‘Rogue royals’? Pundits furious over Harry and Meghan’s step back

The announcement came after Prince Harry and Meghan criticised media intrusion. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

LONDON, Jan 9, 2020, The Guardian. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step back from public life has provoked vitriolic attacks on the couple and hyperbolic predictions on what it could mean for the monarchy. The announcement came after Prince Harry and Meghan criticised media intrusion and launched legal action against the Mail on Sunday. This, along with reports that the couple’s decision has upset the Queen, appears to have fuelled the ferocity of the reaction, The Guardian reported.

Meghan and Harry are “the two most spoiled brats in history”, according to broadcaster and former Mirror editor, Piers Morgan.

After the news broke on Wednesday night, Morgan launched a Twitter tirade against Meghan and Harry that has continued on Thursday. He said the death of his mother Diana did not give Harry “licence to treat the Queen so appallingly”.

The Daily Mail devotes its first 17 pages to “the Rogue Royals”.

Its columnist Sarah Vine, who has always been suspicious of Meghan Markle, wrote this:

It’s almost as though nothing matters to this couple apart from their own immediate happiness and gratification, as though they are incapable of seeing beyond their own little bubble of privilege. It has often been speculated as to whether they might end up walking away from Britain. But the timing of this announcement could hardly be more insensitive, or more indicative of the how little either seems to understand the true nature of their roles as royals.

She adds:

The woke, somewhat humourless and very entitled Harry we see before us now is almost unrecognisable as the rumbustious fellow we knew and loved.

As Vine suggests the Mail was much more indulgent towards Harry in the days when pictures emerged of him dressed in a Nazi uniform at a fancy dress party. Now it has crowned him the Prince of Woke:

He was once the fun-loving young royal famously caught with his trousers down playing strip billiards in a Las Vegas hotel suite with his mates.

But Prince Harry has since swapped partying for posturing on a range of ‘woke’ issues with his wife Meghan Markle.

From preaching about environmentalism to carving emotional messages in cupcake icing sugar, Harry’s hobbies have markedly shifted over the years.

His cheeky grin was once a staple at Royal events, and his overseas trips would showcase a charismatic young man who would always try to have a laugh.

In the Daily Express, meanwhile, columnist Virginia Blackburn addressed the couple more in sorrow than in anger, asking: “Is it Meghan’s fault?”

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that having grown up in a country that considers the Kennedys to be aristocracy, Meghan didn’t understand that being a Windsor is not like being a celebrity … it was about getting on with the job.

As for Harry, Blackburn echoed the nostalgia elsewhere for the bad boy prince of old, asking: “What was he thinking?”

Harry was one of [the royal family’s] most popular members, adored by all and sundry. We forgave him readily for the Vegas antics. We were even sympathetic during his photographer-punching stage. He was a prince looking for love, just like the rest of us. And now what?

The dismay was not limited to the rightwing press. In the left-leaning Mirror, Rachael Bletchly argued that Harry is guilty of hypocrisy:

Harry has selfishly turned his back on the institution the Queen has fought to modernise and secure for him and his children… The Sussexes strutted back from their extended holiday gushing about how keen they were to get back to work. Well, good riddance. I for one have had a bellyful of Harry’s eco-warrior hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, the Times relishes the prospects of the Sussexes becoming financial independent. “Royal couple face being forced to pay rent after going it alone,” is the headline stretching across a double page spread in the paper.

Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Hugo Vickers, a royal biographer, likened Harry and Meghan’s circumstances to those faced by Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

If they’re not careful to end up as sort of slightly tarnished celebrities. If you set up an alternative court, it’s not going to work. It’s very sad actually.

Not everyone was disappointed by the news, however. Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, scented big trouble. Speaking to Sky News he said:

There is a serious problem for the royal family because if the younger generations are not that keen to carry on the world duties as Charles and the Queen have done, then I think that the long term future of the monarchy is in doubt.

In a statement on Republic’s website he added:

The royal family is in trouble and with the next succession on the horizon their problems are only going to get worse.

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