Tag Archives: Duke and Duchess of Sussex

The Sussex Interview

Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan is on a par with the 1995 BBC interview with Lady Diana. It asked for compassion, and got it. And, like Diana’s, did it manipulate too? Oh yes.

So much in those two hours, but a couple of things niggled at me. Things that weren’t only in the murky realm of “they said”. Rather things that can held up and examined.

Romance or irresponsibility

Meghan said she did no research into Harry or the Royals before agreeing to marry him. No, she didn’t google her husband-to-be. And she said, as an American, she knew very little about the Royal Family.

However, as Oprah pointed out, when anyone marries, they are marrying the family as well as a person. In the case of a royalty, you’re also marrying a whole nation, a whole commonwealth maybe. I think it’s incumbent on you, in that case, to find out what you’re letting yourself in for. Or simply learn about the people and country you’re going to be a part of. As my husband said, if you were asked to give a speech to the Caterpillar Collectors of Peoria, you’d likely google them and Peoria just so you’d know a little bit before you got there.

If you don’t, at least in marriage, the person you’re marrying should point familial expectations and potential pitfalls to you. Especially, I’d think, when it’s a royal family with a national – and international – press hungry for any and all details about you.

Harry has had a few girlfriends leave him because they didn’t want to be part of the circus that comes with being a royal in Britain. Plus, as he made clear in this interview, he knows how horribly wrong it can go. So wouldn’t he make it crystal-clear to Meghan what she was letting herself in for?

A funny story Meghan told suggests that he didn’t even make it clear what it would be like being a family member. On the way to Andrew’s house, where the Queen was expected to drop in, he casually asked her if she knew how to curtsy. Five minutes away from arriving, Meghan laughed, no time to even google it. So some practice curtsies outside before she went in to meet the queen of the family, the Queen of the realm.

That gobsmacked me. Harry not realizing that there is absolutely no reason why Meghan would know how to curtsy. Unless she needed to know for a period piece she was acting it, it’s just not something regular people learn. So was he really still that wrapped up in his royal cocoon?

Security

Meghan and Harry said that their security had been pulled when they lived in Canada. Oprah asked who provided the security. The UK, he said. Wait a minute, Harry. You might want to acknowledge Canada did too, through the RCMP. Our government was pretty tight-lipped about the amount because Canadian taxpayers on the whole weren’t very happy about it.

But we had no choice while you were working royals. You were then classified as IPPs – internationally protected persons. All countries agree to pay security costs for visiting IPPs. So while you were here, we paid. When you no longer were working royals, the security obligations ended. That’s how it works. It wasn’t personal.

Archie

The security discussion led Meghan to talk about Archie’s titles, or lack thereof, and again the unidentified “them”. Security being withdrawn from Harry and Meghan meant no security for the baby either. If he were a prince, she implied, he’d be entitled to security. Huh? Is he a working royal? He’s two.

Then she went into a confused and confusing explanation of why Archie doesn’t have a title and won’t in future, she says. The “George V or George VI convention” – her words. There’s probably several libraries in the palaces, and there’s a resident queen who knows a lot about this stuff. But, failing those, there’s Google.

I goggled it: Archie will become a prince, and HRH, when he is a grandchild of the reigning monarch. At present, he is a great-grandchild. It was the Queen’s grandfather, George V, who decided how many generations for what titles in his 1917 Letters Patent.

Queen Elizabeth changed some of those rules in 2012 before the birth of Prince George. She removed the male heir precedence and she deemed all children of direct heirs to the throne to be styled Prince or Princess. That would be the children of William, who is the heir after Charles. Harry and his children are not in that direct line. Charles may do his own Letters Patent and change things again when he is king.

As working royals, the Sussexes – and their children – were entitled to security paid for by the British government. But now, with their change in status, they’re not. Again, it’s not personal.

Commonwealth

Towards the end of the interview, Harry and Meghan said what a great loss for the Commonwealth that their removal from official royaldom was. They were emblematic of it, and as Meghan said “see it, be it.” True, and quite possibly part of the Queen’s thinking when she appointed them President and Vice-President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

  • Here’s what I wrote when Harry and Meghan got married. Feels like a long time ago, but less than three years.

Princess Harry

Prince_Harry_and_Ms._Markle_Northern-Ireland-Office-Mar-2018-wikicommonsOn Saturday, Meghan Markle will become Princess Harry. That is when she will marry Prince Henry of Wales, second son of the Prince of Wales and better known as Prince Harry.

She probably won’t be called Princess Harry. Although it is the proper form for non-royal wives of princes, it has not been used often. The only example I know of is Princess Michael. That is how Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz has been known since 1978 when she married Prince Michael of Kent, first cousin of the Queen.

The Queen likely will give Harry a dukedom or earldom, as she did his elder brother William upon his marriage. That way, his wife can be called the Duchess or Countess of whatever.

Meghan is American and an actress. Although Grace Kelly and other American actresses have married into European royalty, this is a first for Great Britain.

