As a woman, I am appalled at the name calling the Duchess of Sussex has suffered these past few days. And I use the word suffered deliberately. No wonder she wants out.
At the very least she has been portrayed as manipulative, spoilt, demanding and selfish. And the conclusion by most is that the decision to leave the royal family is entirely hers, that Harry was fine before he met her. Well he wasn’t. And hasn’t been for a very long time. That doesn’t make him flakey. It makes them both strong.
I see no evidence that this is anything other than a joint decision and in my view the right one, albeit handled in the wrong way. In fact handled very badly indeed before the Queen stepped in to do what she does so brilliantly and that is restore calm and talk to us as a granny not as a monarch. And what granny doesn’t want the best for her family whether we agree with their decisions, or not.
But this column isn’t just about family love and loyalty or even the brave decision to leave the fold and stand on your own two feet, something which many of us have experienced as our own choose to leave the nest, albeit in this case a very comfortable, feathered one. This column is about the hysteria which has followed last week’s announcement.
And I refuse point blank to be a woman who joins in the shaming of another woman. Just because a woman is strong does not mean her partner is weak. Quite the contrary. It takes a strong man to live with a strong woman. And I am tired of ambition, strength of character, determination, all the character’s considered to be positive in a man, being used to beat down our gender.
The decision to bow out is hardly a shock, nor is it unprecedented, and no I am not referring the abdication of great great Uncle Edward , which once again has led to unfavourable comparisons of Meghan to another American divorcee. We seem to have forgotten that in 1993, in front of the world’s media, completely unannounced and unexpected, Princess Diana told us she too was withdrawing from public life. In fact she went further, she gave us the reasons why. They are the same reasons Harry and Meghan are fleeing these shores.
This is what Diana said. “When I started my public life ...I understood the media might be interested in what I did... But I was not aware of how overwhelming that attention would become nor to what extent it would affect both my public duties and personal life in a manner that has been hard to bear.”
Did we shout traitor then, no we sympathised and applauded her courage. Four years later she was dead and the public and the press instantly blamed the Royal family for stripping her of her royal title and the security that went with it, which is why Harry and Meghan should keep theirs.
Of course Harry has changed since meeting Meghan Markle. He is now a husband and a father, and that changes you. It makes you realise what’s important. And for them it is their sanity.
If I were him, if my mother had been chased to her death, I too would be fearful for my new family. But as Diana was sadly to learn you can run but you can’t hide, which is why the details of how they withdraw, how they earn money to support their new independent life has to be worked out now to avoid history repeating itself. Diana was a strong woman determined to make her own way in the world but cutting the ties completely was a disaster that ended in tragedy.
The Royal family has learned that lesson which is why the Queen is reluctantly letting them go while never cutting them adrift. She is doing what any granny would do and leaving the door open. Of course they must never embarrass the monarchy by striking inappropriate deals. But doing a Disney voice over is hardly parading around in your underwear which I seem to remember Kate doing to universal acclaim. Just as the Cambridge’s registered lots of trademarks without barely a whisper.
As for titles, they were granny’s to bestow and granny’s to take away, as indeed was the cottage that seems to be at the centre of much debate. They will certainly be able to afford the rent when the offers come in. It is up to them to choose wisely which offers to accept.
It is not for me, nor for anyone else to insist someone, anyone, stays in an environment they consider toxic and which quite frankly appears to be making them ill. We are supposed to live in an age where it is okay not to be okay. Here are a couple who are not okay. Let us cut them some slack, but never cut them off.