The UK might have stepped into a transition twilight zone for getting out of the European Union towards an uncertain future, but it seems that the British people and media are still obsessed with the very idea of Brexit. For they really don’t know how worthy the tiring exercise was, which basically stalled the country during the last four years or so. However, there is a funny trend of branding any kind of ‘exit’ by a portmanteau similar to Brexit.
For example, when Theresa May had to quit her premiership, the British media was quick enough to call that ‘Therexit’. A section of media again speculated on the fallout of Boris Johnson before Brexit, and termed that ‘Borisexit’ a-priori. Now that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, split the Royal family, it is being called ‘Megxit’, a portmanteau of ‘Meghan’ and ‘exit’.
It is, however, interesting that the media gave more importance to Meghan than her husband, Harry, in this context. Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, intended “to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen”.
The Queen and Prince Harry then came to a common ground for the terms of their exit, by which Meghan and Harry will lose their ‘Royal Highness’ titles after the transition period which ends in the Spring. Certainly, when Prince Harry married Meghan, an American Catholic and three-years older than him, in May 2018, it was a kind of social revolution. First, a British Royal was not allowed to marry a Catholic before 2011, as per regulations. Moreover, Meghan was a divorcee.
But Meghan’s mixed origin was the main focus in this case – she has a mixture of Dutch, English, Scottish and Irish blood through her father, and her mother is an Afro-American. And black. In fact, in the beginning of this century, Baroness Kate Gavron opined that Prince Charles should have married someone black, which could be a powerful symbol of the monarchy’s commitment to racial integration and multiculturalism.
Charles didn’t do that, for sure, but his younger son might have contributed that much, and more. The brand called Meghan-and- Harry might have tremendous commercial potential which will be clearer in the days to come. Prince Harry served with the British Army in Helmand, Afghanistan, and even Princess Anne competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the equestrian three-day event.
However, a Royal becoming ‘financially independent’ is a revolution indeed. Harry was sixth in the line to the throne, and it was practically impossible for him to become the monarch some day. Thus, ‘Megxit’ is just a calculated risk taken by Harry and Meghan. However, it has tremendous potential to shift the paradigm of the Royalty. In fact, Harry has shaken the tradition of the British Royals during the last 2-3 years. The British monarchy has several interesting stories.
For example, William IV lived with Dorothea Jordan, an Irish actress, for two long decades, during the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. But, when the dilemma regarding the throne came, he dumped Dorothea and married the German Princess Adelaide, 30-years younger than him. Thus, William IV became the King, but he could never become a hero of a fairy-tale. Honestly speaking, there might be only one fairy-tale hero in the long history of Britain’s Royalty.
He is King Edward VIII, a king of only 326 days during 1936, who sacrificed the throne for his lady love. The King wanted to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson, another American, one-time divorcee, with the arrangement of her second divorce in the process at that time. However, unlike Meghan, Wallis was neither ‘black’ nor of ‘mixed origin’. Still, nobody in Britain was ready to accept this marriage, neither socially nor politically. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was dead against the marriage.
And, the King sacrificed his throne to marry Mrs. Simpson, and thus became an eternal symbol of love! His brother, George VI, became the new King. And, it was only due to this love and sacrifice of Edward VIII, that today’s Queen Elizabeth II, who was only 10 years old at that time, could ultimately become the monarch, for George VI was her father. Then, there is the story of Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, four years younger than the Queen. During the 1950s, Princess Margaret wanted to marry Captain Peter Townsend, again a divorcee.
The shadow of Edward VIII was still looming on the royal family. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was ery much against this marriage. And the Queen did not give her permission, which is needed for a Royal marriage. Certainly, by the time Harry wanted to marry Meghan, society had changed – ‘divorce’ was no longer a taboo for the British and the Royals were also much accustomed to it. Three children of the Queen – Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and Princess Anne had experienced divorce.
Prince Charles, first in the line to the throne, also married Camilla Parker Bowles, another divorcee. Again, a Royal marrying a commoner is not at all uncommon in present- day England. Even Prince William married Kate Middleton, a commoner, a few years ago. Also, although King William IV could not marry actress Dorothea Jordan, the identity of an ‘actress’ didn’t come in the way of Meghan Markle marrying a Royal in 2018. That much change had taken place by then. Prince Harry certainly helped Britain to bridge the twentieth and the twenty-first century through his marriage.
And, now, the real-life Harry of Sussex and Frogmore Cottage of Windsor, who has just moved to Canada with his wife, Meghan, has given the Royalty rare scope of redefining itself. It’s up to the monarchy now to decide whether they’ll grab this rare opportunity to orchestrate another ‘Glorious Revolution’, or ignore the tremor and treat ‘Megxit’ only an as outlier. Harry completed two important social circles involving the Royalty; both had started in 1936.
In one circle, King Edward VIII sacrificed the throne for his love. It was completed when Harry wed Meghan. Now that ‘Megxit’ has happened, it marks the completion of the other circle which was initiated when King Edward VIII moved to the US to spend the remainder of his life there. Now, another Royal is moving to the North America, and he is none other than a grandson of the Queen, who could become monarch only due to the first event. The Queen is very much at the centre of both the circles.
(The writer is Professor of Statistics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata)