After a long lifetime of service, and doing all she can to lift the spirits of her people during the pandemic from her isolation at Windsor, the Queen really does not deserve this.
The couple’s interview with Oprah Winfrey tomorrow night in America, and then on ITV on Monday, will be a global television event to rival that which Princess Diana gave to the BBC in 1995. And it has the potential to be just as damaging to the Royal Family.
The narrative then was of a stuffy institution that broke outsiders on the wheel of its rigidity and heartlessness. And Meghan and Harry appear to have a similar tale to spin, if the teasers released about the royals “perpetuating falsehoods” are anything to go by. There was emotive music, and questions about survival and being sidelined.
Given that the couple’s tale of relinquishing royal duties has already been told in last year’s biography of them, Finding Freedom, perhaps there will be no real surprises. But then again, there might. Oprah Winfrey has built her pre-eminence as America’s top interviewer on her excellence at eliciting bombshell revelations from those that she persuades to bare their souls.
Since this is a couple all too ready to do just that at every opportunity, Oprah might not have to dig too deeply. There is a sense of the inevitable about Harry and Meghan agreeing to a tell-all setpiece, given that it is aimed at the American audience upon which their fortunes rest, and that in return expects juicy revelations about the quaint institution that exerts such fascination for it, the monarchy.
That’s the deal in the showbiz world which the Duke and Duchess of Sussex now occupy. It is to be hoped they do not come to regret the bargain struck. There is a precedent. Those close to Harry’s mother have said she came to regret the interview she gave to Panorama, believing that it did more harm than good.
Whatever the couple say on TV will pursue them for the rest of their days, the clips and quotes endlessly regurgitated at every turn their lives take in the future.
For now, though, it is the fallout for the Royal Family that matters. This is an interview that appears to be an unappealing combination of self-promotion and score-settling.
The Royal Family, of course, cannot answer back. Its only option is to trust in the good sense of the British public to see the work it does and cherish its contribution to public life.
Hours before the interview airs in America, there will be another subtle reminder of just how much we have to thank our monarchy for. The Queen will broadcast to mark Commonwealth Day, which falls on Monday, and in doing so underline what duty really means.
We’ve heard much more from her over the past year than is customary, because of the pandemic. There was the inspiring address to the locked-down nation last spring, when millions watched – and took heart from – her reassurance that we would all meet again once this is over.
She raised spirits again at Christmas, and then last week made another powerful intervention in a video call in which she urged anyone dithering over whether to have the Covid vaccination to do so for the sake of others.
Those who might sympathise with the now-familiar narrative from Harry and Meghan that they were treated unfeelingly would do well to ponder that it contrasts very oddly with the concern and compassion expressed in every public utterance of the Queen and her family over the past year.
The other senior royals have followed the Queen’s lead these past difficult months. Charles and Camilla have repeatedly expressed support and admiration for the NHS, and William and Kate have been cheerfully uplifting of other young parents who have found endless weeks at home with restless children a trial.
Meanwhile, what have Harry and Meghan done to help the nation, as opposed to helping themselves? Multi-million dollar deals with Netflix and Spotify don’t do much to inspire families wondering how to make ends meet because of the pandemic. Nor do homilies on social media delivered by a couple who are already fabulously wealthy.
It’s a matter of regret that Harry and Meghan have chosen their current course. This was a couple who showed every sign of being an asset to the Royal Family and were wholeheartedly embraced by the British public. They could, along with the rest of the Royal Family, have played an important part in helping to raise the spirits of Britain during the pandemic.
But now, they seem tone-deaf and mystifyingly out of touch with this country. There was an unpleasantly petulant tone to their statement in response to the announcement from the Queen that Harry would no longer continue with his honorary military commands. “Service is universal,” it snapped. Ouch. Firstly, you don’t answer the Queen back. Secondly, how could Harry have possibly believed it was credible to have an active involvement in the life of British service personnel from his home in California? It just doesn’t add up.
For all their talk of empowerment and forging their own future, this looks like a couple who have somehow lost their way, lacking in purpose beyond making a very handsome living from leveraging royal status into celebrity.
In its way, it is a sad spectacle. Let’s hope it does not also prove harmful to a monarchy that does not need the artificiality of a chat show with a dramatic soundtrack to demonstrate how much it cares.
Read Andrew Vine in The Yorkshire Post every Tuesday.
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