Following COVID protocols to a T, Queen Elizabeth sat alone in the church during Prince Philip’s funeral; even though everyone was vaccinated, it was necessary to follow the rules so there would be no have and have not comparisons with the commoners. But even if she had her closest friend next to her at that moment, she would still be wrecked after losing her husband of over 70 years. I can’t conceive of that sort of pain.
It’s been a terribly tough year for the older folks. My aunt lost her husband; it was early on during the pandemic, so he spent most of his final days by himself in a hospital bed. My neighbor just celebrated the one year anniversary of her mother-in-law, a vital woman in her late sixties who used to wave at me as she did laps around the block with the twins’ baby carriage. This year, there were too many widows and widowers, who like the Queen, must now sit alone.
This year was about more than inconveniences. It was about grief. It’s easy to forget that in our own particular bubbles.
Prince Philip was a relic from another age. As a WWII veteran, he was first and foremost a believer in duty and service. Service to one’s country didn’t necessary only have to happen on the battle field. Service also meant contributing to the common good by doing good deeds.
The royal family reinvented itself in the 20th century as an organization devoted to promoting good works. They had thousands of “patronages” or organizations that they lent their good name. They showed up with handshakes, mumbles of support, and with the press to capture the moment. That’s what those organizations really wanted after all; greater recognization brings in donations and awareness of their particular issues.
Our First Ladies have sort of taken on that role in our country. Michelle Obama promoted healthy living. Nancy Reagan’s slogan “just say no” is still well known. Melania tried for a week to stop end cyber bullying with her “Be Best” campaign, but it’s hard to be married to the world’s biggest bully and pull that one off. I do think American leaders could take a page from Prince Philip on the positive uses of fame.
Speaking of recognition or lack thereof, let’s talk about Meghan and Harry. With the recent accusations and explosions on Oprah, the royal family is still pissed off. And the public was far more curious about whether or not the brothers would get along, then the meaning of the flags draped over the coffin.
All week, Meghan’s PR people sent out missiles to the fluffy American magazines. It’s easy to find. Just google her name and look under the “news” column. Basically, there’s the same story reprinted in a dozen or so magazines all attributed to some nameless source.
At first, the PR stories said that Meghan wished that she could go to England to support Harry during this time of family conflict, and that she was willing to accept an apology from the family. That must not have played well, because the message shifted during the week to Meghan was very sad about losing Prince Philip, whom she was VERY close (ha). She insisted she was VERY MUCH a part of that family (which she publicly slammed a few weeks ago). She sent him a “touching” personal note and a wreath with very significant flowers to the funeral.
Her minions also sent out a message that Harry was missing her terribly and that was going to leave right after the funeral. That felt like a personal message to Harry that he better get his ass home pronto. Turns out, he staying around and having peace chats with his family. I have no idea how they will ever be in the same room as Meghan again, but we’ll see.
Meghan and Harry’s business plan was to make money out of being known. That’s it. Celebrity status and google hits turned into a money machine. Now, that’s not a bad plan. If you go into a book store, the books on the tables up in front — the only tables that actually bring in royalties and profit — have a celebrity on the front cover. Maybe that celebrity is sharing cooking recipes or their views on life, but most books — except for those that perched on a coffee table to demonstrate erudition — are sold because of the celebrity on the cover.
She wasn’t allowed to do that in England. And as the wife a second son, who is pretty far away from ever being king, she was supposed to play a supporting role. She didn’t want to stand behind Kate, because that’s bad for the brand, so she left to do things her own way in another country. Here, she’s free to start the Meghan and Harry company.
I can’t imagine listening to Harry and Meghan’s perspectives on life on a Spotify podcast, because they haven’t done anything, read any books, or have any talents. But I am not a typical person. Those two sold major, major deals to Spotify and Netflix on the basis of their celebrity and their brand. Let’s see if it pays off for them. Those deals can be cancelled at any time. The money is not in their bank. Those millions that are touted in the press is potential money. In order to actually get that money, they have to get viewers. In order to get viewers, they have to maintain their celebrity status and google hits. Hence, the on-going PR reports.
But what is their brand, if they are no longer part of the royal family? Meghan’s been trying to rebrand herself as an American royalty (ew) and as the Queen of Compassion. Her PR reports often reuse words like “sweet,” and “thoughtful.” Her old website, which they were supposed to delete, but never did, uses words like “doing good.” Her new one had the word “compassion” in large letters. I do have to wonder whether it is entirely compassionate to trash one’s family on national television. She looked more angry and vengeful than compassionate on that Oprah show.
If Meghan had hung around for a few more years and had the opportunity for some fabulous photo-ops, she could have solidified the royal brand and then taken it on the road. Instead, it’s Kate who had the gorgeous pictures, while wearing a necklace once worn by Princess Di. I wonder how that’s all playing out in California.
Going forward, there’s big decisions to make. Like who’s going to take over the hundreds of patronages that were previously handled by Harry, Andrew, and Philip. Those are a lot of charities that will no longer get the royal fairy dust. They’re also going to have to decide what’s going to have to happen after the Queen goes. Charles and Camilla do not have much fairy dust. What’s going to be the next page in the royal story? I don’t know, but I’m hooked.
UPDATE: Tom Sykes in the Daily Beast wonders whether Harry and William can really reconcile without an apology from Meghan.
UPDATE2: From the New York Times: “The modern royal family, experts said, has defined itself and justified its taxpayer support largely through its public works.” And Prince Charles is taking a larger public role. Which is pretty much what I said here a week ago.