‘Cruel’ way royal family failed Meghan

 

COMMENT

Anglesey is a remote island off the coast off the northern tip of Wales. One of its biggest claims to fame is that it is home to the only working windmill in Wales.

The world most likely would never have heard of this rather isolated part of the world except for the fact that 10 years ago this weekend, two very, very famous people quietly moved in.

Rewind to 2010 and Prince William traded London life to take up a job in Anglesey as a search and rescue pilot. With him was his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton, the duo setting up home together in a remote whitewashed four bedroom farmhouse they rented for $1400 a month.

In many ways this is all spectacularly unremarkable. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl move in together. Boy and girl buy a lot of Ikea and make a go of it. But, there is a certain irony to this anniversary falling when it does, as the royal family deals with the ongoing repercussions of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes' decision to ostensibly quit royal life.

 

It has been nearly two weeks since the couple put out a statement, setting out their plan to forge a "new progressive role" for themselves as members of the royal family.

The Queen, by all accounts was deeply upset that they had gone public with their intentions without clearing it with Buckingham Palace first, before promptly gathering together her family for a summit at her Norfolk home, Sandringham.

A week later, the deal was done. She would allow Harry and Meghan to up sticks and quit frontline royal duties along with moving, for much of the year, to North America.

They in turn, conceded to no longer use their styling as HRHs and would pay back the millions of dollars of Sovereign Grant money used to fund the renovation of their Windsor home.

It was a stunning and tragic end to the Sussexes' royal life and all less than two years after their glittering, fairytale wedding in May, 2018. When they left St George's Chapel that day, they represented so much promise for a family and institution fighting to prove its worth and relevancy in the 21st century. Now, all of that possibility has been squandered.

However, things did not need to turn out this way, not if the Queen and her courtiers had followed the template that William and Kate were offered.

The life they shared in Anglesey sounds particularly quiet, if not verging on the wildly dull. He worked, while she looked after the house (they had no staff FYI).

Occasionally they were spotted at the local pub enjoying a very sensible number of drinks, no legless shenanigans here thank you very much. More importantly, they were given the space to settle into full time life together more than 460km away from London and far away from the paparazzi.

Contrast that with Harry and Meghan. After enduring a long-distance relationship for over a year, they had only been living together (and permanently in the same country as each other) for about three months when he popped the question.

 

Listening to the interview the radiant, happy couple gave after announcing to the world they were getting married is a poignant exercise.

With incredible pride and certainty, Harry told the BBC's Mishal Husain: "The fact that she, I know that the fact that she'll be really unbelievably good at the job part of it as well is almost is a huge relief to me because she'll be able to deal with everything else that comes with it."

Clearly he thought she was ready for royal life. Clearly, so did she. And clearly so did the Queen, who bestowed upon her granddaughter-in-law the huge privilege of a one-on-one official engagement together (and a night on the royal train) only six weeks after the wedding.

The reality is, we can now clearly see, is that understanding what is involved in signing on to join The Firm takes time to fully appreciate. It is far more than learning how to curtsy without toppling over or figuring out which fork is which at grand dinner parties or even coming to terms with the necessity of sheer pantyhose in your wardrobe.

 

It is about accepting the extreme sacrifice of self you are about to make in the name of an 1000-year-old institution which serves a nebulous purpose in modern life.

It is about fully grasping the deep psychic bonds that exist between the British population and the sovereign.

It is about ceding so much of your identity theoretically in the name of the national good.

And it is about acceding to the cruel fact that your life, your appearance and your choices will be mauled over by a fascinated, occasionally malicious, press.

There is no internship program, memoir or crash course you can take to really understand.

By the time Kate walked up the aisle at Westminster Abbey in 2011, she knew exactly the terms of the Faustian bargain she was making. In hindsight, I highly doubt Meghan did.

Even when both women were married to their Princes charming, the paths offered to them diverged dramatically. Days after her big day, Kate was photographed back in Wales at a local supermarket doing the weekly shop.

Over the coming months, the newlyweds did undertake a tour to Canada but by and large, she was not expected to throw herself wholesale into working royal life - rather the Cambridges would occasionally toddle down to London to do a spot of professional waving.

Kate was also given time to think about which charities and organisations she wanted to throw her regal weight behind.

Harry, Meghan and Archie have now retreated to Canada. Picture: Sussex Royal
Harry, Meghan and Archie have now retreated to Canada. Picture: Sussex Royal

Meghan's entree into royal life was immediate. A paltry three days after the wedding, there she was at a Buckingham Palace garden party. Four months later, the Grenfell community kitchen cookbook she spearheaded was published. Within her first year she had notched up two highly successful international tours (Australia and the South Pacific and then Morocco.)

And that's before we have even gotten into the fact that she was in a new country with no family and without her longtime, trusted circle of friends. Oh, and she was pregnant too.

The emotional and psychological whiplash she must have suffered would have been extreme.

Way back in 2017, Harry, as the then-fifth in line to the throne, would have had to ask the Queen for permission to marry. In hindsight, she should have happily said yes, popped some nice vintage bubbly and then told them they needed to wait a year.

To spend 12 months getting to know each other as two people sharing one roof and for Meghan to genuinely understand what royal life is like and what she was agreeing to.

Rather, like Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and Diana, Princess of Wales, Meghan was parachuted into the royal family with nowhere near enough preparation. Is it any wonder then, that things have turned out the way they have?

Perhaps when the Queen was trying to hash out the Sussexes' exit deal, she should have put another option on the table: 12 months in Anglesey. I know a very nice whitewashed farmhouse they could rent.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.



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