowed to divorce, remarry, and keep his place in the scheme of things. The change was acceptable as ordinary, although many commoners immediately recognized the natural hypocrisy of the situation. There are some things that we ALL have in common, royal or not, large and small.

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