The Politics of Harry and Meghan

Like everybody else in this country, I have been fairly obsessed with the news that Harry and Meghan want out of the royal family. On the one hand, it’s completely insane that Americans, of all people, give two shits about anything to do with the monarchy. But on the other, it’s a really good drama, so shut up. This is better than Netflix.

Woke Twitter is firmly on Meghan’s side. They say that she’s been treated badly by the racist press and scheming royals. Buzzfeed has a viral article that contrasts the different way the British press has dealt with Meghan and Kate.

Truthfully, all royals get their share of roasting by the British tabloids. Kate got shit last year for having bandaids on her hands. Seriously. Bandaids. Or plasters, as they call them over there.

Is that situation okay? The love-hate relationship. The Brits support the monarchy, in exchange for ripping them down occasionally. I don’t know. That’s between the British people. It’s a situation that anyone who marries into the family is well aware of. They choose to make that exchange of money/status/privilege/nice clothes for life in a fish bowl. I don’t believe for a second that Meghan was surprised by all that.

Is Meghan a sympathetic figure? Well, the blind gossip websites here in the US have had tales about her for two years. She sacked three nannies in less than a year. They give the marriage five years tops. Again, I don’t care that much, except in a shallow, Friday morning sort of way.

The most interesting part of Megxit, at least for me, is the political and financial ramifications of this move.

In the US, our president is both the chief of state and the chief of government. Being the chief of state means that this person is a living symbol of the country. Countries have all sorts of symbols, from flags to buildings. But there is also a person that takes on that job.

In England, they divide up the job of chief of state and government. The queen is the living symbol of the country, while the prime minister runs the government. They like it that way, because it means the country has the continuity of the royal family that isn’t going anywhere, while prime ministers come and go. Whatever. It’s their system. I don’t have strong opinions on that.

But being the chief of state, a living emblem of a country, means that one has to always play the part. The Queen is never off duty. It’s a permanent, 24/7 job that is bound by rules and ritual. It’s a brand, but a brand that is entirely tied to the nation.

So, Harry and Meghan want to take the royal brand and make money with it. That causes problems. It’s like if Donald Trump changed the name of his hotels right now to The Oval Office or Presidential Suites or something. I mean, he’ll probably do that when he leaves office, but if he did it now, people would freak out. I suppose the Obamas are making a lot of money right as former White House residents, but they didn’t do it while they were in office. That distinction has always been important.

Harry and Meghan want to join the ranks of the new international Uber-wealthy, who don’t belong to any one country. The people who have empty penthouses in London and New York City. Russian mafia and Saudi princes. But those Russians and Saudis aren’t on the front page of the tabloids. They don’t need millions in security. Who will pay for all that?

And where will they pay taxes? In the UK or Canada or the US? Harry and Meghan are like a massive international corporation, like Apple and Amazon. Massive enterprises that cross national boarders.

These are complicated matters, as the Queen points out.

10 thoughts on “The Politics of Harry and Meghan

  1. Well, both Harry and Meghan have relatives who have divorced. On the Windsor side, Charles, Anne, and Andrew have divorced their spouses. On the Spencer side, Harry’s uncle is on his third marriage. So, if there is a divorce, I wouldn’t predict that the fault would be only on Meghan’s side. (They are well matched, in that they are both children of divorce.)

    It would make sense for Harry and Meghan to find their own area, probably outside of Britain. Harry’s now 7th in line for the throne. Relatives in similar positions have been encouraged to “get a life” by the palace. It’s interesting that Meghan did not give up her American citizenship. She has a perfect right to live in the United States, as does her husband. I’m not clear if the sovereign could force them to return. As with everything, follow what’s important. Not money in this case, but the baby. Archie’s in North America.

    The gossip sites, though, have no insight into the courtiers, the real powers behind the scenes. A 93 year old grandmother will have different ideas of what’s appropriate than 30 year olds, but it’s presumably filtered through a whole bunch of people. Similar people thought that Diana was a better match than Camilla, back in the day.

    I would wager that a British courtier’s idea of appropriate childcare (nannies, etc.) would differ markedly from an American actress’. Just to say that firing nannies is not necessarily a mark against her in my book.

