Perhaps you’re resolute that you’re “supporting” Meghan and Hazza. Maybe you’ve been wearing your “I LOVE LIZ” T-shirt ceaselessly for the past two weeks. Or maybe it’s just that you’re just a card-carrying member of the “I couldn’t care less, but as if by hex, I’m still reading this” club.
Whichever way you slice it, there isn’t a subject that has divided opinion and lit up internet chatrooms, since the advent of ivermectin at any rate, like the interview which “kinda ex” royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gave to the de facto queen of the universe, Oprah Winfrey, a week ago.
In the end, 61-million viewers caught the televised chat, and the subsequent stream of press coverage was so vast and kaleidoscopic in its angles that you would be forgiven for thinking the pandemic had been vanquished completely. Were it not for the devastating murder of London marketing executive Sarah Everard, there’s a chance the royal story would still be monopolising the British press.
Whatever your feeling towards the freshest prince of Tinseltown and his kin, the one sentiment there is consensus on is that you probably won’t ever be on their “we’re rolling in the cash” team.
It is this crisp issue that my brain returns to whenever I think of that lot. And it’s an excellent way of crystallising the issues.
If you’ve recently felt a flash of pity for Meghan and Harry about the weirdos they’re related to across the pond, consider the story by the UK’s Times newspaper over the weekend on how the couple have amassed a fortune exceeding £100m through no specific talent of their own.
The newspaper gets to this by adding a sizable inheritance from Harry’s mom, the late Princess Diana, along with the couple’s Netflix deal (estimated to be worth £71m) and a Spotify deal (£18m). Over and above that sum is the gorgeous pad they bought in Montecito, Santa Barbara, which is now thought to be valued at three times the £10m they nabbed it for last June.
As any neighbourhood billionaire will tell you, underwhelming in-laws are far easier to stomach when you’re cosseted by that kind of cash, and you’ve got a laidback Pacific lifestyle to soften the edges of those irksome family WhatsApp calls.
And yet, Queen Elizabeth’s wealth makes Harry’s stash seem like a couple of bond notes in a Zimbabwean wallet.
According to the British Sunday Times’ rich list, published last May, her Maj’s wealth weighed in at £350m — more than three times that of her grandson and his actress wife. Under “source of wealth”, the newspaper simply said: “Head of state”.
Remarkably, this made Liz just the 372nd-wealthiest person in the UK. (The wealthiest Brit was Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner whose wealth amounted to £16.2bn)
But the queen is no fading power. For a glimpse into the staggering influence she still wields, you need to read The Guardian’s recent exposé series into a secretive parliamentary process known as Queen’s Consent.
This is a process which allows the queen to vet any laws up for debate in British parliament that affect the crown.
“These laws include everything from social security, pensions, race relations and food policy through to obscure rules on car parking charges and hovercraft. But they also include draft laws that affected the queen’s personal property such as her private estates in Balmoral and Sandringham — and anything involving the nature of her wealth,” says The Guardian.
Just thinking about the kind of funds that Liz and her family have at their disposal — never mind the access to the good life and everything else that divorces them from reality — and it’s pretty easy to feel precisely zero sympathy for her annus horribilis or any that preceded it.
If anything, I’m fascinated by our fascination with this family.
I appreciate the cosy clichés — that QEII symbolises fortitude, Prince Andrew is the biggest creep and Kate has good hair — but when I consider The Firm through the lens of wealth, I realise I don’t like any of them.
It only underlines the extent to which they have unearned and obscene wealth which none of them have worked for — the ribbon cuttings don’t even nearly count.
And don’t think this is a feeling reserved for the English; I roundly dislike all royals. From the eurotrash Grimaldis in Monaco (sorry, Charlene) to Eswatini’s King Mswati with his bevy of brides, Beemers and Rolls-Royces, I’m definitely up for a dab of cancel culture.
However, despite my jaunty revolutionary beret, I’m not advocating for pitchforks and guillotines. Rather, my remedy for the monarchies is an enforced dose of normal life.
In her hilarious 2006 novel, Queen Camilla, author Sue Townsend downgraded the entire Windsor pack to council houses. It’s a scenario I’d pay to see.
Imagine Prince Charles’s face when he opens his first gravity-defying City of Joburg rates bill and tries to figure out what a “demand side management levy” means.
Imagine Mswati earning one of our meagre salaries and trying to juggle medical aid deductions, credit card debt and school fees. Imagine Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stuck in an interminable MTN call centre loop, wondering how close he is to the next “service champion”.
Just imagine. At least it’d give them something real to whine to Oprah about.