One of my favorite things about America is that we don’t have royalty — unless you count Beyoncé.
It’s always baffled me how otherwise sane countries can spend so much time and emotional energy on families who used to run the place on nothing more than birthright. Say what you will about us, but we created a system where pretty much anyone can be in charge.
But the comings and goings of the royals are an all-consuming topic in the U.K., and to a degree, pretty much everywhere. Which means it was international news the other day when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, otherwise known as the duke and duchess of Sussex, apparently decided they were no longer thrilled to be part of the royal we.
Harry and Meghan announced on their website that they were stepping back as senior members of the royal family, splitting their time between the U.K. and North America, and planning to become financially independent. It turns out the British royals basically aren’t allowed to have regular jobs. They don’t really need them, of course, but no matter who you are, sometimes the thing you want most is the thing you can’t have.
And I wonder if that’s the crux of this whole thing. Maybe Meghan and Harry want something resembling a normal life.
The royal life has seemed especially hard on Meghan. She is mixed-race, divorced and American – three strikes against her in the eyes of some Brits. She did an interview with British TV last fall where it looked like she was on the verge of tears the whole time.
It’s hard to imagine living a life where millions of people parse every word you say, judge everything you wear, and sometimes live vicariously through you. It’s a microscope more powerful than any American celebrity lives under. Of course she knew she was marrying into the royal family. But I suspect she couldn’t have known all that meant.
In some ways, stripped of all the pomp and jewels, it’s one of the most common stories. A young couple feels stifled by an overwhelming family and has to get away. Even those of us who love our families know that sometimes they drive us crazy. It must be so hard to be locked into a certain life from birth, or from the moment of marriage. God bless any young people who set out on their own path. Even if they don’t have to issue a press release about it.
Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org.