A Royal Mess: An American’s Thoughts on all the Royal DRAMA, Part 6

This is Part 6 in of a series of posts on the crazy royal family. Here’s Part 1,  Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 and Part 5.

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.

34 thoughts on “A Royal Mess: An American’s Thoughts on all the Royal DRAMA, Part 6

  1. Think about it this way. The crown prince is in his seventies. The next-up is pushing forty, and the next-next-up is almost a tween. We know what the kingship will look like for the entire 21st century.

    The lesser relatives who are mostly tabloid fodder are invisible to anybody who doesn’t pay attention to the tabloids or the show business pages.

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    1. I think I’m finding the whole branding and celebrity business stuff interesting, because I’ve been reading books and newsletters about the book selling business. I finished a book proposal last week, so I’m shopping it around. I might have better luck if I called myself Duchess Laura.

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      1. Duchess doesn’t seem to be a title to convey your many talents–Camilla has devalued the brand. Maybe Lady Laura McKenna, Marchioness of Ridgewood?

        I am not looking forward to Kind Charles–the previous two are not role models I’d like to see followed much. And I am not ready for Queen Camilla. I lived in Englad for three years when I was growing up–6th-8th grade, and served with the British Army in Germany for two years. I kept hoping that the Queen would take us back during the last presidential administration, but if King Charles would want us back, I’d resist.

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  2. I also enjoy surfing the internet about the royal family, but in the Tatler corner rather than the Daily Mail. I entirely don’t understand why Meghan plays such an outsize role in people’s head space (10 mentions in this post and I entirely don’t understand Piers Morgan).

    I enjoyed the family tree. It was interesting to note that Elizabeth II’s father (Edward abdicated), grandfather (Albert died), and great grandfather (Victoria, when women were at the end of the line) were all the 2nd children of the monarch! I’d never noted that before.

    Since I don’t like Charles, I’d have been amused to see a generation skip.

    Also, interesting to see the birth rates and age of last birth. Victoria had her last child at 38, Alexandra at 37, Mary at 38, Elizabeth at 30, Elizabeth II at 39, Diana at 23, Catherine at 36 (though Catherine is 39, so data is still incomplete). And, number of children, 10, 6, 6, 2, 4, 2, 3.

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    1. I think it’s hard for anyone of that generation – who’s basically outlived her contemporaries to take comfort.
      I remember one of my great aunts saying, at her sister’s funeral, that there was no one left to call her “Kath” – she was Gran or Aunty to everyone left in the family, and had outlived all her brothers and sisters and close friends.

      It takes around 5 years to really come to terms with the loss of a partner — especially a long-standing partner. And by that I mean, not ceasing to grieve, but to no longer being ambushed by immediate waves of grief in daily life. By then, QE2 will be 100. Realistically, this is something she is never going to get over…..

      I don’t expect her to collapse, or to retire from public life (aka Queen Victoria). She’s bred in a much sterner line of duty than that. She’ll continue to present her dignified public persona and do her duty for however long is left to her.

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    2. There is pretty much zero chance of Charles abdicating – which is what it would take for him to *not* be king. He’s been ‘in waiting’ for most of his life…. not going to give it away.

      And, to be fair – William’s kids are a bit young to have a parent as King. It was pretty obvious that Elizabeth’s children (about the same ages at the time of accession) were pretty neglected (in terms of parental closeness, rather than materially!) growing up.
      I’ve often thought that explains a lot. Really, Edward is the only one who has managed a stable relationship.

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  3. “I entirely don’t understand why Meghan plays such an outsize role in people’s head space” Are you serious? I mean serious? She just called her in-laws racists on national tv. She did an hour long special with Oprah that was watched by millions. She sends out daily PR reports. She wants to be in our heads. She created a major drama, a major mess, and you want to know why I am following the drama? I don’t know how to respond to that.

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    1. Have you read Good Talk by Mira Jacobs? She also discusses racism and her in laws. Good Talk (in graphic format) explains racism in the form of questions asked by Mira’s son. These are common discussions in the anti-racist community.

      Branding is not one of my interests so I hear of press releases from Meghan except from you.

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      1. Harry and Meghan have been the top of every news show for the past month. Lester Holt, the Today Show, CNN has been talking about them non-stop, too. From whatever reason, this has been a big topic in the news. I think it’s a relief from wall-to-wall bad news elsewhere. People want something else beyond cop killing and COVID deaths. Understandable.

