Of all the gin joints, chintzy parlours, back rooms of Chelsea pubs, Norfolk kitchens and private members clubs in the UK; of all the possible backdrops for some deeply illuminating royal moments, who would have thought the 22nd Commonwealth Games in Birmingham would be it?
The first took place outside a train toilet. Really.
Matthew Syed is a journalist and a Commonwealth Games gold medalist – for table tennis, no less. This week he and his son Ted were heading to the Games to catch the action and he browsed the pages of the Time to tell a truly extraordinary story about travel.
“Five minutes before entering [the Birmingham station], I use the bathroom (we’re traveling first class) while Ted waits outside. While I’m doing my thing, I overhear him talking to a woman in the hallway.
“They keep chatting while I use the soap, then the tap, then the dryer. Judging by the laughs, they’re having a blast… By the time I’m done, we’re only a few minutes from the station.
“Come on Ted, I said, we have to get down! »
“Oh, and thanks for keeping her company,” I said, turning to the waiting woman. [for] his turn when I’m stopped in my tracks. My forehead wrinkles, my face works. “Kate? I blurted. There are no security guards in the vestibule; no armed guards. But here is the Duchess of Cambridge, chatting happily with my son.
Then we come to our second moment, featuring Kate’s husband, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, in a chlorine-soaked aquatic center.
On Tuesday, the Duke, Duchess and their daughter Princess Charlotte attended the swim. As he sat in the middle of the crowd, he happily posed for a selfie with a group of Games volunteers who were seated in front of him.
Now, these two cases could be filed under “Aw, aren’t they adorable?” examples of two people who might be destined for coronations and crowns but didn’t let their high status turn their heads.
But, this all comes after the publication of Tom Bower’s Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsorsa 464-page frontal teardown of Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
How about this week’s William and Kate stories? These two simple and brief interactions with the public? Well, they help underline one of her main points, which is that Meghan’s expectations of royal life were at an often unglamorous world removed from reality. Think, more polite chatter outside public restrooms than private jets and Pol Roger.
At the heart of Bower’s book is the claim that when Meghan, dressed in several hundred thousand dollars of Givenchy couture, walked up the aisle of 15th-century St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, she had little understanding or interest in learning. approximately, the legendary institution she was joining.
Having, for so many long years, failed to make her way off the B-list, here she is finally on her way to becoming one of the most famous women in the world. Bower’s case is that the California native’s assumptions of what was to follow were markedly different from what was, in fact, about to happen next.
In Bower’s account, even before Handel’s first chords Eternal source of divine lightwho was playing as she made her way down the aisle, things were going off the rails.
Before the engagement, when the couple were dating, Bower says that after “Harry’s request for a dedicated female bodyguard for Meghan was approved” that on one occasion he met the Duke “on the tarmac from Heathrow with a police escort”.
“Meghan walked out of the airport towards Kensington. It was indeed the super-celebrity lifestyle she had always aspired to.
Then, as the big day approached, already Meghan was “confusing being famous with being a member of the royal family,” he wrote. However, “the royal world should be one of selflessness, history, tradition and quiet patronage without personal gain”.
Meghan’s misconception, in Bower’s reading of the situation, is that she has basically confused royal family global fame with Hollywood stardom, failing to understand that although she has become a duchess and catapulted into the highest stratosphere of stardom, so she wasn’t automatically entitled to treatment worthy of Beyonce.
Take the issue of luxury gifts. Bower writes: “Palace gossip reported that the advertising departments of some famous designer brands – Chanel, Dior, Armani, Givenchy and others – were surprised by calls from a member of Meghan’s staff with a request: Meghan would be delighted if House were to bequeath a handbag, shoes or accessory to Kensington Palace in the near future. These items would be treated as goodwill gifts, they told publicists. Women were intrigued by what they called “the Duchess’ handover.”
“In the past, their offers of gifts to Kate had been rejected on the principle that the Royal Family did not accept gifts. Meghan’s staff, it seems, were unconcerned by this rule.
The veteran biographer writes that it wouldn’t be until 2019 that the Duchess “began to realize that Britain’s monarchy, costing the public just £85million (A$148million) a year, was neither full silver or an invincible luxury Rolls-Royce machine.The power and influence she assumed she had gained from her marriage to Harry was an illusion.
