Harry and Meghan's Circus Oz

28 Comments

 

The first I knew that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were in Australia was when I had to provide my name during a recent retail transaction. 'Oh, I bet you're getting lots of people calling you Meh-gan!' the man behind the counter said. To which I responded in a very unrefined tone: 'What?'

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex applaud during the medal ceremony during the JLR Drive Day at Cockatoo Island on 20 October 2018. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation)He went on to say that with Harry and Meghan 'here', and with the particular pronunciation of her name, everyone must be pronouncing my name the same as hers. It was only then that a tiny piece of media fluff, apparently free-floating in my subconscious for some time, rose to the surface and I became conscious that the new royal couple were actually in the country.

That's the extent to which the royal family and all news related to them goes straight to the 'irrelevant' folder in my brain. A friend's Facebook post last week sums up my feelings about it. It was about people saying to her 'The royals are doing a wonderful job' and her rather perfect response: 'At what?!'

A few comments on her post are worth a mention. One person said the royals were good at making them hate breakfast television shows. Another said they were good at causing traffic problems. A third said they were doing a good job of saving Australia from a presidential system of government — a sentiment many would agree with as we watch dumbly at what the US presidential system is now delivering.

When it comes to royal visits, it could only have an impact on me in one very specific and unlikely scenario: if I worked in the marketing department at Burberry. In which case my response would be more 'let them eat cake' than 'off with their heads'. But I may be getting a bit off point.

Yes, we are a Commonwealth with prime ministers who in theory still 'answer to' the Queen. Yes, her family features prominently in the founding documents of colonial Australia. And yet to me, the couple's 'baby news' or Queen Elizabeth's latest Burberry blazer or Harry's temporary abstinence from alcohol are all nothing more than background noise that at times like now gets unbearably loud.

I think at some level, the majority of us understand that the royal family are a spectacle, with the main winning feature being plain old continuity — which brings a sense, almost, of immortality due to the fact the royals are essentially professionals at reproducing.

 

"Their job is to look immaculate and appear healthy, be agreeable to the largest number of people, and find a suitable partner with whom to reproduce."

 

While I don't 'get it' personally, I do understand the purpose it serves in society. A bit like following a particular sport or team — the result of a game has no material impact on a fan's life, but it is a spectacle, and there's always more of it to be had. A big difference, though, is that a sport involves skill, hard work and strategy, which all make them interesting.

Yet the royal family can boast more in the way of continuity than a sporting team can. In our modern world where rapid change is the new norm, continuity has a certain appeal. We have a revolving door of prime ministers; people change jobs far more often in their lifetimes than they used to; and many of us under age 40 are forced to keep renting due to house prices — I have had to move no less than 13 times in eight years because of the instability of renting.

There's a sense that things are more fleeting and fickle than ever before. And that's where the royal family fills a void. They keep their opinions as inoffensive as possible so as to always stay out of trouble. They do not intervene with the governing of countries, nor own much in the way of a real opinion. You can rely on them to keep toeing the same line: the line of inoffensiveness. Their job is to look immaculate and appear healthy, be agreeable to the largest number of people, and find a suitable partner with whom to reproduce.

According to mainstream Australian culture, the average person born into wealth — who does nothing to 'deserve' it or contribute to society in ways that are actually commensurate with their riches — should be the subject of ridicule, even hostility. That sense of entitlement, of having not had to work hard for what you get, goes against some stock standard values our society holds dear. Values like hard work, 'having a go', or being given 'a fair go'. 

Yet the notion of 'earning your way' is abandoned in the general treatment of Harry and Meghan. In fact the royal family represents the exact opposite of that principle. It's a system that operates on the rule that being born with 'royal blood' warrants a lifetime of ridiculous wealth, privilege and reverence before one can even talk.

In all this royal hysteria, are we neglecting other real world issues? Of course. That much is clear when the following warranted 'breaking news' a while back: 'Meghan Markle pronounces scone like the British.' Then there's the video 'Watch Meghan Markle do her make-up in an Uber', which has had 2.2 million views on YouTube.

When the rest of our headlines in Australia are dominated by the rising cost of living, the housing affordability crisis, slow wage growth and an inquiry into a horribly corrupt banking system that has been ripping ordinary people off for years, the mind boggles at the cognitive dissonance required to not see a problem with these topics sharing space in our daily news.

But, that's never gotten in the way of escapist obsessions before, and it's unlikely to change now. The royals clearly serve a need for so many people, and that's why they remain. But, if no one minds, I think I'll continue ignoring Harry and Meghan. Or at least try to — when I go to type my own name in this 'Google Doc' it automatically changes it to the Duchess' spelling instead.

