No, they decided to uproot themselves part time from Britain and settle in Canada — for how long each year, where, why and to do what no one yet knows.
That they are unhappy with their lives and roles in Britain has become obvious. They are frustrated with the hideous British tabloids; the not-so-subtle racial comments about Meghan’s mixed-race parentage; the job of being a royal, which is not a job in any real sense of the word. For Harry, it is the younger brother/never-to-be-king syndrome that has bedeviled others in his same predicament, leading to the haunting question: “What do I do with my life?” For Meghan, an American in Britain, the princess in the fairy tale has become the miserable commoner in royal cloth. Who can blame them for being restless?
In Canada, a member of the Commonwealth, they have been well treated — that is, respectfully given their privacy, a respect denied them in Britain. Of course, they are celebrities in Canada, but celebrities from somewhere else in a country that accords almost all celebrities their space.
A few gaga Canadian monarchists, of which there are not many, swooned at the news of their prospective arrival on our shores. After all, Meghan had lived in Toronto for seven years while filming the U.S. cable series “Suits.” They just spent Christmas on Vancouver Island at the home of a friend of a friend, where people largely left them alone. Would it not be splendid, swooners dreamed, for them not only to live in Canada but also for Harry to become the governor general someday?
Now, for U.S. readers, a brief excursion into the monarchy in Canada: The queen is the Canadian head of state but is seldom here, so the rest of the time, someone called the governor general fills her role, handing out medals, receiving ambassadorial arrivals, attending official ceremonies and, in a pinch, deciding which party in a minority Parliament should be given a chance to govern.
Ceremony, therefore, is what the governor general does. Governing is left to politicians, whose advice the governor general follows. From Canadian Confederation in 1867 to 1952, governors general were British nobles or former military officers with stout moustaches or bushy beards. Since 1952, however, they have been worthy Canadian citizens, rotating between native-French- and -English-speakers. (The current governor general, Julie Payette, is a former astronaut from Quebec.)
After almost seven decades of Canadians occupying the office of governor general, the swooners will be disappointed. There is no chance that Prince Harry and his bride will grace Rideau Hall, the governor general’s mansion.
So what will they do here? Contradictions defined their statement of intent. They want to “step back” from royal life but keep being royals sometimes. They aspire to “carve out a progressive new role” within a deeply encrusted institution. They wish to become “financially independent” while still receiving public subsidies in Britain for their “royal” work.
What about moving to and living in Canada? One is a British citizen, the other an American. They can get temporary permits to live in Canada, but to settle here permanently takes lots of paperwork and time. Canada accepts more immigrants per capita each year — 350,000 by 2021 — than almost any other country on Earth. But the duo, famous names notwithstanding, cannot just waltz into Canada, whistle a few bars of “O Canada” and declare themselves permanent residents.
When they work, they will pay taxes. Even as part-time royals, they must be protected. One security expert estimates the cost of protecting them at more than $7.5 million annually. Canadians will be pleased, maybe even a little flattered, that they will be here, provided Canadians don’t have to pay.
Personalities aside, the monarchy has been slowly losing its allure in Canada. In a poll this week of Angus Reid Institute forum members, two-thirds of respondents said the House of Windsor had lost or is losing relevance among Canadians. Forty-five percent said "Canada should not continue as a constitutional monarchy for generations and generations to come.” But the Canadian constitution declares that abolishing the monarchy requires the unanimous consent of the federal government and all 10 provinces, a near-impossibility. Wags have predicted, therefore, that even if the British abolished the institution, it would linger in Canada.
For the largest number of Canadians, the monarchy is the queen’s likeness on the coinage and bank notes, the appellation “royal” on major institutions and a modest way of differentiating ourselves from the Americans, whose country, courtesy of the occupant of the White House, has never been less popular since perhaps the War of 1812. The arrival of Harry and Meghan will not change that.