Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Meghan and Harry are alive

Yes, I watched the interview.

Like most Americans who've seen it, I basically support them in any dispute; but then, that comes easy because we're not the audience for UK tabloid vilification, nor have I seen very much of it. (And why did Oprah keep asking Meghan for the reasons behind it? She's the last person who would know.)

What strikes me most, as a male viewer, is how supportive Harry is being of Meghan. This was not part of how he was raised, but by his own account what he has is empathy. He loves her enough that he sees how things look to her, and that, he says, opens up his eyes. Also, he mentions history repeating itself. He lost his beloved mother to media harassment when he was only 12, and he's testified before to what a lasting trauma that was. To see the same thing happening to his wife and the mother of his children? He'd do anything to prevent that, and he should.

When he was a very young man, Harry had a reputation for being a clueless goofball, dressing up as a Nazi for a costume party, that sort of thing. But he seems to have matured tremendously in the couple of decades since then.

He still has that upper-class cut-glass accent, though. Notice the strangled way he pronounced the word "girl" when revealing the sex of their impending child.

A few points that haven't been emphasized in the coverage of this that I've read:

1. Meghan distinguishes, but not always clearly, between the family - the actual relatives, of whom she singles out the Queen and Kate as being kindly,1 and whom Harry calls as trapped by the system as he was - and the "firm" or the "institution" by which she means the palace staff, what's formally called the Royal Household. They seem to be the source of most of the trouble.2

2. Meghan raised the question of whether Archie was to receive the title of Prince. The existing protocol, which she refers to, says that grandchildren of the monarch get the Prince/ss title, but great-grandchildren don't, except for the eldest male-line grandson of the Prince of Wales (that would be Prince George).3 Exceptions can be made to this, though: Prince William's younger children got the title by royal grant, and Princess Anne's children were not given the title, apparently by her request. But not receiving a special grant for Archie's title does not appear to be what exercises Meghan; it was a proposal to modify the protocol so that when Charles becomes king, and Archie becomes a royal grandchild, he would still not be eligible.4 Also, Meghan says the point is not the title for its own sake, but an objection to its arbitrary removal, and the substantive issue that, if it's what determines whether he gets security or not, then she wanted him to have it. And isn't that concern easily misunderstood.

3. Both tried to say that their current status was not their original plan. It was only lack of support from the firm that caused them to make the original proposal to step back from being "major royals," who work full-time at royal hand-waving stuff, to being "minor royals," of whom there are quite a few, who have their own jobs and only pitch in at royal stuff occasionally. It's not clear how much security or funding the minor royals get, but it was those being stripped from Harry and Meghan which generated their change of plans to step back altogether, and - for fear of being stuck in Canada without security during the pandemic - to move to LA where they could get both security and financial deals. The timeline of all this isn't clear, but they insist they pulled no surprises on the Queen.

4. Meghan referred to her first job working at a frozen-yogurt shop when she was 13. And all sorts of Angelinos who recognized the name "Humphrey Yogart"5 started tweeting "hmm, that would have been 1994 - she must have served me!" That was amusing.

1. Meghan is careful not to blame Kate for the crying incident, because she had properly apologized. Kate could be taken to blame for not correcting the media story that the crying was the other way around, but Meghan said specifically that the institution muzzled everybody in the family.
2. Aside from the racism bit, which did come from an unidentified family member. And that would be a much bigger "but" if the institution's lack of protection of Meghan's reputation and lack of support for her mental health crisis weren't so appalling.
3. Although that may have been modified by the recent law placing title-inheritance in the monarchy by age only, and removing the previous preference for males. Younger-child discrimination, what can you do?
4. There's also the question of title of nobility. Custom in the UK is that the eldest son of a senior nobleman is called by his father's highest subsidiary title by courtesy. Harry is Duke of Sussex, and that would make Archie Earl of Dumbarton. However, that is only custom, and there is no requirement that anyone with a title, courtesy or substantive, use it unless acting in that capacity. (For instance, Bertrand Russell inherited the title of Earl, but he never used it except when speaking in the House of Lords.) Harry and Meghan have apparently been asked not to use the Sussex title, but while they can lose their patronages and military appointments, they can't so easily be stripped of the titles; they just don't use them.
5. Not a singular pun. The shuttle bus that runs between the UC Berkeley campus and the BART transit station used to be called the Humphrey Go-BART.

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