‘They’ve turned their backs on the institution’ Royal expert shares his view on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s departure

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  • When Buckingham Palace was hit by a bomb during an air raid at the height of the Second World War, the Queen Mother uttered the immortal words, ‘Now I can look the East End [of London] in the eye.’

    With those words, Her Majesty set a marker in the sand that would endure for decades. At a time of national emergency, the Royal Family was feeling the pain of ordinary people living in terror as the bombs rained down on the capital.

    We were in it together, defiantly standing strong in the face of a dangerous enemy.

    When, on a glorious spring day in 2018, Harry and Meghan tied the knot in front of almost two billion viewers it seemed we were witnessing a real life fairy tale being played out. Britain’s most popular royal cementing his whirlwind romance with a beautiful American actress who had taken the nation by storm.

    Her mixed race heritage breathing new life into an institution seen by so many as aloof and out of step with the rest of society.

    The future, it seemed, was as bright as the glistening May day they chose for their nuptials. But fast-forward two years and who could have imagined how sour things would turn out?

    Duncan with Harry in 2008 | Getty

    Quitting royal life

    The ‘Markle sparkle’ has dwindled, the pair have turned their backs on the institution that tried so hard to welcome them in, and in the court of public opinion this golden couple appears to have embarked on a strategic exercise of having their cake and eating it.

    For six months Harry and Meghan have been in hiding, far away from the subjects who so eagerly packed the streets of Windsor hoping to catch a glimpse of history in the making.

    Far from giving up everything to marry the prince that had won her heart, Meghan appears to have enacted a plan to steal Harry away from his adoring public and set up home in Tinseltown, living the celebrity dream, free from the tedium of royal responsibility.

    While we don’t know who was behind the ultimate move, it’s Harry who has made the compromises. Quitting full-time royal life, stepping away from his family and moving the 6,000 miles to the city where Meghan grew up.

    So why shouldn’t this modern couple retain the goodwill of the nation as they build a life for themselves far away from the pressure cooker of attention they clearly found so hard to shoulder?

    The problem for the Sussexes is one of timing. As the worst national crisis to hit Britain since the Second World War took hold, it seemed that Meghan was finally putting into place the final piece of the jigsaw.

    As Britons up and down the country were battening down the hatches, isolating at home, fearing for their health, their jobs and their children, the Sussexes were facing a different uncertainty.

    Where on earth could they build a nursery for their son in the opulent new surrounds of the LA mansion they would now call home? Not too close to the outdoor swimming pool, but not too close to the master suite where Harry and Meghan could now enjoy the trappings of life away from the public glare.

    Even the couple’s most outspoken critics could not begrudge Meghan and Harry happiness. They are both wealthy in their own right so making home a luxury suburb of Los Angeles is perfectly natural you might think.

    The problem is perception, how this move will look to the millions of Brits stuck at home, coping with life in the eye of the corona pandemic storm.

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    "Duck! Rabbit!" with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex (and Harry, The Duke of Sussex behind the camera), read to their son Archie for his 1st birthday. Happy Birthday, Archie! . Thank you #DuchessMeghan for helping us to raise urgent funds for our coronavirus appeal by reading "Duck! Rabbit" by @akrfoundation, illustrated by @tlichtenheld (published by @chroniclekidsbooks). . As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, children’s lives are being turned upside down. By donating to Save with Stories, you can support the most vulnerable families in the UK and around the world by helping to provide early learning packs, supermarket vouchers, essential household items and virus protection. . Please donate today by visiting our website. Link in bio. . Or you can text STORIES to 70008 to give a one-off donation of £5. . Together, we can help families get through this. . You can only donate via text from a UK mobile. You’ll be billed £5 plus standard rate text message. We receive 100% of your donation. By texting STORIES you agree to calls about fundraising appeals, campaigns, events and other ways to support. Include NO PHONE to opt out of calls. Queries? 02070126400. Read our Privacy Policy savethechildren.org.uk/privacy The Save the Children Fund is a charity registered in England and Wales (213890) and Scotland (SC039570) . #SaveWithStoriesUK #SaveWithStories #GrowingThroughThis

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    Inevitably the sight of Harry and Meghan in face masks distributing food to those suffering the effects of the virus lockdown, or the posts on social media, simply look like a token gesture from a couple reluctant to step up to the plate.

    There was a reason the King and Queen refused to leave London at the height of the Blitz. Even back then they knew how bad it would look if they upped sticks and took shelter well away from the capital.

    The Queen’s parents made the right decision to stay and face the threat alongside their subjects.

    When the current crisis fades into history, Harry and Meghan will not emerge unscathed. Their messages of inspiration, the good causes they hope to support, all of it is in danger of falling on deaf ears.

    If the coronavirus is a test of the nation’s mettle, then this is a test that Harry and Meghan have already failed. Completing the dream move to America while the folks back home are going through hell could come back to haunt a couple so apparently intent on having their own way.

    Losing public support

    Not only does the behaviour of the Sussexes seem like a slap in the face to the royal institution, but thanks to the virus, it now looks like an insult to every one of those who so dutifully welcomed Meghan into the fold back in 2018.

    For so many years Harry was the royal whose popularity was bulletproof. A Nazi outfit, racist comments to a colleague, strip clubs and partying – not even these transgressions dampened his popularity in the eyes of the public.

    But the events of the past six months could end this amnesty of forgiveness shown by the public towards Harry.

    When the dust settles on the pandemic, will the public really take kindly to Harry and Meghan’s attempts to ‘look them in the eye’? Or will the crisis have shown them in their real light, a couple determined to put themselves ahead of any other considerations?