Aurora readers will by now know that I am a terrible pundit. I first opined that HazMeg were great news for The Monarchy – breath of fresh air; Harry a war hero, ethnic diversity, blah, blah, blah. Then, when that didn’t work out, I speculated that things would calm down after they moved to the US and some sort of elegant accommodation would be reached. Wrong again.
Now, the Netflix series has dropped and, boy, are HazMeg bitter and pissed off. They hate the media and Harry is none too fond of his brother and father. The gloves are off and the commentariat are super happy because they have the fuel for angry opinion pieces for at least a few weeks.
I feel now that I must do the honourable thing (Brits always like to think they are doing the honourable thing even when all evidence so clearly points in the opposite direction) and fall on my sword as your royal family correspondent. Does that mean that this piece should stop reading right now to get on with something more important? Of course not.
Stick with me, please, because I can revert to my other identity of “History Nerd” and address a different question: does this latest imbroglio really matter much in the long run?
Answer: probably not if history is a guide.
You see, The royal family has, metaphorically speaking, had its pants down for much of the last 100 years. Yet it has survived much worse crises by hunkering down and thinking long term – something that most politicians are congenitally unable to do due to the demands of the electoral cycle. Here is the proof
**Item 1: 1936** The King, Edward VIII, abdicates to marry his twice divorced lover, Wallace Simpson. Proper crisis. But actually, a stroke of luck because he is replaced by his duller brother, who becomes George VI, and ends up inventing the modern template for the royal family. During the 1939-45 war he decides not to send his family abroad for safety. They stay in London, share danger with fellow Londoners and are themselves bombed. Meanwhile the young Elizabeth (and future queen), dons khaki clothes and serves as a mechanic and truck driver in the last months of the war.
Duty becomes the watchword for the royal family. The work can be dull and repetitive – endless ribbon cutting up and down the country – but it is a job and it brings royals into regular contact with ordinary people. During her long life a third of Brits either met or saw the Queen (according to YouGov – a reliable source) – a more memorable experience than a Netflix series. Charles and William are on the same treadmill.
**Item 2: 1996 Diana and Charles divorce** It is revealed that Charles was having an affair with his old girlfriend, Camila Parker Bowles. Diana gives an incendiary TV interview, suggesting Charles is not fit to be king. It gets worse – a recording is released of a very intimate conversation between Charles and Camila. It is filthy and toe-curlingly embarrassing. (Charles is never allowed to forget this as it features in a recent episode of *The Crown*). Proper crisis you might think. It turns out not. Twenty-six years on, Camila has evolved into a lovable, down-to-earth Granny and Charles benefits from the inheritance of his mother and grandfather.
**Item 3: 2022 The HazMeg Netflix series drops** It is hyped by Netflix to pump up their flagging ratings. HazMeg smear the royals with the following charges:
a) The British tabloid media are nasty and racist. “The Firm” (aka the royal family) do little to protect HazMeg because they are jealous of their success and want them brought down a peg or three. They are right about the British tabloids. But have little evidence for their accusations against “The Firm” (If they want to know what it is like to be monstered by the tabloids, just ask Charles. He had it worse in 1996).
b) “The Firm” is a hierarchy that favours that next in line to the throne, William and Kate, over Harry and Meghan. This bit like saying water is wet and is deeply unsurprising. William is heir to the throne. Harry is not. The Institution matters more than Harry.
So, this latest crisis is, historically speaking, not that much of a crisis. The working royals will keep their heads down, keep cutting ribbons and keep doing their duty. HazMeg meanwhile have chosen to become rich celebrities in California, which is good for their profile in the US, but a poor PR strategy if they want the British tabloid media to say nice things about them. Meanwhile The Firm’s PR strategy is to say as little as possible about this and play long.
As Winston Churchill said, “you should keep buggering on” when faced with failure. He was a racist, eugenicist, imperialist and failed military commander before he became “The Great Briton” for his stand against the Nazis. Nobody would have predicted this future for him in 1936. Which all goes to show you can’t predict how things will turn out, as my abject failure as Aurora’s royal correspondent, so clearly shows.
Watch this space, though. Amnesia about my own journalistic inadequacies make future opinion pieces almost inevitable.
Julian Saunders is a writer, strategist and teacher. A former creative agency CEO, he has also worked at Google and for the UK government.