SARAH VINE: How laughable for them to lecture the Queen on duty

SARAH VINE: How laughable for Harry and Meghan to lecture the Queen on duty. She wrote the book

Around this time last year, as the pandemic was tightening its grip on humanity, Harry and Meghan took to Instagram, as is their wont, to bestow their wisdom upon the world.

‘How we approach each other and our communities with empathy and kindness is indisputably important right now,’ they wrote. ‘Over the coming weeks, this will be our guiding principle.’

Noble sentiments indeed. Except, as the actions of these two have demonstrated over the course of the past year and, in particular, the last few days, it’s one thing to preach, quite another to practice. 

These are two people who never seem to tire of reminding us how warm and caring they are – but whose actions sadly tell a very different story.

Their response last week to the Queen’s statement about their future as members of the Royal Family is a classic example. Empathy and kindness? Not exactly.

These are two people who never seem to tire of reminding us how warm and caring they are – but whose actions sadly tell a very different story

The message from Buckingham Palace was, insofar as these things ever can be, heartfelt, expressing deep affection for the couple, as well as regret at their decision to walk away. ‘The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the Royal Family,’ it concluded rather forlornly.

One imagines that the importance of family and loved ones is at the forefront of the Queen’s mind at the moment, what with Prince Philip being in hospital.

And anyone reading that statement could not fail to sense the emotion between the lines. Anyone, it seems, except for the famously compassionate and empathetic Harry and Meghan.

Issuing their riposte – at 4.30am Los Angeles time – it didn’t even occur to them to express any empathy whatsoever for the Monarch’s situation. Wish her and the Duke of Edinburgh well? Thank her for her patience and understanding? Apologise, maybe, for causing such upheaval and heartache?

Don’t be absurd. Instead, we got the usual teenage pout, hair-flick, slammed bedroom door. ‘As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the UK and around the world,’ they said, adding – with a petulant flourish – ‘We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.’

In other words, talk to the hand, old lady, because the face ain’t listening. Such insensitivity and rudeness is astonishing enough on its own. But what really beggars belief is the level of their own delusion.

Their response last week to the Queen’s statement about their future as members of the Royal Family is a classic example. Empathy and kindness? Not exactly

‘Duty and service to the UK.’ Their words, not mine. And yet last time I looked, Harry and Meghan were living in a 16-bathroom mansion in sun-drenched California, about as far away as possible from freezing cold, Covid-riven Blighty. The only service that matters there is whether the pool guy turns up on time.

Most people in their situation might be just a tiny bit bashful about this. But, in common with other self-obsessed celebrities, the stark contrast of their lavish lifestyle with the grim fortunes of the average peasant back home doesn’t seem to trouble them in the slightest. 

Indeed, if anything, we’re supposed to be grateful to them for ‘sharing’, for allowing us to stain their window pane with our greasy proletariat noses.

Hence, presumably, their decision to announce Meghan’s pregnancy via a vanity photoshoot in the garden of said mansion.

As let-them-eat-cake moments go, it makes Marie Antoinette look like a rank amateur. The arrival of baby No 2 is, of course, extremely happy news. It will be lovely for Archie to have a sibling, and after Meghan’s miscarriage last year, it must be a great relief for both of them. But a simply worded statement would have sufficed.

Except it wouldn’t have, because nothing is ever enough for Harry and Meghan. Not the adoration of the British public, who delighted in Harry’s happiness and welcomed Meghan as a breath of fresh air. 

One imagines that the importance of family and loved ones is at the forefront of the Queen’s mind at the moment, what with Prince Philip being in hospital

Not the help and advice of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or the wise counsel of Prince Charles and the Queen herself. Not the lavish, no-expense-spared wedding, or cosy Frogmore Cottage, or the choice of jewels and tiaras or the hoops we all jumped through in an attempt to avoid incurring their displeasure.

Few newlyweds starting out in life enjoy even a fraction of the privilege afforded to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And yet, for whatever reason, none of it was ever good enough.

As to duty, some of what little was expected of them – for example introducing baby Archie to the world – appeared to be conducted with such churlish disgruntlement that it hardly seemed worth it.

Day my dog savaged Gordon Brown 

 Dilyn the No 10 dog has not had a good week. First there was that story about him relieving himself in a senior aide’s handbag, then it emerged that he’s been laying waste to the PM’s official country residence, Chequers.

I’m afraid when it comes to Jack Russells, that is just the nature of the beast. Years ago we were invited to lunch at Dorneywood, the Chancellor’s equivalent of Chequers. We took our own Jack Russell, Mars (now sadly deceased).

We were just sipping our pre-lunch drinks when there was a blood-curdling scream from the garden. Somehow Mars had found his way to the chicken coop, where several rare breed hens, each one named after a former chancellor, resided.

I had no idea they kept chickens at Dorneywood, otherwise I would have left him in the car. Suffice to say it was not a happy sight.

The bloody remains of one were scattered all over the croquet lawn, and another was so traumatised the cook had to wring its neck. It was utterly mortifying. Our only saving grace was Mars’s choice of victim: the fowl formerly known as Gordon Brown.


The idea that they should preach to the Queen – the Queen, of all people, a woman who has dedicated her entire life to duty and service, often to the detriment of her own personal happiness, a woman who has seen off 14 Prime Ministers – is, when you stop to think about it, extraordinary.

When it comes to duty to one’s country, Elizabeth II wrote the book. Duty is being there when times are bad. It’s making tough decisions that no one thanks you for. It’s biting your tongue when you want to scream. It’s being charming to people you can’t stand.

But perhaps more than anything else it’s putting all personal ambition to one side in favour of doing what’s required, for the greater good.

In other words, the exact opposite of what Harry and Meghan have done.

The idea that jumping on the occasional Zoom call, spouting empty platitudes to galleries of carefully vetted star-struck onlookers or issuing lofty statements to social media constitutes ‘duty and service’ is, quite honestly, laughable.

Eighteen months, they lasted. The Queen has been at it for 68 years. How dare they lecture her about duty.

But what makes the whole thing even more galling is that the very institution Harry and Meghan so clearly despise, the very principles that they have so summarily rejected, is the only reason anyone gives two hoots about them in the first place. Were it not for his Royal birthright, Harry would be lucky to hold down a job as a second-rate estate agent in Fulham. In those circumstances, would Meghan have even taken a second look at him?

Everything they have – from the fawning acolytes to the lucrative contracts with Netflix and Spotify – they owe to their association with the Royal Family and the Queen.

Would they be sitting in Celebrity Valley in California, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Beyoncé and Oprah, people who have got to the top on the back of sheer hard work and dedication, if they hadn’t piggy-backed on generations of privilege? No. Harry would just be another balding ex-Serviceman and Meghan an actress in a little-known legal drama.

‘We can all live a life of service.’ We certainly can. And many do.

No one in this country has the slightest scintilla of doubt in whose service the Queen and Prince Philip have given their lives: the British people. When they go, it will feel as if the Earth has tilted off its axis.

But Harry and Meghan? Once the glamour of royalty fades, once they’ve sold all their secrets to the highest bidder, they’ll just be another pair of celebrities desperate for attention, just two more bugs on the windscreen of history. And I, for one, really won’t miss them.

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