Essays at the intersection of marketing and life.
We are living a singular regal moment.
The British sovereign, aged 93, has successfully put three heirs in place. There she is, Queen Elizabeth II, feet firmly on the Heathrow tarmac, with Charles, William and George all circling, ready to land over the next hundred years. Their flightpath takes them over Windsor, as it happens.
The prospect may be dismaying, dull, charming or irrelevant, depending on your point of view. But for Elizabeth, whose uncle neglected to produce a single heir, things surely appear in rather good order.
Indeed, Britain’s ancient institution has proven more adaptive than most inhabitants of the Galápagos, all things considered. How else can you last for 1200 years?
Those adaptations notwithstanding, the Royal Family is feeling quite some heat at present. Heat that is, in some manner, predestined – and traceable to the Queen’s own decisions.
In the hurly-burly of mid-20th century Britain, the emerging broadcast media began demanding ‘stories’ from the Palace. The young Queen made a Faustian pact, allowing the cameras closer, letting the public see something of the vulnerable characters within the family which simultaneously lorded over them. The decision was surely a perplexing one. How can one both have one’s high-tea, and eat it?
Striking this balance, between the opposing ecosystems of public, media and monarchy, was to prove the foundational source of all the drama to come.
My own interest in British royalty is frothily superficial. I have never watched television soaps as I keep forgetting the plot – but The Royals have their plot-points represented in so many spheres and channels that one simply cannot but remember. I rarely watch reality television because the personal quandaries depicted just don’t make me care enough (Love Island’s Amber is, naturally, an exception).
Ah yes. The Royals are reality soap stars on speed: we know they’re real, with real private lives, yet they’re imprisoned in their soulless gilt palaces at our pleasure. Compared to following sport or politics, being a Royal watcher is simply delightful.
Previous incarnations of royalty have been up to all sorts of grubby stuff. Current generations are accused of outrageous acts too. Neither breaks my interest. Royalty is quite an existentialist space, come to think of it: we must make merry until we are merry no more.
This, I imagine, is an anthem of Meghan Markle these last years, too.
The talented, activist American actress who married Prince Harry in May 2018 seemed like a waft of refreshing Westerlies, sweeping in from the Americas. Might she be the adaptive force the family needed? Someone to help bring modernity and dynamism to ‘the Firm’?
Even better, Meghan seemed to have married for love. Which ends up being useful, as the wider Windsors betray little interest in either Ms Markle or her Meghalicious ways.
This week, in a shock sleight of hand to thrill one’s inner-Kardashian, Meghan and Harry declared their intent to step down from the frontline of the Royal Family, with a plan to seek fortune and financial independence in a newly created space which I’ll call demi-royalty.
It is notable that they took to Instagram with their declaration. And that they stated their full intention of communicating directly with the public more and more in the future. As in, no mediation. As in, even the White House Misogynist has a good idea every now and then.
Demi-royalty does not exist, of course, and the senior royals (aka heirs) are up in arms; the Tabloids too have taken extreme exception to the whole damned proposition – so elegantly laid out like a fan-fiction novel on www.sussexroyal.com – especially given the pair had not had the manners to advise the Queen.
It’s important to find an axe to grind. Even if your business model is being threatened by seismic change, keep focused on the axe.
Suddenly, the Queen declared that she was fully motivated to accommodate Meghan and Harry’s wishes. A solution is being worked through, as I write.
Typically arch of wit, The Sun named the dramatic plot twist ‘Megxit’, carefully framing it as the act of a wayward woman, like the ‘Lewinsky affair’ and ‘Camillagate’ before it.
There are many strands to the story, but the Tabloid tress is the most delicious. They have assailed Meghan Markle from the get-go – at times using implicit racism, at times getting at her via her vulnerable family, at times going straight for the jugular: she’s pushy, she’s a hypocrite, she’s ambitious, she’s manipulating her husband, she’s making Kate cry, she’s bad for Britain, she eats avocados…
Somewhere, tucked in the Daily Mail Editor’s brain, is an assumption that Meghan had married into ‘The Firm’ and so was cornered for good. En permanence. On the morning of 9/11, hijackers were assumed not to wish to kill themselves; on the announcement of the Brexit referendum, Cameron assumed he could get a majority of Britons to come to their senses.
Assumptions are lazy thought experiments. Often, we forget that they are experimental.
That great British bear, the furious Tabloid media, when all of its outrage, snark and criticism of the couple’s decision is vented, can relax in the knowledge that it is the architect of its own, ever-more-measly gruel.
Harry and Meghan are headed for British Colombia.
I see Ms Markle as a talented, optimistic and inventive person – and the strategic thinker in her marriage. She knows that, given the circling of heirs over Heathrow, the Monarchy depends neither on her, her husband nor their son. She is free to make decisions that allow her to reclaim a life of volition, without the scorches that Senior royalty brings. Her husband, long at sixes and sevens with media and monarchy, seems to be aligned to this view.
Meghan is out. But Megxit will surely help the Queen’s ancient institution evolve, as it must. The acquiescence of Her Majesty suggests that she knows it too.
Meg and Harry have evolved their chances of happiness, and good for them.
The Darwinian question remaining is for the Red Tops: can the Tabloids adapt, or will that saucy British bear finally become an irrelevant intermediary, facing extinction?