Full disclosure: When rumors started circulating a couple weeks ago that Prince Harry was dating an American television actress named Meghan Markle–and that she was teasing her social media followers with coy Instagram shots of Buckingham Palace and spooning bananas–I thought it was a publicity stunt, a very bad plan hatched by her media team to get some better name recognition for an actress few Americans know of.
Was I ever wrong.
I think I was more shocked with Prince Harry’s strongly worded statement to the press to leave his American girlfriend alone than I was by the outcome of our U.S. presidential election. After all, I’ve spent the last several months warning my liberal east coast friends that they were underestimating the depth of dislike for Hillary Clinton in other parts of the country, thus why I awoke Wednesday morning not at all surprised we have a Trump presidency awaiting us in January.
Like the pundits here and abroad have said, this very public declaration is an extraordinary move for anyone in the royal circle to make. Look how long it took Prince William to stand up to the press with his long-time girlfriend (and now wife) Kate MIddleton– years!–and Prince Harry stood up to it in mere months. It certainly signifies the relationship between the British prince and the American actress is very serious, and my gut says an engagement announcement is forthcoming.
I’ve thought a bit about this, and my opinion is that a Princess Meghan is just what the Royal Family needs to move forward and stay relevant. Why?
She’s a working woman. Ok, she may not work in an office or be on the cusp of discovering the cure for cancer, and her day job is probably a bit more glamorous than the one you or I have, but Markle does support herself with her acting and shows some entrepreneurial spirit with her website and a clothing line. The loudest complaint I heard about the Duchess of Cambridge, and now about Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, is that she was “work shy.” Before she married Prince William, the Duchess did hold a few jobs, but not for long, and she had to rely on her parents for housing and an eventual temporary position in their own company. Bea and Eugenie are objects of ridicule for their relentless job hopping and the number of cushy vacations they manage to take each year. If Markle does become a member of the Royal Family, she’ll probably have to give up her career, but at least no one can accuse her of taking any free rides to the palace balcony.
She’s philanthropic. I suspect this is one of the major attractions Prince Harry has for his new girlfriend…beyond the obvious, that she’s absolutely gorgeous! Princess Diana was revered for her charity work, and Markle looks like she has the energy and star-power to continue her legacy. As a young child, Markle traveled with her mother to developing countries, where she saw poverty up close, and this seemed to drive her philanthropy as an adult. In college she double-majored in theater and international relations (Northwestern grad, too, a great school!), and has most recently traveled to places to Rwanda and Afghanistan on behalf of UN-based organizations. If she and Prince Harry marry, she’ll be totally comfortable and passionate with the royal charity obligations she’ll undoubtedly have. Moreover, it seems that both she and Harry have similar charitable interests … a double win!
She’s biracial. Markle’s mother is black, her father white. A few newspapers have made issue of this and snobbishly wondered if the very white Royal Family was ready for her. My feeling is that the Royal Family is far more welcoming and liberal than we give them credit for; it’s the old-school courtiers and the media rabble-rousers who will make race into an issue. So many families today are made up of different races that it’s time to let our institutions reflect that reality instead of holding them to a standard that’s antiquated and frankly racist.
She’s American. I’ve read some snobby comments about Markle’s common American roots, but the flip side of this is that Americans are going to be far more aware and interested in the British Royal Family than ever. I wasn’t around when Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier, but I’m guessing that most Americans had never heard of Monaco until Grace became Princess Grace. The British may see the Royals as “royal scroungers” but Americans have nothing like them, so they’re what we think of when we think of England. Having one of us in their midst will make us love you a little more than we already do.
She’s an actress. The press seems to think Markle’s acting background is an impediment (mostly because of some risque scenes she’s done) but I think it’s an incredible skill she’ll bring to the family business. Everyone rolls eyes about the Royal Family’s endless ribbon-cutting and wreath-laying itineraries, but after watching all ten hours of The Crown on Netflix last weekend, I got a taste of how hard it must be for the royals to always be smiling, pleasant, and conversational for hours at a time. (If you saw the mini-series, there’s a funny scene where the Queen has to have a relaxant injected into her cheek after the muscle freezes from smiling too much during a Commonwealth tour.) Markle’s acting background means she can put on a show, deliver a speech, smile, act interested, and have less of a chance forgetting her lines than someone who hasn’t had that kind of training.
Of course, if Markle marries into the Royal family, it won’t all be rainbows and unicorns. Surely she’ll have to give up her (paid) acting career, her social media presence, and I assume her American citizenship. And then there’s the relentless media scrutiny she’ll have to deal with, although her acting career will have prepared her for that somewhat.
What do you think? Has Harry met his match? Is she the breath of fresh air the Royals need, or a right royal headache? Please feel free to comment below. P.S. I’ll be back next week with a more personal post; I haven’t been able to log into WordPress until today because of a technical issue, but that has been fixed. Yay!