During the summer of the same year, a particular incident of Meghan made international headlines. Attending Wimbledon with a couple of friends, their party sat amidst a sea of empty seats for a match, unlike when Kate regularly attended and took her place in the stands, sitting amid other fans of tennis.
At one point during the game, when a man sitting in the section in front of Meghan stood up to take a selfie of himself with the players, one of the Duchess’s protection officers “warned him not to take pictures in his neighborhood”, according to the Daily mail.
Former BBC sports commentator Sally Jones was also on the pitch.
“I felt this tap on my shoulder and I was asked not to take any pictures of the Duchess – but I had no idea she was there until then. I was absolutely stunned,” Jones said. to Mail.
That Meghan took umbrage (or someone on her team took umbrage) at anyone trying to take a picture of her, despite the fact that she chose to sit in a public place, where there were security cameras. live television, sounded too much like suspicious diva behavior.
Contrast this scene with this week’s events in Birmingham: in each case we have members of the Royal Family, at sporting events, while demonstrating two starkly different approaches to royalty.
Ultimately, what William and Kate seem to fundamentally understand is that royalty isn’t the same as fame; it’s not about special treatment, favorable seats or four-figure accessories that find their way into your wardrobe for free. It is a tedious devotion to duty, however repetitive or boring it often is. (How many times do you think the Queen has asked, “And what are you doing?” in her life? I think we could confidently say the number should be in the hundreds of thousands.)
The meat and potatoes of royal life aren’t heading to New York for a high-profile baby shower held in a $100,000-a-night hotel suite, but sitting through the openings in the wings of the hospital and charming pensioners.
Really, HRH are part civil servants, even if they don’t have to settle for house brand teabags in the office kitchen, and part politicians stuck in lifelong hustles, always trying to win the audience on a handshake and a smile at a time.
None of this is any kind of secret; none of this is insider knowledge. So why wasn’t Meghan better prepared?
One of the points the Duchess of Sussex made during the infamous Oprah Winfrey of Sussex interview last year was that she ‘didn’t do any research on what it would mean’ to get married in the Royal family.
“I didn’t feel the need to, because everything I needed to know, he shared with me. Everything we thought we needed to know, he would tell me,” Meghan said.
That turned out to be a bit of a mistake now kids, didn’t it?
That a smart, educated woman would give up her career, her adopted homeland, one of her dogs and all her friends to move around the world to dedicate her life to an ancient institution she knew nothing about defies all logic. .
If she had done even a quick Google search, she might have found an excellent article that Patrick Jephson, Diana, longtime private secretary to the Princess of Wales, wrote in 2006 titled “What Kate should know” in which he imagined what advice his former boss could give to the young woman.
Jepshon maintains that the princess would have urged Kate, that “modesty must be your watchword” and “to take it easy on conspicuous consumption”.
He writes: “Remember that living in a very large house surrounded by servants and riding in a golden carriage are all excesses which your future subjects will gladly tolerate in their royal family. Do not overlook the invaluable symbolic value of Tupperware boxes and try to develop a famous enthusiasm for turning off unnecessary electric lights.
The article (you can read it here) is basically a very sensible warning: don’t let the golden trappings of royalty go to your head. Understand the job for what it really is and move on.
If only Meghan had read Jephson’s article; if only she had entered royal life with a much clearer idea of what she was getting into. That’s not to say she should have swallowed it whole once she got there or that she wouldn’t have tried to inject at least something fresh into the creaking monarchy – but warned is warned .
Had Meghan done a quick Google search, she might also have come across the famous essay written by journalist and satirist Malcolm Muggeridge in 1955 at the height of Princess Margaret’s affair with band captain Peter Townsend. In the article, Muggeridge argued that “applying movie star techniques” to the royal family would ultimately have “disastrous consequences”.
He also said that the monarchy was “an institution given respect and the attributes of power without reality”.
And, if the old Combinations star had read a little more, she would have learned that the reaction to Muggeridge’s essay was so fast and furious that it forced him to quit the Garrick Club. (How awful!)
Attacking the monarchy is not for the faint-hearted, but joining it? It’s for people who are happy to ride trains, chat with the public and pretend to love watching the competition balls.
Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.