Unless you’ve been vacationing in a cave the past few days and just now rejoined the civilized world, you will know that a massive Media Event/Cultural Moment occurred on Sunday night, when 17 million people tuned in to watch the three celebrities who need no last names, to wit, Harry, Meghan and Oprah, talk about life in the British monarchy. 17 million pairs of eyes and ears is a lot. The last time a TV show got that kind of coverage, it was the grand finale of Game of Thrones, which got 18 million. So we are talking big.

I didn’t watch the interview, I must confess, because I’m indifferent to the Royals and not even quite sure why they are such a celebrity item for so many people. Being the granddaughter of three Irish immigrants and one Virginia former plantation owner, displaced from the Civil War — think Scarlett O’Hara and you’ve got me (ethnically, I didn’t grow up in wealth) — and I don’t have misty-eyed visions of the British monarchy, castles and crowns, coaches and beheadings. I grew up hearing the Irish version of the English and it’s emphatically not flattering, to say the very least. So the travails of these people, real or imagined, rank for me somewhere in the realm of Silver Screen and confessional tabloid trash.

Now don’t get me wrong: if Meghan Markle suffered the racist slurs she described, that’s not right and I feel empathy, as any decent human being would. But I emphatically don’t see anybody who was a millionaire, successful actress, when she met the prince, himself also quite well-heeled and born to privilege, as a victim or pair of victims. And certainly there’s no love lost for the institution of the British monarchy.

This was why my attitude towards the interview was to not even watch it, let alone to passionately take a side, and argue whose cause was the more just, because I see it fundamentally as a squabble amongst plutocrats more than anything else and my life concerns are leveled at the struggles of my own class, and those immediately above and below me. The Royals, and their interviewer Oprah, for that matter, are up there on the space station compared to me, socio-economically. Their problems are not my problems and vice versa. I’ll take your word for it if you say that we both put on our pants one leg at a time.

So imagine my delight when I ran across a piece in the Irish Times, that absolutely nails and contextualizes this event. This is one of those great pieces of writing, where until I read it, I didn’t realize that these are my thoughts and feelings, exactly, but ones that I probably would never have been able to codify and express on my own. So now I share it with you. Thank you, Patrick Freyne, Irish Times:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause.

The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British nonconstitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They’re basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.

After this bravura introduction, which had me on the floor, the article then goes on to give you the substance of the interview, which you’ve already undoubtedly heard, that Meghan is accused of bullying servants, of making her sister-in-law cry over the bridesmaid dresses (I must be some kind of a deficient female, because I could not give a rats ass about issues like this.) Then it addresses the racist material.

She does, however, go on to paint a dismal picture of being silenced and unsupported by the institution as racist commentators took aim at her. The royals never defended her. They allowed lies to go unchallenged and misled the press themselves when it suited them. She calls them by the old nickname of the Firm, which makes them sound like a gang of London gangsters, which I suppose they are. At her worst, she says, she felt suicidal. She rather movingly points to a photograph at a royal engagement when she was at her lowest, noting how tightly a worried Harry is holding her hand.

Harry and Meghan report that they didn’t so much leave the monarchy as were edged out by it. But here’s the turnaround. They’re far better off as celebrities with their own entertainment deals going, building their own brand, if you will, then being a part of the horse and pony show at Buckingham Palace.

Over the course of the interview Harry and Meghan, who are charming, clever and good at being celebrities, make the monarchy look like an archaic and endemically racist institution that has no place in the modern world. Well duh. And despite all the outrage you might read in the UK tabloids right now, they also did something else that renders everything else irrelevant: they officially launched themselves in the United States.

Harry revealed their next child’s gender – it’s a girl – in this interview, but Harry and Meghan are also pregnant with a nascent media empire and lucrative Spotify and Netflix contracts. Of course, their critics accuse them of being money-hungry careerists for this, but that’s hilarious coming from sycophants to hereditary tax-suckling grifters. Arranging a Netflix deal that the couple actually have to work for is pretty benign royal behaviour when you compare it with conquest and general parasitism.

Harry and Meghan are ultimately going to win. Despite the tabloid frenzy, this was never the story of an ungrateful pauper being elevated by the monarchy. This was about the potential union of two great houses, the Windsors and Californian Celebrity. Only one of those things has a future, and it’s the one with the Netflix deal.

This is really what’s going on. It’s not the least bit surprising to me that an Irish journalist would so completely nail it, when the rest of the world press is dithering and tittering and buying into the fantasy of the Royals and all the fairy tales that surround them. This is a down to earth, real world assessment of the situation.

And of course the drama continues. Piers Morgan stormed off the set of his own talk show this morning. He got 41,000 complaints for calling the interview “absolutely disgraceful.” This is a full blown cause celebre, morals are umbraged and dudgeons are high, don’t you know. Oh, my goodness. Where are my pearls and my fainting couch?

For my part, I’m going to keep reading the Irish press. They seem to have one foot on the ground, at least for my tastes and sensibilities. I think this showdown with Buckingham Palace is a complete farce and yet another example of mass delusion, much like the political situation in this country. But I take my hat off to the enterprising young California couple, with the media deals. They’re going to do just fine. And I’m sure all the parties involved know that. Ay, there’s the rub.