Today my son started fifth grade. New town, new school, completely new curriculum so it’s a big change for him, as well as me. He had been at a local Montessori school since he was three. Last year it became very clear the school wasn’t right for him any longer, so we decided to put him in public school in our new town, which happens to have a fantastic school system. So far, we’re thrilled with it; we’re getting far more support than we ever did in a private school. Better yet, he’s excited about school this year, which is a big change for him — he’ll be in a classroom that’s half boys. At his Montessori school, he was in a mixed grade classroom, the only 4th grade boy in a class of mostly younger girls. Hey, I’m a girl and I wouldn’t want to be around that many girls! His new school also has a strong emphasis on physical activity; O’s at that age where he needs to move so it’s perfect that they have this program called “Project: Adventure” where fifth graders work as teams to work through a pretty impressive obstacle course in the woods. Think Outward Bound for kids.
As for me, I don’t have to make a 13 30-mile round trip twice each day … I just put him on the bus that happens to stop in front of our house and I’m on my merry way. What a relief. The older I get, the more I loathe driving. I don’t mind a road trip now and then, but I hate burning gas when I don’t have to. My New England sense of thrift grows by bounds with each passing year. Which is another reason why I love our new town: I just hop on my bike and in minutes I can be at our town library, swimming pool, Whole Foods, post office, CVS, and if I’m feeling especially energetic, I can bike to Cambridge and meet my husband for lunch. (As long as I start biking around 9 a.m.)
Anyway, this is a long way of saying … I didn’t post much this summer because I was actually out and about enjoying summer. I tried to stay away from the computer and instead, focused on doing stuff with my son, who’s getting to be that age where he soon won’t want to hang out with me. Of course, I managed to get some good knitting done, and yeah, there were a few times I got sucked into some good British gossip (Prince Harry! Oh my gosh, stop the presses — the royal scepter spotted in Vegas!). So I hope as the days get shorter and my time at the computer grows longer, I’ll catch up on my posting. Lots to show you!
… and surprise, surprise, the taped interview took up the whole hour-long show.
It was a painful interview to watch, quite frankly. First, because I take no enjoyment watching someone’s distress on national television. I’m not condoning Sarah Ferguson’s behavior nor do I feel particularly bad for her as I think she’s got more advantages than most 50-year-old women have in this world. But she looked … shattered, I guess is the word, and I guess I’m a big softie because I don’t like watching anyone fall apart, even if they’ve brought most of the trouble on themselves. Then second? I’m not a huge fan of daytime talk shows, “Oprah” especially. The shows are just way too new agey for me, with guests talking about their “authentic selves” and “Little Sarahs,” which makes me think of … never mind.
With that out of the way, the highlights for my European readers who may only see short clips:
Oprah was warm and fuzzy, but also fairly direct with Ferguson. She called her on some b.s., like when Ferguson claimed “a friend” had introduced her to the undercover journalist and when she tried to explain (lamely) how she started with $40K payout (meant for “a friend”) but eventually increased her price to £500,000. Wasn’t that $40K some kind of down payment on the £500,000?
Ferguson said the journalist had stolen the identity of an Indian businessman whom her friends and associates knew; they checked references and everything shored up.
Yet unbelievably, Ferguson also claims at the first meeting, she knew the “businessman” was a journalist with the News of the World and called him on it. Her solution was to draft up a confidentiality agreement, which of course, the “businessman” eventually tore up. Yet Ferguson, so “out of her mind,” by this point, ignored her suspicions and pursued the money trail.
As Oprah viewed the tape with Ferguson, Sarah uttered, “I feel sorry for her.” She also said, “The woman on the tape is out of control.” Oprah called Sarah on this, too, curious as to why Ferguson would refer to herself in the third person while watching the tape.
Sarah is not drunk on the tape, nor does she ever imply she has a drinking problem. Instead, she was just drinking that night. Finally, something I can believe.
When Oprah queries Sarah on the dates of all the meetings with the News of the World folks, Sarah interrupts her with, “You know better than me.” Wait, was Oprah at those meetings?
Sarah Ferguson says the £500,000 figure was “plucked out of the sky” during her meeting with the businessman. So I guess Prince Andrew didn‘t suggest this figure?
When Oprah asked Sarah about her divorce payout, suddenly Sarah was mum and said she couldn’t discuss it because she had signed a “confidentiality agreement.” Which is odd, because she’d been talking about that $20,000 a year settlement to anyone who would listen a couple weeks ago.
She wouldn’t reveal anything about Prince Andrew’s response to her actions or what he said to her.
And the apology? She kind of said sorry at the very end of the interview, but it was more like, “I’m sorry for letting down my family, my friends, my charities, etc.” It wasn’t the big huge confessional apology I expected it to be.
To tell you the truth, I felt kind of icky after watching this. I didn’t believe half of what she claimed and I felt like I was watching a small child try to wiggle her way out of a bad pinch. Not fun. I sincerely hope Sarah Ferguson figures out a way to deal with her problems in a responsible manner and finds some peace with herself. She’s clearly not a happy woman.
