When Harry Met Meghan (II)

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Are you sick the British Royal Family, yet?  Yeah, me too, but I’m such a hopeless monarchist that I can’t help myself.  Here are a couple of things that may have just gotten lost in the ocean of wall-to-wall-to-wall -to-floor-to-ceiling Royal Wedding media coverage we’ve all been enduring.  If you haven’t heard these before, go to bed smarter than when you woke up.  If you have heard them, turn off the TV — you’re ODing on purple pageantry.

1 — Just because you marry a prince, you don’t automatically become a princess.  The Brits are very strict about this kind of thing.  For example, Diana (Harry’s mom) was Diana, Princess of Wales and her granddaughter (William’s daughter) is Princess Charlotte.  Notice the difference?  In the British Royal Family, the only way to be a real princess is to be born that way, so there’s a subtle difference in title if you merely marry into it.  Charlotte’s title comes before her name because she is a princess by birth; whereas, Diana’s title came after her name because it was only an honorific.  Meghan Markle isn’t even going to get that close.  After the wedding, she will become Her Royal Highness, Duchess of Something-or-other (probably Sussex) — not a princess, at all.  In fact, even the girl who will be queen, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge isn’t actually a princess.

2 — Meghan Markle might be marrying into one of the richest families in the world, but she’s never going to see any of that money.  In fact, by royal standards, Harry and Meghan will be living very low on the totem pole, indeed.  This was one of the chief complains that Sarah Ferguson (Fergie) had when she was married to Prince Andrew — champagne obligations on a beer budget.  It’s a popular misconception that all members of the Royal family are living large on the taxpayer’s shilling.  Not even close!  Since 2012, when Parliament abolished the Civil List, the Queen and Prince Philip are the only ones who get any government money.  All the other royals, from Prince Charles to Princess Alexandra (61st in line to the throne) may have some of their “official” expenses paid for, but generally they have to fend for themselves.  This puts Harry in a precarious position.  Since he doesn’t actually have a job, the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles’ estate) picks up the tab for him — everything from paying the servants to the cost of a new tuxedo.  So essentially, if Harry wants any extra pocket money, he’s got to go ask daddy for it.  This has led to wild speculation that, given Ms. Markle’s acting career, she may actually have more walking-around money than her husband.

And finally, something silly:

3 — Everyone knows that the Queen loves corgis and her last one, Willow, died very recently.  However, most people don’t know that the Queen still has two dogs, Vulcan and Candy.  They’re dorgis, a mixed breed that came into the Royal household when one of the Queen’s corgis mated with one of her sister, Princess Margaret’s, dachshunds.

When Harry Met Meghan

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The date’s been set, the hall’s been booked, the dress has been selected and the invitations are being printed — even as we speak.  All I have to do now is watch the mail to make sure mine gets here in time.  Then it’s rent a tux and off to Jolly Olde England for The Wedding Of The Year! (Sorry, Celeste!)

Even if you’re a hopeless anti-monarchist, you know that Prince Harry is going to marry Meghan Markle on May 19th — and by all accounts, this is going to be quite the shindig.  First of all, the Brits do pomp and circumstance better than anyone, but, more importantly, this is Prince Harry.  This is the guy who punched a paparazzi in the face and split his lip.  The guy who wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party.  And the guy who was photographed playing strip billiards in Vegas (and obviously losing.)  Brother William might be the future king of England, Scotland, Wales, etc., etc., etc., but Harry’s the royal you want to drink tequila with.  Here’s a lad who knows how to party, and what better party than his own wedding reception?

Plus, when your grandma is Queen Elizabeth II — the richest, most prestigious woman on the planet — the sky’s the limit.  After all, rumour has it, that she’s the one who picked up the phone and got the Spice Girls back together just ’cause her grandson thought it would be cool.  Personally, if I was Harry, that would be the tip of the iceberg.  On my wedding day, I’d roll up to the church in a gold coach, pulled by panda bears — while the Vienna Boys Choir sang “Another One Bites The Dust.”  (But that’s just me!)

The thing is Harry is never going to be king, and everybody knows it.  (By the time the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge get finished in April, he’s going to be relegated to 7th in line to the British throne which, in royal terms, means he might as well be a pub owner from Putney!)  Essentially, he’s a royal nobody.  So, what do you do when your brother’s the heir and you’re the spare?  You don’t really have a job, but you can’t just wander off to the Cotswolds and grow vegetables, either.  I think it’s remarkable that Harry has carved himself out a place in the world — two military tours in Afghanistan, trekking to the North and South Poles and organizing the Invictus Games — and, he’s had a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

I approve of Harry.  He may go off the royal rails every now and again, but he does understand what it takes to make an irrelevant prince relevant in the 21st century.  Besides, I like it that — even though he’s obligated to wear the very straight strait-jacket of the House of Windsor — he still tends to go his own way.

The truth is I’m probably not going to get invited to the wedding of His Royal Highness, Prince Henry of Wales to Ms. Meghan Markle, but, that’s okay, because the invitation I’m actually waiting for is to Harry’s Stag Party.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee

Today, February 6th, 2012, is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.  For sixty years, Her Majesty has been the Queen — and that’s the gist of it, really.  She is not a queen, one of many queens, although there are still many queens in the world.  She is The Queen – universally recognized.  This is partially to do with the enduring power of the British monarchy – nearly 2,000 years old – but mostly it’s to do with the Queen herself.

In 1952, when Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne, Britain was still an imperial power.  Winston Churchill, who had served Queen Victoria, was the Prime Minister of Britain and Harry S Truman, a haberdasher from Missouri, was President.  He was the last President who did not have a university degree.  Joseph Stalin, a peasant from Georgia, was the ruthless master of the Soviet Union, and Chairman Mao, a librarian from Hunan, ruled China.  Vladimir Putin, Sarkozy, Merkel and David Cameron weren’t born yet; nor were Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama.

People wrote letters to each other.  Telephones were attached to the wall, and long distance calls were an event.  People still sent telegrams.  In 90% of the British Commonwealth (as it was called) television was an intriguing rumour.  Most people didn’t fly, and great distances were covered in boats and trains.

In 1952, the majority of Queen Elizabeth’s British subjects earned (in American dollars) less than $250.00 per month.  However, beef was 85 cents per lb, chicken, 56 cents and apples (when you could get them; Britain still had wartime rationing) were only 19 cents per lb.  Fresh fruits and vegetables were outrageously expensive out of season, and there was no such thing as fast food.

In 1952, walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction; Sir Edmund Hillary hadn’t even walked on Mount Everest yet.  Although transistors had been invented by Bell Laboratories in 1947, it would take Sony, a Japanese company that didn’t exist yet, three more years to commercially market the Transistor Radio.

In 1952, Queen Elizabeth was Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” and nobody thought that sounded strange.

In 1952, automobiles didn’t have seatbelts.  Cyclists didn’t wear helmets, and consumer products didn’t come with warning labels.  There were repair shops for household items.  Doctors made house calls, and lawyers didn’t advertise.

In 1952, the world was halfway through the 20th century.  The good old days were vanishing and our contemporary society was just being born.

It is a testament to Her Majesty that, despite the upheavals of a world that now seems to be spinning faster than most of us can understand, she has maintained an unassailable dignity. For sixty years, she has represented the best of what we are supposed to be.  Quietly and continually, she has done what was expected of her, not perhaps what she herself wanted to do.  She has spent a lifetime dedicated to her task — without comment or complaint or the flares of ego so common these days.

Few, if any, institutions have survived intact from 1952.  They’ve all been swept away by history.  Yet, Queen Elizabeth II remains The Queen.