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Meghan And Harry’s Split From Royalty: Time To Rewrite Fairytales?

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So, Meghan Markle and Harry have decided to live their lives separate from the monarchy and the British press is having a right hissy fit about it. How dare she, this nobody upstart from the glamour world, a woman of colour to boot, waltz into the well-entrenched family business and then take away one of them to a life of ignominy in earning their own money and living their own lives away from the pomp and pageantry of the monarchy. More importantly, how dare she, this ‘uppity’ television actress, consider herself too good to be part of the monarchy? Piers Morgan, the British television personality, had a rather strong tweet about it, and it pointed firmly at Meghan.”Only surprised it took her so long to get Harry to ditch his family, the Monarchy, the military and his country,” he wrote, concluding his tweet with “What a piece of work.”

The Hum Saath Saath Hain joint family trope of the Barjatya movies is a difficult situation to extricate oneself from, as most Indian daughters in law would tell you, without her becoming the villain of the piece in the process.

That single tweet perhaps is emblematic of all that is wrong with how the British view the couple. Making a villain of the woman and infantilise the man, because of course, how could the man even think of going away from his family, it is all the evil influence of the woman who has married him, prompting him to make such a misguided decision.

Author Khaled Hosseini wrote rather presciently, “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.” The French have a phrase for this too, cherchez la femme, (look for the woman) a slogan that is universal, across countries, cultures, socio-economic classes and now, it would seem even the monarchy. Hell, Meghan would find a lot of solidarity in India with any daughter in law from a joint family who has been vocal about her desire to live independently from the in-laws. The Hum Saath Saath Hain joint family trope of the Barjatya movies is a difficult situation to extricate oneself from, as most Indian daughters in law would tell you, without her becoming the villain of the piece in the process.

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One of the earliest cases I’ve heard of when a woman from a prominent house announced her desire to step out of the joint family fold and set up an independent house would be that of Rabindranath Tagore’s sister in law, Jyanadnandini Devi. She was a feisty thing for sure. She was the one who discovered the Parsi style of draping a saree was much more convenient and spread this back home in Bengal, leading it to be called the Thakurbarir style, adopted by high class Bengali genteel women. Her fierce spirit led to her eventually leaving the family home and living in a mansion adjacent to the family home Jorasanko. She must have shaken up society quite a bit back then. Perhaps as much and more as Meghan is shaking up the British press right now.

In India too, despite the proliferation of nuclear families in the cities, the joint family system still holds sway across most of the country. A daughter in law marrying in these families is expected to completely give up her individuality and blend into the family she has married into. Often, the couples who seek to step away and set up their own homes have to face much resistance from the older members of the family, as well the monetary challenges of living on their own away from the joint family fund pool. But what we fail to realise is that while the joint family system does have its advantages, what it does not offer a newly married couple is space. Some couples might find the constant presence of extended family claustrophobic. Some might want to live their lives the way they want and not with the consent of the entire lot of folk who are part of the family.

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Stepping away from The Firm, as the royalty is called isn’t a decision Meghan and Harry would have taken easily. In fact, the decision to marry Meghan itself couldn’t have been an easy decision to begin with for Harry, in that itself, there should have been an inkling that this lad wasn’t going to toe the family line. The prince, the queen’s grandson,  married a woman of bi-racial heritage, from across the pond, with absolutely no blue blood in her veins. It was a radical choice of partner to begin with, it would be a modern marriage in modern times and perhaps it was a herald of how things would change in the monarchy with the entry of Meghan into the equation. That this marriage would shake things up was never in doubt, just how much perhaps was something the monarchy didn’t anticipate. Harry would do things differently, he had a mind of his own and he would do as he pleased. We need to also keep in mind that Harry was very young when he saw how the pressures of being a working royal and the constant scrutiny had traumatised his mother, and led eventually to her death in the high speed car chase in Paris. Would it be fair for one to assume that he did not want the same fate to affect his family? Also, let’s not forget how viciously the British press have treated her, and the racism she has been constantly subjected to by both the press and the lay citizens. Also, perhaps Harry and Meghan just took a look at how the family dealt with the embarrassing revelations surrounding Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein and decided, ermm, we have a kid growing up in this mess, is this what we really want around him as he grows?

Stepping away from The Firm, as the royalty is called isn’t a decision Meghan and Harry would have taken easily. In fact, the decision to marry Meghan itself couldn’t have been an easy decision to begin with for Harry, in that itself, there should have been an inkling that this lad wasn’t going to toe the family line.

Speaking on the decision to step back from the monarchy, Prince Harry stated, “It brings me great sadness that it has come to this. The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges.”

Perhaps this statement needs to be examined. In this, the Prince clearly states that he has made the decision for both of them to step back. Harry also had stated that the couple would no longer be part of the Royal Rota, the press pool that chronicles the Royal family, stating clearly that the media was hounding him and his wife in the same way they had hounded his mother before.

Buckingham Palace has announced a severance deal for Prince Harry and Meghan, which has them give up their privileges and perks that came with royalty when they step back from being senior royals and the duties that came with it. The couple will be relocating to Canada and the United States, will no longer have the right to use the HRH titles, their activities will no longer be publicly funded and they have to repay the money spent in the refurbishment of the cottage on Windsor Palace grounds that they used as a residence.

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Of course, let’s keep Piers Morgan’s reaction in context of him behaving like a jilted lover ever since he didn’t receive an invitation to the royal wedding, despite his fawning over of Meghan when the engagement was announced.

Perhaps this break within the monarchy was something that had its time come. Perhaps, it was needed to hold this mirror to the British press and citizens about how their obsession with royalty was well on ludicrous in this day and age, and perhaps also a statement on how the monarchy has now well on run past its consume by shelf life. The previous time such a break from the British monarchy shook the world was when Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, at a time when both America and the idea divorce were much despised by the British. Recent events might prove that not much has changed in mindsets since. The fairy tale of the royal wedding, and the ensuing crash and chaos we saw with the marriage of Diana and Charles, isn’t something that didn’t play a role Harry’s decision to step away. He lived through it as a child who lost his mother too young, too tragically. It is time we rewrote the fairytales. Perhaps this time, it was the Prince who needed to be rescued. Perhaps it was the Prince who was tired of the trappings of the gilded cage of royalty. And most importantly, perhaps this is a good moment for the royalty to ask themselves how relevant they really are in this time and age.

Kiran Manral is the Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.