A former chaplain to the Queen has warned the Duke and Duchess of Sussex not to choose celebrity love over dutiful love.
Dr Gavin Ashenden, who was received into the Catholic Church last month, expressed his disapproval at the couple’s choice ‘to put their own self-interests before their public duty and family’.
The controversy began last week when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they had decided to “step back” as senior royals and divide their time between the UK and North America.
It emerged that the Sussexes had not consulted the Queen or the Prince of Wales about the contents of their bombshell statement and had just began talks with them about their future roles when they made their decision to go public.
Following their announcement, the mood at Buckingham Palace was understood to be one of disappointment, while the BBC reported that senior royals had been “hurt” by the surprising news.
Dr Ashenden, who served as a chaplain to the Queen from 2008 to 2017, recalled how Bishop Michael Curry, during his exuberant sermon had told the couple that all they need is love, which, the former chaplain said, led to many wondering if he had ‘been reading more John Lennon than Jesus’.
Dr Ashenden said that the preacher should have mentioned that there are two very different kinds of love; celebrity love and dutiful love.
‘This present rupture in the Royal Family has erupted in part because the Queen stands for one kind, and Meghan another,’ Dr Ashenden wrote in a blog post.
‘You don’t often, you don’t ever, hear the Queen talking about what she needs. The genius and beauty of her role is that she does her duty. Doing her duty is a way of loving others. Her role acts as a self-giving glue that holds society together in an ideal of service.
‘Celebrity love and dutiful love are two different philosophies – almost two different religions; certainly, two different ways of looking at the world and our place in it,’ he added.
Dr Ashenden explained that the ‘ideal the monarchy is founded on has strong Christian elements in which doing one’s duty on behalf of others takes priority over self-interest’, whilst ‘celebrity love is born out of the narcissism of the entertainment industry’.
He warned that celebrity love is fuelled by ‘the short termism of romantic love and a rather fragile adoration’.
‘Part of the problem with romantic love is that it is time-stamped. It runs out. It has to grow into something deeper. It only has a long-term future by turning into that other kind of love, which is self-giving and the putting duty before pleasure,’ he said.
Dr Ashenden said the clash between two cultures – royal and celebrity – had become problematic for the Sussexes.
‘It is beginning to look like Meghan has been unable or unwilling to transition from celebrity love to dutiful love. The first is more about ‘me and my needs’, and the second more about ‘them and theirs’.’
He noted that the Queen will be aware that the monarchy cannot survive if it ‘morphs into the privileged setting out to have your cake and eat it’.
‘Duty disowns celebrity-narcissism,’ he added.
Dr Ashenden also pointed out that while there are those who have sympathy for Meghan, the ‘more tragic victim’ may in fact be Prince Harry.
‘He is having to choose between the constraints and ethics of belonging to the Firm, and the frustrations and demands of his celebrity wife who doesn’t get or doesn’t like the terms of entry into the Royal Family,’ he explained.
‘It may well be that Meghan and Harry can be happy and fulfilled making their own money, claiming their own freedom, selling their own branded life-style, doing their own thing. But it will have nothing to do with royalty, duty or selflessness,’ Dr Ashenden pointed out.
‘At the moment Harry is trying to broker a compromise in order to keep some royal money and some royal glamour. But there isn’t one. He will have to choose; if not between John Lennon and Jesus, certainly between royalty and celebrity.’
Picture: Queen Elizabeth II with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Buckingham Palace in 2018. (John Stillwell/PA).