Some years ago, I met a talented young writer who said that she aspired to be a journalist – but she only wanted to be “halfway into journalism”. She’d like to keep the other half of her life for a different career.
A veteran Fleet Street fashion editor overheard this and shook her head sagely: “My dear, you can’t be half in and half out. If you’re going to follow a career path, you have to pursue it with single-minded commitment.”
That advice came to mind in relation to the pathways taken by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. When they first recused themselves from the full rigours of royal duty, they suggested they could divide their energies half-and-half. Perhaps half of the time they would choose to live in North America. And for the other half, they might fulfil whatever obligations might arise on this side of the Atlantic.
But then it was made clear that they couldn’t really be half in and half out. They had to do one thing or the other. So they chose the other – to live their own, non-royal lives in Canada and California. Nevertheless Harry, especially, might return to Britain for particular events, notably those associated with the excellent multi-sport event for disabled servicemen that he had launched, the Invictus Games. Even the Games, however, could be affected in some way: unnamed volunteers have complained to the press that the event has been left in a state of uncertainty.
Now the Sussexes have been told they cannot use the word “royal” as part of their “brand”. (Everyone has a “brand” these days.) It’s reported that Meghan doesn’t see it that way – all sorts of things are called “royal” without necessarily being part of the monarchy. Problem!
Wouldn’t it have been better if the couple had made a clean break, and retired to private life, as Prince Bertil of Sweden did? He was the third son of the previous Swedish king, Gustavus (VI) Adolf, but for reasons of marriage choice as well as personal preference, he became a private citizen.
Half in and half out? St Matthew’s Gospel puts it another way: “No one can serve two masters.” I wish the Sussexes well, but there are inherent strains in the situation they have placed themselves in.
Anyone interested in social attitudes to divorce might be engaged by The Split, the legal drama currently screening on BBC One on Tuesday nights. It’s intriguing. It concerns a family of female lawyers who negotiate divorce cases – the bigger and richer the “splitters”, the better. Evidently influenced by American legal practice – the firm has US associates – these divorce lawyers are mainly interested in one thing: billing the client for the maximum.
At one level it treats marriage breakdown cynically and casually: at another, it shows how much a divorce can cost, in monetary and emotional terms. And it has to be admitted that the drama, starring Nicola Walker, she of the electric-blue eyes, and Stephen Mangan, a dark-headed Adonis, is brilliantly written and acted. (It is halfway through the present series, but it can be seen from the beginning on the BBC’s catch-up website.)
On a “physician, heal thyself ” note, the marital states of the divorce lawyers themselves can be pretty dodgy. And at least one family member is distinctly flakey, verging on disturbed.
Yet there is a genuine family feeling about the storyline, and when a pregnancy is announced, these female lawyers whoop and sing out with joy. The Split is such an interesting mix of the modern, the amoral, and the slyly conservative.
I see ever more people in the London area wearing nose and mouth masks in crowds as a protection against the corona-virus known as COVID-19, which threatens to become a pandemic. I always wear such a mask when flying – ever since a doctor informed me that aircraft are full of germs and passengers are breathing in recycled air.
A Canadian viral specialist, Dr Peter Lin, says the main benefit of a surgical mask is that it stops us touching our face. Hands are the main transmitters of the virus, and they should be kept well away from the face. The mask deters.
Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4
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