A Sense of Duty
Are Harry and Meghan cutting-edge progressives or are they royally destroying the monarchy?
Meghan Markle is many things, but the last few days of announcing their conscious uncoupling from the monarchy, she’s been labelled a ‘whining ego-crazed, deluded leech’.
One would think they’ve decided to start systematically brutalising baby koalas.
‘The Crown’ is an absorbing show because it’s central tension is around these living breathing people who are constricted into their duties to be seen and not heard.
People who are so intensely private that tabloids spout rumours, body language experts comment on relationship statuses, opinion pieces spawn from every official communication from the palace.
Episode six, season three sees Charles as a young man in Wales attempting to improve diplomatic ties in a nation wishing for independence. He tweaks his investiture speech, which had been written for him, to reflect an affinity with the country’s frustrations. He implies understanding with a desire for your own identity.
The Queen rips him a new one telling him that ‘not having a voice is something we all have to live with’ and ‘to do nothing, to say nothing is the hardest job of all, it requires every ounce of energy we have’.
When Charles argues that he is not just a symbol the Queen coldly tells him that no one wants to hear what he has to say.
So we watch the real-life royals and their lives playing out this tension: public and private.
And then there’s Harry. He’s never quite nailed it.
I’ve always felt a certain affinity with Harry. Being of similar age, marrying in the same year and pregnancy announcements following not long after.
Like the rest of the world, we grieved the loss of his mother.
Then Meghan came along and the British press were not amused. Being an outsider was always going to be hard but perhaps it was the cultural differences which were most jarring.
The New Yorker observed that ‘self-care is an American import’, citing the yoga studio she had installed at Frogmore Cottage.
A completely different breed from the placid Kate Middleton who nary puts a toenail out of line and seems content in her ‘duties’.
The hoity-toity stiff upper lip thing is uniquely British and an American actress was never going to assimilate. Harry would have known this, it must have driven his choice.
Perhaps it was a way the party-loving, Nazi-uniform wearing Prince could continue to push boundaries into his adult life. He is absolutely implicit in this current palaver, unfairly named ‘Megxit’.
But the question remains, are they cutting-edge progressives who will bring the monarchy into a new era in which it’s acceptable to sell Sussex-branded yoga pants? Or are they bucking tradition to suit their own needs and desires in pursuit of a modern day celebrity/royal hybrid?
Is duty still a thing?
Now bear with me because what I’m about to say is truly a first-world problem: after being a free-wheeling independent woman (all the ladies who truly feel me) duty sucks. I have a duty to my baby. Her health and well-being comes well before mine.
Of course with great duty comes great privilege and having a child is undoubtedly a privilege.
My husband and I recently took a caravan up to parts of NSW that weren’t on fire. My hair quickly turned into a shaggy mountain goat, knotty dregs building up. And yet, brushing my hair was the bottom of the list of priorities.
We were too busy problem-solving how to keep this hungry, pooey, sleepy human in a constant state of equilibrium for our own sanity. Which included a state of enforced silence from 7:30pm onwards as our little cherub slept in our shared space. Not exactly the fun, relaxing holiday we’d dreamed of.
And yet, even as I read my own words I abhor this sense of entitlement, of course parenting is bloody hard! You signed up for it!
Are these the same qualities playing out in Harry and Meghan’s struggles? It’s easy to justify, to claim you’re carving out a new generation of royalty.
Just as I like to claim when I’ve collapsed on the couch with a wine, mentally exhausted, that I’m carving out my baby’s independence by giving her more free time (when what she really needs is a bath).
Is it Harry and Meghan’s duty to be silent, subservient figureheads? Or is it time for an overhaul?
I don’t have the answers aside from if they’re shirking their duties it would be difficult to blame them, especially given the vitriolic reaction to their announcement.
Perhaps only time will tell. I’ll be here, with the popcorn and knotted hair. At least I can try to be a cutting-edge progressive.
We’re all doing the best we can.
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