What Prince Harry and Meghan's tour tells us about ourselves

by Diana Wichtel / 04 November, 2018
Meghan and Harry’s first child will inherit a quirky line in boots. Photo/Getty Images

Meghan and Harry’s first child will inherit a quirky line in boots. Photo/Getty Images

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New Zealand media has a long history of reporting on the royals as if they were nice but dim toddlers.

Orcs, gumboot throwing and someone setting off an alarm at Government House by overdoing the celebratory loo freshener … royal tours always tell us something about ourselves. This one told us we are a nation of seven-year-olds. Such was the sophisticated schedule organised for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that the world’s news agencies could scarcely keep up. “Correction,” tweeted Australia’s Nine News urgently. “Welly wanging took place in Auckland.” The world must now have the impression that no New Zealander approaches a visiting dignitary without a Shapeshifter album, a Buzzy Bee or a bouquet in a gumboot.

Never mind. The royal family are used to the essential absurdity of their condition. There’s a long history of reporting on them as if they were nice but dim toddlers. The British press are experts. “The couple were presented with one of the most adorable gifts yet – a teeny tiny pair of Wellington boots,” reported the UK Express.

At least we managed to outdo the teeny tiny ugg boots presented in Australia to the parents of what promises to be an eccentrically shod infant.

Melissa Davies mastered the art of marathon blathering during her time as MediaWorks’ Europe correspondent. Who can forget her reporting from the birth of Prince George? “The little baby … Its little fingers …” This tour was a reminder that the words “teeny”, “tiny”, and “wee”, along with “right royal”, “baby bump” and “right royal baby bump” must be banned by all broadcasters before another royal child is born. The heirs of Windsor have endured enough.

Davies analysed one rain-sodden event after the other like a trouper: “The umbrella actually didn’t work so a little bit of a mishap there …”; “Romance in the rain at Abel Tasman!”. Even the sight of a woman trying not to show her knickers to the world could be spun into fairy-tale gold: “Meghan not taking any chances in the Wellington wind, a hand on her dress and the other in Harry’s …”

Meanwhile, TVNZ’s normally coherent Emily Cooper was learning just how hard this gig is. She adopted the strategy of simply repeating whatever those safely back in the studio said to her. “All go is right!” she gargled desperately, to scenes of nothing happening. “Yeah, meeting and greeting is right, Simon!” How to convey exactly where Harry and Meghan were on their visit to Wellington? “They’re right inside. Inside the event. Inside Courtenay Creative. Now.” They were apparently inside.

In other news, Meghan forgot to take a tag off her dress. Though our coverage still lacked the eagle eye for royal detail of the UK press: “Prince Harry appears to be tapping his wife’s rear in a photograph of the couple boarding the plane departing Australia for New Zealand,” reported the irrepressible Express.

Seven Sharp morphed into Eating Media Lunch. The show trawled through earlier royal tours: “Charles and his new bride nearly cause a right regal riot!” Someone seemed to have altered the original voiceover on footage of the Queen’s 1953 visit: “Early on her list of engagements are the sick and infirm. Even the cot cases can’t be restrained!”

We were, in fact, a nation of unrestrained cot cases. In scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania, the young swooned, weeping in each other’s arms.

Still, there was something refreshing about this tour. In the old days it would have been off to see some wretched power station. This time, they talked to young people about mental health. Meghan built on her tribute to Kate Sheppard by smashing her husband at welly wanging. They tried a bit of te reo.

Just as I remember being schlepped out as a child to see the largely useless Princess Margaret roll by, some children will recall seeing a former Hollywood actress and her ginger husband. “They seemed a bit nice,” observed one little boy. That about sums it up.

This article was first published in the November 10, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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