Apparently I have no choice but to engage, at least a bit, in the royal spectacle — for better or worse ... 'til a Republic do us part.

 

 

Megan GrahamMegan Graham is a Melbourne based writer.

 

 

Main image: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex applaud during the medal ceremony during the JLR Drive Day at Cockatoo Island on 20 October 2018. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation)

Topic tags: Megan Graham, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, republic

 

 

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Existing comments

Yes, Megan, the royal family are very wealthy (by way of inheritance), they enjoy a privileged life and don't seem to be that useful. I don't dismiss them as 'irrelevant' though because I have an obscure feeling that if I do I will lose something important. We actually don't love people only because they have sterling qualities. Love is much more difficult to define than that. And that's about the closest I can come to saying just 'why' doing away with the royal family would make me sad.
Pam | 22 October 2018


Thank goodness that the Brit royals do so much good for the less fortunate of the world, unlike so many others - our government for instance. And I'm a Republican!
john frawley | 22 October 2018


Yes I too wondered what the royal couple had done to deserve such admiration, until I saw Harry's address at the opening of the Invictus Games. Wow, what leadership and inspiration. And what a great role model from someone who has served his country and has worked through his own personal and family tragedy.
Mike | 22 October 2018


“There's a sense that things are more fleeting and fickle than ever before. And that's where the royal family fills a void”… The Queen held her Church’s hand-This was her sceptre to rule her land-The hero of the day was fair play- Honesty was the British way - It’s not so long ago - When we stood row upon row - To cheer and respect-Now all is retrospect - Were her aids to slow, did they not know - She would have to go, where her church did flow - Now who is the hero of the day - It must be Dell Boy, he wins every way - Show me a scam and I am your man - If you want to rule a culture, what do you - Dissipate them through and through - When they know not right from wrong - Evil sings it’s merry song - The Truth is a burning fire - It looks not at man’s desire - Denuding them in its bright light - They shield their eyes from its sight - Leaders stand in disarray - It’s all relative they say - But honest it is not, integrity is the loss - To look into the living flame is to know one’s shame - The denial of goodness to make it dark is to lose one’s heart - But to bend one’s knee is to be set free -The spark to become a flame, in every mortal frame.
Kevin Walters | 22 October 2018


Maybe it's an age thing. I'm no royalist, but I've lived long enough to know that royal families have their place. The poor will always be with us, as will the rising cost of living, corruption, self-obsessed governments and one ism after another. At least in, say, Harry and Meaghan, we have a touch of lightness, a touch of humour and gentleness to counter the deadly seriousness of life. Can't be all bad. (And Meaghan pronounces her name correctly, says this Welsh Australian).
Joan Seymour | 22 October 2018


Given the reason they are here - the Invictus Games (and perhaps that has escaped your attention too) - I think your comments, while bearing real consideration in a wider context of the Australian Republic, are a bit mean-spirited. In a quite unexpected way, this particular Royal couple provide leadership.
Lyn Riddett | 23 October 2018


They keep their opinions as inoffensive as possible so as to always stay out of trouble. They do not intervene with the governing of countries, nor own much in the way of a real opinion. You can rely on them to keep toeing the same line: the line of inoffensiveness. What a pity there is not more of this in the world. Here we have a young couple showing they believe in marriage. Terrific. Here are a young couple being role models for other young people. Terrific. And they are doing it without causing offence to others. Thank goodness there are still young people out there showing us what can be done. Harry served his country and now serves his fellow soldiers. Meghan came from a poor background and worked her butt off. Good on them and may our world be better for their smiles.
PHIL ROWAN | 23 October 2018


That's a very critical appraisal of the Royals but what Harry has done for many injured soldiers through establishing the Invictus Games, is just fantastic. Its he as a person like his mum Diana, that are un-royal humanitarians which is not typical of what we see and expect from the Palace. Sure we have political trouble here and the best thing might be Harry be appointed King of Stralia and rule by decree?.
Cameron RUSSELL | 23 October 2018


Cheeky ! :) I preferred Ms MM in 'Suits'.
Barry Gittins | 23 October 2018


I can well remember the day I turned Republican. It was the day the queen visited Cairns in 1954. We had been waiting for hours on the Cairns Showground as children forming a tableau: Elizabeth II (I was part of the 'II' bit all in white, down to the Dunlop sandshoes). Kids were fainting in large numbers because of the heat. Then the jeep carrying the queen arrived, she waved, and it was all over. Later I heard the same thing had happened just south of Cairns in Innisfail, only there the royal presence was in a DC3 flying overhead! I was 10, and simply could not fathom how anyone could get the slightest bit excited about something so plainly ridiculous. I am now 74 and I remain perplexed.
Bill Venables | 23 October 2018


