Opinion

Prince Harry and Meghan: Welcome to Canada, but pay your own bills

It's remarkable that news of Meghan, Harry and Archie's planned Brexit to Canada has really only led to a single central question about whether Canada will pay their security costs, writes Taylor Noakes.

Why are Canadians maintaining an antiquated, obsolete and fundamentally undemocratic institution?

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leave after their visit to Canada House in London on Jan. 7, after offering their thanks for the hospitality they received during their recent stay in Canada.

This column is an opinion by Taylor C. Noakes, an independent journalist and public historian from Montreal. For more information about CBC's Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

It's remarkably easy to become financially independent, as Prince Harry and Meghan say they want to do, when other people pay your bills.

Doubtless this will be a crucial lesson in Ontario's new high school financial literacy course; there's no better way to keep your money than by not having to spend it. Just ask any Canadian billionaire, whose tax rates have decreased over the past 20 years while their share of total income skyrocketed over the same time period.

It's remarkable, too, that news of Meghan, Harry and Archie's planned Brexit to Canada has really only led to a single central question: will Canada pay their security costs?

Not "why are we maintaining this antiquated, obsolete and fundamentally undemocratic institution," but rather how much more are we willing to fork over for Monarchy Lite?

If the Sussexes are coming to Canada at least in part because they're looking to be more financially independent, they should pay their own security costs.

Even without the estimated £82.4 million ($140 million Cdn) the royal family will receive this year from British taxpayers through the sovereign grant, the couple has an estimated net worth of £18 million and receives another £2.3 million annually from Prince Charles.

Guards are seen at Windsor Castle, near the Frogmore Cottage, home of Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex, on Jan. 9. The couple requires extensive security protection, according to a recent report in The Times. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

What's particularly curious here is that the Sussexes are in fact doubling down on the monarchy even though they appear to be moving away from it. They're quite literally in the process of attempting to trademark "Sussex Royal" in an application covering Canada and Australia, as well as noted bulwarks of British monarchism the European Union and United States.

So while they're ostensibly stepping away from their public functions as senior members of the royal family, there are no plans to move away from the fortune to be made from branding and marketing their royal likeness on everything from coffee cups to beach towels.

In other words, they're not taking a step back from the monarchy, they're bringing the monarchy to Canada on a semi-permanent basis, seemingly as part of a major product launch. (This ain't your grandma's royal family, it's new and improved!)

Souvenirs featuring Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on display in a shop near Windsor Castle. (Simon Dawson/Reuters)

As much as we might be tempted to feel bad for the embarrassing elements of Harry's family, or the nauseating racism of contemporary British society directed towards Meghan, we mustn't forget the Sussexes are fundamentally a business for whom the taxpaying public pays most if not all of the bills.

And though it may appear the couple are fleeing the salivating hounds of Fleet Street, they are in fact imposing themselves on a people they have little in common with.

According to some poll numbers, about half of Canadians think our relationship with the royal family should end once Queen Elizabeth dies, and more than 60 per cent believe the royals should have no role in Canadian society and culture.

The monarchy in Canada is a lot more than just the occasional visit and some ceremonial relationships between princes and military units.

Mille Fleurs, a mansion in North Saanich, B.C., is believed to be where Prince Harry and Meghan vacationed and where the duchess is currently staying 0:35

It's also the governor general, the lieutenant governors and several properties that serve as official royal residences, such as Quebec City's Citadel and Ottawa's Rideau Hall. The rough estimate is that maintaining the monarchy in Canada exceeds $50 million annually, a considerable sum to spend on ceremonial frivolities in a country that still has trouble providing safe drinking water to rural communities.

Complicated as disentangling Canada from the monarchy would be, that's also quite a lot of money to spend on unelected officials with the power to disrupt the normal functioning of Canadian democracy.

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie, on Sept. 25, 2019. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Cuddly newborns and photogenic princesses aside, the monarchy is a symbol of the genocidal imperialism that all but annihilated the rightful heirs and stewards of this land. Canadians pumping money into the monarchy in 2020 makes about as much sense as Americans who defend the Confederacy: just because it's historic doesn't mean it's worth celebrating or spending money on.

Moreover, far from encouraging a greater appreciation of our national history, our fascination with the celebrity circus that is the British monarchy occludes the reality that anti-monarchists, like William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau, were trying to sever our ties with the Crown a full 30 years before Confederation.

That an unfortunate number of Canadians can more easily identify latter-day, second-tier foreign royalty than explain what the Rebellions of 1837/1838 were about is demonstrative that the monarchy is a bit of a historical black hole.

It's time to move on and for precedents to be set.

Meghan, Harry and Archie are welcome to immigrate to Canada. They just have to get in line like everyone else, and prove they won't be a financial liability.


About the Author

Taylor C. Noakes is an independent journalist and public historian from Montreal.

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