MEGHAN Markle told an amusing anecdote about her first private encounter with The Queen and not realising she had to curtsy.
“Right in front of the house, we practised and ran in. Fergie ran out and said, ‘Do you know how to curtsy?’ she told Oprah Winfrey.
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She said it was the moment “the penny dropped” that her perception about royal life was “very different” to the reality and she had to learn the traditional customs “very quickly”.
It was a light moment in an interview dominated by sombre declarations of suicidal thoughts, accusations of racism and feelings of exclusion in a life she was ill-prepared for.
But it also highlighted a glaringly obvious question that Oprah Winfrey failed to ask.
Which is: Where the hell was Harry when his wife was flailing her way through the centuries-old traditions and oddities of life within the British Royal Family?
Answer? He was right there by her side, for all of it.
Yet rather than accept his failure to prepare her for the life she was signing up for, he piled the responsibility on to others while painting himself as a victim of the “The Firm” he’s been a part of since birth.
And in doing so, I’m afraid that the once cheeky chap who always fared well in “favourite royal” polls, came across as little more than a petulant, whingeing man-child whose royal toys have been taken away from him.
Take curtsy-gate, for example.
Given that his future wife was about to experience the undoubtedly daunting experience of meeting his grandmother for a private family lunch at Windsor’s Royal Lodge, why didn’t he prepare her for it in advance rather than addressing the protocol just as their limo’s tyres hit the gravel driveway?
Equally, why did Meghan feel the need to Google the National Anthem when she was marrying a man who’s been singing it since he was in short trousers? It beggars belief.
And how does he think his self-pitying complaint about being “financially cut off” while occupying a McMansion with 12 bathrooms is going to play out with a general public enduring a global pandemic, job losses and anxiety about how they’re going to pay their bills?
It reminded me of certain Premiership footballers who, having had their bottoms wiped by an “institution” (i.e. club) for most of their formative years, emerge from it with barely the ability to cook an egg for themselves. But I digress.
During the interview, Meghan mentioned “Waity Katie”, the term coined for the then Kate Middleton who dated Prince William for around ten years before he finally proposed.
Many suggested he was dragging his feet but, as I have written before, it struck me that he was just giving them time to get to know each other and, just as importantly, letting Kate experience the life she’d be signing up to if they walked down the aisle.
Knowing the steep learning curve his mother endured when she joined the Royal Family, William did his best to prepare his wife for what was to come as the future Queen.
One imagines that he felt a similar caution towards his more impetuous, younger brother’s whirlwind romance with a woman who not only came from an ordinary background, but hailed from America where knowledge about the quirks of British royal life could be written on the back of that small, sticky square thing with grandma’s head on.
But, if the rumours are true, William’s attempt to advocate caution was taken as a perceived slight by Harry and is where the rot set in on their seemingly unbreakable bond.
Instead, as we know from Harry’s open-air TV trip around Hollywood with James Corden, by his own admission he and Meghan went “from nought to 60” and, before you could say “marry in haste, repent at leisure”, a taxpayer-funded £33million royal wedding was on the cards.
Harry’s long-term girlfriend Chelsy Davy witnessed life in the gilded cage and ran a mile. So too did Cressida Bonas.
Then, along came Meghan with the precarious combo of a “love will conquer all” mentality coupled with little knowledge of what she was letting herself in for.
I don’t blame her that. But Harry knew and any suggestion otherwise is disingenuous.
Harry knows that his toddler son Archie not being given the title of prince is a matter of royal protocol laid down by George V and nothing to do with his son being biracial.
If he’d married and had a child with, say, Chelsy Davy, it would be the same.
He also knows that, by the same protocol, Archie already has the title of Earl of Dumbarton at his disposal and will become a prince (if he so wishes) when his grandfather Prince Charles becomes king.
He knows royal protection officers, funded by the UK taxpayer, come as part of the job. If you step down as a senior royal and move abroad, you can’t expect the UK public to continue funding that lifestyle choice.
He knows that he himself has had therapy, along with his mother and father, and that his brother and sister-in-law continue to front a mental health charity called Heads Together.
So Meghan’s claim that she asked HR for help but was refused because “it wouldn’t be good for the institution” is odd because, again, Harry knows the office in question is there for palace employees and not the “principals” as the senior royals are referred to, who have private offices to organise holidays/medical appointments/whatever.
And why didn’t he get the required help rather than leave his wife to navigate the corridors of power in search of help? Curiouser and curiouser.
Equally, he knew that, far from her passport being taken away in a bid to hold her hostage, as Oprah et al. seem to view it, Meghan’s documents were simply held to a) keep them safe and b) ensure they didn’t have to keep bothering her when they were booking flights/trips etc.
He also knew that the other royals lunch with friends and family when their diary allows and aren’t stopped from doing so, yet Meghan spoke of her torment at feeling lonely and imprisoned in a strange new life.
Many years ago, Sarah Ferguson spoke of her loneliness while married to Prince Andrew, but it was largely related to his long spells at sea with the Royal Navy.
Harry, however, was at home with his wife during her clearly upsetting and isolating experience, so what was he doing to try to help her?
It’s simply not convincing for him to bang on about “the institution” being at fault when he knows how it works, held a senior position within it, and has a voice he knows how to use when it suits him.
Watching Meghan speak about her living experience amid the Royal Family, it’s obvious that it was a mostly miserable time for her and no one could blame her for feeling a lot happier now she’s out of it.
But maybe, had Harry prepared her a little more for the culture shock of joining “The Firm”, then the woman this country first embraced as a major asset in modernising the monarchy might have settled in to royal life and even grown to enjoy it.
Instead, the tables have turned and he has now given up everything he knows to subsume himself into her way of life.
Rather than just departing these shores and living the quiet life they claim to crave, they chose to go nuclear with Oprah.
Meghan says they had little to lose by doing this interview, and in her case, that may be true.
But Harry’s fingerprints are on the grenade too, and it was lobbed in to the centre of not just the monarchy but his family. One can only wonder whether, years down the line, he’ll live to regret it.
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