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In the latest humiliation for embattled royals Harry and Meghan, the couple have been urged to stay away from the May coronation of Harry’s father, King Charles III. This is a serious gauge of public anger against the Sussexes, considering a coronation is a most important milestone in a sovereign’s reign.
It is a clear reflection of the anguish they have caused Harry’s family and the nation, the latest example being the recently released Netflix series where the Sussexes air new grievances against Harry’s family and birthright.
Another flawed royal, exiled from his family’s good graces, was Harry’s great great uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who attended neither the coronation of his brother George VI in 1937, nor of his niece, Queen Elizabeth in 1953. The parallels hardly end there.
Brits can be forgiven for being less than enthusiastic about members of their royal family marrying Americans, because, let’s face it, our womenfolk hardly have a glittering track record in this regard. Of course, there are wonderful American women who could rise to the occasion and do us proud serving as royal consorts. But sadly, there have been only two Anglo-American royal unions, and both have proven more damaging than affirming for Britain’s monarchy.
As is well known, America rejected having a monarch in 1776. For all of our demonization of “tyrannical” George III, we gave up some precious things. We gave up having a state head who, because he or she sits above politics, can in the best of cases, perform a supremely desirable function – to unite the nation and remind it of what it stands for.
We also gave up having the beneficent influence of a leader who, released from needing to raise money or trumpet their own achievements, could inspire the best among the people they serve, as the late Queen Elizabeth demonstrated definitively.
Somehow, however, we seem never to have lost our fascination with royalty. Perhaps this is a function of forbidden fruit – the irresistibility of what we cannot have. Moreover, thousand-year-old castles and jewels are beguiling and out of reach, even in a wealthy nation where you can buy almost anything.
Eighty-seven years ago, Britain experienced a constitutional crisis, perilous to the monarchy when King Edward VIII proposed to Wallis Simpson, a divorced American. Public opinion throughout Britain and its possessions was alarmed at the prospect of the king’s union with a woman who had two husbands living. Instead of abandoning Mrs. Simpson, the feckless Edward abandoned his country, paving the way for a much better monarch, Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI.
Understandably, Britain never forgave Edward VIII (his flirtations with Hitler hardened them all the more), nor the woman many perceived to have corrupted him. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (as they would come to be known) were forced to settle outside of Britain. Edward made a pretense to want to work in service of the Crown, but was given little official work other than a token governorship of the Bahamas, and the couple became nothing more than international jet-setters; wayward, and a bit sad.
Of course, Prince Harry was never likely to become king. Nevertheless, as we have seen, stories surrounding the antics and cruel betrayals of the “spare” and his wife dominate news cycles, not just in the U.K., but here and globally.
Like the Windsors before them, the Sussexes have fallen out of favor in Britain for their indecorous behavior. But while the Duke of Windsor let his people down by being irresponsible, he and his wife did not seek the spotlight in any meaningful way. Nor did they exist, as the Sussexes seem to, hell-bent to destroy the monarchy.
Both Harry and his great-great uncle, the Duke of Windsor caused feuds with their royal brothers. In the case of the Duke of Windsor, his much more dutiful brother, George VI, was forced to accept the crown. While he was painfully shy, George was bolstered by the supportive presence of his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret, and a loving wife (later the Queen Mother) whose charm and understanding of the expectations of royal life were massive assets to the unexpected king.
As for Mrs. Simpson, unlike Meghan Markle, she had no ambitions to be in the spotlight, and waged no campaigns of retaliation against the royal family, though she had an even greater claim to bitterness. After all, unlike Wallis, Markle did receive royal highness status and was warmly welcomed into the family with a glittering wedding and taxpayer-funded, newly remodeled royal residence. And Markle still could not bring herself to fulfill the demands of being a valuable member of the family.
If the Sussexes were even slightly reasonable, they could benefit from the example of the vapid, sad life to which the Windsors were reduced. But while the Windsors ended life as a somewhat tragic old couple, the Sussexes, with their narcissism, tone deafness and provocation of a monarchy beloved in Britain and respected around the world, risk a legacy of even greater hostility.