The land of my birth is still pretty much in lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so everybody has been “glued to the box” (British slang for avidly watching TV) to keep up with all the royal happenings during these troubled times. Before we get into the whole Prince Harry and Meghan Markle saga, there are several other things of note which are of concern to the Queen right now.
Firstly, Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years who will be 100 years old in three months, has been in hospital for three weeks and is recovering from a heart operation.
More publicly, senior members of the royal family, led by the Queen, have been trying to support and reassure the citizens of the UK which sadly has one of the highest number of deaths from COVID 19 across the world. Britain is densely populated with 68 million people crowded together on an island the size of Georgia plus about half of Florida, so the virus has hit the UK very hard. While people all over the world are suffering due to the pandemic, my heart breaks for everyone back in Great Britain.
Just last weekend, with her husband very sick indeed, the Queen broadcast a special TV interview speaking of the importance of staying in touch with family and friends during “testing times”. Senior royals including the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appeared with her to mark Commonwealth Day as the Queen is Head of the Commonwealth. The Queen used her rare TV broadcast to highlight the “friendship, spirit of unity and achievements” around the world and the benefits of working together in the fight against the coronavirus. “The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others,” she said. This comment is a significant contrast to the turmoil engulfing her own family.
Of course, this broadcast by the Queen was timed to be just before the controversial media interview of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by Oprah Winfrey which broadcast last Sunday in the USA and last Monday in the UK. Just in case you have somehow avoided this controversy, here is a quick recap. British Prince Harry, the Queen’s grandson, married American actress Meghan Markle in May 2018. They had a son Archie the following year and ‘separated’ from the rest of the royal family in early 2020 – moving to Canada and then Los Angeles in the USA. They are now expecting a little girl this summer.
When people ask me what I think of the estrangement between Harry and Meghan and the rest of the royal family I say that I can understand that Meghan found herself in a different country and culture and the focus of a lot of media attention which must have been very stressful. During the interview with Oprah Winfrey Meghan talked openly about her mental health and suicidal thoughts when living in the UK. I can understand and respect the fact that the Prince wants to protect the privacy, health and happiness of his wife and family. Remember, while he was still a boy, he lost his mother Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris while she was being pursued by paparazzi. As a generalization, people in the USA are more sympathetic to their situation whereas the British, and the British media in particular – which Meghan and Harry criticized during the interview – are extremely critical of the couple.
Personally, as a citizen of both the UK and the USA I can see both sides of the situation. However, I struggle to understand or accept the way Meghan and Harry have gone about leaving the royal family – in spite of their public reassurances about their respect for the Queen. It was unrealistic for the couple to leave the UK and a royal life of public service, but still expect to pick and choose the parts of royal life and the royal titles and perks that they liked. The couple has further alienated much of the British public by attempting to cash in on their celebrity status. Many media reports say that they are being paid $7m or more for their interview with Oprah, although they claimed not to have been paid, and what is certain is that they have also signed deals with Netflix and Spotify. Meghan reportedly has even invested in a start-up company that markets an instant oat milk latte. Harry defends all this by saying the royal family cut off his money and he needs to fund security services to protect his wife and children. He has been forced to survive on the money his mother, Princess Diana, left him – which must be plenty as he purchased a $14.5 million home in California.
By contrast, the rest of the royal family justify their position in modern British society by what the Queen calls “a life of total service”. She truly lives a life of service to the British people, not only as an important figurehead hosting Heads of State and leading the nation in events of remembrance and celebration, but she also continues well into her 90’s to carry a very full schedule. Before the pandemic she visited charities, schools, and a multitude of public events, always to the delight of her adoring public, and continues to do as much as possible to support the nation during these challenging times. According to www.royal.uk, the official website of the British Royal Family, “The Queen sees public and voluntary service as one of the most important elements of her work …. The Queen has links, as Royal Patron or President, with over 600 charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organisations.”
I will leave you with a quote from Prince Harry from about 15 years ago, when he served in the British army, long before he met Meghan. “Once you’re in the military, she means a lot more to you than just a grandmother. She is the Queen. And then you suddenly, it’s like start realizing, you know, wow, this is quite a big deal. And then you get goosebumps and then the rest of it.” A bit sad considering the state of his relationship with his grandmother today.
God Bless America and the British royal family! Stay safe, stay well, and stay positive.
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