Expat Chronicles: Royals Flushed

Like most creatures of the world, I can’t lay much claim to giving a crap about the British royal family. That’s the case even after living in London for a couple of years, and even after one of my fellow American expats finds herself immersed in the biggest royal scandal in decades.

Up until the last couple of weeks, the only things royal-related that struck a chord with me personally were these:

  • I grew up in a city named for Queen Charlotte, where her slightly bizarro-looking statue sits at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
  • One of my favorite punk songs of all time is “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols, because it managed to rhyme “queen” with “being” and “regime,” as in: “God save the queen/she ain’t no human being/God save the queen/and her fascist regime.”

Other than that, I’d be hard pressed to name anything royal family-related that I care about. I was saddened by the tragic death of Princess Di in 1997 because she was young and had two young sons and she got royally screwed by Prince Charles, the monarchy and the British press.

And I gotta admit, I thought it was pretty neat that an American woman, Meghan Markle, married Prince Harry in 2018, during our first year in London. I can’t say I knew much about Meghan or her acting career, though my wife did. When I learned that Meghan was mixed-race, having a black mother and white father, it piqued my interest even further because I can’t think of anything in the world whiter than the British Monarchy. Our family watched the royal wedding on TV and it gave me a sort of patriotic twinkle seeing this pretty L.A. woman from the colonies crash the royal party.

Then I quickly forgot about it. You can do that when you don’t pay much attention to the British media, and the only thing you ever use British tabloids for is to cover your head when it’s raining outside and you don’t have an umbrella handy.

So I was unaware of how quickly the British press decided to lay its fangs into Meghan, and was subsequently caught off guard by Meghan and Harry’s recent decision to break from the royal family, live independent lives and split their time between North America and England. Their decision was partly the result of the bashing they’ve gotten from the British press.

Needless to say, these events have created a bit of a kerfuffle over here in the British Isles. Translated into American, it means Meghan and Harry are in the middle of a  royal clusterf**k that has much of the country losing more of its mind with each passing minute.

It’s all catnip for the British tabloids, which love nothing more than creating a villain out of nothing and hounding that villain to the far reaches of the universe. Their villain, of course, is Meghan Markle. Near as I can tell, these are her various and sundry crimes:

  • She’s an American, and many Brits look down on America (and pretty much everywhere else) even as they gorge themselves on American fast food, technology and pop culture.
  • She’s an actress (it’s beneath the crown, you see).
  • She seems unwilling to play the part of the princess to their liking.
  • She’s not sufficiently respectful of the honored traditions of the royal family.
  • She’s not sufficiently deferential to the vicious, small-minded assholes who populate British tabloids.
  • She’s African American.

(About that last part: the racial aspect of this whole royal split has been widely covered, so you can read about it on Vox or The New York Times. I’m not that interested in rehashing it here, other than to say that if anyone thinks race hasn’t played a part in British media coverage of Meghan Markle, then things sure must be nice and cozy in your little corner of the world.)

What bugs me most about this episode is the growing narrative that Meghan Markle has somehow used her association with the royal family to pad her bank account and raise her public profile while at the same time disrespecting all of its cherished and sacred traditions.

I can’t look inside Meghan’s soul to see what she might be thinking or feeling – neither can anyone else – but I do believe it’s utter bullshit that she needs the royal family to validate her celebrity or earn a living.

Keep in mind, Meghan is a self-made woman who was already a success before she even met Harry. Her net worth, pre-princess, was estimated at around $5 million. Her income on the TV show “Suits” was reportedly about $450,000 a year, and she had a couple of six-figure paydays for film appearances in “Remember Me” and “The Candidate.” She also made money through various sponsorships, partnerships, endorsements and social media influencer gigs.

Meghan’s dad worked in the TV industry as a lighting director, so she had early exposure to the entertainment industry. But being the daughter of a lighting director doesn’t exactly give you a huge leg up as an actress. Most of Meghan’s success was due to hard work, talent, tenacity and (yes) physical beauty. She ended up a pretty rich woman because of it, and she sure as hell didn’t need to marry the Prince of Sussex or whatever to live comfortably or get famous.

Yet you still hear chatter about how Meghan will need to suck off the royal tit in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. And you see all these memes making the rounds suggesting that without the royal purse strings to tug on, Meghan and Harry will have to work at McDonald’s or live in a trailer park to make ends meet.

It’s all such bullshit, but people still buy into it.

There is something very, very English about this condescending attitude toward Meghan Markle. I can’t deny that England has produced much to admire, and has more charms than I can possibly mention in a short blog post. All the same, some English folks still seem to believe that they’re just f******g better than everyone else – even though there is not a single reason left in the world for them to feel that way.

Arrogance is not unique to England, of course. The United States can be nauseatingly arrogant about its power and influence, which is one reason so many others hate it. I’m sure many French believe that their country’s gifts to the world (food, culture, science, philosophy) cannot possibly be repaid in this or the next 400 lifetimes. Maybe the Chinese feel the same way. And the Egyptians. And the Italians. I don’t know.

I just know that Meghan Markle seems like an okay person who is plenty self-sufficient and deserves better than to be treated like a pariah by a bunch of trained monkeys with too much time on their hands and not enough pints to fill it. Maybe she and Harry just want lives of their own, away from the tabloids and the expectations and the suffocating, sillyass traditions of the British monarchy.

Who can blame them?

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