“Harry” as the aristocrat formerly known as “the Duke of Sussex” is now to be titled, has raised an important question of decorum.
What does one do with a Royal who is no longer regal? In the grand tradition of the British nobility, pack he and his foreign-born wife off to the colonies, of course, in this case, Canada.
Britain’s Prince Harry this week began his last lap of royal duties in Edinburgh, Scotland, at a conference on sustainable tourism (what else?) insisting that attendees simply call him “Harry.”
Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and his American wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have announced they will step down from their duties as senior royals next month to spend more time in… personal growth.
Apparently one of the Queen’s favourites, Harry has had a whirlwind few years. Volunteering with his regiment for two stints in Afghanistan, he had always been a bit of a lad, liked a drink too well and once appeared at fancy dress party in Nazi regalia.
That all changed when he married American multi-racial actress Meghan Markle; soon developing the dreaded “social conscience” and becoming a warrior for environmental causes. That is when not haring around in private jets and staying in pop stars’ mansions on holiday.
The strictures of life as a British Royal has so chaffed for the former Ms Markle that she and Harry have taken a Megxit (Meghan Exit) from Royal duties and moved to Canada; subsequently being told by the Windsors in blunt terms not to use the Royal brand for their proposed money-making ventures.
Not that any of this makes the slightest difference to anyone; though it does raise some awkward questions about the nature of hereditary titles and the British class system.
If Harry wants to drop all symbols, pretensions, and responsibilities of being a member of the Royal family, then what in fact is he? Should British taxpayers, for instance, be expected to pay for and support the lifestyle of what is essentially a retired soldier and his actress wife as they sell their wares on the speaking circuit?
One doesn’t have to be a rabid republican to see the inherent absurdity of titled hereditary peers. The British class system of course was imported with the 11th century Norman conquerors who believed that the aristocracy were favoured by God to lead and rule the lower classes.
That they were in fact better people and deserved all the riches and privileges that they enjoyed. In fact, the motto of the British Monarch is the old French term: “Dieu et mon droit” or “God and my right” meaning that all their privileges come from God. In the early 21st century, of course this is an absurd proposition.
Would anyone really believe that Playboy Monarch and openly-Nazi sympathizer, King Edward VIII with his impeccable Royal upbringing and bloodline, was a better human being than Mahatma Gandhi, creator of non-violent protest, and the father of modern India; born and raised in poverty in Gujarat, western India.
Or that Princess Margaret, dissolute and scandalous society dame, contributed more to the world than orphaned Liverpool rocker, John Lennon?
Everyone now understands that the idea of inherited virtue, that some people are born better than others because of their social status is a joke; the Housing Commission kid who becomes CEO of a large corporation and the Baron’s spoiled son who treats everyone like dirt, are cultural memes.
But let’s not be too hard on the British Royal family; many of whom may or may not have been supporters of Hitler before the War…
Most of them appear moderately pleasant, if not overly-bright, individuals. They illuminate thousands of lives a year at pubic events around Britain and the Commonwealth and are scrupulously unobtrusive in most current political debates invariably keeping mum on the day-to-day biff and barge of a modern democracy. The Queen is a picture of duty, constancy, and good humour in a world of fabricated crisis and confected outrage and will, probably be sorely missed by “The Firm” as the House of Windsor refers to itself, once she goes.
For a country like Australia, the British monarchy has many advantages; they cost us virtually nothing, they are rarely here, their occasional visits are invariably well-received in Australia, and they know and care nothing about our internal politics. Their representative in Australia, the Governor-General, is a remote and distantly respectable figure who opens hospitals and visits scenes of national disaster with grace and good humour.
One could imagine the national nightmare if that prancing egotist, Malcolm Turnbull had succeeded with his Republic Referendum in 1999; after which he no doubt saw himself as being our first President. Can one imagine a more ludicrous and pretentious institution for a young country like Australia?
Every time there was a political upheaval, half the country would be calling on them to suspend parliament or sack the prime minister, the other half would be out for their blood.
No, far better to have “Our Queer Old Dean” (William Spooner’s hilarious gaffe made in a toast to Queen Victoria)
No, despite the ridiculously-anachronistic nature of a hereditary aristocracy; there are far worse models for a ceremonial head of state in this world than a distant Queen and far nastier groups of people than the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (real name for the Windsor’s, changed during World War I amidst the rising anti-German sentiment).
We should cheer Harry and Meghan as they flog their dubious wares around North America and Europe; they may in time rate the ultimate Hollywood compliment; their own reality television show!