Leading article Australia

Gone with the Windsors

18 January 2020

9:00 AM

18 January 2020

9:00 AM

These are tumultuous times for the Royal Family. No one was surprised when Meghan Markle, a former TV actress from Tinsel Town, married her prince charming and turned out to be a drama queen. Yet even for the most cynical royal watchers it was a shock when the couple announced, a little over a week ago, via Instagram of course —the social media home of the selfie and the self-obsessed — their intention to become part-time royals.

No one seemed more put out than the Queen and Prince Charles, which speaks volumes for the care with which the couple dropped their bombshell, just as the Duchess of Cambridge was about to celebrate her birthday.

It is still not clear what Prince Harry and his wife intend to do. They have said they want to carve out a ‘progressive new role’, which sounds ominous, and work to become financially independent, which is simply baffling, since the combined private wealth of the couple is already estimated at USD 30 million which for most people, even Royals, would equate to independence.

The renegade royals have a troubled relationship with the media. From the outset, Prince Harry has claimed that criticism of Markle has been racist and sexist. Once married, the pair wasted no time in earning the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Woke, turning hypocrisy into an art form and lecturing the world at large on climate change while gadding around in private jets.

The tragic death of his mother has understandably scarred the Prince, but he needs to recognise that Princess Diana died not because of the paparazzi but because her driver was drunk and speeding and she was not wearing a seat belt. Likewise, if the royal couple stuck to small talk, instead of saving the planet, they could have an uncomplicated relationship with the press. Prince William and Princess Anne demonstrate that it can be done.

The crux of the matter seems to be that the couple want to earn their own incomes. Both worked before they were married but now work as full-time royals.  In return, they receive a private allowance of around USD 3 million per annum from Prince Charles out of the income generated by the assets held by the Duchy of Cornwall, which makes up 95 per cent of the couple’s income with another 5 per cent coming from the Queen via the sovereign grant to cover official expenses. The couple have said that they would relinquish the 5 per cent coming from the Queen but not the 95 per cent coming from Prince Charles although it seems unlikely that the Queen or Prince Charles has agreed to this. The biggest problem with the couple’s plans for financial independence is that it seems to involve cashing in on royalties for royalty. They have already trademarked the Sussex Royal brand on everything from bookmarks to socks but they cannot be allowed to enrich themselves personally from a public institution any more than could a public servant or a parliamentarian.

It simply adds insult to injury that the couple are not even prepared to dedicate themselves full-time to royal duties which involve attending over 2,000 official engagements each year. Tiring and sometimes tedious work to be sure but vital in recognising the extraordinary work of ordinary people who dedicate themselves to the service of others, strengthening the nations of the Commonwealth.  Worse still, the royal part-timers may also be planning to make a living out of kiss and tell interviews, speeches and books, presumably about racism and sexism and how to save the world from climate change.

Confronted with being the spare rather than the heir, Prince Harry, like Princess Margaret, seems to have decided that the solution is celebrity. Meanwhile it was always unlikely, precisely because she is an actress, that Markle would settle for a lifelong role as a Royal: the key attribute required is humility, hardly a hallmark of Hollywood. As the Queen has tirelessly demonstrated for more than half a century, being  royal requires a devotion to duty and a preparedness for self-sacrifice that are rare in this age of entitlement.  The generation that fought in World War II were prepared to lay down their lives in the fight against fascism and for the freedom of future generations. The idea of sacrifice in Generation Y often involves nothing more onerous than trading a hamburger for a vegan patty.

A ‘hard Megxit’ preventing the pair from cashing in on their royal status and a slimmed down royal family that focuses on the top three in line to the throne is the preferred solution and would be less expensive and more manageable. There has always been an element of soap opera in the lives of the Royals, but no one should be allowed to turn the great institution of the British monarchy into royal reality TV and live off the profits or we might as well say Gone with the Windsors.

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