Peter Hunt

The monarchy failed Harry and Meghan

The monarchy failed Harry and Meghan
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It will be a saddened Prince Harry who will digest the verdict of much of the British media on the denouement to Megxit. In the eyes of most of those who write about the Windsors, the Queen is above reproach and the couple who exiled themselves are once again found wanting. Their West coast inspired talk of service being ‘universal’ is the latest entry on a charge sheet of sins they’ve committed against a venerated institution.

To Harry and Meghan’s critics – and they have plenty – the equation is simple. If millions of Netflix and Spotify dollars are pouring into your bank accounts, you can’t be opening fetes in Chipping Sodbury; not that such an opportunity was likely to have ever been high on their royal to do list.

This analysis is compelling but misses a painful element of the sorry saga. A family has rejected one of its own. The matriarch ensured all olive branches were severed from the Megxit tree.

When Megxit was first added to our lexicon, the Sussexes were naively seeking to have their cake and eat it. A year on, they were just looking for a few crumbs. None were offered.

As a family – dysfunctional as so many are – the Windsors could and should have left the door ajar. They could and should have facilitated a future where the couple would return for Trooping the Colour; Harry, who served his country, would lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday each year; and they would continue to represent the Queen at some future Commonwealth events.

The royals are superb at making it up as they go along. When the Queen was at an engagement last year and clearly didn’t want to be seen wearing a mask, her officials came up with the wheeze of Covid testing all those she would encounter. Instead of doing the right thing – a head of state leading by example – they avoided a confrontation with a 94-year-old and opted for the easy option.

Despite abandoning his training as a Royal Marine, the institution has managed to find a uniform that fits, so Prince Edward can lay a wreath at the Cenotaph. While the family even changed their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor at the height of anti-German sentiment during the First World War.

The royals have shown that they can adapt and accommodate. They’ve chosen not to do so for someone who is a grandson, a son and a brother – someone who has been damaged by the ties that bind him. At the behest of his family, aged 12, Harry walked behind his mother’s coffin; something he once said ‘no child should be asked to do’.

The talk and the hope now in royal circles will be of moving on and consigning Megxit to the footnotes of royal history. They can’t see that future accounts will, I believe, record the Queen as having acted poorly when responding to a grandson who adores her. Mean spirited over magnanimous won the day. History will also reflect on how the painful lessons inflicted on the royals after Diana’s death have been forgotten. ‘Show us you care’ would be a fitting lament for Prince Harry.

The royals, and those who surround them, still can’t see what they have jettisoned. It will be on display when Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah is broadcast. The monarchy failed, in the 21st century, to embrace a woman of African American heritage. They have reverted to being white, predominately male (only three out of the first ten in the line of succession are female) and, as things stand, a tad stale.

Written byPeter Hunt

Peter Hunt is a commentator on the monarchy and constitutional issues. He is a former BBC diplomatic and royal correspondent. He tweets at @_PeterHunt

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