Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were quitting their official roles with the royal family and moving overseas.
There was horror!
With the royals already humiliated by sweat-soaked Prince Andrew’s blundering relationship with sex fiend Jeffrey Epstein, might Harry and Meghan’s defection be the death knell for the monarchy?
But fear not!
Within a few hours the Queen’s loyal subjects had launched a bile-filled rear guard action. Harry, they assured everyone, was nothing but a gullible and naïve young man under the spell of an evil and manipulative publicity-seeking American actress.
Within a day the ferocity of the assault on the Duke and Duchess reached unprecedented levels.
The UK press savaged the couple as ungrateful hypocrites out of touch with the mood of a nation still loyally devoted to its eccentric and dysfunctional ruling family.
The pair were “arrogant” and drowning in “hypocrisy”. They were “selfish” and “self-obsessed”. And now that the Queen has reluctantly agreed to their departure, the storm will only get worse.
The retribution was led by former tabloid newspaper editor Piers Morgan, who wrote that the Queen “had to suffer the repulsively rude indignity of being treated like a piece of insignificant dirt by her own spoilt brat grandson and his scheming, selfish D-list actress wife.”
It was here, deep in this hate-fuelled orgy of spite and loathing, that it became clear that those of us who would like to see Australia become a republic have been getting it wrong.
You see, cutting our ties with the royal family is not the point.
Sure, they are an anachronism we could do without.
Most of them are barking mad and do little but cut ceremonial ribbons and fake interest when they attend exhibitions of children’s crayon drawings.
But really, apart from Prince Andrew, they don’t do that much harm – except to each other with their petty jealousies, childish feuds and bitter rivalry. They make the Addams Family look like a boring suburban household.
No, the real reason Australia should no longer consider itself a constitutional subject of British rule is the very culture that spawned the vicious retaliation against Prince Harry and his wife.
That bitter and malicious backlash showed how England has become a squalid little nation, its dirty grey cities inhabited by mean-spirited misanthropes who grind their remaining bad teeth in despair at the sharp decline of their once great empire.
It has become a stale, inward-looking nation that remains chronically suspicious of Europe, pathetically subservient to the United States, completely weighed down by its history and bewildered by its lack of importance and relevance in the modern world.
Its descent is personified by the most hostile critic of Harry and Meghan – the very same Piers Morgan who portrays Meghan Markle as a manipulative shrew.
Morgan, who now co-hosts a British TV breakfast program, is one of the world’s most shameless publicity seekers.
He has spent decades squirming deep inside the sphincter muscle of England’s tawdry celebrity culture, targeting and ridiculing soft targets with no means of fighting back, while fawning over the rich and powerful.
Morgan, who got his break as a self-promoting gossip reporter on The Sun, is a discredited journalist whose editorship of News of the World lasted little more than a year and whose later stint running the Daily Mirror was plagued by a series of blunders and scandals.
He was investigated after buying tens of thousands of pounds in shares in a company just before his newspaper advised readers it would be a good buy – an act found to have breached the code of conduct for financial journalists.
He was fired for publishing fake photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.
But the best example of his capacity for poor judgement and slavish devotion to scandal was on display during the Leveson inquiry into the British phone hacking controversy.
He told the hearing he had no reason to suspect his reporters had hacked into the mobile phones of celebrities and other prominent people during his editorship.
But a series of witnesses undermined his claim, leading the head of the inquiry, Lord Justice Leveson, to declare Morgan’s evidence as “utterly unpersuasive” and that he was clearly aware his reporters had been illegally hacking into people’s phones.
Morgan, said Leveson, “was sufficiently unembarrassed by what was criminal behaviour that he was prepared to joke about it”.
For a man who has spent a lifetime in a craft devoted to words, his writing is also a joke.
Apart from an obsession with the personal pronoun, he shows no passion for a finely constructed sentence. For him, words are simply bricks to hurl at easy targets.
Do not be in any doubt. Morgan, along with the rest of the wretched culture that dominates popular English life these days, is one of the reasons why the Duke and Duchess of Sussex want to escape not just the royal family, but the shores of Britain.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to make a hasty retreat from a cesspit of vultures and voyeurs.
It should be a good enough reason for Australia, too.
Garry Linnell was director of News and Current Affairs for the Nine network in the mid-2000s. He has also been editorial director for Fairfax and is a former editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Bulletin magazine