Poor Prince Harry. Rather than a dynastic crisis shaking the foundations of the British monarchy, the West’s oldest political institution, “Megxit” has played out as a therapeutic family intervention on behalf of a fragile, prodigal but much-loved younger son.
Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s most admired woman according to a Gallup poll, emerged yesterday from a family summit at Sandringham Castle with a benevolent response to her grandson’s flight from royal responsibility in tow to a calculating wife.
The unprecedented summit was held after Harry and Meghan’s bombshell news last week about their desire to be financially independent, step back as senior royals, and move to North America.
It is Macbeth redone as situation comedy, with Meghan Markle miscast as Lady Macbeth and a cameo appearance by Oprah Winfrey as lead Witch.
The Queen stated that she has had “constructive” talks with other senior royals on the future of Prince Harry and Meghan and will allow the couple to spend time in Canada and the UK during a “period of transition.” The Queen said the Royal Family “respect and understand” the pair’s desire for a “new life,” although they would have preferred for them to remain “full-time working members.”
To British eyes, it seems natural that the 93-year-old Queen should help her beloved grandson Harry, who at 12 walked behind his mother Princess Diana’s coffin in front of the nation. But the kindly monarch has also made a Machiavellian move. Despite the appearance of royal crisis, the monarchy is well protected. The queen has seized a teachable moment for the benefit of her future heirs Charles, William and George.
Succession and continuity are paramount. Britain is in good standing for succession with a line of future generational successors stretching a century into the future. Queen Elizabeth II nears the end of her reign, the embodiment of ancient tradition and the authority of enduring values. The crown remains while the escapades of errant family members such as Diana, Margaret, Andrew and now Meghan decay into yesterday’s gossip.
The final decisions on how the couple will organize their time, titles and finances – whether they can “abdicake and eat it too” – will be made in the coming days.
UK opinion polls have largely welcomed their exit, so long as the British taxpayer is not implicated, although they cite Meghan as the cause. In place of the witches’ prophecy, this recasting of Shakespeare’s tragedy has the betting house Ladbrokes, which offers overwhelming odds that Harry and Meghan will divorce in the next five years rather than rejoin the Royal Family. Bookmakers are giving odds of 3/1 for Harry and Meghan to get divorced by 2025, and 1/14 odds that the Sussexes will resume royal duties.
As I wrote in Asia Times on June 4, Harry and Meghan made the mistake of thinking that they mattered. Harry, although at one time Britain’s most popular Royal, is sixth in line to the throne and constitutionally irrelevant. They were a fairytale couple, who first were embraced from their nuptials and beyond, as hugely popular and a welcomed asset in their royal duties. Contrary to reports of racism or anti-American sentiment, Harry and Meghan at first received some of the best royal press ever, leaving many to wonder how they let it slip away.
But it has since emerged that the rules of Royal engagement were never Meghan’s plan. Harry was her modern-day “power couple” prince. Several sources reveal that Meghan months ago set up a private company in Delaware, managed by her former Hollywood management team. Her early-November visit to New York to watch Serena Williams play in the US Open was a blind for private meetings on American soil with her power brokers.
She plotted the break at a subsequent six-week sabbatical with baby Archie at a Vancouver hideaway. Meghan maneuvered for the optimal exit deal with the help of a team of hard-knuckled damage limitation and divorce lawyers, assisted by a high-powered public relations firm, retained early in her marriage to manage her image and galvanize future commercial opportunities for her personal professional future.
Meghan has one Trump card, so to speak, namely her passing usefulness to the progressive wing of US politics. Consultations with the Obamas and the Clooneys, and Frogmore Cottage home drop-ins by Hillary Clinton, position her as Fifth Columnist for the US Democratic Party within the highest level of British society. The left-wing American media spin Meghan’s narcissism into a horrible example of racism perpetrated by traditional institutions, and hope to make her into a poster-girl for the progressive narrative.
By contrast, the British public smells the mercenary social-climber behind the pretense of victimization. Meghan refused to attend the Buckingham Palace reception for President Donald Trump, a political gesture incompatible with the monarchy’s above-politics position. She invited only one family member to her Windsor Palace wedding, an expression of contempt for the humble origins which she now wants to flaunt at the supposedly snooty British Establishment.
But this is Harry’s drama, not Meghan’s. His American wife marginalized his old friends and army comrades. Isolated from his family and the military in which he served with distinction and enthusiasm, Harry was miserable and confused. He opened himself up to public scrutiny and embarrassed himself by preaching about climate change while traveling on private jets. His old friends have talked about the distancing of Harry from his family, military, friends and now country,
All the while a clandestine PR team managed internally by former Hillary Clinton campaign aide Sarah Latham and externally by Hollywood power broker Ken Sunshine spun a tale about British hostility to the couple. They’re not fooling the British, who have responded with their usual good sense and caustic humor to this unwanted intrusion of Tinseltown spin. The liberal media in the United States meanwhile has lapped up the Latham-Sunshine story, with a tongue-clicking commentary in the New York Times about supposed British racism.
While Britain is sad that Harry, once one of the country’s most beloved Royals, begins his transition, this debacle now moves away from UK soil and becomes a much bigger playground for the couple in North America. Their goal is to control their own media narrative by taking advantage of the generational gap, building momentum with the under 30s who view them more favorably.
The media, however, will continue to examine their every move. Every contract, documentary, relationship, cause or initiative they pursue will be subject to intensive scrutiny and become a potential minefield. Moving to North America, the couple will lose the protection of above-politics status and could embrace full-on the force of election-year carnage.
Shakespeare’s modern-day tragedy will unfold no doubt on Oprah’s next mental health special on Apple TV. The British expect that Harry will regret that he gave up friends, family, and the dignity of royal status for a life in Hollywood where – as Carrie Fisher said – the three people closest to you are your therapist, your divorce lawyer and your personal trainer.