Harry and Meghan? My care factor is zero

Being a Republican doesn’t mean one has to dislike the British royal family. Her Majesty, despite my views on our constitutional arrangements, is the most powerful example in my lifetime, male or female, of someone committed to duty, loyalty, service and responsibility. I’ve been to a few rodeos in my life, meaning I’m no spring chicken, and with that experience comes the assessment that she is the best.

Meghan and Harry arrive at an event in Johannesburg last week.

Not so her grandson Harry and his wife, Meghan. Unless there’s a terrible tragedy that wipes out Prince William and all his three children, Harry is never going to ascend to the throne. He will, therefore, never be our head of state. Consequently I care not what he and his wife do on a daily basis.

Why do so many Australian news websites run ridiculous stories about him and his wife? My care factor is zero. Seriously, these stories add nothing to our lives.

For people in Britain it is different. Harry and Meghan are there. They’re on the public payroll. They’re expected to go out and support good causes. They’re not on our payroll: so I don’t care. Actually, that isn’t a fair description of my attitude. I care enough to say I just don’t want to know. Please stop putting this irrelevant drivel on Australian new sites.

What charities they support is irrelevant to me. Furthermore, the curated image is becoming so overdone that it starts to look ridiculous. Meghan bending down, smiling, to talk to a disadvantaged child is coming horribly close to said child looking like a mere prop in a publicity shot. If people at large make a similar assessment that is damaging not just to Harry and Meghan but the whole family that condones this sort of publicity.

Pariah I may be but I thought that Harry’s latest attack on the media was disastrous. My father died when I was young. We were just everyday people and I suppose few but us cared. The death of Harry's mother was entirely different. It was brutally public and he and his brother were just kids. But it was a long time ago. To somehow draw a parallel between the death of his mother and his wife nearly a quarter of a century later vis-a-vis press treatment is drawing a very long bow. Most people have deep ties to their parents. Harry's mother did some great things. But let’s not pretend she was a saint.

Diana had been married to the next in line to the throne. She was set, at one point, to become the Queen. That’s not going to happen to Meghan. Harry is sixth in line to the throne. That’s another long bow. He has to play his part in the Royal family. That’s part of the deal. He can and does do good things. In  and in the Commonwealth. The Invictus Games is a wonderful example. His contribution and support have been critical. It’s interesting that we hear more about a man who is not going to be our king than we do about the person in Australia who represents our Queen.

British prime ministers pop off for regular weekly meetings with her Majesty when Parliament is in session. Fancy being PM and having that wonderful repository of experience with whom you could chew the fat, so to speak. In Britain kids grow up understanding the difference between the role of Parliament and the monarchy. They’ll see news clips of, frankly, a long succession of prime ministers heading off for their chat. Boris Johnson is her 14th.

In contrast, our prime ministers have always been seen as being at the apex of power. They don’t have to explain anything to anyone. The Governor-General, the Queen’s representative here, is not expected to be a recluse but, thanks very much, there’ll be no sharing the limelight.

That leaves us with a seemingly constant flow of media stories about the royal family. It peddles the fantasy that they are in our hearts, not just our constitution. I’m nearly always happy to read something about the Queen. She is our head of state and frankly a star performer. The rest of the family are of no real interest to me.

The fact that the sixth in line to the throne married an actress from a streaming TV series and has family issues is neither here nor there. I don’t care that they kept the christening details of their child private, why shouldn’t they?

Media management doesn’t seem to be their forte. Pictures of Meghan at the tennis with vacant seats around her because she’s important contrasted in a quite brutal way with photos of Prince William and his family in the bleachers at the soccer.

If Australian media had an effective blackout on all news about the royal family other than the reigning monarch and perhaps the next two in line to the throne I would be delighted. The broader family do not serve us in any real way. Or perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps they do serve as an example of what we don’t have and don’t want.

Amanda Vanstone is a former Coalition minister.


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