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    • I don’t know much about him. He’s a name that comes up from time to time and not in a favorable way. I seem to recall that he was in league with some of Steve Bannon’s British right-wing cohorts. You have to admit, 41K complaints is one hell of a lot. Ouch.

      • There you go. Having him gone would be like having Hannity or Tucker gone from Fux.
        Re: Megan/Harry. Living in a fishbowl, especially in 2021, with the horrific nastiness of the British press and Megan’s own effing father – not an easy situation. She’s been attacked from day one. Sure she’s a celebrity but FFS, the “Firm” did NOT have her back in fighting the lies perpetrated by the Brit press. I had a narcissistic mother. Damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. That was her life. Then to find out someone/s questioned what skin color her child would have – come on. She was in a lot of pain to think about suicide. I have some compassion for what they’ve gone through, as I did with Diana. I think the Monarchy is antiquated anyway. But as human beings – I do have some compassion for Megan.

        • I agree with your thoughts, Quilter. I think besides not defending her against tabloid lies, the fact that the firm denied their child of a title or any security was just inhumane to me. I don’t blame them in the least for leaving and carving out their own lives. Harry seemed to realize that Meghan, like Diana, had the world’s fascination and could have been a huge good will ambassador for the royals. Somehow, their own petty jealousies would not let that happen.

  1. I guess the Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, and Jersey Shore now officially have some competition.


  2. To be accurate, their surname is officially Mountbatten-Windsor. However, grand-dad is actually Philip von Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderberg-Glucksberg and granny Lizzie is Elizabeth von Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (they changed the names after fighting Germany inm a couple of wars)

    Anyway – to be honest I’m not really surprised that there was internal family friction, bearing in mind that granny’s uncle Edward also married an American divorcée – and look what happened to him.

      • The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was changed in 1917 (due to intense anti-German feeling where any shop which had a German sounding name was attacked by a mob). Philip had an intermediate name change via Battenberg to Mountbatten when he applied for Brit nationality and was ‘sponsored’ by his uncle Lord Louis (who also was, originally, a Battenberg)

    • Edward was actually going to be the king. Harry was not, barring some very strange set of circumstances arising. I think Harry’s better off. I think that he’s going to leverage the family name and position and that coupled with his lovely actress wife should provide them an interesting and lucrative life style — more so than they would have had in jolly old England.

      • Just a note, but Edward WAS King. He abdicated when he realized he couldn’t marry Wallis Simpson. Opposition to the marriage wasn’t limited merely to government officials (Prime Minister Baldwin and his Cabinet were willing to resign over the marriage) but also the Church of England (marrying a widow was one thing, marrying a twice-divorced woman whose exes were still alive was another) and the general public were strongly opposed to the marriage.
        Churchill suggested a solution that would deprive Simpson of title of Queen Consort* and remove any children from the line of succession but it was rejected as not only the Parliament in Westminster but also the prime ministers and parliaments of the British Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland) would have to approve the change.

    • Well, in regards to Great-Uncle Edward, we’re all probably much better off that the British press was so harsh on him with regards to Wallis Simpson given Edward’s affection for the German government of the era.

  3. I’m something of an Anglophile. I have an English immigrant grandmother. I watch half the stuff the BBC puts out. And yet…I am 100% with you on this one. I don’t care about the royals, I don’t want to watch them bicker, I wish them all well but I just don’t care, lol.

    I have since I was a teenager wished that Queen Elizabeth would offer the monarchy to the British people, and forever abdicate any throne in the realm to them. That doesn’t seem likely.

    • I have known people who avidly follow anything British. I love the theater and of course the great literature, but watching the Royals as some kind of a TV show, a fetish almost, is beyond me.

  4. I wish Megan and Harry well. I’m not all that invested though, and I’m not about to have arguments with friends (or online). I recall being in London and some weird little kerfuffle with some obscure royal was in all the headlines. And I never “got” Diana and her allegedly beauty, charm & warmth and all that “People’s Princess” nonsense and all those people wailing after she died that they felt closer to her than to their own family. I just felt sorry for them.

    • The massive social significance & outpouring of emotion that there was, by so many, for Diana, was because she had, by the time of her death, come to represent an openness & caring attitude, contrasting strongly with the tight-laced image of the royal family generally; and that she had been the ‘wronged’ party in the disfunctional marriage she’d escaped from; and that she’d been abused by the paparazzi.

  5. Interesting to get a specifically Irish perspective on it – thanks Ursula!

    I too wish them well, and i wish the salivating obsessive press would leave them to be, but I don’t subscribe to the article’s point that she (or he) is less deserving of being considered a victim because she was already rich. Relative poverty is only one cause of misery: being rich is no guarantee of happiness, and she was being trapped in a straitjacket of protocols, which must surely screw with your head if you’re not born to it. And maybe even if you are.

    And currently in the news is the story of Princess Latifa of Dubai being allegedly held captive in cruel conditions – assuming it’s true, *her* victimhood is not questioned. That’s literal, whereas with Meghan & Harry it’s metaphorical…

    As for the royal family’s appeal generally, it’s similar to celebrity culture generally – some people will get obsessively interested in it, while others are not that bothered leave me). Aren’t the Kardashians the US’s royal family?


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