Belfast Telegraph

Fionola Meredith: Less whinging, more smiling needed from privileged royals Harry and Meghan

The royal couple are alienating the public with their lecturing and moaning, argues Fionola Meredith

Privileged life: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Privileged life: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

What to make of the recent ITV documentary where Prince Harry and his wife Meghan visited the most impoverished, violence-riven parts of Africa and ended up complaining about how awful their own lives were?

Multi-millionaire duchess Meghan, whose extraordinarily extravagant lifestyle is massively subsidised by British taxpayers, spoke of "existing not living".

Lip slightly a-tremble, she thanked the forelock-tugging ITV reporter, Tom Bradby, for enquiring into her personal wellbeing, because apparently not many people had asked her if she was okay.

Being a newly-wed and a mum in the spotlight is tough, you know. Well, I'm sure it is. But it's hardly like being a single mum on benefits in the New Lodge, is it?

Meanwhile Harry, who has already fired an enraged, erratic and unwise broadside against the free press, told Bradby about the pains of life in the media spotlight.

He described how every flash and click from press photographers that took him back to the night his mother Diana was killed.

Of the two, I have vastly more sympathy for Harry who, by his own admission, still struggles with the dreadful after-effects of losing his mum at such a young age.

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Perhaps being married and having a son of his own has brought back a lot of the pain, rage and vulnerability he must have felt when he was forced to assume the obligatory stiff upper lip and walk behind his mother's coffin. But I'm not convinced that this very public emoting serves him well in dealing with that.

Look, I am sure that life as a working royal has its challenges. The constant need to be 'on', to be smiling, to be engaging, to bestow high fives on eager kids and sympathetic squeezes on the shoulders of withered grannies could get kind of wearing.

And if even half of the action depicted in the popular Netflix series 'The Crown' is true, the arcane webs of palace protocol and deference to implacable hierarchies would be enough to drive anyone round the twist.

But the big upside is the gargantuan levels of privilege. These people are indulged, deferred to and cossetted beyond our wildest dreams. Harry and Meghan recently spent £2.4 million on house renovations. They shipped cars from the UK to South Africa for their royal tour. They never have to worry about paying food bills or childcare costs, or wonder if they can maybe afford a week in Blackpool every other year.

I'm no royalist, but I could stomach all this if they would just shut up and play the game they signed up for.

What gets me about Harry and Meghan is that they want it both ways. They want all the luxury of a lavishly public-funded life and all the privacy of anonymous civilians.

Actually, they want a lot more than that. They require only positive publicity, plenty of fawning and praise for their super-woke agenda, with no nasty criticism from the cruel press. And even that is not enough. For the gilt-encrusted cherry on the top, they also wish to be regarded as poor, beleaguered victims. Because it's just so, so, so hard to be royal.

Is it any wonder that people are getting weary of their 'woe-is-me' histrionics?

They certainly don't help themselves by lecturing from a height - literally - about the dangers of climate change, while zipping about on private jets so they can holiday at Elton John's luxury holiday home in Skegness. No, of course it's not in Skegness, it's in the south of France. And that was a just a few days after getting back from a trip to Ibiza.

Four private flights in 11 days - and yet they have the gall to pontificate to the rest of us about protecting the environment?

I don't care how many shrubs Elton John has planted to off-set the emissions created by those heedlessly flatulent flights, it's still a bad - and highly hypocritical - look.

Of course, it should go without saying that racist attacks on Meghan are absolutely indefensible. But I believe that the vast majority of frustration has nothing to do with the colour of her skin. It's because people quite reasonably dislike being preached to by an elite power-couple who seem unaware that they live lives of enormous entitlement, funded by us, the hard-up public - and then turn round and complain about it.

Fortunately the intolerable pressure on the pair will soon be easing. They're taking a "much needed" six-week break from their duties.

At least that will give the rest of us a break from the right royal whinging.

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