Megxit has been resolved almost as soon as it began. On January 8, the duke and duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, announced on Instagram they were going to “step back” as senior members of the royal family. The wording of their post seemed to indicate they wanted to continue to enjoy the perks of royalty while cashing in on their global fame.
During the run-up to the royal wedding, Harry is alleged to have yelled at staff, “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets!” Apparently, that doesn’t apply when Meghan goes up against Queen Elizabeth II.
On January 18, an announcement from Buckingham Palace made it clear that Harry and Meghan will not get to have their cake and eat it too. With the monarchy, you are either in or you are out. And Harry and Meghan are out. They will stop using their His and Her Royal Highness titles. They will also repay the millions of public funds spent to renovate their house.
The cost of the renovation, which was completed less than a year ago, had already attracted significant criticism. So Harry and Meghan’s decision to move away added insult to injury.
Queen Elizabeth defused the Harry and Meghan crisis in record time. This raises the question: doesn’t she deserve to have some actual powers instead of merely symbolic ones? If Queen Elizabeth had been allowed to handle Brexit like she handled Megxit, the British people would have been spared the embarrassing ordeal of the past three years.
She also displayed her ruthlessness last November when she fired her son Prince Andrew from public duties. He became a liability after he gave a disastrous TV interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein. Family or no family, Andrew had to go.
To date, Andrew is the only public figure who has paid a significant price for associating with Epstein. Many American elected officials were also friends of the late pedophile, but they are successfully avoiding any consequences. Have we reached a moment in history when royalty is more accountable to the people than democratic institutions? The way Queen Elizabeth has dealt with Andrew, Harry, and Meghan certainly suggests as much.
The Megxit story got wall-to-wall coverage all over the world, knocking America’s supposedly imminent war with Iran off the front pages. Much of the commentary suggested Harry and Meghan’s departure represented an existential threat to the monarchy. That’s absurd. This was always a side show.
The situation has drawn comparisons to King Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 so he could marry Wallis Simpson. In both cases, there was a divorced American woman involved, but that’s where the similarities end. The abdication was a real crisis. In 1936, fascism and communism were rising across Europe. World War II was about to break out. The disruption of the monarchy was a threat to the British way of life. The year 2020 is an oasis of stability compared to that time.
Moreover, Edward VIII was king. Prince Harry is only sixth in line to the throne. He was always destined for oblivion once Prince William and Duchess Kate’s three children grow up and take the spotlight.
Going forward, Harry and Meghan will probably reappear every few years to embarrass the monarchy with their money-making ventures, as they already did last week in the video that surfaced of Harry asking the CEO of Disney to give Meghan voiceover work. But that’s the extent of this “crisis.”
Megxit got saturation coverage mainly because it’s a lot of fun. This tussle has royalty, Hollywood, and family drama. I think we all find it reassuring to hear that royals are just like us in not getting along sometimes with their in-laws.
Meghan has a small but loud coterie of fans on Twitter. But they’ll soon move on to their next cause. I suspect these fans are people who are like her. They’ve dumped parents, spouses, and friends for advancement.
Meghan vindicates them because, despite her past, she got a Disney princess wedding with a white dress and tiara. She makes it seem like it is okay to have ghosted your old friends, and normal to be estranged from your father. One fan tweeted on the wedding day: “All my females. If Meghan never left her first marriage she wouldn’t be a princess today or royalty. There is always better.” That tweet got 300,000 likes.
Meghan’s fans are good for the occasional Twitter mob. Maybe they’ll buy some of the “Sussex Royal” merchandise the couple have apparently trademarked. But they are way too self-absorbed to form a movement that will support her for decades to come.
Some of the Megxit commentary has tried to find a deeper meaning in all this by suggesting Harry and Meghan represent the triumph of celebrity culture over royalty. Let’s wait and see. The British royal family has been around for 1,000 years. Celebrity culture has a considerably shorter pedigree.
When a newspaper accidentally printed his obituary, the great American author Mark Twain joked, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Whenever a scandal hits the House of Windsor, the media predicts this is the one that will finally get the queen tossed out of her palace. It never happens. With Megxit, as with previous royal dramas, the reports of the monarchy’s death are greatly exaggerated.