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UK looks forward to the Harry & Meghan Show
IT has been a bleak few days in the UK, with the "Beast From The East" - a period of very cold weather blowing in from Siberia - followed by a major snowstorm and severe flooding. As people dig themselves out, thoughts are turning to the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.
Prince Harry, and his brother Prince William, have been hounded by the press since birth because of their parents. Their father, Prince Charles, is the heir to the British throne and - more importantly - their mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
Princess Diana, "Princess of Hearts", engaged the British public in a way never seen before. She was the person who opened up the British monarchy to public sympathy for two reasons. She married the heir to the throne as a naive young woman from a common, though privileged, background and was seen as being thrust into something that she was not prepared for. And her actions as the potential queen-in-waiting endeared her to the public when she embraced sensitive themes - such as HIV/Aids and those maimed by war, particularly landmines. Her marriage fell apart, and the reasons were played out on public media - for the first time in history. Her husband was portrayed as unloving and wishing to be with another woman. Public sympathy lay with her, and when she died, there was an outpouring of public grief that was shocking in its intensity. Her funeral was notable for her young sons being required to walk behind her coffin in full view of the media - in fact, the world - and this sparked anger at the apparent callousness of the Royal Family.
Princes William and Harry have had to live with this ever since, their every move judged against the public opinion of their mother.
BACK IN PUBLIC FAVOUR
Since then, the Royal Family has been able to re-establish itself in public favour. Prince Charles has had to bear the biggest burden, being seen as the ogre who forced Diana out of their marriage, no matter what her transgressions may have been. His absolute commitment to good deeds - environment, animal welfare, societal differences etc - has brought him back into favour. His burden has been enormous, but his family have endeared themselves to the nation for their empathy.
Princes William and Harry had it much harder. Both made themselves popular by joining the military and seeing action in dangerous circumstances.
Prince William, as heir apparent, stayed clear of gossip. Prince Harry did not - he was seen as the tearaway of the family, with lewd gossip about Nazi tendencies, public nudity etc. His service in Afghanistan turned this around, and his embracing of injured servicemen and actually doing something very meaningful for them - via the Invictus Games - has made him a national hero.
Recently, Prince Harry talked publicly of his mental anguish after the death of his mother and has made mental illness a national issue. He is now revered as a spokesman on issues that were previously swept under the carpet.
Enter Meghan Markle - a well-known US actress from the series Suits. She and Prince Harry hit it off very quickly and very publicly. Engaged in November last year, they are due to marry on May 19 at St George's Chapel in Windsor. This has shaken up a lot of things - all for the better because it has put quite a lot of noses out of joint.
The "public" are joyous, because they see Ms Markle as a latter-day Princess Di - shaking up the Royal Family and embracing the less well-off. Ms Markle has already been lauded for making secret visits to the survivors of the devastating fire at Grenfell Towers, and been compared to Princess Diana for her visits to Aids victims. She is a well-known advocate of women's rights even before she met Prince Harry.
The wedding is creating all sorts of waves. She is a divorcee of mixed race and subject to abuse from several sectors. Her father is an "original" character, but probably no more than Prince Harry's grandfather - the date of the wedding is rumoured to be set for a day that Prince Philip can attend as he and Prince Harry are close.
The wedding day is also the day of the FA Cup final, which gives big brother a problem as president of the Football Association. But the public are onside. The pair have made sure that as many ordinary folk as possible will be there, Stormzy is playing and the Spice Girls are due to reunite on the day. US President Donald Trump is excluded, but former president Barack Obama is invited. And the pubs are open for an extra two hours. What's not to like? Royal Family - yeah!
- The writer is a business communications consultant in the UK