By William J. Furney
In a year in which more than 2.6 million people have lost their lives to a newly discovered virus, two of the most famous, privileged and wealthy people on the planet have done little other than moan and whine about how unfortunate they are.
Despite having quit their duties as members of the royal family in soggy England and instead settled in sunny California, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle retain their duke and duchess of Sussex titles. After their major-media gripe/Oprah interview broadcast around the world this week, the editor of Sussex newspapers called for a replacement duke and duchess — people who not only live in England but are worthy of the title.
The queen’s grandson, 36, had long been a beloved scamp of the royal family, and just as his wife has severed ties with her own family, most notably with her Mexico-based father, so too does the sixth in line to the throne seem intent on doing the same with his. His relationship with his brother, William, is in shreds and his father and the future king, Charles, is not taking his calls and apparently is no longer supporting him financially. Oh dear, for the multimillionaire British prince in America who was left the bulk of his fortune by his mother, the late Princess Diana.
Many people in the UK and elsewhere were appalled that the Sussexes decided to air yet more dirty laundry in public at a time when the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, 99, is ailing in hospital. Many didn’t believe Meghan’s claim of racism in the royal family, and that her mental health suffered to such an extent during her brief period in the UK that she felt suicidal.
“We are very much not a racist family,” Prince William said in answer to a reporter’s question while visiting a school on Friday.
The cosy, garden-setting, forensically choreographed, softball chat with the US chatshow queen pal all felt a lot too disingenuous, and perhaps self-serving, insincere and even fabricated for various kinds of advancement and opportunity.
After all, the couple fled the UK and its rabid tabloid newspapers to seek solace, peace and privacy elsewhere (Harry blames the rags for killing his mother) — but have been either speaking to the media, releasing photographs of themselves and their kid or doing back-to-back video meetings ever since.
So it’s no surprise that the great British public have had enough. A new poll suggests that instead of the pair’s two-hour-long Oprah talk generating sympathy for Meghan and Harry, it’s had the opposite effect and most people now can’t stand them.
The survey, conducted by leading pollster YouGov in the days after the primetime tell-all was aired, shows the majority of Brits (58%) view the Los Angeles native, 39, negatively and almost half (48%) have a negative view of Prince Harry. Both their popularity trajectories have been on a sharply downward spiral since this time last year, when the pandemic struck, as this graph shows:
It suggests that in a time of national and global health crisis, the last thing anyone wants to hear is a continual whingefest from an entitled pair who don’t even have to do a day’s work.
The monarch 94, meanwhile, has a popularity rating that would make any world leader drool — 80%, according to the YouGov poll. Elizabeth, who has been queen for nearly 70 years, lives by her maxim of “never complain, never explain”, something lost on the pair who fled to the States. Maintaining an aura of mystique about a peculiar institution that many see as increasingly irrelevant in a democratic, modern world usually involves keeping your mouth shut.
Bombastic former CNN showman Piers Morgan, a harsh Markle critic, was flabbergasted by the Oprah revelations, declaring on his UK TV show on Monday that the former actress was severely lacking in credibility.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report. The fact that she’s fired up this onslaught against our Royal Family I think is contemptible,” he said, before quitting the next day following a row about the interview with the show’s weatherman.
It’s safe to say that many people wish the Sussexes would do what they claimed at the outset of their move from the UK, to live a life of privacy and stay away from the media. But with big money at stake, and PR firms working to get the never-ending messages out — and mega Netflix and Spotify deals already signed — that’s sadly not likely to happen. Perhaps it’s time for a new, kinder, more inclusive strategy.
Because for now at least, and perhaps forever, unless they can turn their pity-party around, Harry and Megan have lost the British public.
- Title image courtesy Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese.