On 10 December 1936, Edward VIII abdicated during a constitutional crisis. His love for Wallis Simpson was greater than his love to be monarch without her. The constitutional crisis came about because she was a divorced American citizen, while he was the titular head of the Church of England, where divorcees were not allowed to remarry while their divorced partner was alive.
That little snippet of the long and quite often sordid history of English monarchy, whose families form the top echelon of British aristocracy, seems to be echoing today, just over 83 years afterwards.
Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, with a snowball’s chance of succession to the throne, declared that he and his wife would “step back” from royal duties. That’s a 2020 euphemism for abdication, and the monarch wasted little time in dealing with 2020’s version of a constitutional crisis. Prince Harry was granted just about everything he and Meghan Markle asked for in abdicating, and details are easily available as every media organisation worldwide has “royal correspondents”, who usually present themselves as somewhat superior to mere journalists or commentators.
Many have blamed the present abdication on intrusion and the attitude of the UK media’s dealings with Meghan and Harry. Hopefully, the Queen accepts the irony that Harry was born into a monarchy which shamelessly thrives on media coverage, and Meghan was a television actress whose very livelihood depended on the very same.
Growing up in UK, I vividly remember when all newspapers had repetitious front-page stories of the young Queen with fellow racehorse owners like the Aga Khan, and his playboy son Ali Khan. This “news” was sometimes interspersed with revelations about the latest suitor of the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, and the monarchy was viewed as a somewhat humorously offbeat and out-dated tourist attraction by forelock-knuckling serfs and peasants like me.
However, we knew our place in the UK class system, and were delighted when some working-class heroes eventually arrived to fill those front pages. They were called The Beatles, and suddenly people with talent became news, replacing those from higher echelons; no doubt the 1960s counterculture and social revolution changed the world, and we’ve all evolved since then.
New polls indicate that over half of Canadians couldn’t give a hoot if Meghan and Harry immigrate to their country, but over three-quarters definitely object to paying necessary security expenses from the public purse. Unfortunately, several media organisations seem to cater to the minority, and news consumers will no doubt remain overburdened with post-abdication stories for years to come.
Meghan and Harry’s exit hurts us too
Harry and Megan appear to be heavily involved in charitable works; however, for them, charity seems to begin at home.
In my view, they appear to have no qualms about accepting massive amounts of money from the taxpayer’s purse to refurbish their home and to provide them with round the clock security.
Many of these taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet and more employed people are turning to food banks and loan sharks to supplement their low incomes.
The final slap in the face for these people may well be that Harry and Megan have let them down.
All those British citizens who watched the royal wedding and who willingly took Megan into their hearts expected that the couple would be there to represent the country that has supported them.
What Harry and Megan have done could be seen as taking the money and running.
Well, good riddance, but the taxpayers would like their money back so it can be put to better use, helping the less fortunate.
What about Prince Philip?
Buckingham Palace has announced that the Sussexes will no longer use the title Royal Highness “as they are no longer working members of the royal family”. We can therefore take it that the same applies to the Duke of Edinburgh.
Big Ben and Brexit day
As an occasional reader of international papers including the British ones, I often get snippets of stories that sound interesting although I should find the time to follow up on them in more detail.
It looks like Brexit will never leave the news with the latest item being a proposal to ring the Big Ben bells on Brexit day. (Or should that really be “Brexit decade”, given how long it has been going on and looks like continuing for?)
This massive cost of £500,000 is based on making repairs while all the main repairs are ongoing. Surely there could be a better use for it? Perhaps a donation to any of the hospitals claiming to be short of money?
Unlike Mark Francois, Nigel Farage and other Brexiteers, I won’t be celebrating on 31 January.
I will be thinking of my French friend who in November 2016 was kicked in the head and told to “eff off back to France” by racist thugs I believe to have been emboldened by the anti-immigration Vote Leave campaign.
I will be thinking of my German friends who had to uproot his family to Amsterdam when his job with the European Medicines Agency moved.
But most of all, I will be thinking of the next generation who will lose the right to live, work and study in 27 other countries and pensioners living in Europe whose living standards have dropped considerably and whose futures remain uncertain.
Jingoism and symbolism remain the defining hallmarks of this project of national self-harm.