Chana Pinto
Am Yisrael Chai

Queen Victoria’s Infamous Descendants

Harry & Meghan, Netflix docuseries, (screenshot)
Harry & Meghan, Netflix docuseries, (screenshot)

I admit that I am not a big fan of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Or any member of the British Royal Family-2022. That’s not to say that I’m not intrigued about the goings-on and the gossip about the world’s most famous family. I definitely am, and out of curiosity I was compelled to watch Netflix’s documentary on Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, entitled simply Harry & Meghan. The six-episode mini-series came out in two parts, which I binge-watched last week.

Surprise, surprise! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, I think I may be changing my mind about the renegade royals.  For the past few years, it seems that it has been en vogue to despise Meghan Markle and blame her for anything and everything related to the British Royal Family, present and future. The way everyone speaks about her, you would think that she alone could be responsible for the collapse of the Royal Family’s house of cards. (Forget about Prince Andrew’s indiscretions, it’s all Meghan’s fault!). I, too, watched the laughable interview she and Prince Harry did with Oprah Winfrey, and rolled my eyes listening to Meghan’s podcast, where she seemed to enjoy playing the victim in the whole “Megxit” scandal. But then again, no one made me watch the interview or listen to her podcast. I did so because I was intrigued, and wanted to see if I would love or hate the duchess for the mere fact that she married a prince and leads a very, very privileged life in the spotlight. And up until last week, I really didn’t care that much. I didn’t like or dislike her. As with the other members of that family, I simply didn’t care.

Here is where I feel obliged to disclose that it isn’t all British royals that I feel indifferent about. Only the contemporary royals.  As I mentioned above, I am not a fan of the royal family of 2022. However, I am a big fan of the British Royal Family-circa 1880. I love all things Victorian. I even have Queen Victoria’s portrait hanging in my kitchen. True fact (my kids think I’m nuts). I have read many books about Queen Victoria and her extended family, her nine children and 42 grandchildren, and how nearly all of them married into European royal houses (QV was known as the Grandmama of Europe). But I especially like the fact that Queen Victoria was openly sympathetic to her Jewish subjects and Jews around the world. Both QV and her son and successor King Edward VII had many Jewish friends in their inner circles and were known to be partial to Jews, at a time when Eastern Europe was suffering pogroms and rampant antisemitism. Legend has it that she had all her sons circumcised at birth, starting a royal tradition (that lasted until the current King Charles decided not to continue this when his own sons were born). Queen Victoria was also the first British monarch to bestow knighthood on a Jew, Moses Montefiore. When her advisors objected to this, she said “I was very glad I was the first to do what I think quite right, and as it should be.” (page 67; Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird. Random House 2016)

A lot has happened since those days. I’m not going to pass judgement on the current monarchy’s Jewish track record. I know that Queen Elizabeth II (Queen Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter) had the utmost respect for British Jews, but I cannot forget that she never visited Israel. Not for a state visit nor even a private one. In 70 years on the throne. Sadly, it seems that in her eyes, Israel was never a legitimate destination for a royal visit. Though while still the Prince of Wales, her son King Charles has visited, it remains to be seen what his attitude towards the Jewish state will be in the future.

In any case, I was quite indifferent to the “problems” that King Charles’ son Prince Harry was experiencing. Until I watched the documentary. It was enlightening! I actually felt a bit sorry for them. They really did get the raw end of the deal: Prince Harry isn’t the “spare heir” anymore, having been pushed further down the succession line with the birth of Prince William’s sons. But Harry is still part of the immediate royal family, he is the King’s son, and he and his wife aren’t free to live like other extended family members do. Harry’s cousins who are not “working royals” can and do live a very nice life, with lots of money and a fancy title. They can also pretty much do whatever they want without all the paparazzi and news media following them around. No one passes judgement on them or tries to tarnish their names. But Harry and Meghan do not have this luxury (they have many other luxuries, of course, but not this one).  And it seemed that no matter what they did and what they do, it just wasn’t and isn’t good…enough. According to the documentary, when King (then Prince) Charles and even Prince William turned on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, while grandmother Queen Elizabeth remained silent and refused to see them (it doesn’t really matter whether that was her own decision or she was advised as such), Harry and Meghan realized that there was no happy future for them in England. They would need to step down and move away. And I kind of agree with them. They were miserable there. They weren’t left alone for a minute and they seemingly could do nothing right. They were berated for nearly every action and comment. So you know what? Good for them! They moved far, far away. And the film does a good job of describing and explaining their journey. Yes, they’re rich and privileged. Yes, they are used to being in the spotlight and will never live their lives like we commoners do. They are famous, like any other celebrity, and we can roll our eyes at them if we want to. Or we can just leave them alone and let them live their lives. They don’t match up to their great-great-great-great grandmother, the one and only Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India, but I suppose they’re doing their best. Let’s cut them some slack.

As for the new King Charles III, with antisemitism and terrorism today seemingly getting worse, I can only hope and pray that the King and the UK set an example for the rest of Europe and the world and show the Jews and Israel that they support us, now and forever.

Portrait of Queen Victoria hanging in the writer’s kitchen. (courtesy)
About the Author
Chana Resnick Pinto made aliya from Toronto in 2005 with her family and has lived in the Sharon area of Central Israel ever since. She earned a BA from Yeshiva University and an MSEd from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Chana works at Eric Cohen Books in Ra'anana and loves living in Israel. She encourages everyone to stop and smell the flowers and always appreciate the small things.
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