Relaxed after returning from a delightful few days in Amsterdam I thought I would write about something on which I have no strong opinions – actually no opinions of any kind whatever.
And this morning a perfect subject presents itself – the impending nuptials of Prince Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle.
This will take place in a chapel in Windsor Castle tomorrow (Saturday) amid the usual pomp and ceremony that the British simply can’t refrain from providing, whatever the occasion, or whether, in this case, the bride and groom want it or not. But then, they probably do want it. Or at least Meghan probably does, because what is the point of a fairy-tale wedding if it does not include a gold coach, and a detachment of royal guards, and throngs of cheering adulators to lend colour and drama to the occasion.
There is nothing like a royal wedding to send Fleet Street, the BBC and a very large proportion of the British public into a frenzy of incoherent gibbering that belies the national reputation for restraint.
Will Meghan’s Dad walk her up the aisle? Apparently not, the poor fellow having suffered a heart attack last week, having earlier embarrassed himself by posing for some paparazzi snaps. (I have just heard on the radio that Prince Charles will do it, but only half way up the aisle, as the ‘giving of the bride part of the ceremony is being discarded. Go figure, because I can’t.)
Will she ‘fit in’ to royal society better than the revered Diana did, or the now almost forgotten Fergie? Could anyone?
Does the Queen even like her? Not to mention her curmudgeonly husband, Prince Philip, whose opinion of Fergie was famously outspoken. On the question of HM’s approval, there can be nothing but uninformed speculation as she has never been known to express public opinions of that nature – and not even in private. (Memories of the public response to her guarded public response to the death of Princess Diana no doubt still linger in Her Majesty’s apparently prodigious memory.)
Will Meghan, a plain-spoken, divorced American of mixed race, break the mould of tradition by attempting to ‘shake up’ the stuffy protocol-ridden Royal Family? Some royal commentators, with absolutely nothing to go on, are predicting that she will. I doubt it myself. Actually, the danger is that it will be Meghan herself who gets shaken up, especially if she steps out of line, as Fergie once did, and with such monotonous regularity that the family and its public relations machine pretty much consigned her to the Royal Doghouse, where she has been quartered ever since. We can only hope that Meghan avoids getting herself photographed in a compromising situation like that poolside shot of Fergie with her American gentleman-friend while he was sucking her toes, even though by then her marriage to Prince Andrew was virtually over anyway.
Much has been made, and is still being made, of Meghan’s ethnic heritage, notably on the question of whether she will become a role model for young and aspirational black women. I shouldn’t think so. For a start, there are very few of Harry’s royal ilk available on the market anywhere, although I may have overlooked a number of Danish or Dutch princes around looking for unsuitable commoners to marry in order to show off their commendable egalitarianism. Anyway, isn’t her colour irrelevant in this modern age – as royal commentators remind us at every opportunity (oblivious to the irony in doing so)?
Ultimately, rather than Harry, or Meghan, or indeed the Queen herself, it will be the gossip columnists who will determine what kind of Princess Meghan will be, by making us believe that what we are reading is real, which only tends to make it become so. It was the Social Commentariat that made the decision to do for another predecessor, the ‘awful’ Wallis Simpson, who may actually not have been so awful but was painted as such by the press (as the media was then known) because she had the temerity to ‘steal our King’. As far as I would have been concerned then, she was welcome to him, but I would have been in a distinct minority.
Anyway, Meghan Marke is in no danger of becoming Wallis Simpson. Already Harry is only fourth or fifth in line for the succession and sinking down the list fast as brother Will and his bride Kate – now there is someone who knows her place – keep producing successors as if taking out insurance against some cataclysmic pandemic that might deprive the House of Windsor of a rightful heir.
Finally, I can think of nothing – absolutely and irrevocably nothing – in the way of advice for the new royal pair, other than what I might give to any betrothed couple. The trouble is I’ve forgotten what that is.
Meanwhile, good luck, Harry and Meghan, and I wish I didn’t have an uneasy feeling that you may need it.