Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Lionesses, and Tabloids, and Heirs (Oh My)

I know this is two weeks after the fact, but I could not resist jumping into the fray...because for this most recent installment of #RoyalNewsYouCantUse, the refrain shall be: You had ONE job!

I am referring to the PR debacle that is the British Royal Family under the almost year-long reign of King Charles III. Maybe it's me, but for someone who waited 70 years for this particular opening, he shouldn't keep having these kinds of amateur hiccups. I know he isn't the one mucking things up, but his royal handlers should be better at doing their jobs...unless they want us to think of King Midas with donkey ears whenever we hear God Save the King. As for Prince William the Favorite, he sure seems to be stumbling through this on-the-job apprenticeship, so things don't look that promising for his eventual ascension to the throne.

And you can't even blame this one on Harry and Meghan, although I'm sure someone will try.

Before we entertain those potential headlines, allow me to set the stage for what took place in the real world. The Women's World Cup Games were played in Australia on August 20, with the final match between England and Spain (definitely an ancient rivalry). Since soccer is a big deal everywhere else in the world except America, and our team had been eliminated several rounds ago, all eyes were on them. I had stopped paying attention, and don't know much about the history of either team, but I did notice an uptick in chatter on the social media app formerly known as Twitter. Prior to the game, some people were expressing concern that there would be no high-profile cheering section of spectators for the English Lady Lionesses, namely no one from Downing Street and no one representing the newly coronated King. However, to demonstrate their support of the team, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted several messages including a picture of himself at a pub; King Charles dictated a few words of well wishes; and Prince William took 15 seconds to post this video with his daughter, Princess Charlotte. Problem solved, right?

No. Because we keep forgetting that there are other royal families in the world, the Spanish Queen Letizia attended the game in person with her daughter, Infanta (Princess) Sofia. Her presence caused quite a bit of excitement, especially since she got to celebrate her team's win after she had been photographed congratulating the English team. Meanwhile King Charles commissioned someone to scribble his congratulations on an official notecard, and Prince William posted this tweet

As an American, the optics of this ain't none of my business, but I'm going to talk about it anyway! There isn't much happening on this side of the pond these days (unless you think the fourth round of indictments for our former game show host con man wannabe DESPOTUS is news you can use.)

Therefore, yes, I'm picking on the Prince of Woes because among his various assorted titles and honors, he is the President of the English Football Association (FA). And as we have already established, football (called soccer only here in the US), is a very big global deal. Even if his leadership of that organization has been a ceremonial formality since 2006, it would seem to me that once the British team advanced to the final rounds, someone should have made travel plans. Even the President of the Spanish Football Federation was there, kicking up his own PR disaster in Australia. I've seen the various explanations excuses for Prince William's absence, and each one is a gem. He was on holiday (vacation) with his family. It is asking much of him to jump on a plane to fly 20 hours for a game. It would have been a breach of royal protocol to visit Australia before the King. It isn't like anyone else was paying that much attention once the Americans got eliminated. It is the women's game and nobody cares...wait, isn't there some nonsense we can make up about Harry and Meghan to keep you all distracted?

Well, let's go through these one-by-one. It was August and summer is almost over, so the Prince and his family are entitled to spend time away before their kids go back to school. I'm sure that they deserve a break from all of their duties: garden parties, charity dinners, handing out medals at military parades, and gosh, what else do they do on a daily basis??? Not that I don't understand how it would have been a logistical nightmare to pack up the Princess, three children, nannies and attendants, and security for a plane ride to the other side of the world, especially on a mere three days advance notice. It takes at least that long to get just the right tone on a message from King Charles. Perhaps after His Junior Majesty compared fares and found that he would have to pay extra for everyone to be seated together, it wouldn't look right to fly solo. And though he might have been able to catch a ride with Queen Letizia and her daughter to share that carbon footprint, there is that pesky matter of British Royal Protocol.

Which means the future King of England couldn't so much as share a carriage ride through the streets of London in a gilded pumpkin carcass with his father, let alone share an airplane with a rival royal family. It would be against protocol, or am I conflating that with the edict that he can't visit any of their realms before an official visit from the reigning monarch? Is that why the Prince can come to America later this month, because we're no longer part of the British empire? He's coming to New York for a two-day trip to attend an environmental summit...

Before I get stuck in a room full of Prunellas reciting rules and arcane rituals associated with the Crown, I noted that their foreign trips are formally announced at least a month in advance. So perhaps the future King, ceremonial President of the FA, had reason to believe back in July that the Lady Lionesses (still ranked 4th by FIFA since 2019) would not have finished high enough to warrant any effort. Even though this had been dubbed the most successful women's sporting event in history, his women's national team made the finals for the first time, so everybody was anticipating the final match, it wasn't like protocol dictated the presence of royal family members at these kinds of event. Merely a coincidence that his late grandparents (at the 2:50 mark) were in attendance at England's last World Cup appearance at the finals in 1966.

