April 2, 2020
Author: Ralph Berry
There is little news these days, beyond symphonic variations on a theme of Covid-19. So it is a relief to turn to a melody in a lighter key. The world has thrilled at the news that Harry and Meghan have made their escape from Vancouver Island, which in their imagination they saw as the island fortress Chateau d’If imprisoning the Count of Monte Cristo. Threatened by the imminent closure of the border by President Trump, the resourceful couple took the desperate expedient of hiring a private plane which flew them out of Canada and into Los Angeles. They are now in Bel Air, that ‘Avilion,/Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,/Nor any wind blows loudly’. In La La Land they are safe from the importunate demands of Revenue Canada, though not of the IRS. They can manage those demands through the celebrity income they expect to enjoy. This will come via their famous friends who acknowledge payback time for the princely favour that Meghan bestowed on them: an invitation to the royal wedding in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. They will need all the income they can acquire. It will be expended partly on a crack team of the ex-SAS security they are hiring, said to cost £4 million a year. The SAS are genuinely tough hombres, who are thought to practise caber-tossing as a training exercise for throwing people around. The couple will be safe in their hands.
However, their prospects are less luminous than was lately thought. The security costs will not be born by the US. Trump has said: ‘The US will not pay for Harry and Meghan’s security protection—they must pay.’ Harry may get some help from his father, the Prince of Wales, who has income from the Duchy of Cornwall but whose wealth is not on a par with the oligarchs’. All we know is that the couple have made ‘private security arrangements.’ And the media in the United Kingdom have largely turned against them. As from March 31, they ceased to be working royals, while their plan to set up a breakaway royal faction has failed. Also their announced intention ‘to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America’ is vapourized, since there is no likelihood of their ever returning to the UK, where they are rapidly becoming distant memories.
In short, Harry and Meghan have made their departure from the UK with exquisitely bad timing. Harry would have been a national hero in Britain, rallying the spirits of the people. Now he is merely a tax exile, living abroad, like the Duke of Windsor, through the nation’s travails. Covid-19 is no refuge for celebrities, who thrive in the good times. So the couple have announced their new plans:
‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will spend the next few months focusing on their family and continuing to do what they can, safely and privately, to support and work with their pre-existing charitable commitments while developing their future non-profit organization.’ A quiet domestic life, then, a far cry from the gilded celebrity life they envisioned. ‘Their family’ in Bel Air consists of an eight-month old son, his grandmother, and themselves. I do hope they get on together. The Great Escape turns out to exchange one form of house imprisonment for another.