Trying to avoid election news, I found myself reading about something which has been in the headlines for several months now: I mean, the possible engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
I am a convinced monarchist – not because I think they “give value for money” (I doubt it) or “work incredibly hard” (I doubt that too) – but because they are simply irreplaceable. Every nation needs a timeless manifestation of identity and heritage, and we have the best there is. If we didn’t have the Royal family, we’d have to make them up, as Americans do Uncle Sam, or the French, Marianne.
The Royal family – born to a position they didn’t choose as we all are, playing the hand they were dealt as best they can as we all do, – therefore, on some levels, have more in common with we plebs than does any ego-driven megalomaniac politician who has back-stabbed, lied, and sold all four grandparents in a salivating, red-clawed climb to power.
In good times, the monarchy is a beloved mascot, and in bad times a sacrificial lamb. But above all, the monarchy is no brief candle – it carries a tenuous thread of national identity back far beyond 1066, to long before the clear emergence of England, Wales and Scotland as nations. That identity is both constant and fluid, as best demonstrated by the monarch him/herself – because Bretwalda Athelstan, bane of the Vikings, and dainty Princess Elizabeth, dedicating her life to her country, both equally embodied Majesty to their people.
The change, and the survival, emotionally link us to our past and offer reassurance of our future – which is why it is Buckingham Palace which is the focus of national grief and rejoicing, not 10 Downing Street.
Naturally, the monarchy is always under scrutiny, but the reasons for disapproval, like the monarchy itself, morph according to our times. So, in 2017, the fact that Prince Charles and Camilla are both divorced has no bearing on Charles’ fitness to be crowned – but his typically Baby-Boomer demand that a basket of produce from Highgrove, including six types of honey, be delivered to him every single day wherever he is, certainly does.
Likewise, a previous generation would never have accepted the marriage of William and Kate. Times change, the monarchy changes.
And so, to Harry and Meghan.
Prince Harry is undoubtedly the monarchy’s current Golden Child. He has all the charm of his mother; he has fought for his country, he supports all the right charities. However, his popularity has slipped since he – metaphorically – threw his pint at the pub wall and squared up to the country in defence of his girlfriend last year. The palace statement roundly accusing his adoring public of racism and sexism, no matter how heartfelt, should never have been issued: someone far wiser should have ‘mislaid’ it until HRH went off the boil. But Prince Harry had a point: many of the comments against Meghan are idiotic at best, and none of them stand up to scrutiny.
She’s divorced? So is the first in line to the throne, and the trenchant, highly respected Princess Royal.
She’s three years older than her boyfriend? Good! The union of an adoring, virginal teenager with a man thirteen years her senior didn’t exactly make for marital harmony.
She’s an actress? Yes, but the word is no longer a euphemism for ‘prostitute’. The monarchy is theatre on a grand scale, and who knows better how to keep calm and carry on than a woman who is aware she must be on set, on time, in character, regardless of her personal feelings?
She’s a social climber? Well, who else would want to marry into the Royal family? And consider her achievements: burdened with certain family members who are dead-ringers for extras in Deliverance, Meghan has carved a niche for herself as a charity ambassador, behaved with composure, and taken responsibility for her own growth.
She’s American, and therefore somehow inherently undignified? Patently untrue; instead of whining about infringements of her personal freedoms, she has quietly and gracefully given up outside interests and activities which might compromise the Firm.
In fact, looked at logically – in the spirit of 2017, rather than 1917 – she seems to be highly qualified for the role of HRH. And wouldn’t a royal wedding brighten any general gloom and despondency? But logic has little to do with most of the ‘objections’ to this relationship – and the real reason some object to it doesn’t deserve the dignity of being specified.
We no longer have to sell our young royals into dynastic alliances and hand-picked blood-lines, so why not just enjoy the romance of the Harry and Meghan show? Because all that really matters is what any little girl will confirm: in the best fairy tales, the handsome prince and the beautiful princess fall in love and live happily ever after.