Say the word “royalty” in West Virginia and I would guess most people within earshot envision (1) a check from a gas drilling company, (2) the Dukes of Hazzard, or, for those old enough to remember, (3) former First Lady Rachael Worby.
Other than an occasional stay at The Greenbrier, the state hasn’t done much in the way of attracting real-life royals, with the exception of Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav, a former Boy Scout, who spent four days at the Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glen Jean with Queen Silvia and 33,000 Scouts in 2013.
But maybe the time is ripe for that situation to change. Prince Harry and his American wife, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, have tired of the chilly atmosphere in the House of Windsor and a steady barrage of barbs from pundits in the British press. They’re in the market for a new, more affordable home somewhere in North America to begin transitioning toward self-sufficiency and away from life at the ceremonial duties of royalty.
While Canada seems to be their most likely resettlement option, Canadians have begun to balk at the prospect of footing the bill for the couple’s security expenses and the idea of supporting a resident royal family in general.
As my friend and college classmate Nate Bowles pointed out, the Legislature is in session and the governor is touting tourism to grow the state’s economy. Encouraging our lawmakers to provide the incentives needed to make West Virginia the first state with a royal family in residence could create a bigger tourist draw than the state’s new elk herd, two greyhound tracks and the Mystery Hole, combined.
Harry, Meghan and newborn son Archie would be able to continue living rent-free in a palace paid for with public funds in exchange for making daily public appearances on a balcony, from which they would smile and wave to fee-paying tourists and be available for a few minutes of cell phone selfies.
If the Legislature moves quickly, the semi-retired royals could immediately occupy the 136-year-old, 9,000 square-foot Suit Castle in Berkeley Springs now that its asking price has dropped from $1.65 million to $1.3 million. Tourist operations could be staged from there until Barnwood Builders honcho Mark Bowe and his crew are contracted to pull down enough pole barns and springhouses to assemble an Appalachian-style log palace to add a measure of regional flair to the project.
The palace should be located on a large tract in a remote area with enough open fields to accommodate fox-hunting — no longer legal in England, Scotland or Wales, but open November through February in West Virginia, with no bag limit. Visitors wishing to participate would be charged appropriately high fees.
If such a place can be found not too far off an I-79 exit in the wilds of Upshur County, the royal estate could be named Buckhannon Palace.
During his down time at the tourist attraction, Harry could pursue his hobby of motorcycle riding on the estate’s roads and trails. Tourists may also catch glimpses of the British Army vet and target shooting buff blazing away at a firing range featuring silhouettes of Meghan-baiting newsman Piers Morgan as targets.
A souvenir shop that vends cheesy commemorative plates and mugs, airbrushed T-shirts and moulded coal statuettes of the royals could open adjacent to the palace to augment the attraction’s revenue stream. Next to it, visitors may find a cafe dispensing price-enhanced authentic English fast food like beans on toast, steak and kidney pies, blood pudding and mushy peas and chips.
The operation would also create jobs for West Virginians in a variety of specialties, including footmen, flag sergeants, stablemen, masters of horses, armorers, butlers, chefs, cooks, servers, stewards, motormen, wardens, huntsmen and palace guard drill team members.
With Buckhannon Palace fully operational and after the state’s costs are recouped, Harry and Meghan should be able to produce the $3 million annually that’s needed to maintain them in their current lifestyle in a matter of decades. That, or make them quickly revisit just how bad conditions were to make them bolt in the first place.