On their minimalist and dual toned website http://www.sussexroyal.com, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have, via a Q&A, provided clarity on how they plan to transition into becoming, well, regular folk. The first and most important question, why (would they quit as senior members of the royal household) is answered with: “They value the ability to earn a professional income which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing”. The whole world is second-guessing what could have prompted this extraordinary out. An existential crisis, that life is short and they don’t want to spend it cutting ribbons and waving at citizens from a carriage? Or maybe, they are so fed up with paparazzi that complete anonymity in a cavernous Canadian city sounds infinitely better.
In this interconnected world, we’re besieged with images of desperate inequality, whether its people fleeing war zones on rickety boats or the deep divides between race, castes and gender. Despite the raging about the unfairness of it all, there remain a few international families where we view the baton of entitlement being passed from one generation to the next, with generous indulgence.
What makes the young Windsors’ stunning retreat so newsworthy is, that giving up privilege, even a really small one is incredibly hard to do. Almost nobody does it. Take, for example, the LPG subsidy in India where survey after survey has shown that people from the lower and middle classes are more willing to give up it up than people with an income of more than Rs 10 lakh per annum. The metaphorical gift horse or a magical advantage, nobody wants it to disappear.
Unearned benefits bestowed upon one by the gift of fate is one thing, relentlessly pursuing advantages or refusing to give them up, entirely another. Contrast the young Windsors’ future plans for financial independence with an item that appeared in this newspaper about an erstwhile Indian royal who has been a Chief Minister. This ex-CM and ex-princess continues to retain her state alloted bungalow in an upscale neighbourhood of Jaipur. Though, the Rajasthan High Court has rejected the Rajasthan Ministers’ Salaries Act (brought about during the said CM’s tenure) that conveniently provided former CMs a residence, a car, a telephone and a staff of 10 — till their dying day. This blatant self-servedness provoked the High Court to diminish the state government’s move with a sarcastic George Orwell quote in the judgment: “all animals are born equal but some are more equal than others”.
For an ordinary, law abiding citizen (yes, there are still enough of them) this kind of greed is inexplicable from somebody born to wealth, and bred to power. So the Megzit flip from royalty to commoner, a choice to live on their own terms, is a move that resonates with this generation. Palace watchers predicting doom for the young couple may yet be surprised though history suggests aristocrats who couldn’t handle palace encumbrances and exited, lived to regret it. Not to try something new for that reason seems idiotic, since no matter what choice Harry were to make, or anyone else in their lives, regret is sure to be part of it. More pertinently, for the rest of the world watching the drama unfold, there is a pleasant reminder, that being born in the House of Windsor doesn’t make you immune to life’s frustrations.
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