IT is easy to forget – and painful to remember – how united this country felt when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in May, 2018.
There were multiple reasons for our collective euphoria.
Here was the happy-ever-after for Harry, who millions of us remembered as a broken-hearted boy walking behind his mother’s coffin when he was just 12 years old, the royal whose popularity — despite a few youthful foibles — was exceeded only by the Queen herself.
And here was his stunning bride, an actress who sprinkled Hollywood magic dust on the historic institution of the Royal Family, a biracial woman from America who embodied the changes in our own country.
I stood among the crowds on that sun-drenched day in Windsor, and the joy and optimism was everywhere.
Here was a royal wedding for the multi-racial, multi-cultural country the UK had become.
And there was something else — when Harry married Meghan, the UK was almost two years on from the EU referendum, a moment that inflicted deep, bitter divisions on our country.
When Harry married Meghan, those divisions seemed to magically melt away. Here was a wedding to give us all reasons to be cheerful.
In 1947 Churchill called the Queen and Prince Philip’s wedding “a flash of colour on the hard road we travel” after six years of war that, even in victory, had left the nation battered and bankrupt.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding was the post-war equivalent — a riot of Hollywood Technicolor in a country exhausted and riven by Brexit.
Harry and Meghan united the country with their wedding. And they have united the British once more — we are glad to be shot of them.
If the British people had a high opinion of Harry and Meghan, then a new book, Finding Freedom: Harry And Meghan And The Making Of A Modern Royal Family, by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, makes it horribly clear that Harry and Meghan had an even higher opinion of themselves.
“I gave up my entire life for this family,” the authors report Meghan as moaning. “I was willing to do whatever it takes. But here we are. It’s very sad.”
Yes, it is sad that Harry and Meghan have come to the decision that their happiness is best served living in a borrowed mansion in Los Angeles. But the level of self-delusion is off the chart.
Meghan gave up her “entire life” for the Royal Family? With the best will in the world, this simply does not compute.
It is — astonishingly — only two years and two months since that taxpayer-funded £32million wedding in Windsor.
At most, Meghan gave up a few years of her life for the Royal Family.
And let’s be honest — she has done very well out of it.
Finding Freedom gushes of Harry and Meghan’s popularity “propelling the monarchy to new heights around the world” and there is some truth in this arrogant statement. But here’s the thing — he was never going to be king.
And Meghan Markle was NOT a globally adored international superstar who married into the Royal Family.
With the greatest respect, Meghan was an obscure actress in a long- running series called Suits that was consigned to a dusty nook of Netflix, a show most of us — even now! — have never watched.
Meghan married into the Royal Family and that’s when she became a globally adored international superstar.
Finding Freedom is allegedly written without any direct input from our favourite royal exiles.
But if the authors do not even have an unofficial royal warrant, then what is the point of Finding Freedom?
The book is loaded with stories that first appeared in the British press, although the authors have nothing but contempt for our newspaper industry.
So are the authors ghost writers, cheerleaders or what?
Best perhaps, to think of them as Harry and Meghan’s servile spin doctors, cutting and pasting stories written by better journalists than them, and then larded with Harry and Meghan’s preening self-pity.
This is the gospel according to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
And it stinks of self-pity.
“I don’t need to have that movie moment where we get out of a car and wave to 100 photographers before going into a building,” Harry bleats.
But Harry — that moment is the price you pay for the lavish life you lead.
Without that moment — not, in fact, waving to the photographers but to the public who love and support the Royal Family — you are just an Old Etonian alumnus with two mediocre A levels who would have to get a real job.
Just like Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather, Harry and Meghan have taken revenge on their enemies in one fell swoop.
Finding Freedom does for the Royal Family what Al Pacino’s Mafia don did to his enemies.
Folks, this isn’t a royal biography — it’s a bloodbath!
But Vegas mobster Moe Greene (shot through the eye in a massage parlour), Carlo, the abusive brother-in-law (garrotted) and caporegime Tessio (went for a ride and never came back) get off lightly compared to the royals.
