Netflix better order a seventh season of “The Crown.”
Wednesday’s news that Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex plan to step back from “senior royal duties” while they “work to become financially independent” — and, if rumor is to be believed, flee like characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to Canada — came mere weeks after Prince Andrew also stepped back from royal duties, albeit in very different fashion and for very different reasons.
Harry and Meghan made their announcement on social media the same day they launched their new website, the highly tasteful sussexroyal.com, on which they attempt to explain what being a royal subsidiary is going to look like (apparently a bit like Disney and Marvel) while assuring the world that they continue to support the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Whew, because the queen probably owns the domain name sussexroyal. Also, working “to become financially independent” is not the same as, you know, being financially independent, though it’s hard to imagine that Markle couldn’t get a fragrance/cosmetics deal, and certainly Harry would look good in a Tag Heuer. Young people, they have to make their own way.
At least they’re leaving under their own steam, which is more than can be said for Andrew. He was booted into undisclosed-location silence after blithely giving an unprecedented disaster of a television interview to “BBC Newsnight’s” Emily Maitlis about his relationship with serial rapist, pedophile and human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, one that managed to make the eighth person in line for the British throne look dimwitted, disingenuous and absolutely complicit all at the same time.
All of this news-eventing poses as big a problem for “The Crown” as it is for, well, the crown. Peter Morgan constructed his opus, which traces the reign of Elizabeth II, to last six seasons, with major cast changes every other year as the monarch and her family age. As it stands now — Season 3 ended in 1977 — the series will take us to 2007, or 2010 if Morgan cheats a bit.
Which means it will end just as the royal party’s getting started, or maybe before it’s actually, finally done.
The tenuous nature of the monarchy has been a through line of the series, and of virtually every contemplation of Elizabeth’s reign. While many Brits love having the Windsors around, if only to model hats and perfect the art of smiling while absolutely miserable, others feel a democracy functions better without a God-ordained ruler adding another, purely ornamental level to an already complicated system of governance.
So there is just no way “The Crown” can end before this Harry and Meghan situation is concluded, either by the couple being dragged to the Tower, sparking hashtag riots and the collapse of the monarchy, or with a new, more flexible, less tax-burdensome royal family that may or may not wind up with its own hotel chain and Netflix docuseries. Sussexroyal.com is very open-ended about the methods of communication Harry and Meghan will be using in the future.
These are just two of the bigger controversies to ensnare the Windsors in the last few months. (The biggest may be on its way; it’s difficult to believe that the palace is going to accept desertion by website quietly.)
Between Prince Phillip’s health scares and car accidents, Andrew’s part in the Epstein scandal, Harry’s lawsuits and criticism of the tabloids, Markle’s guest-editing Vogue and, obviously, Princess Charlotte continuing to be soooo adorable, the royal family hasn’t been out of even the American news cycle for more than a week or two.
How can Morgan and Netflix resist? Americans suddenly feel a deep and meaningful connection with the Windsors (especially Princess Anne, who is the best — what has she got to say about the Harry and Meghan defection, anyway?) and “The Crown” is in deep need of a happy ending.
Previously, that would have taken some finesse and a lot of imagination. The series is, essentially, a chronicle of misery: A perfectly likable young woman, whose only real dream is to breed horses, is forced by birth into a job she absolutely hates, a job that slowly renders her so disassociated from her own emotions that she cannot even weep over the bodies of schoolchildren buried by a Welsh mountain collapse.
A job that requires a woman who has just given birth to shove herself into pantyhose and makeup and pose for cameras. A job in which you are not allowed to take political stands and then find yourself criticized for not taking political stands all while being constantly scrutinized by a tabloid press that exists in large part to make you look bad.
Honestly, how can Harry and Meghan walk away?
More important, how can “The Crown” not want to come full circle, with Harry doing what his grandmother could not — choosing life with some duty over all duty and no life. (Whether or not Imelda Staunton is on board for Seasons 5 and 6, someone might want to give Judi Dench a call — she won an Oscar for playing the other Elizabeth as she forgave certain sins but stood firm on others. Such talents may be required again.)
As for the already buzzed-about question regarding who should play Meghan? Well, those hoping she will play herself may see their dreams come true. She is back on the job market, after all.