Sunday, Jul 14, 2024 | Last Update : 03:59 PM IST

  Opinion   Oped  11 Jan 2020  UK public in favour of Harry & Meghan going off to United States

UK public in favour of Harry & Meghan going off to United States

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Jan 11, 2020, 6:29 am IST
Updated : Jan 11, 2020, 6:29 am IST

The royal family has assigned duties and is paid by the taxpayer to perform them.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Photo: AFP)
 Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Photo: AFP)

“Allergic to allergies,
I eat and do as I please!
Intolerant of intolerance
I suffer a logical squeeze!
No no amounts to a Yes
And yes yes?
I can only guess!”
From Lady Chatterjee’s Lover by Bachchoo

When Cromwell chopped off Charles I’s head, the monarchy evolved into royalty. Power ebbed away from the head of state, but not respect. The tribal rituals remained, together with curtseying, bowing, scraping, knighting the undeserving with swords on shoulders, riding around in horse-driven coaches, cutting ribbons and patronising charities.

The royal family has assigned duties and is paid by the taxpayer to perform them.

It was traditional for the king and princes to head the armed forces, leading armies into battle in medieval times and staying safely at home in more recent ones.

One of the present Queen’s sons and two of her grandsons undertook military training of sorts. The heir to the throne, Charles, didn’t join the forces but his elder son William, second-in-line to the throne, piloted an air ambulance.

The Queen assigns the royals their “duties”. Charles represents her at Commonwealth gatherings and the other royals pay state visits to different countries. They reportedly have full diaries and are the subject of relentless media curiosity and coverage.

Prince Harry, having done his stint in the armed forces, went on his own private mission to the US and fell in love with a divorced actress, Meghan Markle, whose mother is of Afro-American descent. Harry’s great-great-granduncle Edward VIII fell in love with a divorcee and had to abdicate in order to marry her. Times change. Though there were murmurs calling attention to the fact that Meghan had been married before, no one dared say that it debarred her from marrying Harry. The country celebrated their wedding in style.

The fact that she was of mixed race was not that easily accepted by racist elements in the population and the press but was not in any sense an issue for the royal family or the British establishment.

The story goes that Queen Victoria, after the death of her husband Prince Albert and after the passing of her subsequent paramour John Brown, showed some favouritism to her Indian servant Abdul Karim. Karim was recruited by the Vicereine of India of the time and sent to serve at Victoria’s table, but soon inveigled himself into the Queen’s favour and began to teach her Urdu and was given the official status of her “Munshi”.

Karim was a bit of an opportunist and a rogue and suggested to the Queen that one of his friends, Raffi-ud-din Ahmed, be made the British ambassador to Turkey. The Queen thought this a good idea and said as much to her Prime Minister Lord Salisbury. The appointment was not in her gift and Salisbury, outraged at the suggestion, said he was not having any native representing the empire — only he didn’t say “native” — he used the offensive “N” word.

Victoria, sitting at her worktable at the time, with her ink pot and papers spread over a tablecloth, swept the lot from the table in a rage saying, “Salisbury, I will not have that word used in my presence, or in my household — or for that matter in my empire!”

Salisbury bowed and withdrew, possibly in consternation and contrition, saying “Yes Ma’am!”

The injunction didn’t make the slightest difference. The N word was undoubtedly used frequently in the empire — and for that matter in the royal household at the time. But not anymore. Whisper who dares.

Of course, Harry and Meghan, given the title of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by the Queen, being the most celebrated or celebrity royals, attracted the most fervent attention from the press and media. Meghan, though she must have as an actress been acclimatised to some exposure of her private life, said she was driven to distraction by the truth and lies about every aspect of her life that appeared in the media.

Harry said it was driving him to mental agony and depression. This week, without consulting the Queen, they announced what the media called their “bombshell” decision. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will step down as senior royals. They will spend half their time in the United States, so that their son Archie can grow up with some familiarity with his mother’s origins and culture, and half the time as loyal royals in Britain.

They will step down from their royal duties but will continue to support charities and will soon announce the initiation of new and necessary ones. And, they said, they will support the Queen, daddy Prince Charles and brother Prince William in every way. Or so they say. A survey of the population is heavily in favour of allowing Harry and Meghan to go their way, especially as their announcement said they will find ways of earning their own living and will not rely on the grant that was afforded them from the largesse of the taxpayer.

The Queen will not comment on her grandson’s decision. She is very tight-lipped on such matters. My feeling, gently, reader, is that she (they?) is not amused.

This is the second heavy blow the poor old lady has had to endure in the last year. The first was the exposure of her son Prince Andrew as having availed of the sexual services of underage girls supplied to him by his friend, the late paedophile and pimp Jeffrey Epstein, who may or may not have hanged himself in jail in the US while awaiting trial on the above charges.

And then there was the question of Boris Johnson lying to the Queen to get her to prorogue Parliament. Since the UK has no written Constitution, this sort of thing can be done without some Parsi constitutional lawyer looking over the Queen’s shoulder. Nevertheless, the UK’s newly constituted Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Boris was wrong to make the Queen a proposition she couldn’t refuse.

Tags: prince harry