Prince Harry and Meghan are gone with the Wind­sors

Antelope Valley Press - - OPINION - Mau­reen Dowd

In­ever had much use for the queen. Maybe it’s the Ir­ish in me. As Win­ston Churchill said: “We’ve al­ways found the Ir­ish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.”

Or maybe it’s the Amer­i­can in me. We did go to an aw­ful lot of trou­ble to break away from that corgi-and-gin-lov­ing racket 244 years ago.

At some vis­ceral level, though, Amer­ica must re­gret be­ing torn away from the royal fam­ily. How else to ex­plain our en­dur­ing fas­ci­na­tion with dy­nas­ties? Hav­ing spent my ca­reer cov­er­ing four dys­func­tional po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties, I rebel more than ever at the idea that bi­ol­ogy en­ti­tles you to au­thor­ity.

The ghost of Diana gone rogue an­i­mates the frac­tured fairy tale of Meghan and Harry, and their in­tem­per­ate at­tempt to up­end cen­turies of starchy rules and break away from the Firm.

Princess Di’s dan­ger­ous tango with the tabloids left Harry with no taste to play that game again, es­pe­cially with streaks of racism against Markle added to the mix. He re­cently con­fessed that ev­ery click or flash of a cam­era brought mem­o­ries of his mother’s death rac­ing back into his mind.

I cov­ered Diana’s first trip as the Princess of Wales to Amer­ica in 1985. She seemed happy then, in that year be­fore Charles re­sumed his re­la­tion­ship with Camilla Parker Bowles. She and the prince shared amused eye con­tact, winks and teas­ing re­marks.

Nancy Rea­gan planned an evening of can­dlelit danc­ing at the White House wor­thy of a 24-year-old Cin­derella in a mid­night blue vel­vet gown. The first lady ar­ranged for the Ma­rine Band to play “Night Fever” as John Tra­volta spun a eu­phoric Diana around the floor. (“She’s a great lit­tle mover,” he said af­ter­ward.)

I won­dered how Prince Charles would deal with a young wife with so much star power, ab­sorb­ing so much at­ten­tion. We were all mes­mer­ized when she tucked her chin down in that shy pose and cast that mod­est yet saucy look up at us.

The an­swer was: He did not deal with it well. Twelve years later, when the unimag­in­able tragedy hit, the royal ice cubes were fu­ri­ous at the ex­pec­ta­tion that they should emote for the woman who had pub­licly ripped the monar­chy as a blood­less, soul­less gang and chris­tened her­self the Pris­oner of Wales.

The Firm was out of its depth then, and it is again now. How can the queen and Prince Philip and Prince Charles pos­si­bly un­der­stand the de­sire of Meghan and Harry to re­brand as a Goop­ish life­style en­ter­prise? The news that they have ap­plied to trade­mark hun­dreds of items, from socks to hood­ies, un­der the “Sus­sex Royal” logo makes Wal­lis Simp­son’s ex­ile in the Ba­hamas, spent match­ing the color on the walls to her face pow­der, seem pos­i­tively monas­tic.

Can you re­ally call your­self “fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent” when all you’re do­ing is cash­ing in on the royal name?

Given the state of the world and the im­plo­sion of the Bri­tish Em­pire — with Scots once more con­tem­plat­ing an off ramp, Ir­ish unity in play, Aus­tralia on fire and Boris John­son trick­ing the queen into sus­pend­ing Par­lia­ment in a Brexit ploy — it is hard to feel sorry for the Duchess of Sus­sex com­plain­ing that her di­a­monds are heavy. The pathos for Markle, trapped in a de­signer cage, goes only so far.

It’s easy for roy­als to come to North Amer­ica, where they are lav­ishly em­braced as celebri­ties with­out all those pesky re­stric­tions about class and role. (See “The Crown” episode about a wild, im­bib­ing Princess Mar­garet charm­ing LBJ.)

Still, I think Meghan Markle should have wielded her wo­ke­ness where it is most needed — in Buck­ing­ham Palace. She could have chan­neled the Oba­mas, who did a mag­nif­i­cent job of ris­ing above racist taunts and work­ing within the in­sti­tu­tion to im­print a new im­age of racial pos­si­bil­ity in Amer­ica.

Markle had al­ready suc­cess­fully brought a re­fresh­ing dose of semi-rad­i­cal chic to the royal fam­ily. Her vis­its to a mosque that housed Lon­don­ers dis­placed by the Gren­fell Tower fire led to her putting out a 2018 cook­book, the pro­ceeds of which went to the vic­tims.

At its best, the monar­chy has been able to lift up peo­ple, as it did dur­ing the blitz in World War II.

I saw that abil­ity to al­chem­ize emo­tions and opin­ions when I cov­ered the queen on her visit to Ireland in 2011, the first by a Bri­tish monarch in a cen­tury. It was im­pos­si­ble not to be im­pressed watch­ing her speak Gaelic and of­fer­ing re­gret about how Bri­tain had made Ireland suf­fer, bow­ing her head at the scene of Bloody Sun­day and the Gar­den of Re­mem­brance, the sa­cred ground for slain Ir­ish pa­tri­ots.

The Ir­ish started out skep­ti­cal, but by the end of her visit, many were call­ing her “Betty” on Twit­ter.

The queen of Eng­land holds out the idea that she and her fam­ily should have some sort of ves­ti­gial moral au­thor­ity. But with the Prince Andrew im­broglio in the seraglio of Jeffrey Ep­stein, and with Harry’s run for the Hol­ly­wood Hills, it is clear that many in her fam­ily are not in­ter­ested in moral au­thor­ity.

The col­lapse of the au­thor­ity of the Bri­tish monar­chy mir­rors the col­lapse of au­thor­i­ties gen­er­ally, scarred by years of scan­dals about cler­gy­men abus­ing chil­dren, ath­letes beat­ing up girl­friends and univer­sity of­fi­cials ac­cept­ing bribes.

And yet, even if the roy­als’ role in the cul­ture is now akin to the Kar­dashi­ans, it wasn’t cool for Meghan and Harry to pants the 93-year-old queen, defy her instructio­ns, dump their Megxit plan on In­sta­gram and in­ten­sify the sad split be­tween the broth­ers. (If ever there was a time for some dry gin . ... )

What’s the rush to give up real in­flu­ence to be an In­sta­gram in­flu­encer? Be­sides, who un­fol­lows their own grand­mother?

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