        Tom Sykes in the Daily Beast wonders whether Harry and William can really reconcile without an apology from Meghan. https://www.thedailybeast.com/a-real-prince-harry-and-prince-william-reconciliation-has-to-include-meghan-markle

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      2. Harry and Meghan have been the top of every news show for the past month. Lester Holt, the Today Show, CNN has been talking about them non-stop, too. From whatever reason, this has been a big topic in the news.

        CNN talks about the Kardashians too.

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      3. Yes, my point was just that it’s not only me or Piers who have been following this story. I also had opinions on the Kardashians, but they are last week’s news.

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    2. I entirely don’t understand why Meghan plays such an outsize role in people’s head space” Are you serious? I mean serious?

      It’s a serious question, especially for Americans. I mean, I lived as a guest of the Windsors for over eight years and they occupy very little of my head space. From an American perspective, this drama is about on the level of whatever the Kardashians are up to and I can’t even name all of them or what they are up to. William did come to my workplace once (no, I didn’t meet him) and that was kind of fun in its own way but it didn’t actually affect anything we actually did, either in the short or long term.

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  4. “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. ”

    I don’t know that Elizabeth, herself, possesses a lot of fairy dust (glamour). It’s more the role of the Queen which adds weight to her patronage. This will work exactly the same for Charles & Camilla – it’s not their ‘persons’ but their ‘personages’ who have the magic.

    The fairy-dust component has always been the young, glamorous and attractive (well, relatively speaking) members of the family. Now that H&M are out of the equation (and, believe me, they are – there is zero place for M in Britain, she has made a bonfire of any bridges) – I see it as being probably William and Kate – with their children stepping into the limelight over the next 10 years.

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  5. “She sent him a “touching” personal note and a wreath with very significant flowers to the funeral.”

    I don’t know how this played out in the States – but here in NZ, publicizing this (releasing details about the note and the ‘meaningful’ wreath) was seen as deeply tacky.
    More M trying to push herself front and centre into an occasion where she had only the most minor of peripheral roles. Someone who is completely tone-deaf to the life of service that Prince Philip exemplified.

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  6. I lived as a guest (not a subject) of two separate monarchs (Elizabeth II, Queen of England and Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia) for over eight years and still managed to be mostly royal-agnostic. I did not follow their activities or the attempts by the press to interpret or misinterpret their antics. I also think that we Americans over-estimate our understanding and ability to understand British culture and mores.

    That said, I did figure out a few things:

    1. There is a huge generational divide in how the royals are regarded. Much of the older generation (think, the older Brexit crowd) reveres the institution. The younger, not so much, and really doesn’t care. The reason that the older crowd is more interested and respectful goes to what I think of as the true purpose of the institution and it isn’t

    an organization devoted to promoting good works.

    That’s what they are doing at the moment but that isn’t their purpose or function. The real purpose and function of the monarchy is stability. The purpose of the monarchy is to have a reliable institution in times of existential crisis. This is why the older crowd has so much reverence for the institution. They either have cogent memories or internalized from their parents the role the monarchy played during the war.

    Indeed, one can see how this function played out in other countries last century. Holland and Norway were able to have undisputed continuity of government after their military capitulated because their parliaments dissolved and governance was devolved to the monarchy. More recently, the 23-F military coup in Spain was chopped off at the knees after the revolutionaries made the mistake of allowing the King to address the country (believing that he was a sympathizer) and he ordered the military back into their barracks and for the country to respect the elected government.

    We’ve decided that we don’t need that backstop but I have no doubt that the silliness of January 6 would not have happened if we had a monarch with public legitimacy telling the country to respect the election results. No, I’m not a monarchist, but I do respect how this institution might have some value.

    2. The question of

    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

    is real. There is a good reason, besides wanting to leave Victoria in the dust, that Elizabeth hasn’t abdicated. Namely, Charles was in the past universally regarded as a doofus and there was real concern that a King Charles III monarchy would do irreparable damage. Australia has already had one close referendum to ditch the Queen (due to their resentment over the Governor General overthrowing the government in the 1970s) and most of the people I talked to about this said that the day Charles succeeded the throne of Australia was the day that Australia became a republic.

    My impression is that, at least in England, things have improved on this front but I think there was a point where Elizabeth was hanging on long enough to force Charles to defer to William.

