America’s Declaration of Independence proclaims it to be a “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal”. It is a wonderful, inspirational statement.
Contrary to popular belief, the writers of the document did not mean to imply that all people are equal or even that all people are born with equal opportunity. Clearly if, like Donald Trump, your father is a millionaire property speculator, your opportunity to become president of the United States is considerably greater than if he drives a taxi in Kilkenny or flips burgers in Waterford.
What the declaration holds to be self-evident is that people do not acquire some intrinsic superiority by virtue of their birth.
This may have seemed a self-evident truth in the America of 1776 – but not to everyone in the Ireland of 2018. Not to those who will turn out to gawp at Prince Harry and his duchess Meghan Markle when they pay us a visit next week.
‘Is Harry a superior being because he can trace his family tree back to Henry VIII, Edward the Confessor, or whoever?’
Harry seems to be a personable young man who likes a few beers and is fond of partying. He has a sense of adventure and served briefly in his country’s armed forces, acquitting himself honourably. These are worthy attributes but no-one would turn out to cheer Harry on the strength of them.
Meghan has been an actor in a successful television series and she edited a lifestyle web site. All good stuff – but it wouldn’t get her a slot on the Late Late show, much less a VIP visit, hosted by our President and our Taoiseach.
Meghan will be feted because she is married to Harry and Harry will be feted because many of us do not hold it as self-evident that all men are created equal. They believe Harry is a superior being because he can trace his family tree back to Henry VIII, Edward the Confessor, or whoever.
Maybe it is the lure of celebrity, more than the appeal of ancestry, that will draw the crowds. But, at its root, the reason is the same. For a celebrity is expected to have done something to earn the title, even if it is only a spell on a reality TV show or winning a televised talent contest. Harry has done nothing other than to be born with the family name of Windsor.
So whether you turn out to see celebrity Harry, the one-time playboy prince, or regal Harry, the Duke of Sussex, you will still be bearing witness to your belief that all people are not created equal.
You will also be pleasing the British government who have sent the young couple here to shore up Anglo-Irish relations ahead of Brexit. That’s why Harry’s dad was here a few weeks ago and why all manner of British royals will be dispatched to all manner of places in the coming weeks.
I have no objection to improving Anglo-European relations and no personal objection whatsoever to this couple. I think it’s great that an heir to the English throne can marry a divorced American of part-African descent and be applauded for it by the British public, the public who forced the abdication of Harry’s great-great-uncle Edward VIII when he wanted to follow a similar course.
So good luck to our royal visitors. Céad míle fáilte. But I won’t be cheering them. I do believe that all people are created equal and I won’t be joining the ranks of those who do not.