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Mary Kenny: 'Like Harry and Meghan, doesn't everyone want to have their cake and eat it?'

Mary Kenny


Harry and Meghan have been accused of trying to have their cake and eat it, but isn't that ultimately what we all want?

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visiting Rotorua's Redwoods Treewalk on October 31, 2018 in Rotorua, New Zealand

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visiting Rotorua's Redwoods Treewalk on October 31, 2018 in Rotorua, New Zealand

Getty Images

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duke & Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the Moroccan Royal Federation of Equestrian Sports in Rabat on February 25, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duke & Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the Moroccan Royal Federation of Equestrian Sports in Rabat on February 25, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

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Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex arrive at the residence of Moroccan King Mohammed VI in Rabat, Morocco February 25, 2019. Yui Mok/Pool via REUTERS

Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex arrive at the residence of Moroccan King Mohammed VI in Rabat, Morocco February 25, 2019. Yui Mok/Pool via REUTERS

REUTERS

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visiting Rotorua's Redwoods Treewalk on October 31, 2018 in Rotorua, New Zealand

Harry and Meghan, the globally-famous Sussexes, have been criticised for wanting to have their cake and eat it.

They wish to be free of all those stuffy royal trappings: but then again, they'd like to flog their royal brand commercially, having taken the trouble to register their business in Delaware, America, to minimise tax liabilities.

But look: doesn't everyone want to have their cake and eat it? Isn't it human to desire, as the French put it - somewhat more monetarily - to want to have "the butter, and the price of the butter"? To have all the benefits without any of the costs?

I seek to maintain my interminable diet regimes: but at the same time, I literally want to eat my cake (banana cake is my preference). Plus chocolate treats.

Boris Johnson and the Brexiteers wanted out of the European Union: but also sought favourable regulations that might keep some of the benefits. Another cake-and-eat-it situation.

Sinn Féin disdains to sit in an "imperialist" parliament in London, even when elected to it: but is loudly demanding of "imperial" funding just the same.

We all support Extinction Rebellion, surely. But every flight I take is still packed.

Sexual freedom is affirmed as a right, and yet purity has always been prized: so now there's a thriving business in restoring virginity by skilled surgery.

Politicians promise cake with jam on it. And sometimes they have to eat their own words.

Huge numbers of people enjoy social media - it gives them the chance to express themselves, which is great. But there's loads of rudeness, verbal abuse and ugly stuff in this form of communication too.

People like the rosy glow of identifying themselves as liberal and left-wing. But they also like the goods that capitalism uniquely produces and the security made possible by law and order.

Children often say they would like to be famous. But would they like the loss of privacy, the inquisitive followers, the feeling that everyone wants a bit of you, the inevitable stalkers and obsessives? No rose without a thorn.

Ireland has had a successful policy of international neutrality, but it has also had the shelter of Nato's defence umbrella. Cake and eat it? Makes it difficult for the State to refuse military flights stopping over at Shannon.

A Bohemian lifestyle is cool: ragged jeans, shabby-chic furniture, to heck with the rules. But few aspire to dwell in a freezing garret, the natural habitat of la vie de boheme. Most women want to become mothers, at a moment and in a relationship of their choosing. But baking that cake and still having it is a delicate act of timing, planning, luck, opportunity, money and, sometimes, the willing co-operation of nature.

People love a rural retreat enfolded in the joys of the countryside. But do they like the isolation and sometimes the hard work involved in country life? (Thus were the suburbs born: access to town and country in a cake-and-eat-it compromise.)

More candour and openness in public discourse is a step forward in a democratic society. But are the sordid details of every murder case necessary?

Who wants the restrictive old rules of conventional religion? Still, a First Communion is a beautiful rite of passage that it would be a pity to miss. And Gonzaga College provides a peerless education.

Moving between two countries - or two homes in different parts of one country - can give you the best of both worlds, and a richer perspective of life. But I have a home in Ireland and one in England and I sometimes think it's turned me into the rolling stone that gathers no moss.

The search for eternal youth has always existed. The ideal is to look young but have the wisdom of age. Maybe a few people have cracked it, up to a point. But eventually, this cake is devoured by time.

Thousands of studies have shown that a stable family life is highly beneficial to individuals: we all need one. But most abuse - and homicides - are committed within family relationships, and family life can inhibit, control and even corrupt.

The increasingly punitive ban on drink-driving has saved lives on the road. But is there a way of also saving the decline of the country pub, once a harbour of friendliness and community?

And can vegetarianism and veganism be promoted as a way of life without destroying the Irish pastoral landscape, and the valued beef industry?

Can we have both the convenience of shopping online and the experience of shopping locally? If we eat too much of Amazon's cake, the retail businesses in our towns, cities and neighbourhoods will decline and perish.

If Harry and Meghan can succeed in this gig of having their cake and eating it - of privacy along with favourable publicity, of being ordinary as well as being royal celebs, of living harmoniously on both sides of the Atlantic, and of reconciling the many conflicting aspects of their demands - then the best of luck to them!

Weekend Magazine


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Creative: Aoife McNamara. Photo: Frank McGrath Gallery