The ire of the House of Windsor is on display again. So too (more worryingly for them) is their impotence. Harry and Meghan’s latest public utterances have clearly rankled with the royals the couple have left behind.
From the palace’s perspective, the pair have well and truly crossed a line with their comments about the US presidential election which have been interpreted widely as favouring the Democratic contender, Joe Biden.
In a video for the US magazine Time, Harry urged citizens in his newly adopted country to ‘reject hate speech’. Meghan stressed that November’s poll was the most important election of our lifetime. She is no fan of Donald Trump. The President has made clear the feeling is mutual.
Supporters of the Sussexes insist this was all about voter registration. Their spokesperson described it as a ‘non-partisan call for decency’.
Rattled and riled, royal officials can but watch from the sidelines
The case for the prosecution is that this ill-advised foray into US politics shows the duke and the duchess have abandoned a neutrality that should be as much a part of their everyday existence as the bodyguards that keep them safe.
When it comes to trying to walk a line, Harry is following in illustrious footsteps. His father’s. Prince Charles has been accused, time and again, of making political statements unbefitting of a man who’ll one day occupy the throne. He sees himself, according to Mark Bolland, a former aide, as a ‘dissident’ working against current political opinion.
According to Mr Bolland, the heir to the throne deliberately missed a banquet in 1999 at the Chinese Embassy in London, during a state visit by the country’s President, and chose instead to dine with the then Camilla Parker Bowles. The prince instructed his adviser to draw the attention of the media to his boycott and to his support for the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.
And when it comes to crossing the line, even the Queen has form. While this sentence will have her more evangelical subjects reaching for their smelling salts, the evidence is there from the days before the Scottish referendum. Speaking to a well-wisher outside a church on the Balmoral estate in 2014, the Queen urged people to ‘think very carefully about the future’.
We now know that this followed a request from David Cameron for the head of state to ‘raise an eyebrow’ about the prospect of people voting for independence. It was an action executed in haste — and in response to the panic of a prime minister — that the monarchy will continue to regret at leisure.
It failed the test set by Roger Scruton. The late philosopher who once wrote: ‘the constitutional monarchy is the light above politics, which shines down on the human bustle from a calmer and more exalted sphere.’
While, obviously, not dwelling on past failings, it is the ‘Scruton doctrine’ palace advisers are using to judge the Sussexes. And they find them wanting.
The impeccably sourced Sunday Times captures the dark mutterings of the households. For the alleged crime of violating the ‘Megxit’ deal (by not upholding the values of the Queen), the mooted punishments include stripping them of their titles and delaying any return by Harry to his military roles.
The Queen, in a statement in January after the Sandringham summit, bade them farewell with very warm words. Any attempt to strip them of their HRHs would be remarkably churlish. It was a mistake when they did it to Harry’s mother, Diana.
Meghan is a princess of the United Kingdom, by marriage. Harry is a prince by birth. He’s the son of a future king, the grandson of the present Queen and sixth in line to the throne. Even if their dukedom disappeared, they’d be Prince Henry and Princess Henry.
Rattled and riled, royal officials can but watch from the sidelines as the couple continue to explore their new life. They have serious money (thanks to their deal with Netflix); a significant platform; and a global audience on first name terms with Harry and Meghan who are intrigued as to what their next move will be. Nothing at this stage can be ruled out — even a run for public (presidential?) office by the former actress.
Such talk is enough to turn the ‘men in grey suits’ puce. They can huff, and they can puff, but they’re unlikely to blow Harry and Meghan off course.