Meghan’s lecture on ‘service’ is hard to take


Alexander Larman

Meghan accepts her award in New York (Credit: Getty Images)

Alexander Larman

17 May 2023

11:06 PM

Since the publication of Prince Harry’s memoir Spare in January, Meghan has kept an unusually low profile by her standards. Her non-appearance at the coronation earlier in the month was widely interpreted as a snub to the Royal Family, whom she has missed no opportunity to castigate.

Now the Duchess of Sussex is making a comeback – but her vapid speech at an awards ceremony in New York last night shows little has changed. Meghan was in town to accept a ‘Women of Vision’ award at the Ms. Foundation for Women’s 50th anniversary event. The Duchess declared that:

‘It’s just never too late to start. You can be the visionary of your own life. You can charter a path in which what you repeat in your daily acts of service, in kindness, in advocacy, in grace and in fairness, that those become the very things that are recognised by the next wave of women, both young and old, who will also choose this moment to join the movement and make our vision for an equitable world reality.’

If Meghan’s talk of service sounded oddly familiar, there’s a good reason. In April 1947, Princess Elizabeth made one of the most famous public statements of her life, half a decade before she became queen. In a speech that she made from South Africa on her 21st birthday, she said:

‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’

The speech is now regarded as the beginning of a pact the Queen made with her people, and which she assiduously followed until her death in September last year. Whatever you say about Elizabeth II, you cannot accuse her of not being dutiful. Meghan’s speech appears to be an attempt to emulate Elizabeth’s sentiments, albeit with a decidedly 21st-century spin.

If Meghan’s talk of service sounded oddly familiar, there’s a good reason

What Meghan appears to forget, however, is that Elizabeth is remembered for her words, not merely because she said them, but because she went on to dedicate her life to service in the way in which she promised. As Meghan says herself, ‘it’s never too late to start’ – but if Meghan really is hoping to follow in the Queen’s footsteps, she has a long way to go.

Meghan’s address sounded like more of the platitudinous sentiment that has gone down well in certain quarters of American opinion and on the Duchess’s ‘Archetypes’ podcast. But it will leave the average person shaking their head in disbelief. Her exhortation that ‘daily acts of service’ will be the means by which people will seize their emancipation is hard to swallow: among her own ‘acts of service’ have, so far, included making a fortune from Netflix and Spotify and railing against her husband’s family. Self-service would seem a more accurate description when it comes to Meghan.

The ongoing psychodrama (the unkind would call it a soap opera) of the Sussexes’s lives might seem to have been temporarily becalmed by Harry’s dignified and correct appearance at his father’s coronation; he did everything he needed to do, did it well and did not overshadow the day in any regard. Meghan might, of course, declare that her appearance at last night’s gala was nothing to do with the Royal Family. Instead, she may say, it represents another chapter in her being a self-described visionary of her own life. Yet in the appropriation of the Queen’s famous words in a tawdry fashion, it seems that, rather than being a true woman of vision, Meghan is stuck in a self-regarding spiral that she shows no desire to drag herself out of.

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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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