It’s not just Meghan and Harry. I’d like us all to escape this dire royal circus

Suzanne Moore
Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

There is a meme doing the rounds in which Prince Harry, instead of cuddling up to Meghan, is embracing Yoko Ono. You may find this hilarious. Yoko broke up the Beatles; Meghan is now ripping apart the royals. I find it racist, sexist, untrue and a sign of how little we understand our own prejudices, and those of our rulers. Yoko is a brilliant artist in her own right. She was also, if you care to remember, described at the time as “simian-looking” by John Lennon’s biographer Albert Goldman. She faced an enormous amount of racism.

No one is that explicit about Meghan. Instead we have toddlerish waffle about her “exotic DNA” and her unbearable wokeness, which is clearly worse for the royal family than having someone accused of having sex with a 17-year-old in your midst (which Prince Andrew denies). One of the most excruciating things about all this is who gets to define racism, and it’s the likes of Piers Morgan and Sarah Vine, who refuse to understand either racism or indeed humility. They don’t even work hard for the money. Lazy, sloppy, big-bucks bigotry.

The indisputable racism in media reports was toned down at first because Meghan’s dual heritage could be utilised as a feelgood sign of Britain’s incredible tolerance and modernity. I called the wedding – charming as it was – a retrograde moment, but I did not know then how bad it would get. Cradling her bump, wanting privacy, talking to sex workers, all of Meghan’s crimes piled up quickly.

What I do know is that the disruption of this patriarchal firm always comes through the women. Always. I went to Diana’s funeral. I watched those boys walk behind that coffin. Even in Westminster Abbey, no one touched or hugged them. Maybe Harry is acting out stuff about his mother. The narrative is that everything was fine before. That other expert on racism, Nigel Farage, told an audience in Sydney last August that Harry had been the most popular young royal for a 100 years, “And then he met Meghan Markle and it’s fallen off a cliff.

This is a republican moment with no republican movement to push it. Andrew’s interview was another. But hang on and look at who is in charge. We have “the king of the world” living at No 10 with his younger girlfriend. The old rules don’t apply. Trust falls away and we are in a strange transition period.

The Queen has a lot on her plate. Rebecca Long-Bailey may be talking about abolishing the House of Lords, but start at the top, Becky.The mood, though, is unsettled. “We don’t want more division,” the rightwing press yell at us even as they cause it. The establishment is having its Brexit moment and the refusal of this couple to continue the circus is part of it. Of course they still want the bread but the constant comparison of Meghan with Kate is dire.

As Anthony Barnett said in The Lure of Greatness, Diana was one of the first people to really get modern populism. She defined herself against the establishment by speaking her truth and by calling herself the “queen of people’s hearts”. There was something compellingly paradoxical about this: she didn’t want to bring down the monarchy, she just wanted her son, and not her ex-husband, to be king.

Charles is never going to be much loved; William must see his fate when he looks at his father. And Harry, like his mother, sees another life. That life may well be a form of whistleblowing on the firm’s secrets …

Things are falling apart. The United Kingdom is one of them. The union bit is inevitably going. And the kingdom? Well, if this family (its dysfunction is hardly news) is to represent us then it has to change.

We have no need of titles when we have self-made celebrities. Yes, Meghan and Harry told their celeb mates before they told the Queen, because that is their world.

Harry will never be king. He has watched his father, whose life has been an endless gap year and who was cruel to his mother, and he wants out. I don’t blame him. The much-admired sense of duty of the monarch will die when the Queen is dead.

Meghan and Harry owe us nothing, and we owe them nothing. Let them go and finance themselves. One day we may actually be a sovereign nation.

• Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist