It’s taken just 44 days for a royal pipe dream to well and truly bite the dust. Last month, Harry and Meghan tried to bounce the ancient institution into giving them a ‘progressive new role’ as part-time royals, part-time money makers.
Harry’s 93-year-old grandmother doesn’t take kindly to being bounced or indeed being blindsided. With government regulations and royal rules on her side, the Queen has imposed her final restriction on the couple embarking on a self-imposed exile. Sussex Royal can be no more. A freshly branded website will have to be re-branded.
Their supporters will argue it’s no great loss. Like Boris and Oprah, Harry and Meghan have global first name recognition. Meghan remains a duchess and Harry a prince and a pretender, at a distance, to the throne.
But it will hurt. Nothing is left of their half-baked plan to change what it meant to be a senior member of the royal family. The status quo has been sustained. What’s striking is that Harry, with his deep insider knowledge of how his family functions, clearly thought they might succeed. He convinced himself that he could live and earn in Canada and remain Captain General of the Royal Marines.
A harsh Windsor reality has replaced that misguided optimism. But the palace portcullis isn’t fully lowered. The prince’s honorary military role won’t be filled for 12 months. Princess Anne, who’d been tipped to replace her nephew, remains in the wings. By April next year, the Queen will be 95 and who knows what shape the monarchy will be in. No one could have predicted these last few months, not least those enmeshed in it. So only the foolhardy would wish to say with any certainty that this is the last we’ll see of Harry and Meghan as full-time royals.
They have a few more engagements to fulfil. Body language experts will likely be deployed by the tabloids to analyse how the royals behave when reunited, briefly, at next month’s Commonwealth Day service. If Meghan chooses to leave her son Archie with a nanny back in North America – and Harry agrees to such a move – it’ll be a clear sign of what she thinks of the family she’s extracted herself from.
It’s a family that has weathered many crises. Now, it’s got to adjust to the significant loss of a couple who reached parts of the population at home and abroad that were untouched by other royals. It’s a family that’s also still dealing with the ongoing damage Prince Andrew and his lack of judgement has inflicted on them.
The continuing fallout from the death of Jeffrey Epstein is not something the royal family can control or draw a line under. Their only option is to observe from the sidelines and live in trepidation of how events may yet unfold.
Not for the first time, thoughtful royals and their thoughtful officials (both do exist) have had plenty to mull over. What with Prince Andrew, Harry and Meghan, recent months have seen royal brief against royal.
It’s not been a good look.