Express Digest

STEPHEN GLOVER: My heart cheers the new royal fairy tale

Even the flintiest heart will have been warmed by the sight of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle so palpably in love. He is a fine young man, and she is an attractive, clever and vivacious young woman.

There are so many obvious pluses — the most basic of which is that this will be a glamorous Anglo-American wedding at a time when some in Britain feel down in the dumps over Brexit, and a bit unloved by the world.

The Royal Family, after all, is one of our most successful exports, and millions of Americans will think they are in some way buying into this peculiarly British institution.

Moreover, Meghan’s own ‘back story’ as the child of an African-American mother and white father who was brought up in pinched circumstances may serve to soften the still somewhat fusty and undoubtedly privileged image of the Royal Family.

Even the flintiest heart will have been warmed by the sight of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle so palpably in love. He is a fine young man, and she is an attractive, clever and vivacious young woman

She is a thoroughly modern woman in tune with modern trends, who has carved out a highly successful career for herself in the cut-throat world of American television.

Indeed, one can almost hear the purring of Palace spin doctors as they congratulate themselves for having shown yet again how marvellously adaptable the monarchy is as an institution — ready not just for the 21st century but also the 22nd.

Why is it, then, that in the face all these very positive reflections I find myself able to raise only two cheers rather than three? Is it that I have become a little bit of a curmudgeon who, when confronted with the spectacle of a happy couple so manifestly blessed by the gods, can’t help thinking of possible snags?

Or might it be that, amid all the euphoria and the sometimes rather mindless media gushing, there are good reasons for expressing some doubts as to whether Meghan Markle really is ideally suited to life as a leading member of the Royal Family?

My worry, in a word, is that the very qualities which have propelled her to the top of American television from humble origins may not be the qualities which will work to the benefit of the House of Windsor.

Needless to say, for her hard-won success I have nothing but respect. Whatever may be said to the contrary by those who don’t know any better, America can still be a surprisingly racist society in which barriers are erected against non-whites born into modest homes.

Meghan did not just overcome such impediments. She has triumphed over them, eventually landing a major role in a popular U.S. series called Suits, from which she has now stepped down.

You don’t succeed in such a world by hiding your light under a bushel, and Meghan certainly didn’t do that. She learnt, if she did not already have them, indispensable skills of self-promotion, which she later put to good use on social media.

America can still be a surprisingly racist society in which barriers are erected against non-whites born into modest homes. Meghan did not just overcome such impediments. She has triumphed over them, eventually landing a major role in a popular U.S. series called Suits (above, in the show as Rachel Zane), from which she has now stepped down

For example, she posted an ecstatic email from her father about Suits, and on her lifestyle website The Tig (now shut down) she featured several posts of a bejewelled Audrey Hepburn, who is evidently her ‘style crush’. Meanwhile, Meghan avidly promoted to her 2.5 million Instagram followers the interests of the manufacturers of her shampoo, various beauty products, favoured hemp seeds and Nutella.

Nothing much wrong with any of this, of course, and probably only to be expected in a young American celebrity. But it all emphasises that Meghan — who clearly has an acute commercial brain — is far from being a shrinking violet.

Nor can one help questioning her assertion in the BBC interview with Prince Harry on Monday that before she dated him she ‘didn’t know much about him’. Can this really be true?

It has plausibly been suggested that their first date was arranged by her close friend, New York-based designer Misha Nonoo, whose marriage to Old Etonian Alexander Gilkes ended last year. Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice (Harry’s first cousins) attended the Gilkes-Nonoo wedding in 2012.

Is Meghan concealing a more long-standing interest in Harry? According to her close childhood friend Ninaki Priddy, Meghan has ‘been planning this all her life. She gets exactly what she wants and Harry has fallen for her play. She was always fascinated by the Royal Family. She wants to be Princess Diana 2.0’.

To her credit, she has embraced a large number of worthy concerns — driving a clean-water campaign in Rwanda, and tackling poverty and injustice as a global ambassador for World Vision

It may be that Ninaki Priddy has an axe to grind for reasons we don’t know, but she and Meghan have undoubtedly been close. The two of them were photographed together sitting on a railing in front of Buckingham Palace in 1996.

None of the insinuations against Meghan, if true, make me dislike her one bit. Far from it. 

Readers of Thackeray’s great novel Vanity Fair usually agree that by far the most attractive character is the low-born, socially ambitious, clever beauty Becky Sharp.

In many ways, it would be a cause for celebration if the Royal Family’s perhaps sometimes rather sluggish gene pool was enriched by a talented and imaginative adventuress.

The danger is that Meghan has embarked on a mission, and that she will use her new role to promote Brand Markle, whose calculated interests are unlikely to coincide with the sober pre-occupations of the cautious Brand Windsor.

She is an opinionated young woman, seemingly Left-of-centre, and a keen supporter of Hillary Clinton. 

To her credit, she has embraced a large number of worthy concerns — driving a clean-water campaign in Rwanda, and tackling poverty and injustice as a global ambassador for World Vision.

I’d feel similar qualms if she were a Right-of-centre campaigner or Trump supporter. The last thing the Royal Family needs is a vocal activist from across the pond noisily embracing global causes.

We have learned to put up with Prince Charles’s sometimes bizarre intellectual excursions, but Meghan evangelising controversial issues — or promoting her own interests — would be very hard to bear.

Surely the lesson of recent history is that the monarchy is safest and most popular when it is dull and uncontroversial.

The institution was seriously undermined by Princess Diana’s freelance activities, though I grant she had been much provoked by Prince Charles’s shenanigans with Camilla Parker Bowles.

And actually people are wrong when they say the Royal Family should be a mirror of society. Of course, we don’t want a selfish, self-regarding crew in charge. But they lose their point if they become indistinguishable from the rest of us.

Am I being too hard on Meghan? Possibly. It’s a good sign she is taking British citizenship, and that she is being baptised in the Church of England.

And, of course, it’s the best sign of all that, whatever ulterior motives she may or may not have, she is obviously in love with Harry. She could be a huge asset to the Royal Family.

My heart wants to believe that in this fairytale everyone’s going to live happily ever after. Yet I can’t get rid of a little voice at the back of my mind whispering that Meghan has come to our shores with a purpose, which is the greater glory and stellar success of Meghan Markle as she swaps Suits for an even juicier role on a much grander stage.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that in ten years’ time, if I should ever look back at this piece, I will marvel that I could ever doubt Meghan’s enthusiasm for shaking hands and cutting tapes and pulling cords and listening to ordinary people — the unexciting, unglamorous but utterly indispensable work of a modern-day princess.



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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