Harry & Meghan: Royal Rift
My familial relationship to the British Royal Family is a confusing one. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II was my 19th cousin, once removed. This relationship is on my paternal side and through Her Majesty's maternal side. I am also related to Princess Diana, who was my 17th cousin, once removed. When Diana Spencer married my 20th cousin, His Majesty, King Charles III, their sons, Princes William and Harry, became my paternal 18th cousins. The Princes are more closely related to me due to my relationship to their mother as opposed to their father.
At any rate, I have never met any of these Royal family members as my own lineage is now so far removed from royalty that my immediate family has not held any noble titles for quite some time. While it would be nice to have a royal title, I'm actually quite satisfied to lead my life without one, and without all the drama which seems to be never ending within the royal family itself.
In the case of Meghan Markle, who is now Prince Harry's wife and the mother of his children, I also have a paternal connection. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is my 21st cousin, once removed, through her paternal lineage.
Although I make no claim to know any of the Royal family, I have always taken a mild interest in the British monarchy. As a citizen of Canada, a Commonwealth country, it was normal growing up to be taught about Canada's history which includes our British ancestry. The Queen was always present in our schools (her picture usually hung in the office), and her image is on our currency. This will all change in the near future as Queen Elizabeth II's image is replaced with that our of new Monarch, King Charles III. The point is that Canada remains closely tied to the British Royal Family, even as we grow apart more with each passing year.
In earlier blog posts I have mentioned that I wouldn't want to trade my life for that of any of my royal cousins. Sure, it would be wonderful not to have to worry about money, and living in one of their magnificent palaces/castles surrounded by all that history would be great, but giving up my privacy is not worth any of that for me. Even though being recognized once in awhile and receiving special treatment (an upgrade to a suite at a 5 star hotel would be nice!), it's not worth having to live my life in the public eye, having everything that I say or do reported in the papers and online; having my words misconstrued or even manipulated for the sake of grabbing headlines (translation: making someone else money!).
I raise this topic as I have been watching the latest documentary on Netflix that was put together by the Duke & Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan. I will admit that I have watched and read about their relationship, then marriage, as it has played out in public. Harry is very much like his late mother, Diana, in the sense that he wears his heart on his sleeve which is unlike most of the r
oyal family, who have carefully crafted public "faces". The old adage within the Royal family - also referred to as "The Firm" - is "Never comment, never complain."
If I had to keep every comment to myself, and never complain to anyone about anything that I disagree with or find offensive, I would probably explode...or at least have an aneurysm! Not too long ago this was normal behaviour for "well bred" people, but something changed over the past few decades. People started to talk about their feelings, for good or for bad, and I think that in most cases we are better off for it. At least most of the time; there's always that one person who shares just a bit too much. As with anything in life, moderation is key, in my humble opinion.
Had my noble/royal ancestry continued down to yours truly, I would definitely have been a Godsend for the media! My daily rants would easily occupy pages of a tabloid, or gigs of space on one's computer! I maybe exaggerating a little (not when I'm driving usually), but you get the point. Living your life in the public eye is probably not a lot of fun, and appears to be very intrusive at best.
In watching their latest documentary, I have tried to keep a very open mind about Harry and Meghan and have carefully listened to and considered some of their comments. While I will always remember Queen Elizabeth II's rule during the past few decades, I can completely understand why Harry and Meghan have decided to lay their cards on the table, and why that is not sitting well with other members of "The Firm".
I'm old enough to remember when other members of the Royal family uncharacteristically spoke their mind in public: Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, (now) King Charles III and, of course, the late Duke of Edinburgh. Each of these members of "The Firm" made headlines when they made a comment or showed an emotion like any "regular" person does every day, but when they did it, the public gasped...and probably smiled a little when they "slipped up". Catching a Royal family member - or any figure in the public eye - acting like one of us was fodder for the gossip columns...and still is.
English tabloids (newspapers) are out of step with how most of the world perceives the English. Those tabloids hold nothing sacred and thrive on sensational headlines. Newspapers in Canada, the USA and other places I have been don't do this, at least not to the degree that the English media does. There have been countless examples of their abhorrent behaviour, and yet they continue to get away with it. When someone decides to fight back against their sensational journalism, the tabloids simple double-down on their attacks and sell more papers in the process. Clearly any financial losses these tabloids may face should someone be brave enough to challenge them in court is worth the price.
Spoiler Alert! If you are in the process of watching Harry and Meghan's latest documentary, I am about to reveal some of the contents so be forewarned!
Meghan quickly went from being a media darling to a target of English tabloid attacks. All sorts of accusations were levelled against Meghan, from being a diva to trying to upstage other members of the Royal family. At the time that the mood toward Meghan changed, I remember thinking how familiar this all was as the same thing had happened to Princess Diana, although over a much longer period of time. The public outcry against Meghan seemed to be fast-tracked and I could see that there was some serious trouble on the horizon.
Of all the Royal family members, Harry has always appeared to be more in touch with the general population - the common folk - than the others. I used to think that the Queen was like that as well, but she dramatically changed her image after the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997; she became, at least outwardly, much more approachable than she had appeared to have been earlier in her reign. Harry had always had that same approachable de, much like his mother, Princess Diana. Harry seemed less interested in protocol and more interested in actually connecting with the general public.
We are all aware of how the press - and especially the tabloids - hunted down Princess Diana. This was a significant contributing factor in her death, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the anger that her family felt about this. We all saw instances of Diana having to speak to paparazzi and request that they leave her and her sons alone and to allow them to enjoy themselves without their interference. After her death, the media seemed to leave both Prince Harry and Prince William alone, but not completely. Being constantly hunted by photographers looking for that "gotcha" photo of the Royals has been going on for decades, and it is ultimately our fault - the general public - because we take some weird pleasure in reading stories and looking at photos of Royals and other celebrities caught doing things that most of us have done. If the public stopped feeding the media with our attention - and more importantly our money - they would move on to something else. Hopefully something that is meaningful and improves the world rather than destroys individuals and their families.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, certainly felt the pressure of the media once she married Prince Harry. Even though she had experience dealing with the media due to her acting career, the degree to which the media began to hunt her looking for a sensational photo or story must have been a huge shock for her.
I have personally witnessed how British media and fans can act. Several years ago while vacationing in London, I was staying at the same hotel as several of the cast from The Expendables 3 were staying at. While there, I saw Sylvester Stallone and his family as they walked through the lounge and took the time to say hello to everyone and to wave. I also saw some other young stars (that I didn't and still don't know) as they also walked through the lounge and waved to those of us who were there. Later that evening, as I was standing outside the hotel with a friend having an after dinner smoke, a Mercedes Benz pulled up and shortly after I cam face to face with Antonio Banderas, who seemed shocked to find my fiend and I standing outside. I could immediately tell that he thought we might have been part of the crazed fans that were at the hotel's entrance - or reporters, but I quickly nodded, said "hello" and he returned my nod and greeting before quickly getting into the waiting Mercedes.
The next day, after breakfast, I went out for a quick walk around the neighbourhood. As I exited the main front entrance, I noticed a huge crowd of fans and photographers lined up behind a metal fence, apparently waiting for one of the stars to appear. I commented to the doorman about the craziness of the mob, and he agreed. I went for a short walk - I was near the Prime Minister's residence and not far from Westminster. When I came back to the hotel, I noticed a line of Mercedes and BMWs parked outside, and 1 Hummer SUV. I figured - correctly I might add - that they were there for the celebrities to take them off somewhere.
As I walked past the line of limos, I noticed a side door on the hotel open and several big guys (turns out that they were bodyguards) came out, followed by Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone. They weren't expecting to see anyone on the sidewalk, so I just smiled and continued walking back toward the entrance of the hotel. It was at that point that I heard the doorman yell out to me to "watch out" and I turned to see hundreds of people rushing down the sidewalk about to crush me to get to the celebrities before they got into their cars.
I managed to jump up onto a small wall that ran along side the hotel and hold onto the small fence as the mob stormed by, each of them with a crazed look in their eyes. Had I remained on the sidewalk, I would have been mowed down and trampled - it was a weird and somewhat terrifying experience and even the doorman asked me if I was alright as I arrived back at the front entrance of the hotel.
After my initial shock wore off, my mood turned to one of anger and disgust. The people that almost trampled me were nuts! What would have happened if I hadn't jumped out of the way, or worse, if I had been with someone elderly, or with a young child? Are these people so crazy that they don't see how their actions could not only seriously hurt someone, but can be construed as terrifying to those that they are chasing to meet?
The answer to that is "NO". They don't think, and their actions are primal in nature. They are only concerned about what they want and give no thought to how those they so fanatically admire must feel about their behaviour. It's disgusting.
Now imagine my minor run-in with a crazed mob in London chasing after Hollywood stars, and then think about it must be like to have these types of people chase you all the time. Add to that paparazzi that are trying to get a photograph of you doing whatever, just so they can sell the photo to a tabloid who can then write up a sensational story to go along with the photo. Imagine seeing a photo of yourself when you are not at your best, when you think that you are in a private setting by yourself or with your family. Then imagine seeing a sensational - and probably false - headline that you have no control over. How would you feel?
I have met a few celebrities through my travels, all by accident. Some of them I have had the pleasure of having a short conversation with, but on a human level, not as a nutty fan. I even have a very good friend who is a celebrity, and even with her, I allow her to tell me what she wants, I never intentionally pry and would never, ever share our private conversations with any type of media.
All this negative stuff happened to Harry and Meghan, and even more. Once the public found out that they were dating, Meghan was stalked by the paparazzi much as Princess Diana was when she started dating Prince Charles (now King Charles III). Once they moved from England to Canada, things got worse. They had paparazzi following them, helicopters and drones flying over their place and "reporters" contacting Meghan's friends and colleagues looking for information about her. In some cases the lure of money to tell a story to the press was just too much for some of her friends and family, and more controversy followed sensational articles about her.
We are told that the royal family and the British press has some sort of understanding that the press will refrain from publishing negative stories provided they have access and information given to them by the royal family. This is supposedly a deal that has been put in place to prevent, or at least limit stories that could be damaging to the royal family's public image. However, it seems that once someone falls from the royal family's grace, all the rules are out the window, and the "protection" that person or persons are afforded by the pact no longer applies. This is what happened when Harry and Meghan stepped back from their royal duties in order to pursue their own lives abroad.
You can watch and listen to Harry and Meghan tell their side of the story and then come to your own conclusion about all the drama that is going on between them, the British press and the royal family. If you are looking for a rebuttal from the royal family, I wouldn't hold my breath. The royals are notorious for closing ranks and controlling the message when it comes to their internal family issues. I can't fault them for that, as I feel that family matters are private, and even though they are public figures, it's really none of our business. Knowing that one royal is at odds with another really doesn't concern us, at least in my opinion. Some issues may be of concern to the public, but not internal family matters. No one would want their own family laundry aired in public, so why would they?
As someone who enjoys his anonymity to a large degree, I can understand the frustration that the Sussex's - and other public figures - feel at the intrusive behaviour of fans and the media. If I ever achieve a modicum of fame, I would probably welcome the occasional "hello" from a fan, but I certainly would not want to be accosted when I went out to the store. I also wouldn't want photographers following me around, or drones being flown over my property to spy on me (at that point I would probably work on becoming a skilled marksman so I could shoot down the drones!). Fame may come with many advantages, but losing one's privacy and sense of security should not be part of the deal.