Analysis & Comment

Stephanie Regan: 'Harry and Meghan's is not a story of betrayal – it's a couple hoping for some privacy to raise their child'

The Magic Fairy heard her shout.

Appearing in a blaze of light,

She said: “My dear are you all right?”

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“All right?” cried Cindy. “Can’t you see

I feel as rotten as can be.”

Roald Dahl, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Revolting Rhymes’

ROALD Dahl helped us all to see through the idyllic tales of family, romance and the prince and princess story. This week, a fairytale is being shattered for many people in Britain. I, like all Irish people, have a low interest in the monarchy but I find this powerful undoing of the royal fairytale to be intensely interesting.

The prince and his new wife have left the kingdom to live in Canada. They are stepping back from the prescribed “publicity rota” and intend to work and build toward financial independence. There has been much talk in the media about the Sussexes’ ungratefulness for their privileges and their snubbing of Queen Elizabeth by not informing her first. I hear a young couple deeply in love at the most tender and precious time of their lives with a new baby, stepping out of the gaze of a press they find toxic and harmful.

In many ways this is the kind of decision many ordinary couples make and yes, of course, they are not an ordinary couple. They have privilege and live in grand homes, paid for by the taxpayer, and it is understandable some people feel put out. In reality though, we may only get snippets of the truth and versions of the truth.

Some reports this week indicated there have been months of discussions between Prince Harry and his father Prince Charles, and there is no real surprise. Is it possible Harry and Meghan simply wanted to control the timing and content of what went to the media? Perhaps they could not trust they would be treated fairly if they did not take control.

There’s normally a backlash when someone steps away from a family, even if you’re not royalty. There is a need to blame someone and there tends to be free-floating anger that gets attached to the person leaving.

Just this week, I spoke to a lovely woman in therapy who has been shunned by her family for 15 years since she told them of sexual abuse by her father. I wondered what story they tell their neighbours and friends about this absent daughter. Do they say she’s a bit strange, selfish or never gets in touch? We hear in various reports how Meghan is “manipulating Harry”. Implied here is the suggestion Harry is not mentally strong enough to make this decision himself.

It’s always easier to blame the outsider because then the problem is not in any way belonging to the family and cannot reflect on them. But if there is no outsider and the family member steps away alone then it is not in any way uncommon for their mental health to be attacked.

This all happens because of the resistance of the family to admit or reflect upon the reasons why a person may need to be away from them. This week there was commentary about Meghan not being able to get on with her own family and equating this with some strangeness in her own psychological self.

Her father’s drinking and pre-wedding behaviour have been revised in the press through the lens of Meghan’s “difficult persona”. In the dark years in our mental health system in Ireland, it was not unusual for wayward daughters or sons to be cast into a mental institution. It’s wise to listen beyond the justifications and explanations and ask why would a daughter or son want and need distance from a family.

Before a decision is made, there have usually been efforts to survive, heal and repair relationships. Usually there have been make-ups and break-ups before the decision is taken and it is never taken lightly. People leave so they can be themselves, often pursuing a path in life that parents condemn or oppose.

Sometimes estrangement and distance are necessary to protect sanity and allow the person leaving to go forward. Often the pulling away from toxic relationships must wait until the person is of independent age or has the means to survive alone.

In the case of Meghan, it is clear this modern woman is in a stronger position than many. She has financial security and the capacity to earn for herself. It must not be forgotten she has already distanced herself from one toxic situation in her own family. This has surely informed her approach to the difficulties she and her husband have been experiencing in the royal family and with the press.

She has no reason to accept a life of criticism from the family or the press and she has the means and the strength to step away now. In this fairytale it’s not the prince making all the decisions, but his young, strong, independent, successful wife, mother of his child and partner in life. Together they are choosing a path and a kingdom for their future and I for one love the modernness of this fairytale. Of course it’s easier to find fault with the person who is leaving than to reflect on what is driving them away. As in many families much of what is wrong remains unsaid for many years and in the case of the royals, it may be centuries.

I believe Meghan saw the situation with the clarity of an outsider. She could see nothing was going to change for her in this kingdom and she is taking care of herself, because no one else will. She knows Harry too is limited in what he can do, because the royal brand will come before everything else and she knows where she stands in that pecking order.

“I’m not going to the ball,” Cindy shouts,

“I’m off to Canada, where I’ll have some clout.”

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