… the royals. Meghan, the pop idol Duchess of Sussex, has turned into the Duchess of Excess; Prince Harry, the naughty boy we loved, the soldier who served bravely in Afghanistan, is now the Prince of Wokeness. Meghan, greeted as a breath of fresh air, has morphed into Me-ghan. Since the last person who blew into the royal family as a breath of fresh air was Sarah Ferguson, one suspects things might end badly.
Over the summer months, the Sussexes have seemingly interpreted P.R. as Private Royalty. They cannot be private and royal while hitting up the British taxpayer with a $2.9 million bill for renovations at Frogmore Cottage. Their interior designer, Vicky Charles, also decorated Soho Farmhouse, which, with its champagne martinis and racks of pristine Wellington boots, seems to be Meghan’s idea of country living. Grouse shooting at Balmoral Castle, in Scotland, clearly isn’t: this week the Sussexes reportedly declined an invitation to visit the Queen there, claiming that baby Archie was too young for the trip—even though later this month they are taking him to Botswana, Angola, and other parts of Southern Africa. (On Friday, Meghan left husband and child at home when she made a surprise trip to New York—on a commercial flight—to watch Serena Williams play in the U.S. Open finals.)
And then there’s been the little teaser that Harry and Meghan felt Frogmore wasn’t enough and that they really wanted to move into Windsor Castle. What did they expect the Queen to do? Move to senior living? Why choose Windsor, bang under Heathrow’s busiest flight path, when there are beautiful Downton-esque country houses for sale? (The Prince of Wales seems able to slum it at Highgrove.)
It is not as if the Sussexes needed to be near the airport given that they’ve been using a private-plane airfield in Hampshire for their vacation jaunts. Four private-jet flights (and, possibly, counting) with baby Archie in 11 days. Compare and contrast with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who made a point of taking their family, which includes three heirs to the throne, on holiday to Scotland on the low-cost airline Flybe ($89 a ticket).
At a press conference in Amsterdam this week announcing his new travel-sustainability initiative, Travalyst, the Duke of Sussex, who flew there on a commercial flight, explained his prior private-jet spree by saying, “No one is perfect.”
The upshot of the summer of discontent with the House of Sussex is that the sun now shines brightly on the House of Cambridge. The rumored affair, or possibly heavy flirtation, between Prince William and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley has been a non-subject amongst Norfolk society this summer. Whatever it was, or wasn’t, it’s over. They say he’s too dull, which is not a bad thing in a king but tiresome in a lover. The Marchioness does not seem set to be the Camilla Parker Bowles of this royal generation. When I saw the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sailing in the King’s Cup at Cowes in August, they were relaxed and fun, with positive body language toward each other.
As for the reported feud between the duchesses, that was a story waiting to happen.
Catherine comes from a stable, close-knit family. Meghan comes from a sadly dysfunctional family, leading to her being unpleasantly trolled as trailer trash. Her soi-disant acting career most recently included a part in a cable-TV series—filmed mostly in Canada, no less! It’s not exactly Grace Kelly, but the British public willed her to be a similar fairy-tale princess. It is that disappointment, deepened by Meghan’s reported rudeness to her staff, the couple going through three nannies in three months, and the grudgingly coy public picture of Archie’s feet (rather than face), that caused Kate to be upgraded to blueblood and Meghan downgraded to red carpet.
It is the modern conundrum of royalty versus celebrity, and Meghan does not seem to have grasped the difference. (Just how close was the former Meghan Markle to George and Amal Clooney that they were invited to the wedding?)
She apparently wants to change the monarchy. Actually, it was doing fine until she popped along writing empowering messages on bananas for sex workers. What do we know about the Queen? Not much except that she likes horses and dogs, yet she has always said she must “be seen to be believed,” which is very canny, so why all the privacy around the birth of baby Archie? He might just as well have been found under a gooseberry bush. Even the names of the obstetricians and the hospital were kept secret. (It was the Portland, by the way, which serves champagne to toast newborns and their parents.) As for the private christening … there was a marvelous cartoon in The Daily Telegraph depicting guests being handed cyanide pills to take in case they revealed the names of the godparents. What nonsense. Tiggy Pettifer, Harry’s former nanny, is surely one, and she is hardly likely to be giving an interview to The Sun.
As the summer wound down, any story in the U.K. was a relief from the chaos that is Brexit. You have to admire the Sussexes for stepping up to the plate. Prince Harry did his part by lecturing on climate change at the Google Camp in Sicily alongside assorted influencers, 114 private jets, and many mega-yachts. Then the holiday to Ibiza for Meghan’s birthday, reportedly staying in a $130,000-a-week villa with seven bedrooms. Seven? Even if you include the baby, a nanny, and a policeman (at the taxpayers’ expense), that still only accounts for four bedrooms. And even with a live-in caretaker, waitress, driver, and on-tap beauticians and yoga teachers, the Sussexes still felt it necessary to take their own chef, according to The Sun.
The problem is that Meghan Markle will not listen. To anyone. The Cambridges and the Sussexes are, for the time being, a bit on the outs. The rift began, perhaps, when William appeared insufficiently thrilled about his brother’s rush to marriage. But William could not combat Harry’s sexual obsession with Markle. Meghan is the Yoko of the fab four, but instead of giving peace a chance—and her public duties—she served as guest editor for the September issue of British Vogue. Her editor’s letter is full of guff about how the fashion fest that the September issue heralds is focused toward the superficial. Then luckily she remembered/googled a quote from Anaïs Nin about mermaids: “I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” So Markle wrote, “Why would we swim in the shallow end of the pool when we could go to the deep end? A metaphor for life, as well as for this issue.” Cue the espousal of a lot of women of whom few had heard of as “Forces for Change.”
It is the lecturing as well as the neurotic insistence on privacy that grates with the British taxpayer, who is financing the Sussexes’ lavish lifestyle. So, fly commercial so that Elton John doesn’t have to come to your defense by saying he paid for the private jet. Stop wearing the ludicrously expensive clothes (paid for by Prince Charles), and do not try to counteract your brother-in-law’s low-budget flights with a picture of cupcakes on your Instagram feed. From a feminist bakery, naturally, iced with California-isms such as “Be Kind to Your Mind” and “You Are Worthy.”
All this, and then a rumor leaked that Meghan is homesick and wants to move to Malibu.
A demon private secretary, Fiona Mcilwham, a former diplomat, has been appointed to improve the Sussexes’ reputations. Also, the Palace confirmed that the Sussexes have enlisted the Hollywood P.R. firm Sunshine Sachs, whose clients include Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake, to sort out their climate-change messaging. Good luck with that. —Victoria Mather