Op-Ed: Harry and Meghan – how a golden opportunity was lost

Op-Ed: Harry and Meghan - how a golden opportunity was lost
Courtesy of CBC via Matt Dunham/The Associated Press

You’d think there’d be nothing much more to add after all the reaction to Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan.

Except this: What a waste.

The Royal Family, or The Firm or The Institution or whatever you wish to call them, had the future in the palm of their gloved hands.

Kate and Will. Harry and Meghan. The dream couples. Young, attractive, relevant, Especially to people under the age of 30, particularly in the Commonwealth, to whom the Royals in the 21 st century are a somewhat anachronistic group of privileged, if well-meaning figureheads.

They had the fab four. And they split up. And we can’t even blame Yoko.

Reaction to the Oprah interview has been polarized. To many older people, Meghan and Harry are privileged whiners, Meghan an accomplished actress with crocodile tears, spouting a “diatribe of bilge” as English broadcaster Piers Morgan put it. And Harry a disloyal member of the family. To others, many of them younger, they are the wronged – Meghan left suicidal and bereft and unsupported and a victim of racism, not just by the royals but also by the British tabloid press, which has been merciless.

Someone, earlier on, should have seen this coming. And the royals certainly have to look inside their own antiquated culture. For all their attempts to look and sound contemporary and in touch, they are still a closed society, fusty and musty and crusty.

But something rang loudly for me. Harry and Meghan during their Oprah interview stressed they did not wish to walk away from the family altogether, but step back as senior royals and become working royals. And there are many of them doing just that. Edward, for one. And Anne. Andrew – well, that’s another matter. The royals are keeping him out of the public eye. And well away from the FBI.

So instead of being in the glare of the British tabloid media spotlight, Meghan and Harry were willing to live in Canada – as we all know they did for a short while – or New Zealand or South Africa. Places where the media is somewhat more respectful and less brutal and less likely to quote gossip as gospel.

They wanted to be ambassadors in the Commonwealth. And they would have been fabulous at it. The crowds came out in their tens of thousands to greet them in Australia, and they continue to have that rock star aura to them.

They could have served, and connected to the more relaxed, laid-back societies of Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand et al.

And connected the royal family to the future. And to a country and an institution that seems light-years away from our daily reality. Right now, The Crown is a Netflix show, not an institution that engenders absolute respect.

I was somewhat surprised to see a CHEK poll this week asking if the monarchy should be abolished. Half the respondents said it should be ended. And half wanted it to continue. A poll based in Victoria without overwhelming support for the crown would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Now, it’s ho-hum.

I think the monarchy is something of an anachronism in Canada, but the parliamentary system is still far superior to the cumbersome system to our south, where Trump only thought he was king.

Meghan and Kate, living on the peninsula, going for walks up and down Horth Hill, picking up lattes at the Deep Cove store, would have been more real to Canadians and other Commonwealth citizens than having two disaffected people holed up in a mansion in Los Angeles.

OK – maybe that’s going too far. But if the Queen was very smart, which I think she is, she’d find a way to take them up on their offer. And have them help build a road to the future.

Too late?

Perhaps. But right now The Crown needs all the help it can get. Especially around the Commonwealth, where more and more younger people are wondering if the soap opera is worth it.

Harry and Meghan could have helped ensure a strong future for the royal family. Now, with Charles next in line, that future looks much less assured.

Ian Haysom is a consulting editor with CHEK-TV

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