Another horrible year for the royals

Editorial | Mary Ma 13 Jan 2020

When King Edward VIII revealed his intention to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson in 1936, the British kingdom was thrown into a constitutional crisis that ended only with he abdicated the throne in order to marry the woman he so passionately loved.

Over eight decades later, the British royal family is mired in a new crisis somewhat similar in nature.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, say they are now stepping back from their roles as senior royal family members and will split their time between Britain and Canada while working to become financially independent.

That's a bold move by the couple as it takes a lot of courage to give up such a highly protective umbrella to be exposed to the uncertainties of a competitive world.

Will the couple survive without royal blessings? They will prove themselves.

It's most probably that since getting married to Harry in May 2018, Meghan has found it difficult to lead a royal life. It's also probable that rigid royal protocols have become shackles for someone from the other side of the world where individuals are encouraged to strive for independence.

Meghan may have had enough of the constraints and Harry - who should have no problems with the protocols - is probably merely giving his wife what she wants.

This isn't the first time an outsider has found it too hard to carry on as a senior royal - Sarah Ferguson separated from Harry's uncle Andrew in 1992 and they divorced in 1996.

In her autobiography, Fergie - as she is popularly known - wrote that it wasn't because they had stopped caring for one another but because "I had reached the end of my royal rope."

Meghan may have reached the end of her royal rope too - even though this has come much sooner than expected.

While the couple's choice for a more independent life should be understood and respected, it has nevertheless presented a headache for Queen Elizabeth II.

Though it should not have been totally unexpected in light of failed royal marriages over the years, self-proclaimed royal watchers of the gossipy media said the queen was angry and that a decision will be made today at a royal summit in Sandringham over the young couple's future access to the royal wealth.

But the issue involves more than that - the incident has again drawn public attention to the perceived value of the royal family in the modern world.

Harry's aging father Charles - next in line to the throne - is nowhere as popular as the queen. Elder brother William is well received by the public as he diligently performs the duties expected of a prince who is second in line to the throne. His occasional overseas visits are a welcome form of soft diplomacy for the country that, in turn, helps to enhance the value of the royal family's continued existence.

2019 was bad for the queen. Her husband Philip sparked criticism after crashing his car and injuring two people. And her second-oldest son, Andrew, was drawn into a sex scandal involving an under-aged girl. Although he vehemently denied the allegations, the royal family was deeply embarrassed.

For Queen Elizabeth, it's most unfortunate for 2020 to start with the statement by the Sussexes.

No wonder the monarch is in crisis mode.

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