In writing to the young Queen Victoria, her uncle King Leoplold of the Belgians once warned: “dealings with artists are … dangerous; they are hardly ever satisfied, and when you have too much to do with them, you are sure to have ‘des ennuis [anguish].’” Too bad no one warned Prince Harry.
The fairy-tale is over for the rogue royals, Harry and Meghan, duke and duchess of Sussex, who want both their cake and to enjoy it. Their behavior and plans could not be in starker contrast to the unwavering and incorruptible Queen Elizabeth, an example to the world of grace, honor and service. Happily the Sussexes do not much matter to the world, nor to the stability of Britain and its monarchy. But people in all corners of the world, many here in the United States, many not even particularly interested in the royal family, are watching this unnecessary crisis play out, with fascination.
Why? Because notwithstanding our having fought a revolution to become a republic, the same mechanisms, foundations and principles central to Britain’s constitutional monarchy are age-old foundations of Western civilization, completely compatible with our American way of life. Furthermore, our American national heroes and figureheads — Hollywood and pro-sports celebrities — while overpaid and undersevedly listened to in matters beyond their performing abilities, pale witheringly in comparison to Queen Elizabeth and most members of the royal family.
Many observers around the world would prefer that the rogue royal couple stay put and exhibit discretion. In fact they cannot. She cannot. Ms. Markle has proven that she is unsuitable to the life of diplomacy and public service that her royal marriage requires. She appears to have driven a wedge between Prince Harry, and not only his family, but his common sense. Instead of the new duchess rising to the occasion, she has pulled the duke down, so that they both want all of the advantages of a royal life with none of the constraints or challenges.
Last Wednesday, Harry and Meghan publicly released their strange list of demands, without prior notice to the prince’s family, like kidnappers demanding ransom. This type of behavior is completely incongrous with the “family firm” as some call the royal family. The Windsors have, after all, provided courage and inspiration during dark times such as the great conflicts of two world wars. The queen and her family constantly pay tributes to those their fighting forces, and as international British ambassadors, trumpet their commonwealth’s victories and achievements. They cry and cheer with their people at all the right and necessary moments, and in most cases, serve as good examples. Can anyone imagine the Sussexes 2.0 performing similarly?
It is tragic that, while some optimistic observers saw the Harry-Meghan alliance as a positive and modernizing influence, the duchess has largely supplanted aspects of Harry’s lifelong formation in the ways, duties and expectations of growing up royal. Ironically, instead of Ms. Markle reaching up to adapt, she has instead brought her husband down.
The post-Meghan Harry feels compelled, for instance, to share with British Vogue that they will limit the size of their young family out of concern for the environment. In the same interview, Harry serves us talking points on racial bias from the woke playbook, suggesting that too many people do not understand their own prejudices and that “stigma is handed down from generation to generation.”
In the statement the Sussexes abruptly released last Wednesday, they aspire to “carve out a progressive new role” within the royal family and work to become financially independent. Without belaboring the irony of the financial aspirations of two of the world’s most privileged individuals, doubtlessly, there will be social mountaineers and opportunists galore lining up to assist them. Oprah for instance has been the life coach of their new utopia. Just like the duke and duchess of Windsor, they will have hangers-on, delighted to have a royal in their midst. Just imagine what their new lives will do for promotional engagements, book deals, Disney voice-over engagements, etc.
In short, the self- and wealth-aggrandizing aspects of the Sussexes’ schemes couldn’t be more opposite what the royal family’s official website describes as the role of the monarch and the royal family — a “focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognise success and excellence; and support the ideal of voluntary service.”
Winston Churchill famously advised, “never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty.” This greatest of leaders who triumphed in Britain’s darkest hour would be appalled and disgusted by the current Sussex situation. Even he might have countenanced the Sussexes giving in, stepping back and going away. The phrase Anglo-American Special Relationship was coined by Churchill and flourished thanks to the valor and values the Anglosphere has espoused. The hope for the continuity of these values that are the unblemished legacy of Queen Elizabeth rests not, thank heaven with Harry and Meghan, but rather with Charles, William and George after them. May God save them all.
• Lee Cohen is a fellow of the Danube Institute. He was adviser on Europe to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.