British_Royal_Family on balcony_June_2012-Carfax2-wikicommons
Meghan’s inlaws L-R: Sophie, Camilla, Charles, Edward behind QEII, Anne, Philip, Louise (Edward’s daughter), Timothy Laurence, Catherine, William, Eugenie (click for larger view)

A more serious aspect of British royal marriage rules does not have to be an issue for them, or the Queen or Parliament. Meghan is divorced, with a living ex-husband. Despite being founded by a King who wanted to divorce and remarry, the Church of England long forbade the marriage of divorced persons unless the ex-spouse had subsequently died.

1992

For being free to marry Harry in the Church of England, Meghan has 1992 to thank. That year, called by the Queen an “annus horribilis”, sarah-ferguson-tabloid-headlineHarry’s parents Charles and Diana separated after scandal upon scandal. Tabloid photos of his Aunt Sarah, Duchess of York, scandalized the world after she and Prince Andrew split up. His Aunt Anne, Princess Royal, divorced her husband Mark Phillips then married Timothy Laurence. All this in one year.

Princess Anne and her second husband Timothy Laurence married in the Church of Scotland. It allowed the marriage of divorced, but not widowed, persons. So by getting married at a church near Balmoral, her family home in Scotland, they sidestepped Church of England dicta.

Prince_Charles_Diana-1985-Ronald-Reagan-Library-wikicommonsDissolution of Charles and Diana’s marriage was a thornier issue. He was heir to the throne, therefore the next head of the Church of England. Their marriage and its problems were much more public than his sister’s first marriage had been. However, Charles and Diana did divorce in 1996.

The next problem was what to do about his relationship with Camilla Barker-Bowles. She too was divorced, and her ex-husband was alive. So in November 2002 the Church of England changed its rules. The General Synod said that divorced people with living exes could remarry in the Church.

Despite having the way open to a church wedding, Charles and Camilla did not marry until 2005 and then in a civil ceremony, followed by a Church of England blessing.

Three Kings in One Year

Vincenzo_Laviosa_Duke_and_Duchess_of_Windsor-ca-1934 wikicommonsIt is the story of Harry’s great-great uncle, 82 years ago, that has been most compared to Harry and Meghan. In December 1936, the new King Edward VIII abdicated the throne rather than give up the woman he loved. She was an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson.

1936 was commemorated in a plate my mother had as Three Kings in One Year. George V died in January, Edward abdicated December 10th, and his brother became George VI. The former king and his new wife were given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and effectively banished from the UK.

Three-Kings-One-Year-1936-Sovereign-Potters, Hamilton, ON CanadaWhile Meghan Markle’s story invites comparison with Wallis Simpson, Harry’s story is maybe more like that of Princess Margaret. Like Harry, Margaret was a member of the inner circle of Royals and always would be. Also like him, she was in little danger of actually ever becoming monarch.

Princess Margaret

In 1953 Margaret was third in line for the throne, behind her RAF-Peter_Townsend_Imperial-War-Museum-ca-1939-B-J-Daventry-wikicommonsnephew Charles and niece Anne. She was in love with RAF Group Captain Peter Townsend, and he proposed to her. Problem was he had just divorced his wife. The Queen and Parliament would not agree to their marriage. Over the next two years, they sought ways to allow it without compromising Church or government rules. If Margaret gave up her place in the line of succession, they eventually decided, she could marry him in a civil ceremony. But in 1955 Princess Margaret said that, due to “the Church’s teachings” and her “duty to the Commonwealth”, she would not marry Townsend.

Antony_Armstrong-Jones_1965_Dutch-National-Archives-Eric-Koch_Anefo-wikicommonsIn 1960 Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones. Wikipedia says she “reportedly accepted his proposal a day after learning from Peter Townsend that he intended to marry a young Belgian woman [who] bore a striking resemblance to Princess Margaret.” True or not, it fits well in the story of thwarted romance. Princess Margaret and Armstrong-Jones’s wedding was the first to be televised. Fitting for her, the glamorous sister and maybe the first Royal media star. Also maybe in keeping: in 1978 they divorced amid tabloid scandal.

So, from Edward VIII and Wallis, through Princess Margaret to Harry’s own parents, the path has been cleared for him and Meghan. The Church, the Queen and the public have given their blessing.

Princess Margaret 1965-Dutch-National-Archives-Erich-Koch_Anefo-wikicommons

Tinseltown Princess

A girl from Tinseltown and a prince. Maybe General Hospital will use the storyline. The soap opera is part of Meghan’s story. Her parents met while working on it and Meghan got her acting start there.

The Princess Harry story is a  happy-ending romance, one hopes. Wallis and Edward, Princess Margaret too, are more tragic romance stories.

See The King and Us for why I think Wallis Simpson and Parliament did us all a favour. Also, although Coronation Street hasn’t yet mentioned Harry’s wedding (at least in Canadian airtime), I loved their take on William and Kate’s marriage in 2011.