Meghan and Harry would be prototypical millennials, if millennials had millions of dollars, unlimited connections and unprecedented global fame and notoriety.
Like so many of us who have crossed the age of 30 threshold, they have decided that now is the time to “work to become financially independent.” They’re ready to move out of grandma’s house. Leave the family business. Hopefully, they can stay on the family cellphone plan until they figure out their next career moves.
To them, independence means geographical distance. Commoners achieve this with a semester abroad or a stint teaching English to children in Vietnam. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will opt instead for extended stays in Canada, where they might be the only thirtysomethings in the country capable of affording real estate in Vancouver (according to some estimates, their worth is somewhere in the US$30-million range). But to be fair, like the rest of us, they won’t have the means for a home comparable with those of their father or grandmother. That shouldn’t be a point of shame, though: Many millennials can’t afford to live in the neighbourhoods in which they grew up.
Through their desire for distance, Meghan and Harry have evidently become the black sheep of the Royal Family. That much was evident when the Queen, in response to the couple’s announcement, released a chilly public statement where she said that “these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
The Sussexes may be comforted, however, by the fact that every family has what it considers to be its hereditary delinquent; that one cousin who drops out of business school to make wood carvings and sell healing crystals with his girlfriend on Etsy. The family’s scorn is often rooted in a deep hurt over the rejection of family traditions, which is why that one cousin is considered the black sheep, even when creepy Uncle Andrew, who is said to have a thing for teen girls, shows up to Thanksgiving dinner with a smudged stamp from an all-ages club on his hand.
On the topic of double standards: It is a given that in every society, and every family, members of one generation will inevitably come to view members of the next as rogue and petulant. To the Greatest Generation, who grew up during the Great Depression, kids didn’t know what it meant to truly suffer. They also played bad music. To those kids, the Silent Generation, their kids were rebellious hippies who played bad music. To Boomers, kids today are lazy and entitled, and they play bad music.
Similarly, to 20th-century monarchists, the good name of the Royal Family was debased by an entitled monarch who married an American socialite divorcée. To 21st-century monarchists, the good name of the Royal Family is being debased by an entitled royal who married an American actor divorcée. In a few years, a whole new generation can be scandalized when Prince Louis falls in love with an American artist divorcée. Indeed, it will be the most unprecedented rejection of royal traditions since the last unprecedented rejection of royal traditions.
But what makes this transition uniquely complicated is that Meghan and Harry do not want to leave the royal life entirely. Instead, they want to pivot from “full-time working members of the Royal Family” to part-time members, which suggests they view their roles as a sort of profession, rather than as a centuries-old destiny. In that sense, it is unclear what these part-time, conferred-by-blood jobs would look like, and if and how the public is to distinguish between Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Harry Wales, Vancouver dad.
Nevertheless, their ambition for more of a personal life surely resonates with countless young professionals who strive to achieve greater work/life balance. Ordinary thirtysomethings tend to be limited, however, by outstanding student loans and the lack of an eight-figure safety net, but ostensibly for Harry and Meghan, these are not material factors.
Most importantly to them, however, distance from the British press might offer the couple a reprieve from such hard-hitting reports of how Meghan holds her baby incorrectly, and how her affinity for avocados is ruining the planet and contributing to human-rights abuses. Most of us get to experience these same humiliations privately, at the hands of intrusive mothers-in-law or eco-obsessed friends, but Meghan and Harry must endure them in an arena that extends far beyond the in-laws’ kitchen.
And so, in a very remote, very removed way, contemporaries of the Duke and Duchess may understand their angst. We, too, want to achieve financial independence, purchase a home, leave behind family drama and better balance home life and work. We also don’t understand why creepy Uncle Andrew isn’t the most loathed member of the family, and we’re sorry for not following the preordained path. And eventually, we will all be shamed out of ordering avocado toast for brunch.
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