Believe it or not, it has been only a year since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made the decision to cleave themselves from the royal family. If it feels like longer, it could just be due to the monotony of pandemic life. Alternatively, it might be because Meghan and Harry have spent that year cramming in roughly a decade’s worth of complaining.
You would think that the worst is now over for them. The heartache of leaving Britain has faded. The controversy over their eleventh-hour coronavirus-skirting border flounce to California has been forgotten. Part of their court case against The Mail on Sunday has been favorably resolved without a trial. They now have the exact life they wanted: dripping in Netflix money, watching their super-latte investment get heralded by Oprah on Instagram, making whatever insipidly pseudo-positive podcasts they like from their corner of paradise.
And yet, happiness still seems to be beyond them. Harry’s gripe du jour is that he wants his honorary military titles reinstated. At the end of March, Buckingham Palace will review the progress of Megxit, and one topic of discussion will be Harry’s patronages: captain general of the Royal Marines; honorary air commandant of R.A.F. Honington; and commodore in chief, small ships and diving, Royal Naval Command.
Meghan and Harry have spent that year cramming in roughly a decade’s worth of complaining.
The argument, in a nutshell, is that Harry says his dedication to the military remains undimmed, despite his new living situation, while the Palace argues that he can either be in or out of the royal family. He shouldn’t be allowed to cherry-pick his titles, particularly now that a chunk of his income is derived from a streaming service that makes a show about how awful his parents were. Besides, it does seem logistically quite difficult to command R.A.F. Honington—even honorarily—between podcast recordings from a mansion 5,500 miles away.
At the same time, another source of misery is their son Archie’s birth certificate. Two weeks ago, The Sun reported that the certificate had been altered last June, erasing “Rachel Meghan” and leaving only “Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex.” On discovering this, the press claimed that the couple had ordered the changes, perhaps as part of a toweringly petty grudge against Kate Middleton—who used “Catherine Elizabeth” as well as her title.
But Harry and Meghan have hit back, blaming the Palace for the alteration. Through her spokesperson, Meghan stormed, “To see this UK tabloid and their carnival of so-called ‘experts’ choose to deceptively whip this into a calculated family ‘snub’ and suggest that she would oddly want to be nameless on her child’s birth certificate, or any other legal document, would be laughable were it not offensive.”
Meanwhile, Garter Principal King of Arms and Senior Herald Thomas Woodcock, the Queen’s chief ceremonial adviser, appears to be borderline shell-shocked by the whole situation. When asked about the certificate by the Daily Mail, he sighed, “I haven’t had any part in it but am very happy to take the blame, if that is what’s required,” much in the manner of a checked-out spouse who has been married for two decades too long.
This wild mudslinging is a far cry from the royal family’s old motto of “Never complain, never explain,” which remains in full effect. While Meghan has been losing her mind over two changed words on a birth certificate, the Queen has been at the center of a storm over her secret lobbying to change British laws.
This week it emerged that she had meddled with laws pertaining to national monuments, the need for her estates to adhere to road-safety rules, and—most damningly of all—public disclosure of her private wealth. And how has she reacted? Silence. The Queen hasn’t said a peep about it, because she has been in this game for decades and knows that this will all blow over in a few days.
It does seem logistically quite difficult to command R.A.F. Honington—even honorarily—between podcast recordings from a mansion 5,500 miles away.
But perhaps there are signs that Meghan is learning. She hasn’t yet publicly admonished her half-sister, Samantha, for writing her book, The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister, Part 1, for example. Perhaps the relative calm is due to the fact that there is basically nothing in it. Samantha is long estranged from Meghan, and judging by the profound lack of insight contained within the book, it shows. The lead takeaway is that the paparazzo photo of Thomas Markle—the one that apparently ended his relationship with Meghan—was supposed to be taken from a slightly different angle than it actually was. This barely warrants a Wikipedia edit, let alone a book.
Maybe the silence is because a challenger has entered the fray. This week, Princess Eugenie gave birth to a son, a boy 11th in line to the throne. Her husband, Jack Brooksbank, who works for the tequila brand George Clooney co-founded, was present for the birth. However, according to the Daily Mail, just 11 minutes after the official announcement, a press release was circulated to journalists to stipulate that, if Brooksbank happened to be mentioned in any articles, “you use his official title: European Brand Director of Casamigos Tequila.” Which, in terms of pushy in-laws, pretty much blasts Meghan all the way to Siberia.
Alternatively, it could be due to a longer-term plan. Meghan’s recent one-hour Zoom conversation with Gavin Newsom has rekindled rumors, first started last year, that she is considering a future run for office. And if that’s the case, she will no doubt be eager to perform a little damage limitation on her public image. After all, voters are unlikely to be won over by a figure who has no political experience, oceans of inherited wealth, and is given to fits of pique over the smallest perceived slight. Not again, at least.
Stuart Heritage is a Kent, U.K.–based Writer at Large for AIR MAIL