Thu, 25 May 2023 at 5:10 pm BST
I didn’t get married in a castle and we weren’t ferried past cheering Windsor crowds in a gleeming open-top carriage. To my knowledge, no one wants to bung us £18m for a husband-and-wife podcast. But boy, do I feel a newlywed solidarity with Harry and Meghan.
No one tells you to expect this when you get married. There isn’t a tap on the shoulder from inveterate have-tied-the-knots, no quiet word from my old man to say: “by the way son, they won’t tell you this, but as soon as you get hitched you’ll feel a powerful empathy for ludicrous celebrity couples.” To borrow a Meghan-ism, it’s very “draining”. But there it is. The more people line up against them – and the more US think tanks that roll on to their pristine California lawns to spout nonsense like, “We don’t like him being in America and we would love for him to come back to you or somewhere” – the more I root for tiny Team Sussex.
Here is everything we’re hearing about Harry and Meghan right at this minute: a month ago, we had a video of Meghan allegedly “swerving” to avoid her kiss from Harry on the NBA’s “kiss cam” while attending a basketball match. They “failed to even acknowledge their fifth wedding anniversary,” alleged GB News host Dan Wooton. “She is absolutely separating from him,” alleged the royal commentator Angela Levin on the same programme.
“Where is Meghan’s wedding ring?”, shrieked the Daily Mail last week, as the Sussexes made their ill-fated trip to the Foundation Women of Vision gala in New York (the one before that “near-catastrophic” car chase). Then there were the reports from The Sun that Prince Harry allegedly has a room at a glitzy and clandestine hotel hole for A-listers a stone’s throw from his Montecito mansion, “set aside” as an “escape place” for the 38-year-old prince to get away from his wife and kids. “This is not true”, said a rep. It hasn’t stopped the rumour mill sloshing.
Every nuance and every detail of this is being poked around in. What is the complete picture? Only those inside the Montecito mansion can tell us. But it must be a terrible pressure being under siege. Now we hear the Duchess of Sussex has missed another Los Angeles ceremony, at which she was set to pick up a gong for her podcast. So what? Maybe she had the flu.
What would happen if Harry and Meghan broke up and why would we give a hoot? Would it bring the runaway price of food down overnight? Would the planet’s fevered takes cool off to such a degree that global warming was solved at a stroke? Probably not. But the Sussexes are a public example, an on-the hoof reference point for other couples. And so I, for one, have a vested interest in rumours of their demise being greatly exaggerated.
Look, you’ll say. The Sussexes have literally turned their relationship into a brand. They are making mountains of dosh. They push podcasts on the pretext of their happily ever after like they’re going out of fashion. If they truly wanted their privacy they’d shut up and leave us alone.
Can you imagine if, barely weeks after agreeing to spend the rest of your life with someone, you couldn’t open a webpage without noticing some online wag wishing your nuptials would go down in flames? Everyone Googles themselves. It’s the internet age. I don’t think people of a certain age understand the way the manifest will of the extremely online bleeds into the life of the average millennial. This is a generation more likely to believe in astrology than self-determination. Even the stars see their fate as lying in the hands of others.
Yes, the Sussexes are annoying. They are. My brothers and I send each other snippets from Haz’s little-mentioned memoir Spare to remind me of what an unstoppable arse he is. They would not be at my fantasy dinner party.
But I can’t help but think of the incessant, intolerable weight on that little family, boring down into every teeny crack that appears in their foundations. All the money in the world and you can’t buy a moment’s peace.
Marriage is the happiest I have ever been, it is magic and mayhem, it is quiet and calm. But it requires discussion, openness, watching for and working on the messy bits, making running repairs. It’s DIY. But I imagine that a flood of noise and derision sure can rot the foundations. The mind boggles at the shame and insecurity that would claim you if the industrial thought complex reached out to dunk on your every marital misstep.
Look mate, you will reply. They don’t want to sh*g you. Give it a rest. But I think this isn’t about celebrity. It’s about family. And it is a demonstrably odd exercise in “I told you so” to wish for one to fall apart. Some people dream of marrying a prince. But I’m okay just getting behind a happy, loving marriage.