You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Prince Harry, likeable, ginger, doggedly caring — and perhaps not the sharpest knife in the drawer — hopes to divest their media attention, via what’s become an Abdication. (Or "Grabdication", according to bean counters who valued an unfettered Harry and Meghan Sussex brand at north of $500million).
If retiring from the public eye is truly what this is about, Harry and Meghan are like turkeys who’ve just voted for Christmas.
They haven’t remotely understood the media they want to depart from. The worst is yet to come, and it’s of their own making.
They’ve chosen an "independence" whose material success depends on the use of Harry’s royalty. Their first commercial deal will begin a "greedy couple" media maelstrom. It will then go on and on, unless they wish to live by obscure and humble means, which is unlikely.
The pair are up against two sets of media which, love them or hate them, are simply facts of life.
There is the Social Media, a hellhole of malignant gibberish that is simply uncontrollable. And the Mainstream Media, which is capable of being responsible in times of genuine crisis, but not on the matter of royalty.
In the UK, the mainstream’s royal coverage long ago reached a point where the Dewey Library system wouldn’t know whether to categorise it under Fantasy, Crime or the War of Jenkins Ear.
It is naive to think that what he proposes will offer them any solution. The reasons royal coverage is the beast that it is are based on several realities:
A large chunk of the populace is infatuated with the royals. In our age of celebrity worship, the royals are AAA celebrities, who sell and resell news.
Royalty is a goldmine that the media works with glorious ease and profitability. This is because, first, they never sue, no matter how grave the lie or mistake. Yes, Harry and Meghan are suing the Mail on Sunday, but such actions will evaporate the moment a media outlet says: "Right, we’ll see you in court." There is far too much to lose in the lottery of libel-case evidence.
Second, the royals don’t comment. This creates an information vacuum which, coupled with the media’s freedom to be wrong without consequence, opens the door to news fiction. "Royal correspondents" write stories quoting unnamed "close" sources, which are impossible to check or follow up. Too often, invention marches through this open door.
Last week, just one front page of a British daily’s website carried all the following stories: Royal Blunder, Royal Surprise, Royal Revelation, Prince Charles Fury, Queen Red Faced, Crisis Hits Palace, Royal Experts Condemn, Ditch Royal Sussex Brand, Prince Philip Heartbroken, Victory for Meghan, and 50 Kate Middleton Pictures That You’d Never Believe.
Which of these items were wholly true, which partly so, which just guesswork, and which sheer imagination? (Contrary to some claims, at least the mainstream hasn’t been racist).
One can’t write today’s column without self-examination. I too have the occasional laugh at the royals knowing there’s no possibility of a comeback. I’ve mentioned Harry himself three times, twice inconsequentially, and once just to help move a one-liner.
Still, among all the junk, the Harry and Meghan story has also seen a great deal of first-class commentary and analysis.
There is an intriguing term that draws a total blank when searched on Google. Some psychologists use the word "limmering" to describe the early stages of romantic love — that first mad period when love is sufficient to conquer all, and paper over any cracks.
But the limmering is not sustainable. Within one to four years it always morphs into something less intense. And this is the time when the realities it cloaks in first love can no longer be ignored.
The reality here is a wife who found she couldn’t hack what she’d put her hand up for — the life of a royal princess — and will now subside into a handsome second-best. This is the prestigious, wealthy life of a duchess now allowed to live in the country she already called home.
And we have a husband who has, for his wife’s sake, given up almost everything that mattered. His home, his position, his family, his work, his expectations, his country and many of his friends. Harry is now but one duke among 30.
Meghan has been greatly raised at the cost of Harry being greatly diminished. He is, hands down, the loser. If there are to be bitter regrets, they will surely be his.
Meanwhile, Meghan risks finding herself as unloved as that other American duchess, Wallace Simpson, who cost a king his throne.
- John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.