    The British press has given Kate lots of grief over the years. They like to set up story lines, to amuse readers. So Kate was once the social-climbing, “waity Katy.” Now Meghan’s the foreign interloper. I find it bizarre to see throngs of journalists opining how Harry should behave. There are very few people still caught in hereditary positions; Harry’s one of them. It is a measure of the world’s progress that being a minor celebrity in North America is to be preferred to being the 7th in line for the British throne.

    They will need security, as do the other multinational wealthy people. They will keep teams of accountants and lawyers busy.

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  2. “Like everybody else in this country, I have been fairly obsessed with the news that Harry and Meghan want out of the royal family.”

    Speak for yourself. 😀

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  3. “Truthfully, all royals get their share of roasting by the British tabloids.”

    True, but is there an equivalent of the buzzfeed article with the parallel quotes? The buzzfeed collection was pretty dramatic, the pairing of the identical situation where the two were treated differently.

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  4. I think the celebrity/tabloid tradeoff (worse in England) is a pretty standard one. The difference, for Harry, is that he didn’t choose to be a celebrity, and, there’s an assymeric expectation that the tabloids can do whatever they want (hacking phones!!) and the royal family is supposed to remain civil and above it all.

    How they manage the “exit”? I think a lot depends on what their BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated solution) is. I try to teach my children to keep their needs low enough that their BATNA is always to walk away. Not, I think, what Charles teaches his kids. It seems like Harry gets something like 10+ million dollar allowance (and, gifts in kind, like a house)? I think they should be prepared to walk away without the money (or the title or the house). Can they replace the income? Megan seems to have walked away from a million dollars or so a year when she stopped acting. And folks estimate a 15+ million dollars in assets. So, what’s their current earning potential?

    So, the question is, are they willing to live on what they can earn, and what are they willing to do to maintain what support they get from the family, and, how do they feel about remaining part of the family? Depending on what the queen/others care about, what is her BATNA? does she care if they write tell all books? If Megan acts professionally? If there’s a reality show?

    I do think they should be provided with security, because, that’s the part of this relationship they can’t control.

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    1. “the royal family is supposed to remain civil and above it all.”

      …whereas I suspect that Harry has it in him to punch a reporter or two.

      If they moved to North America, they’d get much friendlier press.

      “And folks estimate a 15+ million dollars in assets. So, what’s their current earning potential?”

      Reasonable security would eat that up so fast, especially considering that it would be a good idea to have a fairly secure home set-up, on top of bodyguards, etc.

      Just from that point of view, they’re making a mistake. I think it would have been better to negotiate some kind of roving good-will-ambassador-to-the-colonies role. But kid goes to school eventually…Maybe something with the British Army again? It’s probably too late now, though.

      “So, the question is, are they willing to live on what they can earn, and what are they willing to do to maintain what support they get from the family, and, how do they feel about remaining part of the family? Depending on what the queen/others care about, what is her BATNA? does she care if they write tell all books? If Megan acts professionally? If there’s a reality show?”

      I’m not sure that cashing in is going to generate the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed, and the level of income is bound to diminish, unless they put in Kardashian-level amounts of work/are willing to suffer a Kardashian-level loss of dignity.

      “I do think they should be provided with security, because, that’s the part of this relationship they can’t control.”

      Right. Even just from the royal family’s point of view, what if something bad happened to Archie after being refused or losing security support?

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  5. The Meghan Harry drama and story and drama also has me thinking about the relationships between adult children and families, and the different phases of life. What leverage can parents use in their relationships with adult children?

    I’m pretty adamant that I think it’s inappropriate to use the leverage of tuition to force your child to choose a college major (and, I’m thinking when the money will be a gift, of money one has to spare) . But what about to listen to your opinion about their college major? What about requiring a monthly report on college (a set of grandparents I know demanded monthly emails in return for helping with tuition).

    My own parents didn’t provide direct financial support except in college (and even then, it was less than a quarter of the cost). But, I always had a place to stay and they always provided food when I was home. And, when I was fully an adult, they provided child care for many years. They made no demands in return.

    Harry and Meghan are in a more complicated situation, with a family brand and security concerns and public lives even when Harry was a child. But this give and take and change in the parenting relationship is a negotiated in all families who have assets to offer.

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    1. Doug said,

      “I think it’s just a tiny bit relevant that the press hounded Harry’s mother to death, two weeks before he turned fourteen.”

      Yeah. Becoming a father has probably triggered a lot of memories.

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