Shortcuts / 15 December 2022

The future of the British royal family

It’s been a pretty turbulent couple of weeks for the Royal family, with Prince Harry and Meghan’s new Netflix series really putting the cat among the corgis… So in this episode of Squiz Shortcuts, we take a look at the fallout from the latest Sussex download, how the family split is affecting the monarchy, and what’s ahead for the Palace and King Charles in 2023.

Harry and Meghan are everywhere…
You’re not wrong – you’d have to move to the Arctic circle if you wanted to escape it…

If it’s wall-to-wall here, it must be crackers in Britain?
Nowhere has this been more closely watched than in the UK – even the BBC and esteemed publications like The Telegraph were live blogging the whole Netflix release with journos picking it apart line by line, revelation by revelation.

So what’s the upshot?
The whole thing hasn’t been about breaking news or jaw-dropping reveals but more about doubling down on the same complaints from Harry and Meghan. And what they’re saying is that Meghan wasn’t protected by the royals and that the Palace, the British Press and the UK, more broadly, have problems with racism.

Which is what they talked about in the Oprah interview, right?
That was the king hit in that interview last year when they accused an unnamed senior royal of speculating on “how dark” their firstborn child Archie’s skin might be.

And things were pretty icy after that…
Yep. The Queen very famously put out a statement that said “recollections may vary”, which many interpreted as her way of politely disputing the truth of their allegations.

So how have things played out since the Queen’s death?
Well, H and M (as they refer to each other in the Netflix series…) have had a pretty full dance card. Meghan’s released her podcast Archetypes, this Netflix series has landed, and publicity’s well and truly started for Harry’s autobiography Spare, which is due out in January.

Totes awks for the new King…
And for William, the new Prince of Wales. Remember, when the first Netflix trailers dropped, William and Kate were in the US for the Earthshot Prize – a major environmental initiative endorsed by Sir David Attenborough. And Omid Scobie, the journo who’s kind of an unofficial spokesperson for the Sussexes, tweeted if Earthshot was “Prince William’s Super Bowl – then here’s your halftime show”.

Yep. Things between the brothers are clearly difficult… And a lot of people interpreted Harry’s comment in the Netflix series that in the Royal Family “the temptation is to marry someone who fits the mould” to be a jibe at his brother’s marriage.

And with each comment made, you’d have to say it makes it harder for relationships to be mended. 

So is this the worst crisis to hit the monarchy?
Well, given none of us have lived through the past 700 years, it’s easy to say, “this is the worst crisis the monarchy has faced”, or “how can they possibly survive all these attacks from within” when actually, the institution has faced much worse.

Like what?
Even in recent history, many people don’t remember the late 80s and early 90s, which was a shocking time for the Queen… Three of her children got divorced, and a lot of drama and scandal went with it.

Like what?
The tabloid press was tapping Charles’ phone and publishing his extremely intimate conversations with Camilla. Princess Di was giving tell-all interviews about their marriage, and Sarah Ferguson was pictured having her toes sucked by a boyfriend while still married to Prince Andrew.

That’s a lot…
It sure is. The Queen famously called 1992 her “annus horribilis” when she should have really been celebrating 40 years on the throne.

But time heals all wounds?
Well, Charles and Camilla are now on the throne, and their process of a long rehabilitation seems to have worked – they’ve been pretty warmly welcomed since Queen Elizabeth died.

So the monarchy’s resilient?
It provides some proof that the institution can survive personnel scandals. It’s understood that it will get a dud king or queen along the way, but things can carry on if people have faith in the system. Not that we’re suggesting anyone’s a dud, just to be clear… 

And people do have faith?
Tested through war and succession crises – the British monarch has survived through the centuries. And that’s at the same time monarchies have collapsed in other European countries… But there are a few reasons it’s really endured in England.

Like what?
In Britain, monarchs tend to “stay in their lane”, and they’re definitely not trying to be de facto rulers – but they’re out and about championing community causes and charities.

I bet King Charles can’t wait to move on from the Netflix saga…
It’s probably been a tough year all around. And it’s easy to forget next year is a big one for Charles, with his coronation set for 6 May.

But he’s already legally King, right?
That’s right, he became King the moment the Queen died. A coronation formalises the monarch’s role as the head of the Church of England and officially gives them all the titles and powers.

So what can we expect it to be like?
Much of the pomp and ceremony we’ve come to expect in royal weddings and the like – although it’s already clear Charles wants to dial down the pageantry and modernise it a bit.

How so?
When his Mum was crowned in 1953, they had extra seating built in Westminster Abbey to fit more than 8,000 guests, but King Charles will likely make do with the existing configuration for 2,000 guests. The service will be shorter, more religions will be included, and the price tag will be kept down.

Still sounds fancy…
Oh, it will be – that’s what the Brits do well. And the King will be focused on making it to May unscathed because he’s got a few challenges to deal with before then.

Like what?
Prince Harry’s book comes out in January, and it’s TBC how damaging that might be to the family. And then there’s the issue of Prince Andrew.

His younger brother?
Yeah, he’s on the nose because of his association with Jeffrey Epstein. The Queen dealt with it by stripping him of his military titles and patronages, and Charles has gone even further. 

What’s that?
So Charles has sidelined Andrew as a Counsellor of State. That role fills in for the monarch if they’re overseas or unwell. And Charles had a new law passed to allow Princess Anne or Prince Edward to act for him instead. Prince William and the Queen Consort are the first stand-ins, but they could be overseas simultaneously – so the King needed new options.

You should always have a Plan B…
Too right. And that new law also gets him out of another jam… Prince Harry – because he’s the next adult after Prince William in the line of succession – was also automatically a Counsellor of State. So if Charles hadn’t changed this law, he would have faced a situation where Andrew or his estranged son could have been called to sub.

And what else is on King Charles’ plate?
Well, for years, it’s been reported Charles wanted a slimmed-down version of the monarchy – fewer working royals living off the public purse. So we can expect to see the new King continuing to shape that next year.

How so?
Well, it appears to be the way the surviving European royals are heading too… As we discussed in the Squiz Today a couple of weeks ago with the Danish royals, their Queen stripped some of her grandchildren of their titles.

That’s called tough love, isn’t it?
That’s right… A lot of people are wondering if Harry’s children Archie and Lilibet are going to get titles. You’d suspect, given Charles wanted a smaller working royal family long before the troubles with the Sussexes, it might not be on the cards.

So much to look out for next year…
There sure is Your Majesty [insert curtsy]. 

Squiz recommends:

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown

Harry & Meghan – Netflix

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