I have a weakness, a flaw, and I know you will laugh at me when I tell you. My family certainly does. They roll their eyes back to the very backs of their heads when I make even vague reference to this topic.
I am obsessed with the British Royal Family.
I think it all started when I was a little girl and my mom had a coffee table type book (but old, I mean it must have been printed in the 60’s or even earlier) about two princesses – Elizabeth and Margaret – growing up. It had the most beautiful, albeit old fashioned, colour plates with these gorgeous little girls who grew into glamorous modern women, and it tracked their journey. My favourite portrait was one of Queen Elizabeth on her coronation day.
I remember my granny threatening to live to 100 so she could get a letter from the Queen congratulating her on reaching her centennial. Granny made it to almost-104, but I don’t know if she ever got that letter.
At one stage I secretly dreamed of marrying Prince Edward – the only prince young enough (and handsome enough, dare I say) for me, at age 6, to consider marrying. The phase passed fairly quickly, but still.
My fascination with the British royal family was fuelled in primary school when Lady Diana married Prince Charles. Diana was the focus, Charles just needed to be there for her to have a prince to marry. My sister and I spent about a year making a scrapbook – newspaper clippings, Sunday Times Supplements, and other bits and bobs – of the wedding of the century. It was 99% Diana, 1% Charles. Diana did not disappoint. Her dress is ridiculed today, but it was EVERYTHING a 12 year old in 1981. A fairytale.
I was a total Diana fan and read all the biographies written about her, and watched all her interviews and all the documentaries about her. And of course I watched her little boys grow up. I thought William was the sweetest cherub. I wished she’d had a daughter. I remember the day she died – we were in Sabie, it was Claire’s wedding. I could not believe it, what a shock. Unbelievable.
Years later I watched the live stream of William and Kate’s wedding, yes I did, in Lampang, sitting at my desk, sweltering in the Thailand heat. I loved every minute of it even if I had to keep moving around so the internet was strong enough to stream the festivities. I was so excited when their babies were born, so impressed with Kate’s beauty, dignity and grace and the obvious security and bond this couple had, unlike William’s parents. But poor Harry – all alone, a little lost – I couldn’t wait for him to get married.
From my perspective, down on the southern-most tip of Africa, the new generation, William and Kate, with Harry, did a lot of good works and represented important causes and charities. They seemed to be taking the monarch into the next century, slightly modernising it, but keeping with the grand traditions. Other younger royals were working, and getting on with life as fairly “normal” people, but providing the necessary grandeur when called upon.
About two years ago Harry married Meghan Markle, and this was another exciting adventure – an America actress in the mix made for an interesting new dynamic. I got to watch this wedding in South Africa, with fibre, so no internet problems, but with the rest of my family interrupting quizzically every couple of hours asking what was wrong with me. They did not care that Oprah was there, nor George Cluny, nor Serena Williams, not even that Harry’s ex-girlfriends, Chelsea and Cressida were invited to the wedding. Go figure.
All this to say, I have had this obsession with the royal family just about all my life. Don’t know why, but I think we can safely blame my mother for having that book.
I realise that the monarchy is probably an outdated, old fashioned institution, but I quite like tradition and if I were British, I’d be a royalist. I love the pomp and ceremony. I love that the queen is the head of state, and despite all the politics and other nonsense that goes on, she’s above it all. She is a solid figure, someone who gives national identity, unity, pride, stability, continuity, and of course brings in the tourists. In times of crisis, in world wars and pandemics, it’s been her voice that has calmed and steadied her people.
But probably, above all, what I love is how the Queen, and her family, support the ideals of charity and voluntary service. Their lives are lives of service. They are in positions of privilege and power and great wealth, but they exist to serve.
As the daughter of a king, I get it. I too am in a position of great privilege, as a child of God, and I exist to serve my King.
I believe that “each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). [Um, just without the glamour in my case.]
Our Lord Jesus himself demonstrated that our lives are to be lived in service to others – “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus taught his disciples “ “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35).
I was excited to see what Meghan, the humanitarian, would do, excited to see the new dimension she’d bring, and I suppose, in part, because Harry has always been drawn to Africa and with Meghan being bi-racial, I thought that somehow they might bring the royal family closer to home. And then the South Africa trip happened – ooooh, more excitement.