Whatever.
AO | 23 October 2018


Thanks for the comments. Yes Barry, cheeky is the right word to describe my article! (I never watched Suits but I'll take your word for it.) While I do struggle to take the entire concept of the royal family seriously I have nothing particularly against the way Harry or Meghan are filling their royal roles... and I'm also not that concerned about when/how Australia will become a Republic. But their presence in Australia has been quite the spectacle and for many of us, these are pretty obvious questions to be asking... But perhaps the most pressing question here is, am I doomed to lose the preferred pronunciation of my name? That would surely be one injustice too far ;)
Megan G | 23 October 2018


Being of Irish heritage, I have little time for royalty and the pomp and pageantry that goes with it. I spent time in the UK (England to be precise) a while back and very quickly realised we are still treated as 'colonials' and 'ex cons ' by the Brits . I still just don't get it as to why we 'go bananas' when the royals decide to visit us.(Of course we pay for the privilege.) Still, I do admire Harry because , like me, he has witnessed the horrors and results of idiotic decisions made in our name by the pollies to send us off to fight in brutal wars in countries we have no right to be in , for reasons which escape me! As for Megan, she is very courageous to marry a Royal, its not a job I would wish my own daughters to take on at any cost! At least she has fulfilled her role to reproduce.
Gavin O'Brien | 23 October 2018


What's in a name? I knew many Meagans and Megans (pr mee gan). I first came across "megg an" in the 1980s when a Megan I knew, aged in her mid-thirties, suddenly adopted a new pronunciation of her given name. Reminiscent of Hamlet and Polonius ?? !!
john frawley | 23 October 2018


I agree Megan, I dont care for them much either. Their royal dynasty founded on conquest, bloodshed and misery. For example the Armstrong Clan was such a powerful force in the borders that King James V of Scotland saw them as a threat to his own authority. James V asked Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie to join him at Court and promised his safety, then betrayed their trust. History records that Johnnie Armstrong was hanged at Carlenrig along with 36 of his men. Invited to a feast and murdered. Later Cromwell during his quest to smash the monasteries also destroyed the Armstrong ancestral home at Castleton on his way to capture Mary Stewart along with 850 monasteries. Mary Stewart. Good Queen Bess lopped her head off in the Tower. Then on to Ireland where the Cromwell murder and pillage culminated at Drogheda. The 6 Northern counties still are subject to British taxation today. British troops still illegally occupy Norther Ireland. So the Windsor dynasty has its origins in lands taken by force from our ancestors. Ireland groaned under the British heel for 600 years. Now the press think they are just wonderful. Many Irish and Scots descendants may beg to differ.
Frank Armstrong | 23 October 2018


It is interesting that the article does not once mention the Invictus games and the enormous good that they do, and the main reason that Harry visited us. “A bit mean spirited” says Lyn. I second that.
Joe | 23 October 2018


I didn't know Harry had given up drinking so you obviously take more interest than I although I didn't think Harry actually had royal blood
D Baron | 23 October 2018


I wonder if the PM who gave the couple a toy kangaroo as a present, would do the same for a poor couple living in Nauru?
Helen Oxenburgh-Lowe | 23 October 2018


Oh, the joyous sound of the gnashing of republican teeth! It seems to me, Megan that you get the purpose of the royals very well: Overwhelmingly providing stability and decency to the non-political and ceremonial leadership of the county, on which ultimately the Rule of Law depends. This generation of Windsors has fortuitously thrown up a remarkable group of transparently nice, humble and hard working young people, which to a very large extent washes away the abundant defects of the last generation or two, upon which the major case for the republic seemed to be based. At the same time the major republican problem about how to create a non-political headship of state still sits there like a rotting carcass. I am almost sorry for you Megan and especially your teeth, but it seems to me that the Australian monarchy is pretty safe for at least the next 50 years. Thanks God.
Eugene | 23 October 2018


Do you consider Harry's Invictus Games project meaningless fluff?
Paul Meagher | 23 October 2018


