This winter break I caught up on three seasons of “The Crown,” Netflix’s smash drama on the royal family, which focuses on the life of Queen Elizabeth II as the world changes.
Around the same time I finished the series, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement about stepping back as senior members of the royal family. Harry and Meghan announced they are renouncing their titles, and will also pay back the government about ₤2.5 million.
This is a major step for any monarchy, especially as a response to the racist bullying Meghan has endured from the British tabloids. For the most part, the couple’s decision is being applauded as Harry’s fulfilling his duty as a husband and father first by stopping the paparazzi from turning his life into a spectacle, like they did his mother’s.
Many people question the significance of having a monarchy at all in the 21st century. Of course, “The Crown” makes a case for the monarchy, calling it the “dignified” sector of government, which serves to ground the “efficient” elected part. The monarchy forces ministers to remember that they serve the country, not simply their own parties and interests.
Other than having symbolic elegance and impressive ancestry, Queen Elizabeth II’s powers include her ability to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister, other members of cabinet, and Parliament. She also has a say in times of war. These abilities, coming from the undemocratic structure of monarchy, restore democracy when political greed and corruption prevail.
For senior members of the royal family ( who are unlikely to reign in their lifetime), their duties primarily involve charity work and other forms of public service. Since Meghan and Harry will continue that public service in the Commonwealth areas, these developments won’t affect their day jobs. They’ll have more freedom because they won’t be worried about breaking protocol, and they’re gaining independence by declining their privileges. Meghan can also continue to be the unconventional force of change she’s always been, and fight for causes dear to her heart — namely, the rights of women and children. She was recently spotted driving herself around Vancouver, so it’s safe to say she’s not missing the drivers that come along with her privileges as a Duchess.
Meghan and Harry don’t need to remain within the royal family to fulfill their mission of promoting peace and prosperity throughout the United Kingdom. They’re perfectly happy to step aside and leave the prestige behind, while they still fulfill those duties. But I can’t help but wonder if this indicates the entire monarchy will eventually become obsolete. If a title isn’t a prerequisite for helping the world, then why have a title at all?
Avid monarchists might see #Megxit as an attack on British culture. But perhaps this debate would be better left to our friends across the pond. On behalf of your friends in America, all the best, Meghan and Harry!