But as it turned out. Meh. Not so much.
Maybe my expectations were too high, but for me it seemed like a damp squib. A let down. Can’t exactly say why, but I do know that the interview she gave at the end of the tour jarred. The “poor little rich girl” narrative did not play well. I kind of lost interest in them for a while. As I said, they were just “meh”.
In January, when I told Nick the breaking news that this couple had left the royal family he shrugged his shoulders and, after ascertaining who Harry and Meghan were, asked, “so what?” and for once, I agreed. So what? It was a non-event.
This month, their “unauthorised biography” was published: “Finding Freedom”. I started reading it.
Why you ask? Because I was looking for answers – l could not get my mind around them leaving a position with so much potential to do so much good in the world. I knew there must be some deep-seated, legitimate reason for them doing what they did in walking away.
Another thing is that I wanted to learn what freedom they were looking for. For me “freedom” is what we have in Christ, freedom to live, freedom to serve, freedom to love, freedom to be servants of God. So it was also going to be interesting to understand their take on what freedom was.
Very early in the book I realised that either Harry and Meghan had told this story themselves (their innermost thoughts and feelings, their toilet trips, what they ate – or did not eat – and other details that simply had to come directly from the horses’ mouths are included) and they were lying having had absolutely no contribution to or involvement in this book. Which meant it was not an unauthorised biography.
Or else it was gossip and heresay written like a soppy Mills & Boon romance. Except in this Mills and Boon romance they were instantly, madly, hopelessly in love. In a real Mills & Boon there would have been a few false starts as the tension builds to the final moment when they realise that they had loved each other all along and had just misinterpreted each other at every possible turn, and then finally fall into each others’ arms and live happily ever after. Yes, I read Mills & Boon in Standard 6 – but I am assuming you’ve already lost respect for me, so it doesn’t matter.
I did not finish “Finding Freedom”, I felt a bit dirty reading it … and this coming from someone who has read Mills and Boon.
I have sworn off H&M for now (M&B too), but the thoughts I had swirling in my head needed capturing and so here goes:
Marriage takes work, adjustment, learning. It takes humility and time. A cross-cultural marriage takes even more.
Living cross culturally takes work, adjustment, learning. It takes humility and time.
Having a baby (especially in country that is not your own) takes work, adjustment, learning. It takes time to find your rhythm. And humility.
“Hitting the ground running” in a country that is not your own, is unwise if you have not learned, understood, and made a conscious decision to integrate and be culturally sensitive. Which takes humility.
When you are in a foreign country, with a new-born baby, and people are not saying nice things about you, it takes work to handle it, its not easy, it takes time, but it can be done, and it does build character.
I know all of this because I have been though most of it myself.
“Finding Freedom” is about a rich, privileged couple alienating and criticising people who seemed to love and try to support them. A couple unwilling to submit to authority, desperately desiring to do their own thing, demanding that others look out for their interests in view of their perceived importance, wanting to control, and generally outlining their petty grievances and evidence of their inability to rise above it all. All the while attempting to promote the narrative of their exceptional goodness.
The freedom they seek, it seems to me, is the antithesis of my view of freedom. They wanted freedom to do what they wanted to do, say what they wanted to say, be who they wanted to be, and the freedom to demand that the world say/think what THEY wanted the world to say/think about them.
This attitude to life, is not the attitude of sons and daughters of the King. The children of royalty always look to the needs of others, and to the one whom they serve. They do not serve themselves. So its fitting, therefore, that H&M left the royal family. They clearly don’t belong.
I get slightly annoyed because they could have been so much, done so much, represented so much.
But, all is well, my friends, please do not worry about me. I still have the Queen – a legend in her own time, Princess Anne with her incredible work ethic, Edward and his lovely Sophie – who was a much better choice than I would have been, Charles and Camilla – whom I respect for the storms she weathered so stoically, and of course the almost-too-good-to-be-true William and Kate and their gorgeous children who represent a bright and hopeful future for the monarchy.
So my royal watching days are not over. Sorry fam.
As for finding freedom? I’ve found it:
Galatians 5:13-14 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
1 Peter 2:16 “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom to cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”