MICHAEL RIEDEL: Britons think Harry and Meghan are brats. But we Americans adore them
To my friends in Britain: It may rankle that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have turned their back on you, opting for the blue skies of California over the grey skies at Frogmore Cottage.
But you’re not their audience anymore. Harry and Meghan are playing to America now and, on that score, they’re like a popular West End musical that only becomes a smash when it plays Broadway.
To begin with, they have the seal of approval from Oprah Winfrey, whose interview with them on Sunday reached over 17million viewers. Oprah is a beloved figure in this country. Think Michael Parkinson or Terry Wogan but many, many times over.
She pressed Harry and Meghan on a few tough questions – but you knew she was in their corner from the moment she joined them in feeding their rescue chickens.
Harry and Meghan are playing to America now and, on that score, they’re like a popular West End musical that only becomes a smash when it plays Broadway
I can understand that to many Britons, the couple came off as entitled, spotlight-loving brats who discovered that, at the end of the day, they’d never be more than second fiddles to William and Kate.
But to Americans, they appeared as an adorable, accessible couple whose charisma was so dangerous that it had to be stifled by ‘The Firm’. It may be an act – it probably is – but they pulled it off brilliantly.
America, as you know, does not have a monarchy. In fact, we threw you guys off our back in 1776 and for the next 200 years or so, we paid scant attention to the Crown.
But then in 1981, Diana Spencer came along and captured our imagination. She was a fairy tale princess straight out of Disney World. She even managed to make starchy Charles seem somewhat human.
But then The Firm turned on Diana. When she fought back, we were in her corner.
She was human. The monarchy was imperious, remote and cruel.
To begin with, they have the seal of approval from Oprah Winfrey, whose interview with them on Sunday reached over 17million viewers. Oprah is a beloved figure in this country. Think Michael Parkinson or Terry Wogan but many, many times over
The Queen regained some of our respect when she bent her head before Diana’s coffin but we could never forgive Charles for cheating on the radiant Diana with Camilla. There was, however, Harry – the little boy who walked behind his mother’s coffin. To us, he seemed more American than British – open, fun-loving, misbehaving as a teenager but on the whole a very likeable guy.
When he got caught living it up in Las Vegas, I’m sure much of Britain was appalled. Americans thought: ‘What a great night on the town! Wish I’d been there!’
His wedding to Meghan – who is one of us – was a big hit over here, bigger even than William and Kate’s. Theirs was an official pageant. We sensed Harry and Meghan’s reception was a lot looser and more fun.
But The Firm has squashed the fun out of them. In so doing, it’s behaving exactly as it does in Netflix’s The Crown, which is enormously popular here. Harry and Meghan skilfully portrayed it that way the other night. Meghan’s trump card was the race card. When she said one member of the Royal Family worried about how ‘dark’ her baby might be, much of America – caught up in our own reckoning about racial injustice – gasped along with Oprah.
Harry and Meghan shrewdly distanced the Queen from their criticisms. Americans adore the Queen but that affection will never accrue to Charles or William. They’re too stiff, too formal, too boring.
I have no idea what Harry and Meghan’s masterplan is. But should they want to establish an alternative court in America – the Windsors of the West, if you will – they laid the foundations for it on Sunday night.
Michael Riedel is a columnist for the New York Post
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