Randi Kreiss

What’s a royal to do in the 21st century?

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The queen doesn’t need a passport or a driver’s license because she’s the queen, and she gets transported anyplace she wants to go. Just a little click of those thick-heeled black shoes and off she goes, with her Corgis in tow. And that’s just one of her perks.

She has a kind of ATM in the basement of Buckingham Palace, and she eats whatever and whenever she pleases. According to a 14th century statute, she owns all the whales and sturgeons in the waters around the United Kingdom. She has the power to veto legislation in times of crisis, and can opt out of Freedom of Information requests and even personal taxes. She is also the queen of Australia, and can boss around the folks Down Under.

So why would the duke and duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, make Big Ben skip a beat last week by announcing that they are giving up all the trappings of the royal life and stepping back from their official duties? Why would this glamorous couple reject the privileges of living in Elizabeth R’s circle?

Those royals. What a wacky lot they are.

In 1936 there was Edward the VIII, who abdicated the throne of England to marry his American lover, Wallis Simpson. Never has one man given up so much in the name of love (and for a Nazi sympathizer, no less!).

Of course Princess Margaret’s affairs and headlines embarrassed the royals for decades. More recently, Prince Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein forced him into civilian life.

When the queen’s son, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, married Diana Spencer in 1981, it seemed as if, finally, there was a love match — until the lusty Charles revealed his passion for the horsy Camilla Parker Bowles, and Diana revealed herself as a deeply empathic person who suffered alone in the castle tower, struggling against the onerous constraints of royal rules and regulations.

Now we have Harry, 35 — just a year younger than his mother was when she was killed — and Meghan, 38, trying to live an ordinary life, make their own money, raise their family out of any spotlight and not spend the best years of their lives in receiving lines and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Bravo to them for shunning the artifice of the royal court and embracing a more authentic life that will protect their family from overexposure to privilege and the press.

I get Harry. According to a story in The New York Times, his public image “was forever fixed for millions as the somber boy walking with his father and brother behind his mother’s casket.” One can only imagine the trauma of the moment for the young boy, not just grieving over the sudden, violent death of his mother, but being forced into a public persona that required him to stifle his feelings and hide his genuine self.

Recently Harry lashed out, saying, “I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother, and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.” Like his mother, Harry has gone public with discussions of his own bouts with depression and his willingness to reach out for professional help when he needed it.

Harry and Meghan also announced that they would live part-time in England and part-time in the U.S. and Canada. Meghan, apparently, has no intention of abandoning America or her Americanisms. She has renounced the stiff upper lip for big smiles and hugs.

From where I sit, I think Harry is fulfilling a dream for his mother, doing in this time and place what was impossible for her to do in the 1980s. He is stepping off the stage, shedding the costumes and planning to live a real life. It seems as if Diana would approve. It seems as if he is acting on her longing for less pomp and more privacy and authenticity.

Buckingham Palace, of course, was frosty in its response to the announcement, saying it was very early in the discussion of Harry and Meghan’s plans. But the queen, who lived though the blitz, is unlikely to swoon over the grandkids’ departure. She likely is pinning her hopes on Harry’s brother, William, as the future king. Charles, meanwhile, has been waiting in the wings so long that he’s gone quite stale.

Harry is sixth in the line of succession to the throne, but he and his wife have decided not to wait for someone to die so they can begin to live.

Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.