Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s announcement to step back as “senior royals” has predictably drawn fierce speculation – former palace press secretary Dickie Arbiter has called it “unprecedented” and a “breakdown in the royal family”, while another source notes the Queen is supposedly “upset” and “incandescent with rage.”
While speculation brews, however, it’s hard to deny the past 12 months haven’t been a more than eventful at the intersection of royal life and relentless media pressure – Westminster log jam around Brexit, Prince Andrew, Phillip’s car crash and, of course, the intense fever surrounding every move of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Indeed, the Queen’s short statement on Harry and Megan’s “geographic balance” does not exactly ward off speculation. But, importantly, it does indicate the Queen understands their quest for privacy and that “it will take time to work through.” This is unprecedented territory, at least by modern standards, and the Queen’s statement, although short, hits the right note.
It also provokes more reasonable questions, other than speculative frenzy, on what exactly stepping down as a ‘senior member’ of the royal family actually entails, and whether this will enhance or detract from the good and decent patronage work led by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Closer to home, Australian republicans have predictably seen this as opportune, casting it as a young royal couple running from an ‘archaic institution’. Why should Australians stick to the monarchy, they ask, especially when even Harry and Meghan are bailing out?
Far from archaic, however, these events are an example of a modern monarchy, in modern times, subject to modern pressures. It has been an unsustainable way to live for young parents, regardless of the level of privilege they’ve been born into or continue to work hard for.
As sixth in line, it’s worth noting there is no constitutional relevance of Harry’s move for Australia. We remain fully independent and, rather than subject to Britain, take our lead from the Australian people as a thriving Westminster democracy.
If anything, the monarchy remains an example of a symbol built to last in an age of short-termism – a short-termism that has not only put pressure on Prince Harry to make such a decision but showcased to us in the seismic reaction this news has received.
Image source: Reuters/Henry Nicholls