Meghan’s not the first Amer­i­can to fall foul of snobs

Sunday Express - - SYMPATHY FOR MEGHAN - By Tim Ne­wark

OF COURSE, hav­ing had such a won­der­ful de­but in the Royal Fam­ily with a sun-drenched wed­ding and a tri­umphant royal tour to Aus­tralia, there was bound to be a back­lash. But what is be­hind the drip-drip gos­sip against Meghan be­ing “dif­fi­cult”? Is it be­cause there has al­ways been a deep-set anti-Amer­i­can­ism in Bri­tish high so­ci­ety, an aver­sion to a per­ceived brash­ness that doesn’t quite sit well with Bri­tish re­serve?

“What Meghan wants, Meghan gets,” is how Prince Harry al­legedly summed it up. Her high en­ergy might not be to ev­ery­one’s taste and ruf­fles a few feath­ers of those who ex­pect a Bri­tish royal con­sort to be more lan­guid. As a Hol­ly­wood ac­tress, is she hog­ging too much of the lime­light?

Amer­i­can aca­demic Dr Ted Mal­loch, now based in Bri­tain and a spe­cial­ist in lead­er­ship, is not sur­prised at a pos­si­ble an­tipa­thy to­wards her among some Bri­tons. “Amer­ica is mer­i­to­cratic,” says Mal­loch. “In Bri­tain you find a class so­ci­ety ranked ac­cord­ing to birth and ed­u­ca­tion. As soon as you open your mouth you are pegged. It mat­ters not what she does.” Plus, Amer­i­can di­rect­ness can be mis­in­ter­preted, agrees Mal­loch, as be­ing “for­ward, rude and ag­gres­sive”.

It is not the first time an Amer­i­can woman has caused a stir by mar­ry­ing into the up­per ech­e­lons of Bri­tish aris­toc­racy.

When Lord Ran­dolph Churchill mar­ried Jen­nie Jerome, his par­ents, the Duke and Duchess of Marl­bor­ough, did not turn up at the wed­ding be­cause they con­sid­ered her New York fi­nancier father a “vul­gar kind of man” from the “class of spec­u­la­tors”. She nev­er­the­less made waves by be­ing a bold and ad­ven­tur­ous woman, keen to push the po­lit­i­cal ca­reers of her hus­band and then her son, Win­ston.

It was even ru­moured that this thor­oughly mod­ern woman got a tat­too of a ser­pent on her arm af­ter vis­it­ing In­dia.

But An­drew Roberts, au­thor of the new bi­og­ra­phy Churchill: Walk­ing With Des­tiny, de­nies any overt prej­u­dice against her among the Bri­tish up­per classes. “In­ter­est­ingly, Jen­nie Churchill suf­fered very lit­tle anti-Amer­i­can­ism,” he says, “whereas be­ing half-Amer­i­can was con­stantly used against Win­ston Churchill by his po­lit­i­cal foes.”

The 27th Earl of Craw­ford and 10th Earl of Bal­car­res snob­bishly put Churchill’s sup­posed lack of po­lit­i­cal judg­ment down to “the Indo-Mex­i­can strains in Churchill’s blood which ex­plains the un­ac­count­able fits of mad­ness”. “The Jeromes were re­puted to have had Na­tive Amer­i­can blood,” says his­to­rian Roberts. “Where the Mex­i­can blood was sup­posed to have come from is any­one’s guess.”

If it’s Meghan’s feisty be­hav­iour that is an is­sue then she is in good com­pany as an­other Amer­i­can woman made a splash among the Bri­tish up­per classes only to end up as an MP in our par­lia­ment.

Nancy As­tor was 26 when she came to Eng­land with her sec­ond hus­band, Wal­dorf As­tor. He was Amer­i­can-born but his father had moved to Eng­land and his wed­ding gift to them was the pala­tial es­tate of Clive­den in Buck­ing­hamshire. That, plus a grand house in St James’s Square in Lon­don (now home to my club, the Naval & Mil­i­tary), put them at the cen­tre of high so­ci­ety, meet­ing the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple of their day.

The beau­ti­ful Nancy caused a stir by be­ing witty and racy in her con­ver­sa­tion with men, al­though she al­ways knew where to draw the line. When her hus­band took up his peer­age in the House of Lords, she en­tered pol­i­tics and won a con­stituency in Ply­mouth, be­com­ing the first woman MP to take a seat in the House of Com­mons. There’s no rea­son why the con­fi­dent and in­tel­li­gent Meghan shouldn’t also seek a prom­i­nent plat­form in pub­lic life.

The elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has un­doubt­edly po­larised even fur­ther views of Amer­ica in Bri­tain. In­ter­est­ingly, Meghan’s father raged against him but Prince Harry was re­ported to have said “give Trump a chance” to meet the de­mands of his vot­ers. A wise com­ment.

Amer­i­can art his­to­rian Dr Richard Wen­dorf has be­come a nat­u­ralised Bri­tish cit­i­zen and sees no rea­son why his com­pa­tri­ots can’t fit in. “I think that if we’re rea­son­ably civilised, Amer­i­cans are given a ‘pass’ in this coun­try,” he says. “When I do hear an in­sen­si­tive or rude re­mark about some­thing or some­one Amer­i­can, I blame the per­son rather than the Bri­tish gen­er­ally. This is a much more cos­mopoli­tan so­ci­ety than when I was a stu­dent at Ox­ford sev­eral decades ago.”

His lat­est book Grow­ing Up Book­ish is sub­ti­tled An An­glo-Amer­i­can Mem­oir, re­veal­ing his deep af­fec­tion for his new home.

THE MONEY brought by “dol­lar princesses” who mar­ried im­pe­cu­nious Bri­tish aris­to­crats a cen­tury ago might well have pro­voked jeal­ousy but it was the fun-lov­ing, twice-di­vorced Amer­i­can so­cialite Wal­lis Simp­son who caused most con­ster­na­tion when Ed­ward, Duke of Wind­sor, fell in love with her. The fall­out from this af­fair pro­voked a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis. Ed­ward in­sisted on mar­ry­ing her and gave up his throne to do so.

Churchill was very sym­pa­thetic to­wards the love­struck cou­ple, only to be re­buked by a col­league say­ing “I have some­times won­dered whether it was his half-Amer­i­can back­ground that made him so in­sen­si­tive to what the Bri­tish re­ally felt in their bones about such mat­ters.”

It didn’t stop Sir Win­ston later be­ing lauded as our great­est Bri­ton.

Still, if Ed­ward hadn’t ab­di­cated to marry an Amer­i­can then his brother wouldn’t have be­come King Ge­orge VI and his el­dest daugh­ter wouldn’t be our present Queen, mean­ing Meghan’s Harry wouldn’t be a prince at all.

‘It was fun-lov­ing so­cialite Wal­lis Simp­son who caused most con­ster­na­tion’

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