The line currently making the rounds is that “Harry and Meghan are single-handedly modernising the royal family.”
Well, first, it’s not so much modernising as destroying, which in this context (and in most others) amounts to the same thing. And second, it’s far from single-handed.
The rot set in when Edward VIII married for ‘lurve’ and as a result became the Duke of Windsor. His beloved was a twice-divorced American woman of easy virtue, who had distinct pro-Nazi sympathies, so that was a meeting not just of bodies but also of minds.
Then Harry’s father married his mother, or, to use Harry’s preferred idiom, his dad married his mum. That marriage was arranged, which in theory should have worked better than ‘lurve’. In practice, it didn’t.
For Diana was a thoroughly modern woman, meaning that the notions of duty, service and honour were alien to her. She wanted the glamorous life of a princess, but without sacrificing her otherwise insignificant ego and ‘lurve’.
When that didn’t quite work out, Harry’s mum cuckolded his dad many times over and dragged our monarchy through the gauntlet of numerous glossy covers. Devoid of intelligence but richly endowed with cunning, she basked in media attention, while claiming to abhor it.
Her favourite trick was to tell the paparazzi where she’d be, strike all sorts of seductive poses for their benefit and then claim she was deeply traumatised by the subsequent photographs.
Because the royal family refused to accept her on her own terms, Diana declared war on it. The decisive battle was her BBC interview that had a strong emetic effect on sensible viewers.
Harry’s mum would flap her eyelashes histrionically, break her voice at appropriate moments, pour her heart out and confess she was besotted with Captain Hewitt, whose spitting image Harry is. (To be fair, he also bears some resemblance to Charles’s pictures at the same age, while ginger hair runs in Diana’s family.)
Hence there’s nothing single-handed about Meghan’s current star performance, with Harry playing a supporting role. They have a suitable role model in Harry’s mum, now that the word ‘mother’ has followed the word ‘he’ into the rubbish bin of lexicology.
Meghan claims to be traumatised by the incessant media attention she draws as a member of the royal family. Because of that, she says in her TV interview modelled on her late mum-in-law’s performance, she and Harry are reduced to bare “surviving”, missing on the “thriving” that’s their due.
Among other things, that’s a hidden reference to her race: “survivin and thrivin” is a stock jive reply to “How’s it goin?”. Here Meghan is using her mum-in-law’s material: she makes constant references to her black half, only then to accuse the media of being obsessed with it.
Thus on her visit to Africa she told impoverished natives she understood their plight as “a mother and a woman of colour”. That’s a hypocritical ploy often used by American black (in her case, half-black) activists who claim to be “Africans like you” – much to the real Africans’ consternation. What they see before them is Americans, not fellow Africans.
The same dishonesty comes across in Meghan’s complaints about the unbearable pressure of a life in the spotlight for which she was unprepared in spite of her friends’ warnings.
“Because I’m American I very naively didn’t get it. It’s complicated,” moans Meghan. But it’s not complicated at all, and if she really doesn’t get it, it’s not because she’s American, but because she isn’t very bright.
This is a Hollywood starlet that has never in her life missed the slightest photo opportunity, including posing nude, to squeeze every ounce of publicity out of her modest talents. Being in front of the camera and having every juicy detail of her private life scrutinised is her stock in trade, so forgive me if I don’t take her whining at face value.
Then came the inevitable New Age bilge about internalising emotions: “I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip… But I think what that does internally is probably really damaging.”
The Hollywood sensibility of stiff upper lap comes more naturally, one can understand that. But dignified restraint is really worth developing even if it doesn’t come naturally, and even if one isn’t a member of the royal family.
It’s simply good manners not to thrust one’s problems down other people’s throats. And self-restraint does no damage, not this side of New Age psychobabble quackery.
While stiff upper lip is widely associated with Englishness, it’s not an ethnic characteristic, but a cultural one. I’ve seen it displayed by New Englanders and Texans of a certain type as often as by Englishmen and Welshmen, with none of them looking particularly damaged by their emotional continence.
It’s only the brash, tasteless modern ignoramuses keeping Freudian quacks in business who are trained to let it all hang out not just physically but also emotionally.
This is also a manifestation of the modern tendency towards homogenising men and women into an emotionally hermaphroditic mass, while in parallel infantilising both sexes.
Harry, doubtless taking his cue from his wife, claims his mental health needs “constant maintenance” because his mum’s death is still a “festering wound”.
Now, Harry was 12 when his mum was tragically killed on her revenge mission against his dad and the rest of the family. He’s 35 now.
This ought to be enough time for any man to come to terms with his mum’s death, tragic as it doubtless was at the time. If he can’t do so, it’s only because he doesn’t realise that’s what grown-ups do, especially if they happen to be men.
Harry is crying out for our sympathy, but he isn’t entitled to it now, certainly not as much as he was in 1997. This emotional blackmail may be calculated or genuine, and I don’t know which is worse.
As to Meghan, she must realise how lucky she is. She has married into a life of wealth and privilege that’s not contingent on her being ‘nice’ to studio executives, agents, producers and directors. Moreover, it’s not vulnerable to age – she’ll still be the Duchess of Sussex even after her looks fade.
A little dignity and good taste seems a small price to pay, but if she genuinely feels it’s too exorbitant, perhaps her idea of moving to Africa with Harry has some merit. Let them renounce their titles, along with Civil List grants, and make a life for themselves among the people Meghan claims to understand so well.
My guess is that they’d be back to the Civil List and A-list delights within a month, two at the most. By the sound of it, Africa’s gain will be our loss.