Meghan Markle has just shaken the British royal family with her bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
A confident, self-assured and highly articulate woman, she was always going to find it hard to fit in with the stodgy, conservative and überconformist culture of the royals. It’s no surprise that there is no love lost between the two parties.
But amid Meghan’s charges of racism against the family – undoubtedly believable since racism exists in many quarters, and why would the royal family be substantially different? – the reason they dislike her is not her being biracial but, rather, her being American.
I lived for 11 years in Great Britain. Six of my nine children were born there. I ran a successful and renowned student organization in Oxford which numbered among its members Cory Booker, Ron Dermer and Eric Garcetti. But I was a young American at Oxford, and I know how many of the British students viewed me. Yes, they liked me as a person. But as an American they found me loud, brash, moving too quickly, and too ready to share my emotions.
We forget what an amazing culture clash there is between the UK and the United States, two countries separated – as George Bernard Shaw said – by a common language.
My own advice to Meghan is this: Get over it. They don’t like you. But you don’t need them. You have the love and support of your husband. You live in beautiful California. So what if baby Archie doesn’t’ have a title? You yourself said the “firm” is stifling. So why burden him with the suffocating straitjacket of illusionary royal titles anyway?
Everything you’ve achieved as a professional and as an actress, Meghan, you’ve achieved on your own. We Americans believe in a meritocracy, where people are judged by their talent, effort and character. We reject the aristocracy of the British where people are judged by their birth.
That’s why we sent King George III packing a quarter of a millennium ago when he had the insolence to try to tax our tea. You want to try to govern a free people from across the Atlantic and profit off our blood, sweat, and toil, while you sit in a castle you never built enjoying riches you never earned? No thank you.
Respectfully, Meghan, you kind of want to have it both ways. You want the royal family to embrace you, but on your terms, as an assertive and independent-minded American woman. It ain’t gonna happen. Look at what they did to an assertive and independent-minded Diana, and she wasn’t even an American.
Meghan, your obsession with the royal family while being simultaneously put off by its uppitiness is as old as America itself, because we Americans have a strange love-hate relationship with British royals that is positively bizarre.
In December 2014 Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, came to New York on a celebrated visit.
They looked like a very loving couple, decent folk. I especially feel for William and Harry, who lost their mother at a young age. I am happy they have found fine women who love them and with whom they have built beautiful families.
William and Harry are impressive men. Their wives equally so. But because I’m an American, I don’t see them as any more special than the next person. In fact, that’s the very essence of being an American.
America was born through the rejection of royalty, a detestation of the divine right of kings, a revulsion at the idea that any man or woman is born superior to their fellows.
President Joe Biden sits in his chair because he earned it. Prince William, for all his decency, sits there because he was born into it.
America is a meritocracy where people are rewarded for effort. We have no dukes, no counts, no lords.
A FEW years ago I debated atheist Richard Dawkins at the University of Toronto at the Idea City convention. He went on about how religion is a lie. There is no proof for God, so why do people insist on perpetuating this lie?
He insisted that he has nothing against religion, other than the fact it is not true.
When it was my turn, I asked, “Since you’re a British subject, did you ever find scientific evidence that some people are born with blue blood? that royalty is born with a DNA structure different from that of us mortals? And if not, why do you perpetuate it? Why does the “lie” of religion bother you but not the lie of royalty? Why haven’t you devoted your life and your books to refuting that lie?”
There was no response.
Which raises the question: Why are we Americans – for all our history – so fascinated with this stuff? Why do royal visits dominate New York, where the American Revolution was felt so deeply, and which spent much of the war under royalist occupation? Americans back then hated their king and did everything to get rid of him.
Now, we go gaga over a royal visit?
I don’t quite know the answer. Perhaps my readers can help me.
Is it a human need to deify humanity? Is it that, in an increasingly godless age, we all require objects of worship?
Or perhaps it has something to do merely with celebrity. The royal family is famous.
Or perhaps in an age of flimsy and ephemeral novelty, we have nostalgia for something old, unbroken and ancient.
If I had to guess, I would say it’s something different entirely.
Walt Disney called his resort “Magic Kingdom.” The two words so often go together, as if every kingdom is somehow magical. The same applies to the words “beautiful princess,” as if none are ugly.
The underlying attraction to royalty is the human desire for an effortless life, where all things are magical and where all beauty is innate. A meritocracy has its own rewards. It allows ordinary people to become extraordinary, but it always involves hard work: the entrepreneur who must burn the midnight oil to build his business. The rising politician who must travel around the country begging rich people for money to make his candidacy viable.
Even human attraction involves such hard work. It means dieting and giving up the foods we love. It means exercising, running and weight lifting.
But then there are people who are all those things – rich, beautiful, wonderful – without any effort at all. They are angels who live among us. They are magical.
In giving us things like “enchanted forests” and “Never Never Land,” where no boys grow old, Disney tapped into our sense of tiredness and weariness at the constant struggle that life demands, the never-ending battles to make something of ourselves. The battle to feed our families. The struggle to be happily married. The demands of raising purposeful children. The struggle to sustain healthy self-esteem.
After all that exertion, we need an escape, a place to which we can retreat where everything is wonderful without having to try.
And royalty is fantasy in the flesh. An impossible, effortless, wealthy, magical existence that seemingly requires no effort or struggle.
I get it. And I’m drawn to that world as well. Would it were that all men were princes and all women princesses.
But I would take an American hell of blood, sweat and tears over a royal heaven of effortless beauty, prosperity and success.
Because the only thing really worthwhile about heaven is that it’s a place we have earned rather than it being handed to us on some magical platter.
So Meghan, stop trying to earn the approval of the royal family. It’s enough that we Americans admire and appreciate you. And that appreciation is not given. It is earned.
Enjoy your beautiful family and be happy that you’re an American, among a people that rejected the divine right of kings centuries ago, even as you’re married to a prince whose real specialness is that he is a loving father and a great dad.
God bless you.
The writer is the best-selling author of 30 books and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He published Lust For Love with the actress Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley