A royal howler from Harry over Meghan‘s family: JAN MOIR says Prince has broken rule number one for any new husband
When asked by the how Meghan Markle had coped with her first Christmas at Sandringham, Harry reported that it had been ‘fantastic’
dropped a clanger at the end of his guest editorship of Radio 4’s Today programme this week.
When asked by the how had coped with her first at Sandringham, Harry reported that it had been ‘fantastic’. His fiancee, he said, had ‘really enjoyed it’.
Yes, they had an ‘amazing time’; yes, there was a complicated knot of Windsorian traditions to be explained to an incomer, but it had all ‘been fun’.
And then came the howler.
‘She’s done an absolutely amazing job. She’s getting in there,’ he enthused. ‘It’s the family, I suppose, that she never had.’
Uh-oh. Sound the in-law warning klaxon. Run the Jolly Roger up the flagpole of family friction. Set the dials for stormy waters. The family she never had? The family she never had? What is she, an orphan?
Harry’s words hung in the air like an icy reprimand; an unintended slight to the actual Markle parents, who divorced in 1987 when Meghan was six years old.
First to register annoyance was Meghan’s half-sister Samantha Grant, who was not best pleased.
‘Actually [Meghan] has a large family who were always there with her and for her,’ she said. ‘Complete with sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and the glue of our family, our amazing, completely self-sacrificing father.’
Yikes. Harry may have the benefit of the best education money can buy, the character-building attributes only ten years in the Army can bring and the sensitivities of a man in touch with his inner ginger, but he has a lot to learn about the politics of in-law dom.
And rule No 1 for any new husband is never, ever to publicly state that your family is somehow better, happier and more loving than her family, even if you believe it to be true. Especially at this time of year, when kinship loyalties and festive one-upmanship can create tension, hurt and misery.
And particularly for those couples who are forced to choose with which set of in-laws they will spend their Christmas, often leaving the other set feeling bereft and unloved.
Imagine that feeling magnified a hundredfold when the opposing side is the House of Windsor, replete with palaces, a Boxing Day pheasant shoot and royal prestige. Who could compete with that?
The Prince’s remarks were not only clumsy, they opened up a whole silo into the nature of his relationship and whirlwind courtship with this extraordinary young woman.
For him to say this, Meghan, at some deep level, must have presented herself as a victim — or a casualty of family circumstances at the very least. Meanwhile, he clearly sees her as someone he has to rescue; a damsel in distress, a broken sparrow, a lost Cinderella he can wrap his arms around and ensconce behind the castle ramparts.
One can see how seductive this fairy-tale fantasy must have been for them both, adding another thrilling, sexy layer to their clandestine wooing. The romance of it all is utterly killing.
Yet however much Harry loves his Pa and his Grandma, the notion of the Windsors providing a calm, benevolent haven for anyone, let alone a Hollywood actress with a mind of her own, is laughable.
They have their strong points, but even key members of the Firm would surely agree that they are one of the most dysfunctional family units on the planet, right up there with the Borgias and the Krays.
Not only must new wives negotiate the protocols of a complex hierarchy, they are requested to curtsey every time granny trundles into view. One big happy family?
Three of the Queen’s four children have divorced; one ex-wife (Duchess of Ferg) is still banished to Nutter Cottage on the Sandringham estate every Christmas; most of the kids seem incapable of holding down any job except Chief Paperclip Sorter in an art gallery; some members seem to love horses more than humans; Uncle Andy is a major worry; and — for God’s sake — no one mention the Diana word.
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Huff is not talking to the Duke of Puff, her family is banned, his goose is cooked and the families of royal consorts are off the festive guest list for ever. For those caught and shaken up in the snow globe of royal life, cosy and loving are the last words that spring to mind.
By this time next year, Prince Harry will be a husband — hopefully one who understands that his family is not the only family in his marriage. And maybe he will also realise that while Christmas is a time of jolly and holly, it is also a time of compromise and tact.
All this he is going to have to grasp fast. Though something tells me the only person keener to relegate the wider Markle clan to the margins is Little Miss Meghan herself.
Bah to over-indulged kids!
Did you have a lovely Christmas? Me, too, thanks for asking. Certainly, I didn’t end up with coal in my stocking, like the children of Radio 5 Live presenter Nihal Arthanayake.
His ten-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter had been so naughty he decided to teach them a lesson. They got lumps of coal instead of presents, and a note from Santa admonishing them for bad behaviour.
Yet the ruse backfired — the children weren’t upset or repentant, they were ruddy furious. They acted like they had been ‘dipped in sewage’, moaned Mr Arthanayake, whose Christmas was ruined just as much as theirs.
It reminded me of poor Cardiff headmistress Vicky Meadows, who was accused of reducing pupils to tears after describing their badly behaved performance in the school nativity play as ‘rubbish’. Fair comment, you might think. Yet police were called to the school the next morning, as furious parents turned up roaring about their darlings, who were ‘upset and crying’.
Honestly. Kids today can never, ever be in the wrong, can they? They expect everything, without responsibility, obligation or parameters. We’re breeding a monster generation whose sense of entitlement makes them believe they don’t even have to behave for Father Christmas.
And there is a new trend for parents to give children a Christmas Eve box, containing gifts such as a new DVD, pyjamas, sweets and a little toy, so they don’t get too upset or fractious waiting for Santa. What is wrong with having to wait? Apart from anything else, they will never savour the pleasure of delayed anticipation.
Bah to over-indulged, cossetted children. I’m not saying stuff the little perishers up the chimney with a bowl of gruel, but sometimes a bit of discipline and a few austerity cuts wouldn’t go amiss.
Hurrah for Elton John, who is not giving up on fashion, even though fashion may have given up on him
Hurrah for Elton John, who is not giving up on fashion, even though fashion may have given up on him.
The singing superstar was photographed in his Gucci cat-print cape over the holidays. ‘Perfect for tea on Boxing Day,’ was his cheery tweet. Yes, darling, particularly if you pop it on top of the teapot to keep your brew cosy, which it seems perfectly designed to do.
Elton! Someone has to explain to him that very, very few men look good in a cape, up to and including Superman.
There are exceptions. Captain Poldark could, but chooses flowing frock coats instead. James Norton as Prince Andrei in the ’s wonderful 2016 adaptation of War & Peace sets the gold standard for erotic gentlemanly capeage.
I still dream about his frogging, but that’s enough of my private pain for one year.
Do Charles and Camilla really have three marital bedrooms? A His, a Hers and what Morecambe and Wise would no doubt call a Whay Hey Hey Room?
Well, I really hope they do. How sensible. How marvellous. How useful. How pleasant. Who among us would not love it?
For older couples no longer feel the need to cling together like shipwrecks in the night. We need our space, the luxury of being able to read our books without complaint, the freedom to potter about at 3am should one feel like it, the ability to give in to the urge for a soothing midnight knit, should the mood arise.
Of course, having three spare bedrooms in both your main residences is all about affordability rather than intimacy, but I hope it gives ideas to parents with newly empty nests. Never underestimate the deep, deep peace of the double bed. In the next room.
Nick Clegg is to be knighted in the New Year’s Honours list, presenting a conundrum for his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez. Admirably, she has always insisted on being professionally known by her maiden name, but will she now refuse the customary title that goes with his gong?
I think so. Not because of her feminist credentials, but because Lady Clegg makes her sound like a rather terrifying strain of female horsefly.
Meanwhile, eyebrows have been raised to intergalactic levels at the thought of Mr Clegg being honoured for anything, except for services to failure. He betrayed students, lost the Lib Dems half their seats and effectively destroyed them, he was on the losing side in the referendum and then lost his own seat in the election.
Do you ever think that by rewarding him thus our political elites are completely out of touch with the views and feelings of ordinary people?
If further proof were needed, note that in a poll of MPs and Lords, Clegg’s latest opus, How To Stop Brexit, was made Parliamentary Book Of The Year. Arise, Sir Loser.
An appeal for Davinaland disaster zone
Davina McCall took time out on Christmas Day to post an Instagram message to anyone feeling lonely, or missing a loved one, or down with the festive blues. O come all ye faithfully cynical ones, yes, I do know she has a new fitness DVD to promote.
Davina McCall took time out on Christmas Day to post an Instagram message to anyone feeling lonely, or missing a loved one, or down with the festive blues
However, I still found her odd little statement sincere and rather touching.
Davina is 50 years old. She is not at a crossroads, she is standing at the Spaghetti Junction of her life — and every woman knows that is a lonely place to be.
Her 17-year marriage is over, the menopause is ongoing, she is emotionally all over the place. One minute Davina is celebrating the changes that age brings, the next she seems to be upset at the onset of cronedom.
A former drug addict, she has swapped her bad habit for a fitness habit, and has typically taken it to gaunt-cheeked extremes. But so what? Exercise is healthier than heroin any day of the week.
She may be an occasionally tiresome seeker of the spotlight, but there is much to admire about Davina. It takes courage to admit that your life has gone spectacularly awry and that you have made bad decisions. And her reborn wholesome image was always so intrinsically linked to Matthew Robertson, the handsome man she met out dog-walking and later married. She is bereft in a very public, as well as private, way — double agony.
Three children, beautiful homes, successful careers — it always seemed so perfect. Until the marriage renewal vows in 2015 signalled, as they so often do, that something was wrong in Davinaland.
I hope that whatever happens next, she finds peace and happiness in 2018 without running herself into the ground.
And may I wish all my readers a happy New Year, too.