An American divorcee sweeps in and steals the heart of a British royal forcing him to abdicate and live the rest of his days in exile. Sound familiar?
Well, when Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson in 1937, he had already been king for a year and it changed the course of history prompting his brother George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s dad, to step in and fill the vacant throne (because royals couldn’t marry divorcees).
Harry and Meghan’s ‘Hard Megxit’, where they step back from royal duties, depend less on taxpayers money, and head to Canada, is a little different.
Both are already married. Harry is not king and he has no immediate chance of being so, but his exit does lumber his sibling William with even more responsibility, leaving the older brother with the same sort of resentment a young Elizabeth must have had for her uncle after her father died.
The timing is also not great, Harry’s 93-year-old grandmother is already reeling from the scandal of Prince Andrew’s links to paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and her husband, 98-year-old Prince Philip, has not been in the best of health.
Hopefully this in some ways sad departure will at least prompt some self-reflection from within British culture, at a time when what’s happening to Harry and Meghan is somewhat reflective of wider society in the UK as a whole what with Brexit and all
A boon or bane?
On top of this the sentiment is similar to Edward’s abandonment; your royal duty, something you were blessed and cursed to be born with can be traded in at the drop of a hat, and that too it can threaten to undermine the crown’s very existence.
But let’s face it, it’s 2020 not 1936. The press may be having a field day but it’s not representative of wider public opinion.
Having grown up with the ginger spare heir and images of him following his mother’s coffin in 1997 after her death by paparazzi, most would have grown a soft spot for the free spirit and can more than understand where his bitterness with the press stems from.
They, after all, were the ones who unmasked his recreational meanderings, ruined his relationships and gave away his position in Afghanistan while on active duty forcing him to come back early, not just putting his life and the lives of others at risk but also making sure that any attempt to lead a normal life was well and truly scuppered.
Now, it is, of course, a shame that his even more relatable marriage to a commoner, that too to a divorcee of a different race, can’t continue to sit at the forefront of the monarchy and challenge age old perceptions and make them even more relatable as a royal family, but in a way perhaps their absence still can achieve and underline this.
The older generation will look at this and see a typical millennial cop-out just as the going gets tough, but the ones who own that mantle will see free will and the ability to break out of a robotic cycle.
The brave one
Stay as a spare heir and continue to have your wife and child picked off as fair game, or stand up and do something about it. Running in this instance might just be the new staying put, and I bet every royal must have dreamed of such a bailout, it’s just that Harry’s been brave enough to do it.
By actioning the unthinkable he could of course just be making it worse. The press can’t react if they have nothing to react to and now you’ve rather prompted every national newspaper to just hire a Canadian stringer.
But hopefully this in some ways sad departure will at least prompt some self-reflection from within British culture, at a time when what’s happening to Harry and Meghan is somewhat reflective of wider society in the UK as a whole what with Brexit and all.
We could have been kind, we could have been inclusive, but instead we chose to push people away and now the collective is falling apart. Now we could say it’s the press or the politicians, but at the very least we’ve been complicit in consuming that tabloid trash or voting those policies in.
They may be royals but they deserve a private life as much as we do, and the choice to relocate or try something new beyond their gilded cage should be just as accessible to them as it is to us.
Much as we would take a better job offer if it came along, the chance for Harry and Meghan to do so too — freeing themselves from bit part royal duty in order to cash in on greater opportunities — should likewise be available.
People might say this will split the royal family, but perhaps it’s a natural progression of the role beyond the stale and formulaic, and perhaps Harry and Meghan are pioneers in this regard. It won’t be a disaster and it certainly won’t be as contentious as 1936.
The monarchy has changed and what little influence it has left to do good could be spread a little wider than a few stiffs sitting in London.