The Royals Made a Colossal Mistake With Harry and Meghan | Opinion

Whatever the sound, you wouldn't have heard it anyway. Not with all the pomp and circumstance, oompah and incident of the Platinum Jubilee. The din of the myriad military bands. The strident gun salutes. The racket of the RAF. The cheering of the crowds, the speechifying royals, the cast of The Lion King, the Eurovision runner-up and Diana Ross singing live. And fireworks. There must have been fireworks.

Add in Home Secretary Priti Patel's garishly loud St. Paul's outfit (Psychosis Pink, I think) and the tellings-off that Kate Middleton issued to her restless youngest on a regular basis, and you had not so much a conspiracy of silence but a wall of sound. All around, all weekend. While it was like a whisper in a wind tunnel.

"It" was the missed opportunity for the royals—Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William and Kate—to reach out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. To embody the unifying spirit of the Jubilee and, perhaps, start a process that might, eventually, lead to reconciliation. And if reconciliation sounds a little ambitious given the acrimony of recent years, rapprochement then. Détente at least?

Er, no.

The Royal Family Harry and Meghan
In this combination image, The Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on June 5, 2022. The family's appearance concluded the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, inset image of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on June 03, 2022 in London, England. KARWAI TANG/Samir Hussein//WIREIMAGE/Getty

As it was, in public, Prince Harry and Meghan were afforded treatment somewhere between "pariah" and "competition winner" as Britain's newspapers made clear that the onus was on them to be seen (discreetly, demurely, at a distance) and not heard. With their attendance at Queen Elizabeth II's Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral on Friday passing off without drama, the self-same newspapers obsessed over every breath the pair took while in the U.K., while simultaneously shrieking with delight at evidence of the Sussexes' humbling (no one does hypocrisy like British tabloids). That, the red tops crowed, will teach them for their treachery. Especially her.

Here's the thing, though: it's not Harry and Meghan that need the lessons. In fact, as anyone with a bit of foresight and imagination can see—as the royals could, if they only escaped their Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship with the British press—the Sussexes are the lesson. From their refusal to deal with the media on the same terms that drove Princess Diana to distraction and then to her death, to their understanding of, ambition for and savvy capitalising on their brand—they are a blueprint for modernising the British monarchy.

Princess Diana
Princess Diana At A Banquet In New Zealand Wearing A Blue Chiffon Evening Dress, April 1983, New Zealand. Tim Graham/Getty

And it's a blueprint that will be required relatively soon. Though the U.K. suffers from deep denial that the queen can and will die, it becomes increasingly likely. In the event, Britain will undoubtedly experience something approaching a national nervous breakdown after which a radical reappraisal of the nation's relationship with the royal family is inevitable. In those circumstances, bold thinking like Harry and Meghan's might make the difference between Britain becoming a republic and its retaining a slimmed down Scandi-style monarchy. Put it this way: British taxpayers have supported the monarchy for a thousand years so why not let Netflix for a bit? Say it quietly—whisper it, if you will—but the truth is this: Meghan is not the Windsors' nemesis but rather their savior.

Because without her, they are a bit of a sorry state, as demonstrated by the presence of the so-called "magnificent seven" on Buckingham Palace's famous balcony at the end of the Jubilee pageantry. The seven are: Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. Three pensioners, three under-tens—and William and Kate. Hardly the England World Cup side in '66, is it?

Interesting fact about the Buckingham Palace balcony: it was a late addition to the building, added nearly a century after the house was first bought by a royal monarch. It was at Queen Victoria's behest that the balcony was added with construction finished in 1853.

Suddenly, Buckingham Palace made sense. A sprawling, costly edifice was given purpose and potential, rendered iconic, regarded fondly. More than mere adornment, the balcony was the making of the place.

There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Gareth McLean is a screenwriter and cultural commentator. The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

For an alternate opinion read: The Royal Family Is Thriving Without Harry and Meghan