Scots must detach themselves from the Royal Family soap opera
IT will not be the greatest shock of 2023 thus far for National readers to find out that I shall not be ordering my advance copy of Spare.
I did slog my way through six hours of the Harry and Meghan Netflix confessional over the holidays, but I draw the royal line at parting with hard cash, even to take advantage of the 50% discount already on offer already for pre-orders.
The title of Harry’s epistle, like the book itself, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the name is quite apposite. It even provoked a full debate on Mumsnet as people discovered it refers to the nickname conferred on Harry by the rest of the “firm”. It was designed to rhyme with heir – get it, William the heir, Harry the spare!
No doubt the rest of his nearest and dearest did not fully realise when they were poking their harmless, if somewhat inane, pet-name fun that they were opening up Harry’s deep psychological wounds – and that brings us to the downside of the oh-so-clever title. It reeks of the self-pity which was the overwhelming message of the Netflix series. Harry, like his father before him, actually does believe that he has drawn the deuce in life’s pack of cards.
Never mind the wealth, the privilege, the beautiful partner, the stunning home, the Californian sun and the lovely children – Harry suffers from the delusion that his entire mortal span has been a long struggle against adversity, unfairness and iniquity. He is no advert at all for any semblance of rounded education in the playing fields of Eton. Perhaps his granny should have spent a bit more time carefully explaining to him the concept of public service.
From the above, it might seem that I am unsympathetic to the royal rebels. I am not. Indeed, in days gone by, when such monarchical disputes were sorted out by the comparatively simple expedient of military invasion, with the loser off to the Tower before off with his head, I might even have been tempted to rally to the standard of this reborn Harry Hotspur – at least if he had landed somewhere convenient in the north of England.
If it had been possible to overlook the devastating lack of self-awareness in the Netflix series, I would have been basically onside. I have no doubt that just about every whine of the distraught duo had more than an element of truth.
As a mixed-race woman myself, I would be surprised if Meghan had not encountered deeply imbued racism in the English class system. In terms of the close family, it is difficult to be at the pinnacle of the imperial business for 300 years or so without some of the intrinsic attitudes to race and class surfacing from the deep, like some poisonous sea serpent, and then being translated into careless and hurtful personal remarks.
Equally, every word Harry uttered about the UK mainstream media is also true. The English tabloids are just about the most pernicious force on earth and any relationship they have with the truth is purely coincidental. Given the tragic fate of his mother, he has more reason than most to hate them, and more power to the legal elbows of the pair of them if the Sussexes continue their pursuit of the press through the English courts.
It also shines a light on the most unsavoury aspect of the dependent relationship between the media and the royals. They feed off each other. Yesterday, for example, the most important story of the day was the further revelations on the dramatic collapse of emergency care in the National Health Service, north and south of the Border. In any normal country, a responsible press would be devoting its entire attention to the examination of the cause of the crisis and the search for solutions.
Instead, just about every English paper led on Harry’s interview comment about wanting his brother and father “back” – a remark provoked by their failure to respond to his Netflix cri de coeur. Apparently the sound of Windsor silence was too much for the spare to bear!
Thus the dysfunctional royal drama has long since replaced religion as the opiate of the masses and its role as a deflection from serious political discourse is one of the most unsavoury aspects of this whole debilitating nonsense.
And this brings me to a gleam of light in the winter gloom. The finding in the Panelbase poll commissioned by the Alba Party suggesting that a majority of Scots envisage an independent Scotland as a republic rather than the domain of Charles III shows the profound good sense of our people.
When the late Queen was alive, nationalists sensibly dodged this debate not just for expediency but in proper recognition of a lifetime of service. Now is the time for Scotland to detach itself from the soap opera, and it’s not just Harry and Meghan who should be written out of the series.
The whole bang shoot is surplus to democratic requirements – spare, you might say!
Article first appeared in The National Newspaper, 4 January 2023