Spoiler alert, I haven’t seen the Netflix documentary from Prince Harry and Meghan. Neither have I read (or purchased) their book “Spare”. Although I recently heard that the book is one of the biggest sellers in history on the Amazon website (other than the Bible of course). But that could be just more salacious gossip.
I’m British and not a monarchist, as those of you who follow this blog probably already know. Like so many, I have followed the Harry-Meghan story. And I watched Harry’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper as well as his spot on the Stephen Colbert night show.
All fascinating stuff. Or deplorable, atrocious, boring…. depending on your feelings about it all.
One of my guests (an American royal fan) asked me what I thought about it all. I’ve been asked this question many times in recent months. It’s taken a minute or two for me to compose my thoughts as the H and M news has been a-changing every day! It’s been a challenging task to keep up with it, to be honest. And so I stopped. Trying to keep up with it, that is.
But as a Brit, having lived in Florida for over 3 decades and assimilated into American culture to the best of my ability, but with a British mindset, there are some things that need to be explained. It might even take more than one blog post.
So here goes…
Harry was a heartbroken child when his larger-than-life world famous mother, Diana, was killed. That kind of trauma in a young one does not go away when they become an adult. Not for any of us, let alone a man who had to live out his life, his grief, his adolescent mistakes in the public, goldfish bowl that is the Royal family. His trauma is still very much on his sleeve. And if you know many Brits, they tend not to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Stiff upper lip and all that, old chap.
As appalled as I was, when I arrived thirty something years ago, to witness Oprah, Jerry, and those other folks bare their souls on national TV, I have become accustomed / acclimated to this uniquely American phenomenon.
Harry not only wears his abandonment issue, trauma, unresolved grief on his sleeve, he’s on national TV (I watched it) talking to Oprah and baring his soul. For Brits in Britain, I’m sure this was an absolutely, ghastly spectacle to behold. Dare I say, Harry broke every British cultural norm on that night.
But he’s living in American now. He’s changed. As we all do, when we make a decision to adopt a foreign country as our home.
He hasn’t said anything about the Royal family that I (and most Brits) didn’t already know. Or at least suspect. Brits know that the “leaks” about Royal shenanigans often come from Royal assistants to Royal family members. This is not news to most Brits.
For example, one time, Diana or one of her staff, allegedly called the gutter British press and gave them a heads up that she’d be on Dodi’s yacht. The next day, paparazzi photos appeared of her (and him) on the front page. Brits are not unfamiliar with any of these tactics. Diana and Charles had a rather unpleasant divorce, in full goldfish bowl view of the public and lots of nasty things were done to curry favor with the British public. In case you didn’t know, the Royal family are funded by the British taxpayer public. Many folks have an unquenchable appetite for all things Royal. Harry, and many others, believe this led to Diana’s death. He is terrified the same thing might happen to his new wife. Personally, in empathy, I can understand why he might be concerned about this, given his unresolved childhood trauma of his mother’s death.
May I just add here, the British tabloid press and the “journalists” employed by them are quite, quite detestable and they’ve earned their moniker “gutter press”. The BBC, on the other hand, is one of the most highly regarded news sources in the world. The Times, the Guardian and the Telegraph are some of the best quality newspapers around. Needless to say, those tabloid newspapers, which I shall not name, bring a hideous, black mark to the often impeccable, top quality British sources of news (the BBC, the Times of London, the Guardian and the Telegraph).
Harry with his British background, and his Royal, ultra-privileged life meets an American woman.
Not just any American woman. An actress from California. With a past. (Not a sweet 19 year old, Diana or a 20 year old university-educated, Catherine). Meghan was on her way to 40, with an ex-husband. In the internet age that we all now live in, there was a plethora of photos of her ex-boyfriends, movies she’d made, actors she’d kissed (and more), commercials, social media posts she’d made, and so on.
And she wasn’t white.
Say what you will, there are not too many people (i.e. none) in the gargantuan Royal family that have any melanin in their skin. Does that make them racist? Maybe not. But having lived in England and in the USA, I have seen firsthand that the “first” in any extended family can be difficult. The first non-white in-law, the first non-black or non-hispanic in-law. The first gay person. Just pick your “different” when you envision your own extended family and who they’re bringing home for dinner. Most families choose people who look like them to join their family. It can be just a human thing. Or it can be unconscious bias, that most of us have, and don’t even realize. But that’s another topic for another day.
So here we have Harry and Meghan. A whirlwind courtship. A fairy tale wedding watched by 30 million people (myself included) around the world.
