Prince Harry and Meghan don’t seem to understand what public service actually is

Camilla TomineyFri, 19 February 2021, 5:03 pm

Prince Harry and Meghan will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family - Frank Augstein/ AP
Prince Harry and Meghan will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family – Frank Augstein/ AP

Confirmation that Harry and Meghan will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family will have come as a shock to no one who has followed events since they dropped their “Megxit” bombshell on Jan 8, 2020.

Back then, the couple announced that they wanted to “carve out a progressive new role within this institution” to become “financially independent” while continuing to support the Queen.

They were to balance their time between the UK and “North America” in a bid to honour their commitment to “the Queen, the Commonwealth and our patronages”.

Yet within seconds of the unprecedented post appearing on Instagram, anyone with even the most elementary understanding of the way the monarchy has functioned for the past 1,000 years knew that Harry and Meghan were never going to be able to have their cake and eat it.

This was pointed out clearly to the Sussexes at the Sandringham summit, where the Queen – supported by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge – told Harry in no uncertain terms (Meghan had already left the UK by that point) that they were either in or out. They couldn’t be in between.

Leaving the door ajar for a return to royal duties should their grand plan fail, the Queen agreed to a 12-month review period as a safety net. For it was never going to be possible for them to have the best of both worlds.https://www.youtube.com/embed/4C9ZqHXpCeo?enablejsapi=1&modestbranding=1&origin=http://www.telegraph.co.uk&rel=0

As Friday’s Buckingham Palace statement succinctly put it: “In stepping away from the work of the Royal Family, it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.”

Part of the problem is that the Sussexes do not seem to understand what public service actually is. As a California-born former actress, Meghan can arguably be forgiven for this – but it somewhat beggars belief that Harry, a blood-born prince who grew up in the Firm, agreed to respond to the statement with the line: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”

Not only is it deeply disrespectful to engage in this sort of last word freakery with the Queen, but I also do not think the 94-year-old monarch, who has devoted her whole life to duty, needs to be lectured on service by anyone, not least when her 99-year-old husband remains in hospital.

Of course all royal engagements are self-promotional to a certain extent, but there is a big difference between acts that serve others and self-serving acts.

In recent months, as the world has tried to get to grips with the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a growing sense that while the Royals have attempted to point the spotlight at the work of others, the Sussexes have increasingly tried to shine it on themselves.

The royals have tried to hold a national conversation – exemplified by the Queen’s “We’ll Meet Again” speech – while, over in their £11 million Santa Barbara mansion, Harry and Meghan appear to have largely been in conversation with themselves.https://www.youtube.com/embed/_d1YEkcbFwk?enablejsapi=1&modestbranding=1&origin=http://www.telegraph.co.uk&rel=0

As with their desire for a have cake and eat it royal role, they have insisted upon having both unprecedented privacy and maximum publicity. And while they have endlessly carped about the media, the Windsors have continued to keep calm and carry on.

So while it is undoubtedly highly commendable that Harry and Meghan want to continue with their charity work, philanthropy is not, and never has been, the same as public service.

Similarly, it should be remembered that Archewell, their fundraising arm, is a non-profit organisation and not a charity like, for instance, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation or Prince Charles’ Prince’s Trust. This is an important distinction that few have made, since charities are subject to far more stringent rules on how money is spent than non-profits.

The other elephant that has remained in the room since the couple left for the US is the role that money appears to have played in their decision-making.

They are perfectly entitled, as they have done, to seek financial independence – and it has already proved a highly successful strategy, with megabucks deals with the likes of Netflix, Spotify and now, presumably, Oprah, in the bag.

But why have they spent the last 12 months desperately trying to disguise the fact they have swapped duty for dollars?

Last year, they made a big point about keeping up their Commonwealth ties by spending some time in Canada. Yet anyone with any knowledge of how the Duchess continued to keep on her retinue of US advisers – even after she married Harry in May 2018 – knew that when the couple said “North America” what they actually meant was Los Angeles, the city of dreams. Vancouver Island was only ever a convenient staging post.

The royals can now focus solely on their familial relationship with Harry and Meghan rather than their business dealings - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe
The royals can now focus solely on their familial relationship with Harry and Meghan rather than their business dealings – Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe

Yes, there might have been too much press intrusion, and the scrutiny must have sometimes been too much to bear. But they had the perfect platform for all their aims and ambitions.

If there is any silver lining to the dark cloud that has been hanging over the monarchy since “Megxit”, it is that the royals can now focus solely on their familial relationship with Harry and Meghan rather than their business dealings.

There is a genuine sense of sadness on both sides and among the public that it has come to this. We will all fondly remember talk of the “Fab Four” heralding the dawn of a new era for the House of Windsor. But it was not to be.

They may no longer be working royals, but as HM put it with uncharacteristically emotional candour on Friday: “The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.”

As Harry and Meghan prepare to welcome a new baby into the fold, let us all hope that family proves to be the tie that binds.