Harry and Meghan: The Paradox of Being Both Royal and Private

Photo by Mark Jones licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Regardless of one’s personal stance on the monarchy, there is little doubt that Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in May 2018 was a happy occasion. It was a momentary break from the divisive rhetoric that has come to define modern politics. It was a happy day for those whose enduring memory of Harry is that of a young boy walking behind his mother’s coffin. After openly confiding about the pain of losing his mother at a young age, and his struggle to find a partner who would accept the fishbowl existence of royal life, there was a sense of cheer — and relief — at seeing Harry settle down.

It was clear from the moment of their engagement, that Harry and Meghan intended to do things differently. A self-made and modern American woman from a working-class, mixed-race and dysfunctional family, Meghan’s entry into royal life was seen as a breath of fresh air in a somewhat stuffy British court.

While Harry’s brother William and his wife Catherine have found their own pace and style of royal life, theirs is still guided to a large degree by convention and protocol given their status as the future King and Queen Consort. Harry and Meghan do not have the same burden of expectation and are freer to forge their own path. In recent months, however, there has been growing concern that the couple may be going farther than the public is comfortable with.

The first signs of the couple’s growing desire to break free from the influence of the Palace came shortly after their wedding when rumours of tension between Harry and William came to light. Gossip in the tabloids alleged that William had privately expressed his concerns that Harry was rushing into marrying Meghan. William supposedly worried that the couple had not spent enough time together given they had only dated long-distance for just over a year at the time of their engagement.

These rumours were given credence when it was unexpectedly announced that the Sussexs had opted to move to Windsor rather than Kensington Palace — next door to William and Catherine — as had been planned when their engagement was announced.

The Royal Court attempted to downplay this decision by stating that the couple simply preferred the relative privacy Windsor offered over the busier and public location of Kensington. Yet despite these denials, it’s clear that the once close brothers have drifted apart. Indeed, the two refuse to even stand next to each other at official family functions.

It is true that Windsor will offer Harry and Meghan more privacy to raise their family, but this decision is quickly becoming a public relations fiasco and changing the narrative surrounding the couple.

In June, a financial report released from Buckingham Palace showed that the couple’s new home — Frogmore Cottage — had cost British taxpayers £2.4m in renovation costs. It is believed that the majority of the costs were to cover security upgrades and foundation work needed to convert the Cottage — which consisted of five conjoined smaller homes — into a single-family dwelling. It was stated by the Palace that the Duke and Duchess had personally paid for all the interior designs and furnishing.

The report was met with heavy criticism across the press, and a poll published by The Times showed an overwhelming majority of readers felt that taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill. The couple were labelled arrogant, out of touch, and ungrateful by many columnists.

This news couldn’t have come at a worse time as Britain continues to face austerity due to the increasing uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit. In addition with a skyrocketing cost of living, many people in the same age bracket as the couple have been priced out of the housing market altogether. The bad optics of the renovation costs are hard to depute and easily deemed to be overly extravagant.

Questions have been raised over why the Queen allowed the Duke and Duchess to renovate and move into Frogmore Cottage in the first place. The Kensington Palace apartment they were slated to move into would have cost drastically less as it was already up to code with the necessary security arrangements.

This announcement was coupled with allegations of Meghan’s expensive tastes. It has been reported that the Duchess has spent large sums of money on jewellery and on airfare to attend lavish private events in the United States. While the Duchess paid for these expenses out of her own pocket — minus the taxpayer funded security that was provided — it highlights the couple’s growing propensity for not accurately reading the public mood.

While defenders of the Sussexs have argued that William and Catherine were granted a similar amount of taxpayers’ money to renovate their Kensington Palace suites, it is the harsh truth of monarchy that in the grand scheme of things William is more important. He will, in due course, have a constitutional role to fulfill as will his son George. Unlike his brother, Harry will be expected to perform royal duties until William’s children are adults, and he will then be able to go into something of a royal retirement if he wishes.

Harry and Meghan’s growing image problem stems from their paradoxical desire to be both royal and private. The Sussexs have pulled back from public life and are increasingly assuming ownership of their image. Some of their actions have raised eyebrows such as the decision not to have the Palace announce the birth of their son, giving exclusive photo access of Archie to an American television network, and limiting photos to personal Instagram posts.

Some of this desire is understandable. It is clear that Archie will not be a working member of the royal family when he grows up and is effectively a private citizen. Like the majority of the Queen’s grand and great-grandchildren, Archie will be on the periphery of the royal family.

While Archie shouldn’t be subjected to the pressures of royal life, the same courtesy cannot be extended to his parents. There are limits to how much privacy publicly funded members of the royal family are entitled to.

There is an unwritten contract between the public and the monarchy that royals must show they are a good value for money. The Queen has worked energetically over the latter decades of her reign to increase the financial value of the monarchy.

In the past twenty-five years, the Queen has authorized the public release of detailed annual financial reports, paid annual income tax on her private assets, drastically decreased the number of royals who are publicly funded, open royal palaces up to visitors, and she reportedly rebuffs members of her family she deems are being too grand.

It’s understandable that as Harry and Meghan forge their own path they’ll likely make some missteps. They are, however, on the verge of losing the goodwill that had been directed towards them during their first year of marriage. The couple must accept the burdens of royal life if they wish to enjoy its privileges.

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A freelance writer specializing in such topics as writing, productivity, self, politics, and LGBTQ+ issues. Visit him at: https://www.facebook.com/daryldbink/

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Daryl Bruce

Daryl Bruce

A freelance writer specializing in such topics as writing, productivity, self, politics, and LGBTQ+ issues. Visit him at: https://www.facebook.com/daryldbink/

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