Bill Venables.. My experience was completely different to yours, as seen in my reflection of her life on her eightieth birthday… Shout and roar four score - Ancient line your place in time - Outward show all must know - Picture house Paramount News is my muse - Newsreel soon to be queen - A Princess with grace joyous face - Wavy hair spirit fair - Open and pure in love secure - Bubbling with fun a family you had begun - A natural response to any prompt - Coronation day we party and play - I see a neighbour’s television and think of a prism - A different face for the princess with grace - A heavy load to bear as I watch from my small chair - Throne, gown, sceptre and crown to weigh one down - A part to play come what may - Privileges for sure but the load evens the score - Your aids took your hand but your father took command - Love is manifest in many ways he would heap on you his praise - A mother you may be but a queen must be free - To stand alone even to sacrifice a home - To serve the crown and mask a frown - In fifty-eight you passed me by - I think you caught my eye - In glass showcase I glimpsed you face - Still waving the flag but a little sad - More controlled myself I told - Joy, sigh and cry time passes by - I had troubles of my own but yours were always shown - As you played your part often with a bruised heart - One side of the prism duty generously given - Each Christmas day a message you would say - Your Great grandmother’s aids would set the stage - If I may be so bold even more controlled - But with the autumn sun a transformation has begun - From my television screen more gentle and real you seem - A heavy load you no longer appear to hold - Under your wavy hair I glimpse you there -Give us one score more - Show us the side you were taught to hide.
Kevin Walters | 23 October 2018


Megan, I would like to hear how you justify your statement that implies that Harry has not “earned his way”.
Joe | 24 October 2018


Eugene, you either miss the point of the republic movement or you get it but misrepresent it. The republic isn’t about the “Royal Family” as people; it is about the relevance to Australia of “the Crown” as an institution. There is nothing personal in it. It doesn’t matter if Prince Charles is a bit of a tosser, or if Prince Andrew was a bully or even if Edward VIII was a closet Nazi or an earlier royal had links to Jack the Ripper. We don’t know them personally and we don’t know if any of that is even true. The younger generation is clearly more switched on to the PR role of the Royals and we see that with every tour and media event. That doesn’t necessarily make them “nice” or “humble” people, but popular people who are good at doing a job. In response to D Baron, it doesn’t matter whether or not Harry has “royal blood”. He is accepted as part of the family and that is all that counts. I was very sad when Diana died. Not because of any royal connection but because two little boys lost their mummy at such a young age. I know what that is like and my heart still goes out to them for their loss. Harry does appear to be a friendly chap and it is perfectly acceptable to recognise his inspirational leadership of the Invictus movement while not accepting his role as a representative of an institution that claims sovereignty over us.
Brett | 25 October 2018


I am sick and tired of this sort of article - with no mention (at least as I skimmed it) of the Invictus Games, nor of the 10 years army service of Prince Henry in Afghanistan, only ended because of some irresponsible journalist's revealing his presence. As for Prince Charles, I suggest the writer examine the facts about his extraordinary range of charitable work and initiatives, I think unsurpassed by anyone else in Britain, and the wonderful example given us by our Queen. I remain a firm constitutional monarchist (and a royalist to some extent) and since this is the kind of article one has come to expect in Eureka Street, this one is for me the last straw and I am dropping out. (I am no doubt an old culturally conservative British Australian but my last 22 years before retirement were spent in a working class/lower middle class south-west Sydney parish and at 82 my 20 years so far as a weekly honorary chaplain have been in the major hospital of a similar area - and ex-service chaplain also - and I live in such an area still - so I am hardly rabidly right-wing.)
Fr John Bunyan | 25 October 2018


The invictus games seems like a convenient escapist distraction to divert attention from the senseless maiming and slaughter carried out in the name of ‘national interest’. Perhaps if our politicians thought about this more, they wouldn’t need a celebrity prince to appease the trauma of our used up soldiers sent like sheep to the slaughter.
Aurelius | 25 October 2018


Like Gavin O’Brien, I also am of Irish heritage. My occupation involved working for about three weeks per year for twenty five years in England, and my memories of this time are very different to his. Of course there was talk of colonials and ex-cons, but they got back as good as they gave. It was all part of good natured repartee with no ill feelings at all, quite the opposite. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity of experiencing life in England. My memories of my time there and the people from all walks of life who I met are overwhelmingly pleasant ones. I wish to thank Fr John Bunyan for his service to the people of southwest Sydney, and I endorse his comments, especially his mention of the irresponsible journalism regarding Harrys presence in Afghanistan.
Joe | 27 October 2018


Sad to see Fr John Bunyan "dropping out". Father Bunyan's voice and experience of important work for the common good has much to offer but, like many to whom I have recommended ES over many years, he is sick of biased articles and can't be bothered any more. Perhaps bias needs to be addressed in relation to some topics. Bias and controversy are different animals, the former unproductive and the latter essential to meaningful productive discourse.
john frawley | 27 October 2018


Megan,carefully spelt, you have a hang up that stopped you before you saw the Royals and their excellent work for the veterans. Such a pity. Eureka Street should check contributions.
Adrian Harris | 27 October 2018


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