15th January 2020
I have no idea how many rainforests worth of newsprint have been devoted to the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex but it is a lot. At the risk of adding to that waste of space and to the volume of mostly speculative guesswork generated by `Royal Watchers` it seems to me that two things leap out of this saga: the first is that this is a matter that concerns, mainly, the domestic future and happiness of a young family that is not within a moon shot of having to take the throne and the second is that Prince Harry, in his determination to `Get Megxit Done` was more than a little discourteous to his grandmother, The Queen, in failing to give her a heads up before going public with his announcement that he and his wife and child intended to become semi-detached from the Royal Family.
Most people in public life are here by choice. In politics, for example, nobody holds a gun to our heads and says that we have to stand for election. When we complain about our treatment by the Press and, more recently, by `anti-social media` as of course from time to time we all do we also have to remember that we stuck our own heads above the parapet. Whether our wives or husbands and families are fair game is a moot point but if you place yourself and those that you love in the firing line then you are likely to get shot at. (As an aside I was apparently in the top echelon of those subjected to on-line abuse during the recent General Election. My own antidote, which will be of small satisfaction to my critics, is that I study neither Facebook nor Twitter – ever!)
Those born into the royal Family are there by accident of birth. They have small choice in the matter and by and large and for all of the so-called `wealth` and `perks` most of us ordinary mortals would not choose to spend our lives in the goldfish bowl that is `The Firm`, as it is known in the trade. There is a fundamental difference, of course, between `celebrity` and royalty. Those who court fame and publicity do so to advance their own popularity and earning power and are able to speak their own minds (witness Ricky Gervais at the recent Awards ceremony) . Those members of the British royal family enjoy no such freedom of speech. They are, except marginally in the interests of the charities to which they lend their names, expected to voice no controversial opinions. On the rare occasions when a Prince Philip or a Princess Anne, for example, speak their forthright minds the country appears to teeter on the edge of a constitutional crisis. Her Majesty the Queen has spent a nonagenarian`s lifetime in circumspect public service. She has a mind of her own, most certainly, and has acquired the art of exercising subtle influence, but within living memory has never crossed the fine line that separates the crown from politics.
While the Republicans have, of course, been having a field day it is worth remembering that in hidden earnings the Royal family is worth millions if not billions annually to the United Kingdom and represent very good value for money. It is also the case that most nations, civilised or otherwise, that do not have a monarchy try to invent one, whether it be through an American political dynasty or through straightforward dictatorships. There remains huge merit in having a hereditary rather than an elected Head of State and one that as a constitutional monarch does not become embroiled in party-political infighting.
It has to be right that in the 21st century the royal family slims down to reflect the needs and efficiencies of the age in which we live and Prince Harry`s father, Prince Charles, has been quietly instrumental in driving that process. That must mean, though, that those no longer in direct and immediate line of succession are released from some of restrictions imposed by outdated convention. If Prince Harry and his bride wish to simultaneously become at least partially self sufficient while continuing to pursue the charitable activities that have already benefited greatly from their enthusiasm and commitment then surely they should be allowed to do so. And given that the Monarch is also the titular Head of State of many Commonwealth countries, including Canada, it can be no bad thing to have a resident representative of The Firm on site. I hope very much that the “Sandringham Summit` will emerge to have demonstrated that our royal family remains flexible and willing to adapt and to accommodate the needs not only of the nation but those members who want, in the interests of their children as well as the causes that they will continue to serve, to carve their own way in life.