THEY’RE changing the guard at Buckingham Palace. Actually make that Kensington Palace. This is where Prince Harry and his new bride, Meghan Markle, will set up home after their wedding this weekend.
Their neighbours will be Harry’s older brother William, his own wife Kate and their lovely children George, Charlotte and Louis. It all sounds very cosy, doesn’t it? And it will be, because there are at least another 15 members of the Royal Family holed up in KP too.
Welcome to your new life Princess Meghan. Once again, I’m reminded that when it comes to family, the Royals – the grandest family in the land – have more in common with your average working-class extended clan than you might imagine.
Not for this young couple their own first home in some distant location, where they can lie in bed watching Netflix and cook their own tea. Rather, they will be expected to shove in beside haughty aunties and naughty cousins and abide by a mysterious family code with roots as deep as the ancient trees in Kensington Palace gardens, where a new statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, will stand guard over her sons in perpetuity.
If Harry’s bride hasn’t realised this already, she soon will. The relationship between her new husband and his brother was forged in tragedy; their bond, tested to destruction, will remain stronger than any accorded by a ring of Welsh gold on an elegantly-manicured wedding finger. When she marries Harry, she must accept that she is not just one half of a couple, she completes the square.
Harry and Meghan, William and Kate. Are these two young couples the new ‘Fab Four’ who will helm the monarchy forwards throughout the 21st century and create a new way of doing things?
Yes, to a point. There are all those traditions which must be abided by for a start. Christmas at Sandringham with the Queen is pretty much non-negotiable. And I’d imagine that some of the sniffier Royals are slightly aghast at Meghan’s colourful past – divorcee, Catholic, actress.
We’ve been here before. When Prince Charles married Diana and Prince Andrew wed Sarah Ferguson. I seem to recall that any brotherly cosiness was swiftly brought to end when “Fergie” inveigled Diana, Princess of Wales into stunts such as dressing up as policewomen and consulting psychics (not at the same time). I trust that both Harry and William understand that in-laws can also be outlaws.
However, the biggest issue is the law of succession which now puts Prince Harry and any children he might have way down the pecking order. We can only assume that Meghan accepted this when she accepted his proposal. And we can only assume that Harry accepts his older brother’s destiny. At least it’s clear-cut. Many a sibling relationship has been frayed by a lack of clarity about who is entitled to what when the old order begins to fall away.
What will these four bring to the new order then? A wise woman once told me that no-one knows what really goes on in a marriage except the people who are in it. So it’s slightly invidious of us to speculate on the qualities, strengths and weaknesses of the Windsor brothers and their wives.
From our far vantage point, we can’t say for sure that quiet, refined Kate may be a little envious of Meghan’s sassy Californian self-confidence.
Neither can we conclude with certainty that William will feel a pang of envy if his younger brother chases off on a charitable jaunt to Africa when his own diary has him down for a tree-planting ceremony in Wolverhampton.
However, I think we can say with some certainty that William and Kate will be glad of the back-up. Not least in terms of spreading the workload a bit. Standing around talking to dignitaries and supporting good causes might not look like work to us, but it does demand time, effort and commitment.
Now Harry will have a wife, especially one who seems to have taken to public appearances with all the gusto expected of a former actress, there’s less pressure on his older brother and spouse.
As a formidable foursome, they also provide a solid wall in a father/son dynamic that has sometimes resembled a row of jagged, missing teeth.
It takes the pressure off the Prince of Wales and his own wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to deliver a public front, a role they have never entirely embraced.
The Fab Four may not be able to escape those haughty aunties and naughty cousins popping in for a cuppa in Kensington Palace. And they’ll never have to argue over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom or juggle the finances at the end of the month.
However, what Harry and Meghan and William and Kate will certainly do is reflect the trials, tribulations and concerns of ordinary couples in ordinary families. They’re just like us, only with better clothes, money in the bank – and a lot more at stake.