If the U.S. had stayed in the tournament, we wouldn't have expected President Biden to have flown halfway around the world; instead, we might have dispatched the First Lady, who seems perfectly willing to fly off to spread goodwill anywhere they tell her it is needed. However, around that same time, we were dealing with wildfires in Hawaii and a hurriquake in California. Therefore, the next person in our delegation of official goodwill ambassadors would have been Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, whom I bet would have gleefully turned the plane around to be that Dad on the sidelines. You know, the one who does the absolute most for his girls? Like that time he didn't wait on the Secret Service to jump in to protect his wife from a heckler...

Before anyone derides women's sports as unimportant or insignificant enough to plan a state visit, feel free to continue to argue amongst yourselves why women's sports have become ground zero in our culture wars over identity and patriotism. But I digress. 

Prince William has ONE job. 

The job of the Prince of Wales is to ensure the continuity of the Crown that he hopes to inherit. Part of that is to stay alive along enough to get married and have children, which he has done. Another aspect of his job is to show up at all of those fancy garden parties, ribbon cuttings, charity dinners, military ceremonies, etc., but also to comfort and console the nation in times of grief and tragedy. Attending a soccer game doesn't fit into either of those columns, but neither did having tea with Paddington Bear or jumping out of a plane with James Bond. Nobody expected him to have his face painted with the Union Jack, but cheering for your home team ought to feign more enthusiasm.

That this generation of British Royals keeps getting tripped up over protocol, all of these years after the tragic death of Princess Diana exposed most of those rules as arbitrary and superfluous, just fuels the anti-monarchist point. It is an archaic and excessive institution that serves no real purpose other than to perpetuate itself. These rules about flags and travel protocols aren't chiseled in stone, yet they have become part of a number of convenient excuses whenever someone is called out for hypocrisy. Is it "royal protocol" that keeps Prince Andrew from facing trial or any culpability for his inappropriate sexual fetish for young girls? I have to know, what tightly coiled chignon-wearing society matron from the Australian outback would have had her girdle twisted that she had to settle for tea with the future Queen instead of the current Queen consort? 

All of this brings us to the matter of Harry and Meghan, who have been quietly living their best lives in sunny California doing yoga, meditating, and staying hydrated. My search algorithms tend to reflect whatever I have been researching, so guess what has been trending in my feed since I clicked on a few articles about the World Cup and the Lady Lionesses? Would you believe just as many articles about the Sussexes as esc├índalo engulfing the Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales accused of inappropriately kissing a player? Call it a coincidence or confirmation bias that there are always more negative headlines about Harry and Meghan whenever the working British Royals get into some kind of PR mess.

Imagine how relentless the British tabloids would have been if this had been a faux pas committed by the Spare instead of the Heir. There would have been news panels of Royal experts assembled to dissect every misstep by the spoiled Duke and the entitled American commoner he married if they had allowed themselves to be upstaged by a royal from another country who visited one of their realms and got feted like she was the Queen. Oh wait, that actually happened back when the Sussexes visited Australia when they were still working royals...

This is where my petty impulses kick into a higher gear. It sure does look like the peak of ironic hypocrisy to invoke protocol as an excuse for someone not doing their job when that same excuse became a reason to criticize someone else for doing their job too well. You might recall that in 2018, the late Queen Elizabeth sent Meghan and Harry to Australia on an official visit. After it was deemed a success, they returned home to some resentment from the rest of the Royal family. Then the tabloids began ripping the Duchess over everything from her attire and nail polish, to her collaboration with British VOGUE, and eventually her love of avocado toast.

It must suck to be Prince William, caught in that eternal damned if he does or doesn't place between a rock and a hard place. Heavy is the head that awaits the crown, especially when the one person who could have shut down all of this criticism has remained conspicuously silent. King Charles put more effort into the announcement of his forthcoming state visit with his frenemies in France, thus signaling to the press that it was fine to accuse William of shirking his royal duties. Notice how everything for the Prince changed the moment he donned that ridiculous costume, bowed, and pledged his everlasting loyalty in front of the entire world?

As the British are about to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we can all imagine that Prince William is feeling it because what a difference this year without his grandmother has been! She was beloved and as long as she was alive, so was he. However, since her death he has received more scrutiny and bad press over just about everything. Remember when he was the favorite? How quickly the tides have turned...

So I just have one more observation to make, since it is clear after all of these years that Prince William hadn't been made aware of this most important aspect of his job: do NOT upstage the King! Neither with too much gushing positive press, and certainly not with this kind of embarrassing negative press. As far as KC3 is concerned, he fulfilled his royal duty in siring an heir; raising, loving, and protecting his son was someone else's job. That man waited all of his life for that Crown, so if need be, there will be blood. 

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