Mon | Jan 20, 2020

Editorial | Jamaica should exit royal soap opera

Published:Monday | January 13, 2020 | 12:14 AM

There is quite a to-do in Britain over a relatively minor member of the Windsor clan, with little prospect of ever becoming head of the family firm, wanting to leave the business and make his own way in the world – of sorts.

Which is the essence of the announcement by Mr and Mrs Harry Mountbatten-Windsor, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, of their intention to “step back” from their positions as “senior” royals and seek “a progressive new role” within the institution of the British monarchy.

The Sussexes have said that in the new dispensation, they intend to divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America, presumably Canada, where the former actress, Meghan Markle, used to be based before her marriage to Prince Harry.

This, of course, will leave them with less time in Britain to represent the Queen on trips, kiss babies, judge flower shows, or to be patron of this or the other dowdy institution. What, clearly, they will have more time, and space, to do is leverage their, and, by extension, the royal brand “to earn professional income, in which, in the current situation”, they, as frontline members of the British royal family, are prevented from doing.

The factors that drove the Sussexes to this decision are, no doubt, varied and complex. Notwithstanding the fairy-tale marriage of Harry and Meghan about two years ago, there is obviously lingering resentment in some quarters that a high-profile royal would marry a mixed-race – Meghan Markle’s mother is black – divorcée. Prince Harry has accused the press of hounding his wife in much the same they did his late mother, Princess Diana.

The Sussexes’ poor relationship with the press isn’t helped by the fact that while they apparently relish their status of global celebrities, they seemingly chafe at the sterile formality of senior royalty and the intrusive ownership of the institution by the British public, or, at least, declared by the country’s tabloid press. The Sussexes couldn’t, of their own accord, turn their celebrity on or off or the media’s voyeuristic interest in them.

These tensions are exacerbated by some of what the Sussexes get such as the controversial £2.3-million renovation of their home, paid for by a sovereign grant or British taxpayers, although the bulk is covered by the duke’s father, Prince Charles, from the assets of the Duchy of Cornwall.

The still-young couple wants to earn their own money although they are by no means poor. Prince Harry is reported to have inherited £7 million from his mother’s estate as well as significant amounts from a trust fund left by his great-grandmother, the Queen Mother. Indeed, some estimates put the Sussexes combined net worth at £18 million.

Some Britons perceive this attempt by the couple to be kind of halfway royals to be constitutionally destabilising to the monarchy as it is about to enter a period of transition. Obviously, the 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth can’t go on for much longer.

NO BIG DEAL

From a constitutional point of view, we don’t see the big deal in Harry and Meghan’s plan. It certainly isn’t comparable to Edward VIII’s 1936 decision to abdicate to marry another American divorced socialite, Wallis Simpson, because he couldn’t “discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love”.

After all, the Duke of Sussex is sixth in line to the throne and could fall further if his brother, William, Duke of Cambridge, has more children, or his current ones grow up and have children, before Harry has a shot at the job.

As it now stands, Prince Harry is excessive insurance. Put differently, there are too few top jobs in the business. The Windsors need to right-size and use Prince Harry’s example to prepare more of their members for employment outside of the enterprise.

For Jamaica, the soap opera, tinsel town-style behaviour of the Mountbatten-Windsors suggests that we should be taking a serious look at our constitutional arrangements that make the British monarch this country’s sovereign.

Repatriating Jamaica’s sovereign authority and transforming to a republic is a matter on which there has long been political consensus and on which Prime Minister Andrew Holness should proceed.