What A Family Therapist Says the Royal Family Must do to Manage the Harry and Meghan Crisis.
And Not Doing it Could Cost them the Crown.
Studying history, the British Royal family’s mode of operation has been deliberate and controlling of family with one goal in mind: Maintaining what so many other family members from past generations in other countries could not, control of their crown. They know that too much foolishness, living life blatantly as the entitled bunch they are, or not enough charitable fund-raising and do-good work will eventually wear thin on the British people and lead to pressure of the government to cut the expensive royal habit. Because losing the crown must not happen on her watch, one can imagine that anytime a family member creates a drama that could rock the royal ship, Queen Elizabeth gets jittery.
So the Queen is feeling jitters. Here is the situation in a nutshell: The good about being royal is fame, fortune and rubbing elbows with whoever you choose. On the downside, you are guaranteed little privacy and constant hounding by the sleazy tabloid press, who take pleasure, and will stop at nothing, to reveal your flaws to the world. And what fun they have exposing private conversations or letters and digging for info from your estranged friends or family members. Whether the details are true, kind of true, or completely made up, it doesn’t matter to tabloids, and they publish it all.
If you are born a royal, you are raised, or brainwashed, to endure your role, and to see being royal as a duty and privilege bestowed on your family. But imagine the shock of the experience for those who were not raised that way, who are accustomed to being independent, and then enter a world where you are told to step in line and follow ancient, dysfunctional rules and customs and embrace a lifestyle that says some humans are more highly ranked than others, then suffer the scrutiny of all that being a difficult transition.
With that in mind, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have decided to not live life that way, and have been distancing themselves from what must feel like royal shackles for some time. What healthy adult wouldn’t want to do that?
The problem here is not their decision, it is what the royal family will do about their decision, and it will be a time for the royals to show us whether they are growing and evolving into a healthier, more flexible and accepting entity, or planning to stick to the rigid, controlling and punitive ways of the past.
The key players in Britain’s royal family will meet this week to decide how to handle Harry and Meghan’s transition. The deciders are the current and future heirs to the throne, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince William; then of course Prince Harry, and Meghan will be there to clarify their positions, though reports say Meghan will be listening in remotely from Canada where she is staying with their son, Archie.
If this was almost any other family, Harry and Meghan, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, would be able to step away from the family business to do whatever they want, while still maintaining the family relationships they value. Whether any family member stays on the family payroll after leaving a family business is left to each family to decide.
Just as in a marriage that is on the brink due to change and growth, the British family must now display an ability to be flexible in allowing their family members to be who they are, and to follow the dreams they choose, or risk being seen as the rigid dictators they have shown themselves to be in the past. What they decide could make or break their future.
The royal family has shown their controlling ugliness in the past. The Queen’s uncle, King Edward VIII famously abdicated his throne in 1936 to marry the woman he loved, Wallis Simpson, who was divorced. The retired King was exiled to France and shunned by his family for choosing romantic love over duty. His mother and brother, Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, shut him out of their lives completely. Years later the Queen forbade her sister, Princess Margaret to marry the man she loved, Peter Townsend, because he was divorced and had two children. Had Margaret married Townsend, it was understood she would lose all royal privilege and family support. She is known to have suffered for years over this loss. In numerous cases across history, it is devotion to crown and all of its rules, or risk losing everything.
Now is the time the British royal family must show a more humane, accepting and compassionate side, or they will not, and should not, survive.
The policy of “Do what we say or else,” is antiquated and a recipe for mental and emotional suffering — one main cause of depression and anxiety we know for certain is lack of accepting individuals. The only functional choice in this era is for the family to continue loving, accepting and leaving the door open to Harry and Meghan as family members, and to wish them well in whatever path they choose moving forward. If I was attending the meeting as a family therapist, I would tell them only the extent of their royal roles and duties and the monetary compensation for that should be on the table.
What the family does now will be a bellwether for their future. I hope for everyone involved that they choose love and acceptance.
Becky Whetstone Cheairs, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Texas and Arkansas, and a Licensed Professional Counselor in Arkansas. She is also a former columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. She works in private practice in Little Rock, Arkansas, and welcomes your feedback. Her web sites are www.doctorbecky.com and www.marriagecrisismanager.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.