She’s No Grace Kelly

The recent announcement by Their Former Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—aka Prince Harry and Meghan Markle—that they are “leaving the royal family” has caused endless comment around the globe, and not only among the Queen’s British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and other subjects. Sixth in line to the throne occupied by his grandmother, Elizabeth II, Harry and his American actress consort are either brave symbols of the woke elite across the globe or feckless and ungrateful children. Certainly, their decision to name their son “Archie” and claims by friends that they intend to raise the hapless infant in a “gender-free” manner already indicated the Sussexes’ impatience with tradition and perhaps even reality.

Of course, many Americans—especially Catholic Americans—are trained from childhood to dislike the British royals, as memories of persecutions under Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and (ironically) the regicide Cromwell mingle with scraps of American Revolutionary and Irish history in the popular mind. At the same time, when they visit us, their activities are closely followed and people occasionally forget themselves and bow or curtsey. But love them or hate them, the monarchy is an endless source of interest—and, should the post-BREXIT era result in free trade and free movement between the largest of the Queen’s realms (CANZUK), the sovereign of the four nations shall undoubtedly accrue still more practical importance.

Traditionally, when royals such as the Duchess of Kent or the Queen’s Ogilvy and Philipps relations feel unable or unwilling to continue to live and work according to protocol, they quietly and carefully withdraw from public life. By making a grand announcement, which wasn’t cleared with the palace, Harry and Meghan have in this area, too, insisted on making a splash by going their own way. Immediate comparisons were drawn with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but (pace the canards against Edward VIII being both stupid and pro-Hitler—a perusal of Sir Compton Mackenzie’s biography of him should dispel the former myth, and contemplation of the Windsors’ hair-raising escape from Nazi clutches across a collapsing France should end the other) Edward’s abdication was a real loss to Britain and her empire. Harry and Meghan’s disappearance from public life, by contrast, would be a signal blessing to the Commonwealth.

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Two other couples, however, do invite comparison with the Sussexes. The first is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Long before taking up with the Uber-woke Miss Jolie, Pitt was a successful actor. In 1997, he made a film called Seven Years in Tibet. At the time it was supposed that any actor who came remotely near that fabled realm—either in reality or at least after hearing a few taped speeches by the Dalai Lama—automatically became an oracle of wisdom. So it was that I heard a television interview in which Pitt was asked, on the basis of his recent film, if he had any deep spiritual, religious, or political wisdom to share. Somewhat taken aback, Pitt’s response was wonderful: “Ma’am, I’m an actor. That’s all I know how to do. I have religious and political opinions, but they’re not worth that much because I don’t know that much.”  This beautiful humility sealed my respect for the man. But, as all scandal sheet readers know, Pitt and Jolie became an item on a movie set in 2006, and, during their decade as “Brangelina,” he embraced all of her many causes, going so far as to delay wedding her until after same-sex marriage was created by the Supreme Court. For the duration of their relationship, he, too, claimed the kind of infallibility his woman aspired to, favoring every left-wing cause espoused by the affluhip.

In this one cannot help but see some reflections of hapless Harry’s… er..intellectual development under his consort’s tutelage. From the likable (if boyish and somewhat silly) younger brother of the heir presumptive (“the spare, not the heir”) who took few things—including himself—seriously, in a few months Harry has become as full of dull political correctness as is his spouse.

By way of contrast, we may look at Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly. Now, the Grimaldis of Monaco—from the time they seized control of the castle in the 13th century through deception—have not always had the best reputation among Europe’s royals. Prince Rainier was himself the son of an illegitimate daughter of the country’s Prince Louis II, who had his daughter legitimized in order to preserve both throne and country. She, in turn, very publicly took a noted jewel thief as her lover. At his accession, Rainier had a lot to live down.

Europe’s princesses not appearing too interested in taking on the hard work of making Monaco respectable, Rainier’s attention focused on a young screen actress from a wealthy and prominent Irish Catholic family from Philadelphia, Grace Kelly. Now, to be fair, one of the major differences between the Old Hollywood (this was 1956) and the new is that Tinseltown’s earlier incarnation had a great deal of that gift of maturity and glamour—something few if any modern actresses can be said to have, least of all Misses Markle and Jolie. Armored, however, with that and their common Catholic faith, Princess Grace threw herself into the greatest role of her career. Devoting herself entirely to her new country and to her husband’s work, she became the symbol of Monaco’s new image, for all that her children from time to time seemed to be trying to revert to dynastic type.

So, too, has Prince William’s consort and future queen done, despite her middle-class background. It is not too much to expect the same kind of selflessness from Harry and Meghan; if they are not capable of it, then, as with the family members earlier referred to, they should quietly vanish. Instead, they have chosen to make a spectacle of their ingratitude. If they truly want financial independence as they claim, she can certainly go back to film while Harry watches Archie.

Photo credit: Getty Images


  • Charles Coulombe

    Charles A. Coulombe is a contributing editor at Crisis and the magazine’s European correspondent. He previously served as a columnist for the Catholic Herald of London and a film critic for the National Catholic Register. A celebrated historian, his books include Puritan’s Empire and Star-Spangled Crown. He resides in Vienna, Austria and Los Angeles, California.

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