The Royal family gather at Sandringham for their crisis summit today and the first thing the Queen should do is give Prince Harry a clip round the ear.
You're never too old for one of those. It might seem counterintuitive, but the monarchy survives by appearing modest and the Windsors figured out long-ago that they reign not by the grace of God but the good will of the people - so going all "progressive", cashing in and running off to Canada ("But I get to keep Frogmore Cottage, right?") is not the behaviour of a 21st-century royal.
"Who do you think you are, young man? A Kennedy?"
In defence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, nothing they have done need be controversial. All they want is a bit more responsibility, quite a mature demand really, and the drama of last week was far from unprecedented - very small fry compared to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936.
After Edward and Mrs Simpson went off to France to raise pugs, the Windsors tried to create a façade of middle-class respectability. This unravelled spectacularly with the divorce of Harry's parents. Compared to that affair, or to Prince Andrew's recent disgrace, the suggestion that Harry and Meghan are uniquely self-indulgent looks rather unfair.
But why is generation after generation embroiled in soap opera? Because the monarchy is both an institution and a family. Institutions require a degree of submission to work: you have to defer to authority and tradition. Yet most human beings kick against being told what to do - and when, like Prince Harry, they find that loyalty to the institution comes with diminishing responsibility (because he is no longer anywhere near inheriting the throne), playing spare to an heir must be unbearable. The Ottomans had a way of dealing with this. When a sultan died, his sons would kill each other in an insane contest to replace him: last man standing became the new ruler. It sounds harsh, but forcing unimportant royals to sit through ITV's Royal Variety Performance is infinitely crueller.
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I wonder what has been tougher for Meghan to come to terms with, the scrutiny or the boredom? Both must have been a shock. Americans have a naive understanding of royalty, partly because they see the pomp and mistake it for power. But the recent controversy over the prorogation of Parliament revealed that the Queen really only does as she's told, and a royal's status is contingent, again, on the approval of the masses. That makes life a lot more precarious than the carriages and tiaras suggest.
Frogmore Cottage itself shows the other side of royalty. Queen Charlotte bought it in 1792 as a place to escape George III's madness. Abdul Karim, Victoria's last great crush, lived there until she died in 1901, when he was promptly evicted and sent back to India.
In the Twenties it was a refuge for Russian royals who hadn't been butchered by the Bolsheviks; after the Second World War, it was divided into flats and fell into such disrepair that English Heritage listed it as "at risk". At some date, part of the ceiling fell in.
There's an awful lot of money in the monarchy, of course, but that is no guaranteed insulation from events, luck and character; and in a democratic age, any institution based upon the unfashionable notion of "governance by birthright" finds itself under permanent review. This is why, contrary to ceremonial appearances, the institution is always adapting to survive, and the marriage between Harry and Meghan was part of that evolution. I'd wager, if the meeting at Sandringham does cook up some new contract, that too will become an innovation that is woven into a living tradition that helps keep the ship at sea. Bored young royals want to raise their family by their own efforts. Why not let them?
So no, the issue isn't Harry and Meghan's desire for independence. It is the way they have gone about it. It was disrespectful to the elders; it was "me, me, me". And their announcement that they were looking for a "progressive role" implied that the one they left behind was regressive and archaic.
They misunderstand how the privileged exercise leadership. The monarchy cannot go around justifying itself: the moment it does that, it becomes political. So instead it proves its worth by what it visibly does. "I have to be seen to be believed," the Queen famously said. She is active, yet almost silent - and into that silence, we read a great deal. That the Queen doesn't make a fuss; that she puts duty before self, that Her Majesty isn't part of this wretched modern culture of falling apart every time you don't get exactly what you want.
The best summary of this attitude was given by the Princess Royal in an interview with my colleague, Lucy Denyer. Lucy remarked that she tended to get chilly when watching her children play rugby. Princess Anne replied: "There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."
All I really know about Princess Anne is that she loves dogs and horses. That's enough. The flipside to public ceremonial is a carefully choreographed glimpse of a home life that is reassuringly like our own. The Queen, we are told, keeps her cornflakes in Tupperware. She likes a Dubonnet and gin. At the Palace, surrounded by Canalettos and Gainsboroughs, she warms herself by a two-bar fire. My own mother once went on a tour of the Queen Mother's apartments and was thrilled to report that priceless antiques - gifts from tyrants and gurus - were hidden behind tables and sofas, but all the silly things the grandchildren brought home from their holidays were kept proudly on display.
This is glorious mundanity. Prince Charles talks to flowers; Prince William is so suburban that one can imagine him occupying the allotment next to Jeremy Corbyn. Kate is just Kate. The name says it all. Prince Harry's existential crisis has obviously caused hurt, but it's really not the worst thing to happen to an institution crammed with civil wars and beheadings, and no reflection upon the security of it either, given that the tight core of people who will be running the monarchy for the next few decades evidently understand the tightrope they must walk between majesty and normality.The monarchy already has a model for future success. It is the present Queen.