It's not hard to understand why Marie Antoinette annoyed people in poverty-riven Revolutionary France. Her head should have stayed firmly on – chopping it off was an act of savagery a sane person should never condone – but there is something uniquely irksome, even insulting, about Royals – people in the lap of luxury through no hard work of their own – pronouncing on what the plebs ought to do, either directly or by interfering in politics.
The main sin of the French Queen was flaunting her indolence. Her involvement in politics did become increasingly intense, and some say shrewd, towards the end, but this was an inevitable result of being a monarch in that time and place. Compared with the Duchess of Sussex, Marie Antoinette was positively sympathetic, for at least she never tried to pretend to be a commoner, or to understand and meddle in the plight of commoners. Politically, she kept things top-level; war campaigns, plots and escapes.
The Duchess, however, has become an insufferable meddler in politics – just without the amazing dresses and headpieces. For years the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have spoken passionately about climate change and the need for urgent action, while using private jets and apparently gas-guzzling SUVs, including one they were photographed in as they zoomed around New York last month while in town, entirely superfluously, for the UN General Assembly. The Royal couple topped their political play-acting off with cocktails at Bemelmans at the Carlyle, where rooms go for around $1000 (£726), and martinis for $30.
The Duchess seems particularly keen on forging a sort of First Lady role for herself – the problem being that she lacks the genuinely impressive, relevant background of, say Michelle Obama, who, born into a poor family in Chicago, worked her way up to being a top lawyer, has years of policy experience, and is generally far more self-aware and sensitive in how she presents her campaigns. All this is obviously news to Meghan, whose commitment to wholly unqualified meddling in policy reached a new peak last week with a letter to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senator Chuck Schumer, whom she is lobbying for "parental leave for all".
Paid parental leave for all is a humane and sensible idea, but is the Duchess the right person to be lobbying politicians on behalf of hard-scrabble working parents – or indeed anything else policy-related? I'd argue not. As she herself put it in the letter, "I'm not an elected official, and I'm not a politician". She is, however, "a mom". Yes, except the vast majority of mothers have about as much in common with Megs as they do with Marie Antoinette or a robot dog: nothing.
She writes: "Like fewer parents, we weren't confronted with the harsh reality of either spending those first few critical months with our baby or going back to work. We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, devote any and everything to our kids and to our family. We knew that by doing so we wouldn't have to make impossible choices about childcare, work, and medical care that so many have to make every single day."
She can say that again, and maybe add in that she and her husband will never have to work for their living, will have an endless array of servants and childcare on tap, and can take for granted the kind of luxury and riches that most Americans could never even dream about.
Indeed the best thing Meghan could do at this point is to stop trying to inflict her influence-by-marriage on the corridors of elected power, and have the decency to accept that she is not Michelle Obama. She married a Prince, she got a title, she took him back to California, and she has a fondness for making her feelings – from her desperation at being repressed by the Royals to her love of motherhood to her fury at Piers Morgan – known to all, preferably on globally-franchised TV.
Meghan has a habit of humble-bragging, intended to give her the political street-cred Harry could never claim. I found it quite charming at the start of their marriage. But it has now become tiresome, as if she expects a Nobel Prize for having not been born rich and for having worked normal jobs like most other American teenagers. "I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler – it may have cost less back then," she writes in her letter, adding, with a "let them eat cake" flourish, "(to be honest, I can't remember)". Then the rags to riches story: "I started working (at the local frozen yogurt shop) at the age of 13. I waited tables, babysat, and piecemealed jobs together to cover odds and ends."
But Meghan: you were stupendously beautiful, stupendously lucky, landed a high-profile TV job, caught the eye of a prince, and the rest is a fairytale.
Someone needs to tell Meghan, and Harry too while they're at it, that policy is not some easy-breezy confluence of confused celebrity whim. It's a hard-graft affair that sits at the interstices of democratic politics and laboriously-gained knowledge.
Meghan has already made her mark, and it's been confirming all the worst stereotypes of our age, from the apparent reluctance fully embrace the mundanity of royal duties, to the totally unfounded ultra-wokeness, to the "do as I say, not as I do" habits that define the woke-green brigade. She has fame and fortune: it's time she left politics, and policy, to those with some actual right to conduct them.