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The Ties that Bind—Sometimes Badly

I’m not among the most passionate followers of the British Royal Family. But during my time as a newspaper reporter, a wonderful editor named Jay Strafford schooled me in the finer points of Royal Watching. Jay was southern, opinionated, hilarious, and ready to argue over cigarettes. We met in the smoking lounge (And yes, I used to smoke cigarettes. A lot. I loved them until I didn’t. Then I quit).

Depositphotos_49891535_s-2015Jay’s royal tutorial happened to coincide with the years of Sarah Ferguson—aka Fergie—who married Prince Andrew. To me, Fergie seemed like a fun gal and some much-needed fresh air for “The Firm,” the sobriquet for Queen Elizabeth’s collection of heirs and spares.

Jay disagreed. Vehemently. “Mark my words,” he said. “Fergie’s trash.”

Jay’s often hilarious takes on the Royal Fam turned me into a royal watcher. Even if I wasn’t already paying attention to this anachronistic form of government, I would probably know about Prince Harry marrying American actress Meghan Markle.

It looked like a fairytale romance.

But like my cigarette habit, this wedding started out better than it’s become. At this point, days before the big ceremony, the Markles are proving to be more dysfunctional than The Firm itself—which is saying something since Prince Charles travels with his own toilet seat; one of his lackeys has to carry that thing. (#CouldNotPayMeEnough)

Trooping of the colour Balcony 2015

The Firm on Buckingham Palace balcony during Trooping the Colour ceremony, also Prince Georges first appearance on balcony.

And now I’m transfixed by the Markle drama—which includes her father selling staged photos to the paparazzi and her brother writing an open letter to Harry, telling him “it’s not too late.” Moreover, the Internet is ablaze with people insisting Meghan Markle must be a terrible person because she comes from such a rotten family. They’re also shaming her for putting distance between herself and these superlatively awful human beings, most of whom were left uninvited to her wedding and reception.

I see things differently.

Half my ancestry is the literal stuff of legends—world explorers, writers, judges, ground-breakers, preachers, pioneers, stage actors, Pulitzer Prize winners—the list goes on. That’s one side.

The other side is, well, a horrendous cast of villains. Greedy, stupid in the dictionary definition of the word, arrogant as only the dumb and clutching can be, and cruel in ways that would shock Dickens. In other words, they are nearly identical to these ghastly money-hungry Markles who are busy tearing down the one person in their family who’s exhibited some character and integrity. Worse, while behaving like Jerry Springer guests, they’re also cashing in on Miss Markle’s worldwide celebrity. I would say it doesn’t get much lower, but in my experience, people can still descend several more rungs in behavior.

I’ll probably watch the wedding ceremony on television. But I’m more eager to see what happens after Prince Harry marries this American girl with a broken lineage that historically would’ve excluded her from The Firm. A lot of people are betting this marriage won’t last, due to Meghan Markle’s DNA. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” they say. “Remember Fergie?”

But as someone who’s walked some of this girl’s path, I’m betting this American commoner becomes the best “royal” yet. Getting a glimpse of her dysfunctional relatives only makes me admire her more—look what she overcame. Look what she’s achieved, all on her own. It’s a remarkable feat, and the fact that Harry chose this woman as his bride makes me adore that red-headed rascal even more.

The only thing missing for me is Jay Strafford. What I’d give to argue with him about this royal drama.

at the NBC-Universal 2014 TCA Winter Press Tour, Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa, Pasadena, CA 01-19-14

Meghan Markle at the NBC-Universal 2014 TCA Winter Press Tour, Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa, Pasadena, CA 01-19-14


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