We thought it was a fairytale, but we were wrong
First off, before I dive into what I actually want to say, big congratulations to Meghan (and Harry, too) for making money moves – inking a whopping $150 million deal with Netflix, paying off the Frogmore house, and buying a new place to call home in Montecito. Haters can (and certainly will) hate, but these two are making it happen for themselves, and are now completely financially independent of the Royal Family when so many said they’d never make it.
What I wanted to talk about tonight was how tempting it is with the Family to get sucked into the fairytale – the tiaras and the castles and the pomp and circumstance – and forget that these people are actually people. Mere mortals who carry titles and wear crowns, but who also make mistakes and aren’t perfect.
Over quarantine, when I ran out of shows on Netflix (come on H&M – where ya at?), Hulu, and Amazon Prime, I watched and rewatched all of the Royal weddings of the modern era. Charles and Diana. Andrew and Fergie. Edward and Sophie. Charles and Camilla (what cameras got to see of it, anyway). William and Kate. Harry and Meghan. Jack and Eugenie. And the first two – Charles and Diana’s and Andrew and Fergie’s – broke my heart a little bit, especially Charles and Diana’s. Their wedding certainly looked like a fairytale – dubbed the Wedding of the Century, Diana’s epically long train and sparkling tiara and shy smile gave no indication that one of the onlookers at the wedding – a dame named Camilla Parker Bowles – would help unravel her marriage, which was doomed from the start, because, simply put, they never should have married each other. Knowing what I know now, watching Diana walk down the aisle on the arm of her father feels almost cruel – like a lamb being led to the slaughter. Her marriage and her life would fall apart within a couple of years, and in 11 years she’d be separated from her groom, in 15 years divorced from him, and in 16 years, at 36 years old, she’d be dead.
Andrew and Fergie, the same. The commentators – including Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel, who made some seriously offensive comments about Fergie’s weight that would never fly in 2020, thank God – called them a spunky love match, meant to be. Though on a little lesser scale, this too looked like a fairytale – a commoner marrying her prince. The dream of every little girl. Yet, of course, this story ends up badly too, not only in divorce and humiliation but in the groom’s being accused of being a child rapist.
Fairytale, these are not.
I watched The Windsors on CNN – really good if you haven’t seen it – and the most recent episode was about the “Fab Four” – William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan. I like to call them the “Fab Four That Never Was.” The media so badly wanted the four Windsors to be best friends – but, in truth, just like the cracked marriages of the boys’ parents before them, it was just an untrue myth. William and Harry’s relationship was more than strained, Kate and Meghan were two very different women who had trouble relating, and it was all a façade. They, really, were just coworkers, barely even family.
So often we believe what the media leads us to believe – case in point, Kate is an angel, and Meghan is a devil woman. We don’t see Royals as people, we see them as Royals. And that’s a mistake. With the exception of Andrew – whose actions are so vile and reprehensible that forgiveness is a foregone conclusion at this point – we need to see these Royals as being humans first, Royals second. It’s never a fairytale, because life isn’t a fairytale. It’s messy and hard and awful and beautiful and real, not from the pages of a storybook. And usually only in hindsight can we see that, but I want us all to take pause now and see these people as people, and give them the grace that they deserve (again, sans Andrew).
It’s never a fairytale, whether you’re Royal or not. It’s just life. And these folks are just doing the best they can, just like all of us. When we understand that, we’ll understand them better.