What follows is largely speculation on my part, but I have, like Mr J G Reeder, an unfortunate turn of mind.
As I write, it is the day after the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. During a 73-year marriage, he has been an unfailing source of support for the Queen, and has been her mainstay throughout her reign.
One of the reasons for this has been that the Queen is a very private, shy person, while the Duke was robust and outgoing. He was her ‘icebreaker’, the one who made it possible for her to interact with people on a less formal level. The ‘humanising’ of the monarchy under Elizabeth was in large part due to Philip. People are now wondering how the Queen will carry on wthout his support.
Now it seems that Harry and Meghan both had good personal relations with the Queen. In fact it seems that the Queen got on better with Meghan than she ever did with Kate. Meghan is the same type of lively, outgoing personality that Philip was. Had the Sussexes remained senior Royals, Meghan in particular would have been ideally suited to take on the supporting role left by Philip.
But of course, Megxit has made that impossible. Racism in the Royal Family and the Court, vicious English tabloids, blah, blah, blah. A lot of it sounding vaguely hysterical and slightly forced.
Yes, there’s the Princess Michael of Kent episode. But this particular Royal (born Baroness Marie Christine Anna Agnes Hedwig Ida von Reibnitz) is well-known to have a bee in her bonnet about ‘breeding’ and bloodlines. She is known to consider herself as having more Royal blood than the rest of the family. She is on record as saying in 2005 that British people should be more concerned about the bloodlines of their children. In the same interview she implied that Press outrage at Prince Harry wearing a swastika to a fancy-dress party was due to the ‘ownership structure’ of the British press (a veiled reference to the idea that many newspapers are owned by Jews). Rumours and anecdote indicate that she was less than charitable about the ancestry and suitability for Royal marriages of Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson and Kate Middleton. Certainly she would consider a ‘colonial’ of mixed blood to be highly unsuitable, and in default of being able to publicly say so, she wore that brooch. She’s basically a racist snob.
But there are other factors in place. Harry for one. This is a man of more than ordinary intelligence and determination. Someone it is, as the press have discovered, not safe to cross. Someone determined to live his own life on his own terms. The idea that he is meekly following his wifes’ lead is belied by every picture of them together and every interview they give. His dislike of the Press, stemming in part at least from the loss of his mother, but also from not wanting to live in a goldfish bowl, is intense. His commitment to doing something useful is clear — he was absolutely determined to take his military career seriously and to serve on the front line as he had trained to do. Add to this the constantly- circulating rumours that Harry is not Prince Charles’ son and it all comes down to the fact that life as a Prince was bloody awful for him!
The problem with the monarchy ,and the Royal Family, is not one of racism, but of passivity and neutrality. Passivity in the face of Press attacks — they are supposed to rise above them, not answer back or demand retractions or apologies. Political neutrality — helping charities is one thing, but speaking out on public or social issues is considered dangerous. The Crown is an apolitical institution, and as such its representatives are expected to be politically neutral at all times. This is why, despite the fact that they are legally entitled to do so, all members of the family in the direct line of succession are expected to refrain from voting in General and even Local Elections. Prince Philip and Prince Charles have both occasionally been rapped on the knuckles publicly for speaking out on issues such as conservation, planning and the environment in terms the Government took exception to. The younger generation have all been sailing very close to the wind with their activities and statements on social care, child care, mental health and so forth, but to date have got away with it as the governments have not cared to risk exposing themselves to any backlash.
Harry, both before and after his marriage, was always less prone to rise above Press harassment and attacks. He has even gone so far as to sue on several occasions. It is also clear that he has no intention of allowing himself or hs wife to be muzzled politically.
It seems to me that if the Royal Family had become more proactive in support of what Harry and Meghan wanted to do, they would have happily carried on, using the Sussex brand, to achieve what they wanted to achieve. When it was clear such support would not be forthcoming, they got out, and they did it fast and messy because Harry had had enough!
But is that really all that was going on? Is the Royal Family really so inflexible? Why was William so silent on the issue, given that he and Kate are also more proactive than the older generation?
Let me spin out a little conspiracy theory.
The Queen and Prince Philip are in their nineties, and Philip is clearly becoming frail. The Queen has depended in his support for her whole reign. When he dies, she will be looking for a similar support. Of all the Royal Family, Harry and Meghan, especially Meghan, have the best personality types to pick up Philips’ baton. Charles and Edward are both shy and introverted, too like the Queen. Andrew, the logical choice, is conveniently disgraced, and was always a little too louche anyway.
But with the Sussexes now out of the picture, how long will the Queen be able, or want, to carry on? Suppose she steps down, or her health suddenly fails. It is not uncommon, when a couple have been together so long, for the one left behind to deteriorate quite quickly. Well, Charles is there. But Charles is in his seventies, and the Duchess of Cornwall is not the kind of woman who will relish taking on the full-time role of consort at her time of life. Even if Charles does insist on taking the throne, it’s unlikely he’ll stay on it for very long, and even if he does, he’ll be depending heavily on his loyal son to carry a lot of the load.
That son, William, is married to Kate. Kate spent ten, cautious, determined years capturing William and it seems clear that she has been setting the agenda since. Complaints early in their marriage that William was not pulling his weight when it came to Royal duties somehow led to a change in emphasis in those duties. Kate and William now undertake visits to schools, nurseries, hospitals, food banks, help and community centres and other more socially relevant places while doing fewer formal ceremonies and ‘traditional’ occasions. For instance, rather than presenting prizes at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show, Kate helped design a ‘Back to Nature’ garden to emphasis the role of nature in maintaining mental and physical wellbeing. The couple have launched and take active part in a number of initiatives on metnal health, early years development and other issues. There is clearly a path being marked out here for a more relevant and socially-involved monarchy.
However, this is unlikely to proceed very far while the Queen remains on the throne. The full reach and depth of whatever reforms Kate has in mind cannot take place until William is King.
Could it be that for Kate and William, Prince Philips’ death is the signal they’ve been waiting for? Might they have been making sure that the Queen, and possibly Charles, have nobody to turn to except them?
Is it possible that Kate might have been undermining Meghan? Could she and William have exacerbated Harrys’ discontent? Could they even have contributed to the scandal around Prince Andrew? Might we be seeing the onset of a Royal coup by an ambitious young couple with their onw ideas of what the monarchy should be in the 21st Century?
I’m just speculating here, as I say, but current events do seem to be operating very much to William and Kate’s advantage. I don’t see the nice but slightly dim heir presumptive as being much of a plotter. But clever, iron-willed Kate? Different proposition. Royal families aren’t like other families, and while Windsor isn’t Westeros, there are still Games to be played.