A duty-bound, aristocrat Prince Harry who’d never paid a bill in his life, never had to go apartment/house hunting, because his Royal family provided absolutely everything for him from the day he was born (not his fault) meets Meghan Markle.
An avocado-munching, California gal, who had to work for every acting gig she got, probably worked waitressing jobs (I don’t know) and other low-paying gigs to make ends meet until she got a big role on a network TV station, “Suits”, (I’d never heard of it).
How could these two people possibly understand each others’ lives in such a short time? I mean, really?
I heard somewhere that William and Kate went to meet Meghan, at Harry’s home, on the grounds of Kensington Palace. Apparently, Meghan was barefoot and wearing ripped jeans.
Of course she was. She was at home, comfortable and a casual Californian woman.
Through the front door arrive William and Kate, who were probably dressed for an elegant, little dinner party to meet Harry’s new lady-friend. They probably even brought a cheeky bottle of burgundy to go with the chateaubriand for dinner.
Of course, they probably did. They’re British.
Brits dress for dinner (if going out) and take a little gift. Dress not in formal tiaras and tuxes, but probably not ripped jeans and shoeless. They’re British.
And from then on it got worse. Meghan, a huggy kind of American woman (I think I may have become one!) hadn’t been around enough Brits to know that we’re a formal bunch who expect a handshake or a little peck on the cheek.
How does one know all these things about cultural differences after just a short, whirlwind time?
I know it took me many, many years to become acclimated to not just the American way, but particularly the “Southern” way of doing things. Some things I learned the hard way, and many times over, to get it right. Sometimes Americans weren’t always very nice to me when I was a bit of a numpty and got it wrong. Oh well, I learned. Eventually.
For those of us that have been around a while, we remember when Diana came on the scene. She demanded that her children travel with her on foreign tours. Shock! She refused to let nannies and butlers raise her children and insisted on putting them to bed herself, and took them to school herself. Oh, my! She was also labelled “difficult” and “not Royal enough” and many disliked her, accusing her of trying to destroy the institution of the Royal family. Does this sound familiar?
So all the interviews, and the Netflix documentary and the “Spare” book to tell “their” side of the story may be shocking, over sharing, and getting a bit boring. But when these two worlds collided, it was rather inevitable that there would be sparks, explosions even. War of the Worlds, Part Deux, as it were.
People rarely say “lets hang out for 10 years to see if our cultural differences will work out”. No, they fell in love, got married and had babies.
In front of the entire planet earth watching and analyzing their every, single move.
While not a fan of Harry, Meghan or the institutional Royal family (although you know I liked the Queen!), I can’t help feel badly for them because I straddled the British/American culture in private, and it wasn’t always easy. On a public, world stage? For the entire world to see every single mistake? No thank you, very much!
There is obviously an appetite for all things Diana, oops, I mean, Harry and Meghan. This is evidenced by the book sales, and the Netflix downloads and the newspaper headlines. Folks want to know more about these 2 people. I did actually go back and read the statement they published when they left the Royal family 3 years ago. They did not, in fact, request privacy.
They wanted to make their own money (and not be beholden to the British taxpayer), and to help out the Queen with her duties when asked. Just ask Auntie Google. Or read it here. The statement is still out there.
Truth be told, I don’t find their side of the story all that captivating. Some of it is quite tawdry based on what I heard Harry say to Colbert on the late night talk show. And I don’t feel the need to defend them, because their existence on planet Earth is just not that essential to my daily life. Not Harry, not Meghan, not William or Catherine, or even Charles and his consort, Camilla.
Unlike Jeremy Clarkson who apparently hates Meghan (a woman he’s never met) so much, he prints vitriolic rants about her and dreams of horrifying things being done to her. And lots of other people, who have never met her, are doing the same thing all over social media and youtube and through the gutter press. Why?
I know not. But I certainly understand the frustration of Harry and Meghan, who read/hear stories about themselves that are not true, and want to defend themselves. I think that is a human trait.
And unfortunately, they are doing so in a loud, attention-gathering kind of a way. But for most celebrities (because that’s what they are now), that’s the way it’s done. It gathers attention, gets your “side” of the story “out there” and dominate the headlines (online and off) for, at the very least, 15 minutes of fame, a la Andy Warhol.
But it’s been more than 15 minutes, Harry.
Meghan, it’s been more than a month or two, even.
Time to stop, my fellow British-American citizens. It’s enough, already.
I’ve heard all I want to hear. You’ve told your side of the story. Some of it I believe, some of it I wish I hadn’t heard. (the icky parts).
And now let’s just all move on….
Probably To Be Continued…
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