No slight goes unpunished. No perceived betrayal is forgiven.
“The vipers” who scheme behind closed palatial doors. The “rival households” who plot against our heroes.
In one important way, Finding Freedom is more merciless than The Godfather.
At least Fredo — Michael’s doomed brother — remains unscathed until the sequel.
Prince William is not so lucky. “Real damaging things were said and done,” Finding Freedom hints darkly.
“Don’t feel you need to rush this,” William told Harry, according to the book. “Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl.”
And the older brother’s mild reservations about his kid brother marrying into Hollywood are unlikely to ever be forgiven.
Kate, the radiant and much-loved Duchess of Cambridge, is also singled out for a slagging off.
The last encounter of William and Kate and Harry and Meghan was in March at the Commonwealth Service in Westminster Abbey.
It’s been reported although Meghan tried to make eye contact with Kate, the Duchess barely acknowledged her.
One of the authors states: “To purposefully snub your sister-in-law . . . I don’t think it left a great taste in the couple’s mouth.”
This thin-skinned resentment comes up again and again and gives the book its central theme — Harry and Meghan thought they were the biggest draw the Royal Family had ever seen.
They chose the dubious charms of living in La-La-Land because they could not abide being a supporting act in the Royal Family.
As the UK struggles with the worst health crisis in living memory, the message from Harry and Meghan’s borrowed Beverly Hills mansion to the country they abandoned is loud and clear — you think YOU’VE got it bad?
It is all stunning — the arrogance, the hubris, the self-regard, the self-pity, the lack of self-awareness.
You can see how we went right off them.
And while it is true that Harry and Meghan were phenomenally popular, we can see now that nobody is bigger than the Royal Family.
The abiding memory of 2020 will NOT be Harry and Meghan phoning in their woke messages from LA.
It will be the Queen’s stirring, profoundly moving and genuinely inspirational “We’ll meet again” address to the nation at the height of the pandemic.
If they were not quite so full of themselves, Harry and Meghan could have been national treasures during this crisis.
Imagine Harry turning up to talk to frontline health workers! Imagine Meghan showing the nation how to look drop-dead gorgeous in a face mask! It was not to be.
And as our nation struggled with the worst health crisis in a lifetime, these empty, self-obsessed, self- pitying celebrities left Granny to do the heavy lifting.
And at 94, the Queen did it brilliantly. But how pathetically shallow the Queen makes Harry and Meghan look.
And how empty, how trivial, how redundant they seem outside the context of the Royal Family.
“She (Meghan) is a biracial woman from the US,” gasps one of Finding Freedom’s authors. “That was always going to ruffle feathers.”
Oh, give me a break. Whatever the reasons for Harry and Meghan fleeing into exile, racial prejudice against Meghan was never one of them.
This nation’s unconditional love was there for Harry and Meghan. They threw it back in our faces.
Never complain, never explain is a motto that has served the Queen well in her long reign. Harry and Meghan are not made of quite the same stoic stuff.
Their sense of duty — of any possible obligation they may have to the British people who have spent so much money on them, of any responsibility to the Royal Family itself — is non-existent.
To whine so loudly and at such length about how badly they have been treated — by the wicked Press, by scheming courtiers, by jealous rival households — as we bury our coronavirus dead defies belief.
Finding Freedom burns all bridges. There is no way back.
Let’s all hope Harry will enjoy singing for his supper for the next few decades in Tinseltown.
Let’s hope Meghan will continue to heal the world from a private jet.
Never has so much taxpayers’ money been spent on a couple who feel so sorry for themselves.
But — for the good times — let’s wish Harry and Meghan all the best for the future in California.
They broke free — gloriously free! — to live their lives without the constraints of that dusty old Royal Family, to reach personal fulfilment in a rented mansion and put the world to rights before dinner with Oprah and the Clooneys.
And if that wasn’t enough, in Finding Freedom they now have their revenge — apparently a dish best served marinated in self-pity.
Harry and Meghan got what they wanted.
So why do they sound so dreadfully unhappy?
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