America is a vast melting pot, her contents stirred for generations in a dogged effort to blend peoples and cultures into a cohesive whole. It’s the classic chemistry experiment, where the glass beaker is filled with all manner of substances and then shaken, only to watch the inevitable separation back to individual weights and colors. The shake-up brings moments of drama though; the storm before the calm if you will. It’s also an apt description of the British Monarchy.
Despite my best efforts to filter my newsfeed, I still got the announcement about Oprah Winfrey’s televised interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last week. I don’t know much about either former royal (or Oprah, for that matter) so I dismissed the headline and moved on. But I was alerted to the interview again the following day. And again the next day. Finally, in a move that can only be described as can’t-help-myself, I got out of my chair, grabbed the remote, and programmed the DVR to record. Something deep-rooted was telling me Sunday night’s interview was must-watch TV.
No it wasn’t. The questions and answers were predictable. The topics just begged for a response from Buckingham Palace (mission accomplished). After two hours of back-and-forth (and too much time in a chicken coop) my take on this couple hadn’t changed. Meghan shouldn’t have dabbled in the royals in the first place. Meghan eventually orchestrated her way out of the palace (and the country). Harry followed. Now they’re barely surviving… in an 18,000 square foot house in Montecito, California worth $14 million. Oprah is their neighbor.
Waste of two hours? There’s no denying it. Still, I chose to watch.
Why do I care about Harry and Meghan? I don’t, yet somehow I do. Maybe I should blame The Crown, the excellent Netflix series about the British monarchy. By total coincidence, my wife and I started watching Season Four this week, which is all about Harry’s mother Diana. Then my newsfeed tells me the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) suffered a heart condition last week, rough enough to land him in the hospital. Add to that regular photos of Queen Elizabeth looking ever-regal at the ripe old age of 94 and the royals are all over the place. They make themselves kind of hard to ignore.
The episodes of The Crown are a revelation, especially for those of us in “New England”. Each show kind of ungilds the lily of America’s perception of British royalty. There’s more drama, politics, and in-fighting than we Yanks would’ve ever believed of fair princes and princesses. Yet through it all stands the queen – at the epicenter of the shaken beaker – somehow maintaining poise and presence. All of the events in The Crown take place within Elizabeth’s lifetime, yet it feels like we’re going several generations back.
Despite The Crown and my newfound respect for Elizabeth, there’s no question it was the late Diana, Princess of Wales who first piqued my interest in the British royals. Who could blame me, right? Lady Di was beautiful and supremely innocent, a veritable Disney princess in the flesh. She was born just a few months before I was. Her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981 – the grandest of ceremonies watched by hundreds of millions of people across the world – was the stuff of fairy tales (Charles himself, not so much). Diana embodied all that was good and somehow magical about life as a royal.
But then we have Diana’s shocking death not sixteen years after her marriage. Talk about shaking the beaker. My wife and I were at a party in California at the time and returned to our hotel late, staying up hours past midnight to watch the funeral on television. Like the Oprah interview this week, I can’t explain why I gave up half a night’s sleep to watch. I just felt compelled to.
Thanks to The Crown, the royals aren’t looking quite as regal as they used to. Diana effectively sacrificed her life to be a royal. The agendas of Elizabeth and her several prime ministers were in constant conflict. Season Four has a poignant episode where Elizabeth arranges an individual lunch with each of her four children. She needs a valet to prepare a brief of information on each child so she can have meaningful discussions with them. Elizabeth may be “Queen Mother” but the title rates a distant second to “Queen”.
Harry and Meghan seem determined to move on from the monarchy. They’ll never achieve “normal”, and whether their marriage is the real deal is TBD, but good on them for making a show of it. Me, I’m moving on too. The next season of The Crown isn’t until next year so it looks like I finally get a break from the royals. Er, unless William and Kate are up to anything interesting. Are they up to anything interesting? Hm. I’d better go check.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.