It doesn’t seem that long ago that the enthusiastic African-American Anglican preacher at Harry and Meghan’s wedding waved his arms with exuberant intensity told them that all they needed was ‘Love’.
At the time there were many of us who wondered if he had been reading more John Lennon than Jesus.
He might have been more helpful to Meghan and Harry if he had mentioned that there are (at least) two very different kinds of love.
This present rupture in the Royal Family has erupted in part because the Queen stands for one kind, and Meghan another.
You don’t often, you don’t ever, hear the Queen talking about what she needs. The genius and beauty of her role is that she does her duty. Doing her duty is a way of loving others. Her role acts as a self-giving glue that holds society together in an ideal of service.
Celebrity love and dutiful love are two different philosophies – almost two different religions; certainly, two different ways of looking at the world and our place in it.
The ideal the monarchy is founded on has strong Christian elements in which doing one’s duty on behalf of others takes priority over self-interest. Celebrity love is born out of the narcissism of the entertainment industry. It’s fuelled by the short termism of romantic love and a rather fragile adoration. All the more fragile if the adoration is the projected adorationof the crowds.
Part of the problem with romantic love is that it is time-stamped. It runs out. It has to grow into something deeper. It only has a long-term future by turning into that other kind of love, which is self-giving and the putting duty before pleasure.
The problem for the Sussexes is the clash between two cultures, royal and celebrity. It is beginning to look likeMeghan has been unable or unwilling to transition from celebrity love to dutiful love. The first is more about ‘me and my needs’, and the second more about ‘them and theirs’.
It looks like the Sussexes have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public duty and family. It has been tried before both as much by ordinary people as by royalty. Remember Edward 8th. The tragedy is that it almost always ends in a growth of self-pity and sadness.
Although they are banking on a degree of public support, a narrative that includes making Kate Windsor cry and cold-shouldering a beloved grandmother, may not elicit as much public sympathy as they hope.
The tragedy is that they have undoubtedly underestimated the cost of an independence that sits badly with the wealth and privilege they appear to feel they have a right to.
The Queen is said to be greatly alarmed and angry. She will be only too aware that the monarchy cannot survive if it morphs into the privileged setting out to have your cake and eat it. Duty disowns celebrity-narcissism.
There has been a lot of sympathy for Meghan, but more tragic victim here may be prince Harry. He is having to choose between the constraints and ethics of belonging to the Firm, and the frustrations and demands of his celebrity wife who doesn’t get or doesn’t like the terms of entry into the Royal Family.
He tells us that he is thinking of the suffering his mother endured at the hands of the press. Blaming the press may not be the best diagnosis. What he may not have realized is that leaving aside whoever was to blame) his mother chose the same route that Meghan is now insisting on.
Diana found herself drawn away from the constraints of Royal duty towards the role of public celebrity fuelled by enormous charm and beauty. It ended tragically.
It may well be that Meghan and Harry can be happy and fulfilled making their own money, claiming their own freedom, selling their own branded life-style, doing their own thing. But it will have nothing to do with royalty, duty or selflessness.
At the moment Harry is trying to broker a compromise in order to keep some royal money and some royal glamour. But there isn’t one. He will have to choose; if not between John Lennon and Jesus, certainly between royalty and celebrity.