Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Harry and Meghan need to think about giving up royal life... but could they walk away from the perks?

The Duchess of Sussex
The Duchess of Sussex

By Lindy McDowell

You wait all year for a royal documentary to arrive, then two come along at once. This week has been bookended by television analysis of the "work" (I'll come back to that) being carried out by different sections of the "Royal Firm" (as the Queen calls it).

First there was that global headline-making insight into the angst of Saints Harry and Meghan of Sussex.

The pair - and a "source" close to them - have been explaining, via the media, their struggles to deal with.... the media.

Harry has also confirmed a rift between himself and his brother.

And the aforementioned source has informed CNN that "the institution around the British royal family is full of people afraid of and inexperienced at how to best help harness and deploy the value of the royal couple who have single-handedly modernised the monarchy".

Wow. Single-handedly modernised the monarchy? Does the monarchy even need modernising?

Isn't the whole point of the institution the concept of heritage and history, of continuity down the generations, of uniting force and figurehead?

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As opposed to complaining about the musty whiff of St George's Chapel Windsor, guest-editing Vogue, preaching climate change in a bare-footed speech to billionaires (who, like you, regularly avail of private jets) and posting inspirational quotes on Instagram.

Harry and Meghan want a return to a time when the Press knew their place and coverage of dukes and duchesses was treacly, fawning and devoid of any criticism whatsoever.

Which brings us to Prince Charles centre-stage in the first of a two-part documentary series looking at the Duchy of Cornwall. This extensive estate historically provides financial support for successive Princes of Wales and by all accounts appears to be ticking over nicely.

It's raking in a lot of money. And Charles himself is seen doing the other sort of raking. He is, locals say, very hands-on. And, of course, comparatively more stiff upper lip than the complaining Sussexes.

Two faces (well, three really) of one Firm. But what do they really tell us about the workload and worth of the royals?

For most people looking in on the Firm, employee benefits would appear pretty spectacular. You get to travel the world, you're feted and pampered and, okay, you have to smile a lot for the cameras and occasionally be pulled up for hypocrisy.

But the perks of the job include never having to worry about a palace roof over your head. You even have your own estate to play with. This is not work as you and I know it. So does the public (who fund the Firm) really get value for money out of it?

Any firm - royal or otherwise - owes its workers a duty of care. If Harry and Meghan are finding the going as tortuous as they say, and the effect on their mental health as damaging as they suggest, something needs to be done to alleviate the strain.

They're getting a six-week break for family time (how lovely if all workers could be afforded such employer largesse) but what's the point of that if they're returning to a role they find so gruelling?

Surely there are enough royals rattling around the palaces that somebody could be encouraged to take up the slack.

Is that what the couple really want, though?

They do give the impression that they have a ticket on themselves - that they feel themselves just that wee bit better than their fellow Windsors.

Harry constantly references Diana as though he alone feels her loss.

William will inherit his father's crown. Harry sees himself as exclusive heir to his mother's.

The divisive Sussexes aren't modernising the monarchy. All they do is make us question its worth - despite Charles's efforts to prove its relevance and value.

Does the Royal Firm work for us? Or just for them?

Sylvia right on money over MLAs

I think Lady Sylvia Hermon speaks for us all when she says that it is "unsustainable and indefensible" that MLAs get their full salaries while schools and hospitals are under so much pressure. Secretary of State Julian Smith agrees it is "unacceptable" and says he will review the situation if he "feels things are not going in the right direction". Anyone here could tell you now, Julian, things are not going in the right direction.

Migrant horror a wake-up call

It's been a week in which the full horror of people- trafficking has been felt close to home, not least in those reports about teenagers being found wandering on our streets having been brought here, God knows how or by whom. It's a grim wake-up call about the scale of what's been happening all around us and the human suffering of these poor people. It puts our own local petty squabbling into perspective.

Michaella’s sob story is hard to take

It's been a while since we've heard from Michaella McCollum, convicted drugs mule and wannabe celeb.

But, happy days, she's now got a book out so we can all read about her dreadful ordeal after she was caught in possession of the £1.5m of cocaine she was attempting to smuggle out of Peru.

"Was I guilty?" she muses. "Yes. Did I know what I was doing? Sort of. Was I hung out to dry by a bunch of gangsters and the Peruvian justice system? Absolutely..."

That would be the same Peruvian justice system, presumably, which let her home early after serving only a fraction of her sentence.

Michaella explains how she ended up in Ibiza, where she first made contact with the drug dealers.

She says she was "desperate to escape my hometown of Dungannon" and "to get away from the unrest and violence that still blights lives in places like this".

Yes, Dungannon, that's you.

And she was a naive wee thing, apparently. She thought that Peru was in Spain.

As if geographical ignorance constitutes a valid defence against criminality and greed.

When her fellow "mule" Melissa Reid came home she got a job with a charity and has since kept her head down. Michaella McCollum could do with taking a leaf out of her book.

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