To be Royal

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Tulips along Fifth Avenue. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019.  Sunny and bright and 74 degrees yesterday afternoon in New York. No humidity. Perfect.

First things first. Our friends at the Peruvian Collection are having a “hands-on educational event” tomorrow (Thursday) at their store at 341 Columbus Avenue and 76th Street from 5 to 7.

The message: “learn why Peruvian pima cotton is superior to other cotton varieties with its unparalleled; softness and lasting strength. The event is free to attend and includes complimentary wine and 20% off all in-store purchases.” To RSVP, email or call 212-239-1219.

Meanwhile, back at the Palace: Meghan and Harry, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are in the headlines over there. A friend in London sent me an article from the London Times with the headline: Revealed: palace’s Africa plan for Harry and Meghan: courtiers offer royal “rock stars” break from UK.

The Times reported: “Courtiers have drawn up plans to hand the Duke and Duchess of Sussex a major international job that could see them moving abroad after the birth of their child, The Sunday Times can reveal.”

Continuing, “The proposal would give the couple the chance to enjoy a break from the divisions that have riven the royal household in recent months while “harnessing” their global appeal for Britain.

“Senior palace officials,” according to the Times article, “have concluded that a proper role needs to be found for Harry as Prince William starts preparing to be king. They want to keep Harry and Meghan as part of the royal ‘firm’ rather than letting them pursue their own projects, such as a planned television series on mental health with Oprah Winfrey.”

This is the kind press piece that I can’t resist. Even Oprah has got into the act. A friend of mine in London wrote: “It is most unfortunate (the sending Harry and Meghan away), and bound to alienate almost everyone. The most exclusive club in the world does not like outsiders, does not embrace diversity, does not value independent women and does not like change.  They’ve once again displayed an uncanny and particular talent for shooting themselves in the foot. And this is just a foretaste of what’s to come when QEII passes. But hey, it makes for excellent reading. And a welcome relief from Brexit.”

It is leftover from the saga of  the boys’ mother Princess Diana who remains in memory with bittersweet grace. Her presence in the world during her short life made a difference to so many people all over the world and actually elevated the Royal Family because she represented kindness and empathy. Her sons are heirs to that aura. Harry is almost, and was bound to be, as popular in the world as his mother – for the same reasons. He is England’s greatest ambassador of good will, glad tidings, and a better world for all. That may seem like it’s stretching it, but his image conveys that entirely.

Princess Diana with her sons Prince William (left) and Prince Harry, March 1993. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)

William the Duke of Cambridge is being “prepared” for the throne, but lacks that public mystique. He and his wife, Kate, wear the image of a well-to-do upperclass couple very well. When and if  his father succeeds to the throne, the Cambridges will become the Prince and Princess of Wales. 

As grand a title as it seems, William’s father Charles, the present Prince of Wales, has spent his entire life (he’s 70 this year) biding his time being as serious and useful and royally royal as he can be under the bizarre circumstances.  The last Prince of Wales to be in Charles’ position (of waiting and waiting) was his great-great-grandfather, Edward VII who was 61 when he succeeded his mother Queen Victoria to the throne. His comment about the circumstances at the time was short: “Too late.”

Bertie – as Edward VII was known to his family and his people, unlike Charles, had a mother who didn’t like being around the people or even being in London. So her son, then PoW, when hecame to maturity, had the advantage of having his mother’s availability to the rest of the world. And he flourished with it.

Bertie (right) with his mother Queen Victoria and Tsar Nicholas II (left), Empress Alexandra and baby Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, 1896.

When he came to the throne, he was King of an Empire and his political expertise and natural common sense affected the common man positively. It has often been written that had Bertie lived beyond 1910, there may never have been a World War I because of his relationship with his nephew, the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II.

There is no longer an Empire, however, and Queen Elizabeth II has developed and possessed the role of a monarch without great political power, but with enormous popular and political influence because of her manner, her womanhood and her natural sense of belonging with the people. That’s real power. It can be said that only Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex is eligible for that kind of reputation and role, on the throne or never on the throne.

Queen Elizabeth II by Harry Benson.

There has been a lot of talk, much of which was probably speculation, that since Harry’s marriage to Meghan, things have changed for him with his family. The resulting rumors have been that his wife and Will’s wife don’t get along; and that Meghan is a woman with her own American way of doing things, which is not appreciated.  

Again, the Times: … palace insiders say a hybrid role will be devised that would take them away from Britain for two or three years. “Discussions are at an early stage, but the plan is to find a new way of using their soft power abilities, most likely in Africa,” a source said.

A second source confirmed: “There are discussions in palace circles about: how do we harness Harry and Meghan? How do you harness this phenomenon that has emerged? You make it productive.”

Whatever occurs, Harry married far outside their “norm” since his duchess is American, an actress and already has been independently famous. The nearest comparison is Harry’s great-great-uncle, David, the Duke of Windsor who briefly was King Edward VIII until he abdicated to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. His influence was lost with the marriage, and he spent his the rest of his life living off of his legend and his royal background and bank account.

Harry and Meghan are the young couple of their time and their generation. It’s historically ironic — this business about sending them away. The same thing they tried to do with his mother whose memory exceeds any of the living royals with the exception of the Queen. But at this time in our history, I wonder if we’re looking at the end of the monarchy as it has been known. From these outsider-eyes, Meghan and Harry look like the future, and William and his wife look like the past.

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