The US may have fought the Revolutionary War (the one we call the American War of Independence) to rid themselves of British royal rule but they have never shed their enduring fascination with the British royal family. And many are now captivated by the Sussex drama that is being played out on their own shores
Harry and Megan have their detractors in America – but they are far fewer in number and far less vitriolic in than in the UK. In the US, their story of how they were mistreated by the British press and by Harry’s closest relatives is received with much greater sympathy.
One of the couple’s central complaints about their time in Britain is that they were constrained by the strict pecking order within “the firm”.
This makes no sense to Americans for whom the value of meritocracy is deeply ingrained. And who were beguiled by the star power the couple exuded in the first few months after their fairy-tale wedding.
In a magazine interview with The Cut, Meghan said that “just by existing” she and Harry were “upsetting the dynamic of the hierarchy”.
Harry has complained that he and Meghan were sacrificed to the press as the palace worked to protect more senior members of the family at their expense.
The strict hierarchy within the royal family, based purely on the order in which children were born, has been clearly understood by Brits for centuries.
In America, it seems not only bizarre but verging on callous. As well as self-defeating. Why would any institution try to downplay a couple of its brightest stars?
US reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth II showed that there is affection and respect for the monarchy. But that is not the same as wholehearted acceptance of all its origins, traditions and behaviour.
It is more obvious to Americans that the British royal family are beneficiaries of wealth and privilege gained during an era of colonial domination. At a time when the US is grappling with how to teach and understand the darker episodes in its own past, the Sussex saga looks as though it might provoke the same kind of reckoning in the UK.
In a country so riven with racial strife there is certain schadenfreude involved in watching the UK having to question whether racist attitudes and assumptions, in the press as well as within the royal institution itself, contributed to the departure of the Duke and Duchess.
Pamela Paul summed it up in an op-ed piece for The New York Times: “The fact that the Sussexes ditched a country they characterise as anti-immigrant, overrun with racists and burdened by the legacy of colonialism makes Americans feel better about their own country.”
Ultimately, Americans are flattered that when seeking freedom the Sussexes chose to make their new home in America. The land of the free. A place, Americans like to believe, where everyone can create their own opportunities in a society free of the class structures that still exist in Britain.
There may be more compassion for Harry and Meghan in America. But even here some publications – from the Wall Street Journal to Politico – have started to comment that the couple complain too much.
Even the Hollywood bible Vanity Fair has commented: “At some point soon, Harry and Meghan need to pivot to something beyond retelling their old plight over and over.”
For the couple to maintain the affection of Americans they will need to move on from their stories about how they were mistreated in Britain and come up with a second act. They’ll have to demonstrate what it is they believe they can contribute but were prevented from doing when working members of the royal family.