"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, March 8, 2021

Harry And Meghan, The Royal Couple–The Ur-Succubus, And Why We Still Love The Smarmy Dirty Laundry Of Buckingham Palace

No one doubts that poor Harry Windsor was snookered by the upstart Hollywood wannabe star, Meghan Markle.  Canny, smart Meghan, indifferent to both the Crown and its Prince, wants it all ways – 1) to show Queen Elizabeth and her Palace that the days of British rule, empire, and racial hegemony are over and done with; 2) to show that those peoples for so long oppressed by the Queen are finally having their day and that one of them rules the new game – mixed-race, American, independent, and unstoppable; 3) to demonstrate multicultural diversity as a tactic to show up the white, imperialist, elitist rulers of the world.

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Meghan has been brilliant – hooking a prince, shanghaiing a Windsor, laughing at the Queen, mocking the Palace, and presenting her own shaky past as the real world – and one can only admire a woman with more crass, gutsy will and ambition than the most grasping American social climbers.

The Palace is no match for her, armed as she is with America’s passion for diversity. She is the queen of Mardi Gras on a Bourbon Street float  – a diva drawn from the exotic fiction of Faulkner, a high-toned black woman of Victorian New Orleans.  She rides the inclusivity juggernaut, the woman of the day – mixed race, ambitious, of determinate beauty, screen-test ready, and American to the core.  Queen Elizabeth can only watch in horror.

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The British television series about Henry VIII  was immensely popular in America and continues to be so on reruns. There is something universally and  timelessly appealing about court and the life of the British upper classes – their elegance, wealth, privilege, and savoir faire are all well beyond backcountry Walmart greeters.

Winter’s Bone is a long and depressing movie about an Ozark family struggling through poverty, cold, and inbred mountain family jealousies. This was no Eugene O’Neill country – the brutal terrain of Mourning Becomes Electra where the Mannon family destroys itself in a melodramatic grand guignol and explores the dynamics of greed, jealousy, spite, and power – but a slog through the mud and cold.  Each character was backward, ignorant, and dumb; and their attempt to find some kind of reconciliation and meaning was implausible and impossible.

The Tudors was a series about the life and times of Henry VIII.  It had everything – opulence, elegance, manners, and majesty. It was engaging, sumptuous, and dramatic. Nothing could have been farther from the Ozark trailer trash of Winter’s Bone than the court of King Henry.  The women were all beautiful, the men dashing and confident.  Cardinal Wolsey, always concerned about pomp and appearance as well as power, dressed to the nines – crimson cape, gold chain, ceremonial cap, satin slippers.  He rustled through the chambers of power.  He had an air of sanctity and authority.

The young King, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers was a handsome, young, alluring version of the original.  All of the real Henry’s bombast and Falstaffian robust appetites were gone, and in their place was a feline grace and sexuality.  Women glided in and out of court.  Advisors whispered and plotted, rose to power, and went to the gallows, but they were all aristocrats – educated, well-schooled and well-heeled, and all compelling in their villainy. The court was rife with intrigue and ambition, but on the surface was all good manners and breeding.

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Downton Abbey was as popular, even more so because there was American comeuppance – as much as we would like to be the landed gentry of the British upper classes, or for that matter heirs to the Cavaliers of the Old South – we like to see those unattainably above us have a fall.  There are elements of envy, jealousy, desire, ambition, and anger behind both shows of English priggery and superiority.

The issue of Meghan Markle is more complex.  On the one hand she, a ‘diversity’ comer, has put the Crown on notice and claimed her right to royal lineage.  On the other hand she has exposed the worst of America’s childhood fantasies – an immobilizing desire to be primus inter pares by fiat – an automatic membership in the same club whose members are responsible for empire, high culture, sophistication, and enlightened rule.  She rides on the back of the progressive race-gender-ethnicity juggernaut and has no idea where it is going, why it is on its path, and who is propelling it.  She is a Hollywood-Bollywood, no-longer-young starlet with a pretty face, femme fatale ambition, and a scary last-man-standing morality.

Poor Harry.  Wallis Simpson, the seductress behind the abdication of King Edward VIII, was nothing compared to Meghan Markle.  Wallis was an American socialite to whom the weak, emotionally frail Duke of York, succumbed.  She was no manipulative, ambitious woman. Marrying into the Royal Family had little social appeal for this American sophisticate. 

After Edward’s abdication and their marriage she was a quiet, complaisant wife – independent, strong, and determined, but with no vengeful agendas.  Meghan Markle on the other hand is any man’s nightmare.  Few men watching the palace saga would ever willingly be done by the likes of this comer; and most have sympathy and compassion for the poor prince.  What was he thinking? they ask.

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It is painful to watch the airing of anyone’s dirty laundry, and particularly now, in an expose to the Queen pf sanctimonious ‘serious’ journalism, Oprah Winfrey.  There can be no better confluence of petty vendettas, impossible ambition, and American show-and-tell confessionalism than on her show.  It is for most the bottom of the barrel; but for many royal watchers, a long awaited, smarmy episode of The Windsors. 

Shit fights are great television and the willing suspension of disbelief – forgetting for two hours the supposed dignity of the Royal Family and their heirs – are money makers.  This shit fight, however, has more at stake.  It is not just over petty jealousies but over the nature of British royalty and by extension, Empire.  Meghan Markle is out to expose the venality, arrogance, elitism and paternalism of Empire. She is a neo-Mau Mau, an anti-colonialist, anti-white terrorist in the guise of a beautiful Hollywood multicultural star.

The Palace is of course having nothing of it.  Shameless self-promotion they say, typical of an American, crass ignorance again, typical of American, and worst of all what they consider to be a heartless, ambitious vixen who has taken the Queen’s grandbaby and turned him into a progressive sycophant.

Harry’s elder brother, William, is holding the fort, dressing and acting properly.  He served his country, his Queen and the idea of civilized Empire, but is – thanks to the antics of his sister-in-law – considered retrograde, a hopelessly backward monarchist, and Churchillian advocate of Western Empire. Of course he is none of the kind, only doing his duty out of honor, respect, and devotion.  His brother, like his Great Uncle Edward, are the ones to be pitied, lured by the fantasy of American romantic love and idealism. There are traditions to uphold, and William has taken up, quietly of course, the cudgel.

Watching The Tudors, Downtown Abbey, and The Interview with Oprah Winfrey, we want the monarchy both to come tumbling down and to remain standing. Without the Royal family, we would have to accept the fact that we, like the British, are just a nation of shopkeepers – Walmart greeters, hamburger flippers, and clerks.  And for it to remain we would have to admit our aristocratic anti-Democratic ambitions.

Harry and Meghan are a sorry, sad spectacle.  Queen Elizabeth II has been a principled, patriotic, historic monarch. Her reign has been anything but untroubled; but she has been a model of rectitude and right behavior.  For her to watch the defamatory, petty bourgeois spectacle of her grandson and his wife must be painful and horrendous.  May it end soon.

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