    Which gets to…

    3. The actual dynamic of the royal family is mostly inscrutable and especially to Americans who don’t even fully understand British conversational tone and demeanor (although we think we do). That said, Harry’s issues with his father and grandparents predate the whole Megan thing. Of all the things that one could observe about the royals the most obvious was that Harry especially thought that his father was a hopeless doofus and blamed him (and others) for his mother’s death. The idea that this was all Megan’s doing does not give his agency full credit and it seems as likely that he is using her to manipulate things as the other way around.

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    1. On the stability question – one of the points of casual conversation about taking the monarchy out of the Canadian government is the question of what happens to First Nations land rights – since the original transfer were agreements (“agreements”) with the Crown, would they be voided?

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    2. “We’ve decided that we don’t need that backstop but I have no doubt that the silliness of January 6 would not have happened if we had a monarch with public legitimacy telling the country to respect the election results. No, I’m not a monarchist, but I do respect how this institution might have some value.”

      interesting. thinking about that.

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    3. Jay said: “I think there was a point where Elizabeth was hanging on long enough to force Charles to defer to William.”

      I think that’s a mis-reading of Elizabeth’s motivations. She has a sense of duty inculcated bone-deep. At her coronation she swore to a life of service – and that’s exactly what she means to carry out.

      And, I strongly doubt that any of the Commonwealth countries would switch monarchs when QE2 dies. There’s always a lot of chatter about this – but the ‘benefits’ of switching don’t outweigh the ‘costs’ in most people’s minds – there’s a huge amount of inertia to overcome as well.
      Countries have tended to leave the Commonwealth due to internal political dynamics – the monarch has been pretty much irrelevant to this decision.
      [NB: the strongly politicized and divisive US election has not done anti-monarchists any favours…..]

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  7. I actually feel sorry for Charles and Camilla. I think he means well, but he isn’t suited to the job. He’s a private school history teacher, not a star. He has a skin condition, which turns his face bright red. And now he’s in his 70s. I don’t think he’s stupid — he was talking about climate change before it was fashionable — but he’s boring, wimpy, and totally out-of-touch with the public.

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    1. I actually feel sorry for Charles and Camilla.

      Charles, maybe, although he is pretty much the architect of his own problems. He is a tragic figure, in the literary sense, in that he is a doomed figure inevitably undone by his own flaws. Camilla, what is there to feel sorry for?

      For all of them, what is there to feel sorry for?

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      1. I think it must be hard to be the focus of so much mockery and hate. They have an Instagram page and the comments are very cruel. If you think that Meghan’s haters are mean, you should see Camilla’s haters. Shudder.

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      2. It would be foolish of them to read it. I doubt they make the posts, why should they read the responses? That is someone else’s job.

        I know there’s a whole genre of celebrities read mean tweets or whatever, but that doesn’t mean the actual celebrities do the posts etc. Especially for royalty there will be someone handling that. I would think that’s important to separating person and personage. It certainly gives space to not take it personally.

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  8. I don’t think he’s stupid — he was talking about climate change before it was fashionable — but he’s boring, wimpy, and totally out-of-touch with the public.

    None of these people are rocket scientists. Most of them are what you get when you take 95 IQ people and give them access to unlimited education and leisure time and zero accountability for results.

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  9. Harry and Meghan have been the top of every news show for the past month.

    Interesting. Why?

    I suppose this is the aftereffect of hiring top-shelf PR people. As I don’t watch tv news, it just seems tasteless to me to have PR people placing fluffy articles when there’s a death in the family. I have no idea what a “note to Prince Phillip” is supposed to do–it sounds like a very self-serving bit of dramatic maneuvering. Is this a custom I’ve missed? I assume the dead don’t read, and they don’t watch CNN.

    The royal business is made up of grand set pieces, in which everyone has a role to play, determined by custom, the royal advisors, and the monarch. There isn’t space for the show to become The Meghan Show. There was space for her to be the Duchess, a minor part, taking care of a carefully curated set of charities. The life probably would have called for her to spend lots of time visiting charities, cutting the ribbons at community events, and attending fancy dinners.

    I assume Charles and Camilla will do fine. As I said, it’s a very formal life. There isn’t a lot of space for improvisation. The court’s PR team will get on it. I have a lot of sympathy for Charles and Camilla, because I think they should have been allowed to marry each other back in the day.

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