Prince Harry doesn’t want the crown, but that doesn’t mean that he’s unwilling to define his place within the British royal family in the buildup to his marriage.
And no, we don’t just mean that he’s the dreamiest of the royals. Though … also that.
His actual role at the moment is a bit more serious than that.
“We’re involved in modernizing the British monarchy.”
The British monarchy is so complex, because the monarchs have no real political power anymore.
But you can’t call them a joke, either, because a joke that costs British taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year … isn’t funny.
Last year alone, the British Royal family was sustained by $48 million from the British government, while the rest of the royal budget was made up of by revenues based upon the family’s vast wealth.
That historical wealth might be old, but it came from the same things that built every ancient royal fortune: taxation and the spoils of war.
Understandably, people are resentful, and it’s just one of the many reasons for which many British citizens want the monarchy abolished altogether.
In the US, where one of the founding principles was not having a monarchy, we tend to understand.
And while Harry isn’t exactly advocating for abolishing the monarchy, but he’s at least acknowledging some of its faults.
It’s when talking about modernizing the monarchy that Harry said his famous (or infamous) line about no one wanting to be royal.
“We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people. Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”
The fact that he said that aloud was considered scandalous.
And, let’s be clear: “a prince said something straightforward” being scandalous is so quintessentially British.
The reason that people found it objectionable comes from a variety of reasons, and none of them were surprise.
Everybody knows that being born into the British royal family means being born into a world where you do not and will never have real choices.
You have a lot of responsibility, no actual authority, and your life is scrutinized almost beyond belief, starting at a very young age and through no fault of your own.
It’s trite to call it this, but it’s a gilded cage.
But to someone living below the poverty line, complaints about wealth and privilege aren’t what you’d call endearing.
Especially when those folks consider how many millions of British taxes go to help a family that needs no help and that arguably contributes nothing substantial in return.
They’re sort of … cultural symbols, right?
Imagine if the Statue of Liberty cost US taxpayers $48 million per year (it costs, like, $13 million per year, paid for by New York state last we checked, and generates hundreds of millions in local revenue).
We think that Harry is thinking of children he might have and also thinking of his niece and nephew, Charlotte and George, and the sort of monarchy that he’d like for this next generation of royals to inherit.
Princess Diana made certain that both William and Harry were exposed to, you know, regular people enough that they wouldn’t be completely out-of-touch.
And so that they’d understand how much privilege they experienced.
Harry’s done work from military service to piloting an air ambulance helicopter, but he’s going to have to give up his more heroic public service in favor of more standard royal activities.
Charity and public appearances, basically.
And even though he’s looking forward to (probably) spending his life with Meghan Markle, that’s more or less going to define the rest of his life.
He’s kind of vague about what it means to modernize the monarchy, he has to want a better and more choice-filled life for his descendants.
And also, you know, a modernized monarchy could mean a better arrangement for the British people.
Some have suggested that the situation that Harry complains about has no American celebrity parallels.
But it’s worth pointing out that, say, Paris Jackson certainly never chose to be Michael Jackson’s daughter.
Blue Ivy and North West didn’t choose their massively famous respective parents, either.
So being born into that kind of lineage isn’t unique.
But royal responsibilities are, even if they’re only ceremonial.
That Harry’s defining his role as leading the charge for shaking things up could be a very good thing.
Though it might rub some traditionalists the wrong way, but that’s sort of how you know that you’re doing the right thing.
He really is the better prince, right?