If you’re here in the U.S., did you watch the interview? What did you think? Were you sympathetic to her story, or did you feel it left more questions than answers? Add your comments below.
I’ll definitely be watching as I’ve been contacted by the BBC World Service again to offer my opinion on Ferguson’s appearance and expected apology. (The BBC show will probably run on Wednesday, June 2. I’ll post more details as soon as I get them.) Will she make a similar apology in the UK, where the British are far more annoyed with her behavior than Americans seem to be? Is her “Oprah” appearance part of a carefully crafted plan to win sympathy with American viewers as Ferguson’s only hope for future success is here in America? (She may be hard pressed to improve her financial situation in Britain at the moment given how she seems universally loathed and reviled by the public.) And I hope she tells us how her ex-husband and two daughters are coping with her disgrace; I’d love to hear what the Queen thinks too, but that may be wishful thinking on my part.
Sarah certainly hasn’t been hiding for the last week. She was in Los Angeles earlier this week to collect an award for her charity work (where she received a big round of applause from the audience), and she’s now in New York at the Book Expo America conference doing PR for her children’s book. I give her credit for not hiding, but I do wish she’d stop saying she “hates adults and loves children,” a veiled snipe at her recent troubles. Although I think Ferguson’s in a tough place and I’m quite sure she adores children, she’s brought trouble on herself by acting more like a child and less like an adult. Harsh words, but there you go.
Stay tuned … and do add your comments below. I’m especially curious to hear your opinions on Ferguson’s upcoming “Oprah” appearance.
I think it’s interesting how The News of the World, the tabloid that set up the sting, has positioned Prince Andrew as an innocent bystander in this mess, even though Sarah Ferguson (that’s the Duchess) suggests that Andrew knows about her wheeling-and-dealing and even suggested the £500,000 figure as Sarah’s payout. Of course, Sarah could by lying through her teeth, but she could be telling the truth — after all, they’ve got an oddly close relationship for a divorced couple. At any rate, supposedly The News of the World has a staunch Royalist readership, so this could be the reason they’re letting the royals off scot free on this scandal.
Knives are drawn for Sarah this week, and I wonder how she’ll get through this mess. Reports have been flying about for the past couple months that she’s on the verge of bankruptcy. And yes, I will admit I feel a bit sorry for her even though her latest downfall is down to her own poor decision making (what the hell was she thinking? Did she learn nothing from the Countess of Wessex’s experience with The News of the World?) and she’s got so many advantages that regular folks don’t have. I’m reading comments sections of newspapers where readers are telling her to get a job or go live on a council estate. A job, yes, is a great idea — she should do what Jackie Kennedy did and get an editor job in London! — but other than that, she can hardly disappear into the woodwork and become a regular person, can she? She’ll forever be associated — good or bad — with the royal family, and there will always be expectations of her. That’s got to be a lot to live up to, especially when you lack the budget (or class, many would argue) to do so. I don’t envy her at all.
And my last musing on the matter — this would be a fine week for the royal family to announce an engagement, don’t you think? Add your comments below.
That’s right. So we can expect to see more of Charles and Camilla hoofing it for England on the high street, canvas shopping totes in hand. Or spot them in a ticket queue at Euston Station before they head off to Manchester for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Oh dear. It looks like the royal princes’ new office has its first meaty assignment. If you haven’t heard, on Saturday the British tabloid News of the World released a video, purportedly made by Prince Harry in 2006, where he refers to a colleague as “our little Paki friend,” laughed at another colleague for looking like a “raghead,” pretended he was talking to his Granny back at the Palace, and then answered a very indelicate question about the color of his manscaping. The Prince apologized over the weekend through St. James Palace (that’s where his new office is located), saying that he regretted using racist terms, but that they were said without malice. (For American readers who haven’t figured this out, calling someone from Pakistan a “paki” is an offensive racial slur along the lines of “polock,” “wop,” or “jap.”)
On the other hand, I’m glad Prince Harry is doing something useful with his life by serving in the military. He could be sitting around St. James Palace all day sucking on his bong, then taking the nights off to club with his South African girlfriend. Instead, it looks like he’s dedicated to his career, and yeah, he used language that’s offensive to civilians, but he’s in the military, where it’s common for soldiers to refer to each other with slurs that cause polite society to cringe. You go after Prince Harry, you go after a whole military culture, and how many soldiers or military officers would escape scrutiny unscathed?
What do you think? Should the military throw the book at Harry? Is an apology enough? Or is this a lot of something about nothing? Add your comments below.
So what’s this household business anyway? Basically it means they’re getting more professional independence within “The Firm.” They’ll have their own office to handle issues like Prince William’s increased role in royal functions or to cover up for Prince Harry next time he takes a poke at a photog outside a nightclub at 3:30 a.m. Just kidding. Sort of. Who pays for branch office? Dad, naturally.
I’m also taking a guess that Prince William might have a big announcement to make in the coming weeks, and it’s not that he’s shaving his stubby beard or getting hair plugs. Could it be the office is needed for some wedding planning? We’ll see.