The week when Megxit overtook Brexit

The topic of discussion however was not the upcoming trade negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, but the saga that has engulfed the British news cycle.

IN HAPPIER TIMES, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, pose for a picture in London.  (photo credit: JOHN STILLWELL / POOL / VIA REUTERS)
IN HAPPIER TIMES, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, pose for a picture in London.
LONDON – “I am absolutely confident that they are going to sort this out,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday.
The topic of discussion however was not the upcoming trade negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, but the saga that has engulfed the British news cycle: the groundbreaking declaration from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, better known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle respectively, that they intend to become financially independent from the British royal family and create “a progressive new role within this institution.”
The decision to become financially independent of the Royal Family by Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, presents one of the most dramatic breaks from Britain’s monarchy since Elizabeth II’s uncle Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson.
For a country that has been completely and utterly dominated by Brexit for over three years, it has been striking for many since the couple’s announcement just over a week ago on Thursday, January 8th, to see the subject dominate the headlines.
The announcement, which neither the Queen nor any other member of her family were privy to before its release, resulted in a noticeably terse response from the Britain’s longest monarch stating that “Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
For Joff Summerfield, a craft market trader in London’s Covent Garden and a self-described royalist, the issue of balancing out the couple’s needs as a family against their privilege was at the forefront of his mind.
“I can see why they would want to get out of it,” he said, noting “but they have all grown up in a world of privilege... they should be able to have some form of privacy but they are public figures.”
Following a summit on Monday, January 13, at Sandringham House – one of the Queen’s favored country estates – arranged by Elizabeth II and other senior members of the family, including Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William, considerable progress had been made.
Although unclear, as yet, with regards to the nature of the arrangement, the Queen stated that she had agreed with the Duke and the Duchess that there would be a “period of transition” in which the couple would divide their time between the UK and Canada. Exemplifying the work that is still required to be done, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in an interview later on the same day that there was substantial work to be done regarding the royal couple’s security arrangements.
THE SAGA HAS been branded by the press as ‘Megxit’, following the Duchess’s decision to depart for Canada in the midst of the Royal Family’s ongoing discussions regarding the Sussex’s ongoing discussions. It has thrown the royals – and the relative stability of their position in British society – into a state of disarray.
On Monday, Princes William and Harry denied claims made in The Sunday Times that the Sussexes felt as though they were being pushed away from the family due to “constant bullying” from Harry’s brother.
In response to the story, the brothers released a joint statement stating “For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”
Commenting on the public’s engagement with ‘Megxit,’ journalist, author and royal expert Penny Junor told the Post, “The monarchy obviously plays a very important part in our constitution and our culture and the family would be in big trouble if no one cared about them or what they did.”
She added the caveat that “there is far more interest in their [the Royal Family’s] private life, and the upsets and dramas, than in their good works. Megxit has all the fascination of a multi-car pile up on the motorway that so many people slow down to watch.”
The discourse has been divided in the UK, with some attributing antithetical views towards the Duchess of Sussex as having a racist undertone.
Following radio host Eamonn Holmes’s comment last week in reference to the Duchess of Sussex that “I look at her and I think... I don’t think I’d like you,” popular British grime artist Stormzy – in an interview with American radio station Hot 97 – said with reference to Holmes “[B]ro, she’s black! That’s… [what] you’re talking about.” He added, “If you told someone write a list as to why you hate Meghan, the list is rubbish. There’s nothing credible to it.”
For those who argue the United Kingdom should become a republic, Megxit has provided manna from heaven. Graham Smith, CEO of republican pressure group Republic, said in an interview with the Post that “I think members of the public don’t give the monarchy a thought most of the time – a story like this will push them to think about it and see how ridiculous how it all is.”
With regards to the future he added “We have less than a decade left of the Queen being on the throne; Prince Charles is much less popular, and this just adds to what was already going to be a challenge [for the Royal Family].”
The couple’s announcement follows ongoing divides between the Sussexes and the British press, especially tabloid newspapers. In October 2019, the Duchess of Sussex began legal proceedings against newspaper The Mail on Sunday, following its publication of a letter she had sent to her estranged father. This was followed by a stinging rebuke of the British tabloids from Prince Harry, in which the royal said “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Speaking to the Post, Angela Levin – royal expert and author of recent biography of Prince Harry, Harry: Conversations with the Prince – suggested it was likely the British public’s perception of Harry would change. “There will be very big changes; many people will feel incredibly sorry for the Queen” said Levin. She added that “The Queen is all about duty – she adores Prince Harry, they’re very, very close and not to tell her [about the decision beforehand] will have really wounded her”.
Another market worker in Covent Garden, sales assistant Tracy Gilmore, was unperturbed by the goings on. “I’m a bit sick of it, really,’’ she said, adding “If that’s what they want to do I would just let them get on with it.”
With under a week to go until Harry’s father Prince Charles’s official visit to the Holy Land – which will include an address to the World Holocaust forum in Jerusalem – it remains unclear whether the cloud of Megxit will remain hanging over the Royal Family for the foreseeable future.
Some things remain the same in the UK however. Any sense of the Royals being any different to their fellow citizens were evidenced in a question asked by the BBC News this week: “Do you and your family divide your time between two or more countries? Share your experiences by emailing…”