LONDON – It started with the slogan “Megxit,” an intelligent game by a tabloid editor about Brexit, published in The Sun shortly after Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, announced their plans to leave Britain and live in America North during part of the year.
He continued with cheesy jokes that Buckingham Palace is seeking a “Super Canada plus” agreement for the couple bound for Canada, an allusion to the love trade deal that Britain would like to enter into with the European Union when it leaves the block.
And now, as the royal family rushes to an agreement with the couple to leave the unpleasant affair behind, commentators compare the impending breakup of the royal couple with Britain with the promise of election year by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “Make Brexit.”
Fed by an enthusiastic medium of communication and consumed by a divided and captivated audience, the Harry and Meghan saga unfolds strangely as the long-standing debate on Brexit, only much more juicy.
With the storms over Brexit temporarily calmed by Johnson’s victory, but the underlying economic and social problems far from being resolved, royalty has become a convenient representative, allowing people to discuss race, class, gender and British identity, through the tribulations of a single crossed pair of stars.
“With Brexit, Britain is choosing to leave the European Union,” said Meera Selva, director of the Reuters Journalism Scholarship Program at the University of Oxford, “and yet, with Megxit, there is outrage that someone chooses leave Britain. “
“He leaves because he doesn’t like what he sees in Britain,” he added, referring to Harry. “That is a message that the British do not want to hear at this time.”
As Harry and Meghan’s drama unfolds in breathless headlines and acres of news comments, the same questions that encouraged the Brexit debate resurface. What kind of society do the British want: open or closed, cosmopolitan or nationalist, progressive or traditional?
The debate, as with Brexit, breaks with political and generational failures. Young people and liberals, many of whom voted to stay in the European Union, tend to sympathize more with the prince and his American wife. Older and more conservative people, most of whom voted to leave, tend to be more critical of the couple and of Queen Elizabeth II’s defense.
Where Prince Harry and Meghan’s advocates see a multiracial and transatlantic family seeking refuge from a vindictive press and hidden real-life traditions, critics see a self-pleasing couple who wants the advantages of royalty without their responsibilities, abandoning the queen and the country by Hollywood star dust.
Critics are particularly tough on the Duchess of Sussex, as Meghan is formally known. Meghan Markle, a former television actress divorced from mixed race backgrounds, met Prince Harry through mutual friends in London in July 2016, a month after Britain voted to leave the European Union. Their romance developed in the context of a loaded debate on immigration and the national identity of the country.
“Meghan Markle represented the change because of her racial heritage, but also because of her feminism, her activism and the fact that she is a person who made herself, with strong ideas about her autonomy and identity,” said Afua Hirsch, a professor of University journalism. from Southern California and is the author of “Brit (ish): on race, identity and belonging”.
“She arrived at a time when Brexit emboldened people who advocated for a nationalist identity and a return to Britain’s imperial past,” Mrs. Hirsch continued. “It is not surprising that this has triggered a really hostile reaction.”
However, for many Britons, the couple’s wedding, with their gospel choir singing “Stand by Me” and Bishop Michael Curry of Chicago citing the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in his sermon, sent an electrifying message about the potential of a stranger to shake a century-old institution.
But then came reports that the duchess was miserable in her new life and barely spoke with her in-laws. The couple’s relations with the press, which had begun well, quickly became sour. Newspapers criticized them for flying in private planes and restricting access to their newborn, Archie.
Buzzfeed News, in an amazing exercise, He collected 20 examples of how the tabloids covered the duchess more negatively than his brother’s wife, Prince William, former Kate Middleton.
The Duchess took legal action against one of the newspapers, The Mail on Sunday, for publishing a letter she sent to her father, Thomas Markle. He now faces the possibility of a trial in which the newspaper’s editorial threatened to call his father to testify.
Prince Harry and Meghan spoke hopefully to forge a “new progressive role within this institution.” But in the end, the Duchess, who had returned to Canada after her announcement, did not even participate by phone. the family conclave in Sandringham, the queen’s country house, to talk about the future of the couple.
People linked to the palace said the queen hoped to reach an agreement in a matter of days on how the couple’s part-time status will work and how they will be allowed to finance. The goal is for royalty members to return to their business as usual.
Critics said the palace, like Johnson’s government with Brexit, hopes to solve a complicated problem with a simple piece of paper.
Even so, at a time when Britain moves away from the European Union, the monarchy and other national identity symbols can exert greater momentum than ever. The British, for example, are busy debating whether the government should pay hundreds of thousands of pounds. to ring the bell at Big Ben, which is undergoing renovation, to mark the formal moment that Britain leaves on January 31.
“Once we have left the EU, the British will cling even more to those things that are unique or peculiarly British,” said Jonathan Freedland, a columnist, writing in The Guardian. “Some of the left may wish that would mean no more than the N.H.S.,” he said, referring to the National Health Service of Great Britain. “But as this week has shown once again, for many millions it also means the royal family.”
Among the victims of this post-Brexit conservatism, Freedland said, would be the movement to abolish the monarchy. Republicanism never had much traction in Britain, even before Brexit. But now it seems even more far-fetched, after three years of distressed national debate about Britain’s future.
Critics pointed out that the same conservative party that designed Brexit has fueled the longing for an imperial Britain. However, Prince Harry and Meghan are accelerating the movement towards a more rationalized royal family, which is found in more compact European countries such as the Netherlands or Belgium.
“We have a royal family that adapts to the idea of an empire that spans the world,” said Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian. “The inability to face more modest royal family gels with our inability to accept Britain’s diminished role in the world.”