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Most modern of Fairy Tales

The Magic Fairy heard her shout

Appearing in a blaze of light

She said, my dear are you alright?

“All right” cried Cindy can’t you see

I feel as rotten as can be 

                                         Roald Dahl,            Revolting Rhymes, Cinderella

Roald Dahl helped us all to see through the idyllic tales of family, romance and the prince and princess story. This week, a fairytale is being shattered for many of the people in Britain. I like all Irish people have a low interest in the monarchy but I find this powerful undoing of the royal fairy tale to be intensely interesting.

The Prince and his new wife, have left the kingdom to live in Canada. They are stepping back from the prescribed “publicity rota” and intend to work and build toward financial independence. 

There has been much talk in the media about the Sussex’s ungratefulness for their privileges and their snubbing of the Queen, by not informing her first.  

I hear a young couple deeply in love at the most tender and precious time of their lives with a new baby,stepping back out of the gaze of a press that they find toxic and harmful to them.

In many ways this is exactly the  kind of decisions that many ordinary couples make and yes of course they are not an ordinary couple. They have privilege and they live in grand homes, paid for by the taxpayer and it is entirely understandable that some people feel put out by this decision and by the lack of notice given.

In reality though, we may only get snippets of the truth and versions of the truth. Some reports this week indicated that in fact, there have been months of discussions on this subject between Prince Harry and his father Prince Charles and that there is no real surprise. Is it possible that Harry and Meghan simply wanted to control the timing and the content of what went to the media. Perhaps they could not trust that they would be treated fairly if they did not take control of it in this way.  

There’s normally a backlash when someone steps away from a family, even if you’re not royalty and the dynamics of this departure are somewhat predictable. There is always a need to blame someone and there tends to be free floating anger that gets attached to the person leaving.

 Just this week, I spoke to a lovely woman in therapy who has been shunned by her family for fifteen years since she told them of sexual abuse by her father. I wondered what story they tell their neighbours and friends about this absent daughter. Do they say she’s a bit strange, selfish or never gets in touch. 

We hear in various reports over the past few days how Meghan is “manipulating Harry”. Implied here of course is the suggestion that Harry is not mentally strong enough to make this decision himself and the blame for it can be laid elsewhere. It’s always easier to blame the outsider because then the problem is not in any way belonging to the family and cannot reflect on them. 

But if there is no outsider and the family member steps away alone then it is not in any way uncommon for their mental health to be attacked.

This all happens because of the resistance of the family to admit or to reflect upon the reasons why a person may need to be away from them.This week there was commentary about Meghan not being able to get on with her own family and equating this with some strangeness in her own psychological self. Her father’s drinking and pre-wedding behaviour have been revised in the press through the lens of Meghan’s “difficult persona”. 

In the dark years in our mental health system in Ireland, it was not not unusual for wayward daughters or sons or those who were difficult to control to be cast into a mental institution for the rest of their days. It’s wise to listen beyond the justifications and explanations and ask just why would a daughter or son want and need distance from a family. 

Before such a decision is made, there’s usually been many efforts to survive, heal and repair relationships. Usually there has been makeups and breakups, consuming energy and time before the decision is taken and it is never taken lightly. 

People leave so they can be themselves, often pursuing a path in life that parents condemn or actively oppose. It may be because relationships are more clearly toxic, where there is addiction or abuse. Sometimes estrangement and distance are necessary to protect sanity and to allow the person leaving to go forward in their own life, being themselves. Often the pulling away from toxic relationships must wait until the person is of independent age or has the means to survive alone financially or otherwise.

In the case of Meghan,it is clear that this modern woman is in a stronger position than many to make such a decision. She has financial security of her own and the capacity to earn for herself.  It must not be forgotten that she has already distanced herself from one toxic situation in her own family. This experience has surely informed her approach to the difficulties she and her husband have been experiencing in the royal family and with the press.

She has no reason to accept a life of criticism from the family or the press and she has  the means and the strength to step away now.

In this fairytale it’s not the prince who is making all the decisions, but his young strong independent,successful wife, mother of his child and partner in life. Together, they are choosing a path and a kingdom for their future and I for one love the modernness of this fairy tale. 

Of course it’s easier to find fault with the person who is leaving than to reflect on what is actually driving them away. As in many families much of what is wrong remains unsaid for many many years and in the case of the royals,it may be centuries.

I believe Meghan Markle saw the situation with the clarity of an outsider. She could see that nothing was going to change for her in this Kingdom and she is taking care of herself, because no one else will. She knows that Harry too is limited in what he can do, because the royal brand will come before everything else and she knows where she stands in that pecking order. 

I’m not going to the ball Cindy shouts

I’m off to Canada

Where I’ll have some clout