The Queen and Her Delinquents
The monarch shows dignity during a time of crisis; her grandchildren do not
Yesterday was Queen Elizabeth’s actual birthday. (Her “official” birthday is in June.) Her Majesty is 94 years old, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who — uniquely — has been there to guide her country through both a world war and a pandemic.
Earlier this month, the queen gave a special address to the nation, the fifth of her 68-year reign. In it, she spoke of the “attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country,” explaining that, just as in times gone by, “if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome” adversity. A week later, she gave her first-ever Easter address, which spoke of hope in unapologetically Christian terms.
If the Queen’s legacy is one of class and decorum, it is because she has worked hard to establish such a reputation. Over the decades, her self-effacing approach has demonstrated that she sees herself, first and foremost, as a public servant. It is this attitude that has won the trust and admiration of the public. Of course, not every royal takes after her. Her family has seen its fair share of scandals: adultery, divorce, and even implication in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex ring. But at least these embarrassments were accidental.
Since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle, announced earlier this year that they would be “stepping back” from their role as senior royals, they have dogged the headlines. Even as the coronavirus rages across the globe, the couple — who seem to operate according to Oscar Wilde’s mantra that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about — have managed to attract the attention of the Canadian, American, and British press, all while pretending that this is contrary to their intentions.
On Easter Sunday, the Queen spoke dutifully of the need for quiet self-sacrifice, but Harry and Meghan — newly arrived in Los Angeles, where their team of Hollywood agents, PR flacks, and business managers awaited them — got to work being photographed delivering meals to Los Angeles’s residents. In her speeches, the Queen made ordinary Britons (and, you know, God) the heroes. But in their stunt, that role was reserved for Harry and Meghan themselves, who are simultaneously continuing their role as victims of the tabloid press.
Last week, Meghan and Harry sent written letters to the editors of the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mirror to make clear that they will not “offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion.” In other words, they will not cooperate with these tabloids in stories about them, which only leads to “salacious gossip.” But as Dominic Green notes, “the timing is bizarre . . . The couple, or at least their lawyers, are due to speak with three of those four papers quite soon.” As part of their lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, Harry submitted text messages to London’s High Court that revealed his exchange with Markle’s father in the run-up to their wedding. Markle’s lawyers claim that the Mail misquoted the letter she sent to her father ahead of the wedding. But Markle’s estranged father denies this. He told journalists that while the British monarchy is “one of the greatest, long-living institutions ever,” Harry and Meghan were “cheapening it” by turning it into “something that’s ridiculous.” He’s right that the more oxygen they give the story, the more it backfires, resembling a sloppily written soap opera.
Normally, a gun salute at Hyde Park and the Tower of London would be fired in honor of the Queen on her birthday, but this year, amid the coronavirus, the monarch canceled these plans in the belief that they would not be appropriate. By contrast, as the world has ground to a halt around them, Harry and Meghan are still wangling to make everything about them. How’s that for a legacy?
© 2020 National Review