Harry is currently the most active royal thanks to the “we pay, you entertain” arrangement.
The Duke of Sussex has thrown out a buffet for royal observers, who have seemingly lived off scraps their entire lives — the violation of the color of tights rule here, the “body language that suggested stress” there. Course after course was served up in his book Spare, which was leaked to the media. The first revelation—a struggle between royal brothers—had hardly been fully processed when the next revelations were made. The two heartbreaking bust-ups between the duchesses; the boys “pleading” with their father not to wed Camilla; Charles’s joke that Harry wasn’t his; and Harry’s frostbitten penis at William’s wedding.
It turns out that William and Kate were the ones who urged him to dress up like a Nazi in 2005; Harry had only been doing as instructed. Then there was the field where he “treated him like a young colt” and lost his virginity to an “older woman”. He wrote, “I mounted her swiftly, she spanked my ass and sent me away.
If you assumed Harry would be flogging a dead horse in the wake of the Oprah interview and “intimate” Netflix series, you’d be at least partially mistaken.
Of course, those who are obviously utterly enamored with this have responded to this with the usual anger. You can’t tell me that royal pundits, who spend their entire lives attempting to eke a narrative out of a wardrobe choice, aren’t having the time of their lives. Or that nobody is, with the possible exception of William, Kate, Charles, and Camilla. I’d say that the discoveries have significantly increased the country’s joie de vivre. And is it accurate to say that Harry is to blame for the “biggest crisis in 30 years” for the monarchy, as one front page claimed? Has he “cruelly eroded,” as one royal biographer called it, the foundational principles of constitutional monarchy? A former editor of the Sun, who, let’s be clear, formerly made a significant portion of his living shining a light on the monarchy, once observed, “The more light you beam, the less probable [the monarchy] is likely to survive.” Really?
How will the royals be used in 2023? An alien visiting Earth and witnessing how we treat, finance, and “consume” them would be able to clearly comprehend the deal. We hold onto them for amusement. The pact was made especially clear in 2019 when Harry and Meghan defied royal tradition for the first time by defying requests to display Archie as soon as he was born. At the time, royal biographer Penny Junor commented, “They can’t have it both ways. Since we are paying over £3 million for Harry and Meghan’s home, it would be a good public relations move for the couple to briefly introduce Archie. We cover the cost, you cover the enjoyment. Harry is now the most diligent royal if this agreement holds true.
What else serves as a monarchy today? Nothing that contemporary Britain agrees with is “represent[ed]” by it. In a nation that takes pride in being a meritocracy, for instance, it symbolizes the victory of birth over talent. It stands for colonial control in a country like Britain that is understandably uneasy with that chapter of its past. In a nation that strives for sexual equality, it honors first-born boys and fertile women (would the media admire Kate as much if she were infertile?).
Perhaps we continue to support the monarchy out of a pleasant nostalgia that takes us back to the Tudors and Plantagenets. In that case, Harry’s leaks should make us happy. What could be more reminiscent than a battle between two “arch-nemesis” princes, royal spouses, evil stepmothers, or kings who questioned the legitimacy of their sons? What could be more traditional than bars all throughout the country being abuzz with rumors about the business of the royal bed-chamber (or field)?
No, Harry’s book has not put the monarchy in jeopardy. Nothing ever does, even divorce, extramarital affairs, the Queen’s attempt to grieve Diana privately, and Prince Andrew’s payment of £12 million to resolve an accusation that he sexually abused a teenager when he was 17. As far back as the 1993 Ipsos survey is concerned, a consistent 70% or thereabouts of the populace has preferred to preserve the monarchy. What the royals do is not particularly important.
The “core” members of the family ought to be praising Harry and Meghan if anything. When was the last time William, Kate, Charles, or Camilla were mentioned in a negative headline? Consider the rough treatment senior royals often received in the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium. One such instance was the 1993 publication of a tape of a conversation between Charles and Camilla in which he expressed his fantasy of becoming a tampon. In the 2020s, the media function more like a branch of the company’s PR machine, holding their fury for the Sussexes’ “protocol-breaking” antics. Kate is free to don any pair of tights under this cover.
Many times, Walter Bagehot’s other views on the monarchy are overshadowed by his well-known phrase, “daylight upon magic.” Additionally, he saw it as a public spectacle, complete with “pleasant and attractive occurrences” and “irrelevant facts that speak to men’s bosoms,” freeing up the government to focus on more important tasks. Yes, the royals’ primary goal is to amuse the general population. Harry deserves all of our gratitude.