14 January 2020
Last week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex disclosed a plan to “step back” as senior members of the Royal Family. However, much like announcements from Love Island contestants, the royal couple decided to reveal the news to their 10.4 million Instagram followers before alerting the media. The sting in the tale, of course, were the rumours that the Royal family themselves, including the Queen, were only notified “10 minutes” prior to the post going live.
Opting to leave the Royal Rota system and bypassing royal protocol is a bold chess move by any standard. It’s an even bolder move when you consider the number of negative press articles which have painted Meghan as a money-grabbing social climber over recent months. Harry has essentially called ‘checkmate’. It’s a significant sign of the couple taking control of their relationship with the press – and with Buckingham Palace. The prince has previously communicated his disapproval of the way Meghan is hassled by the British media, referring to it as the “worst reminder” of how his mother was treated. Meanwhile, the UK and the rest of the world have been weighing in on the potential fallout of #Megxit.
The follow-up post on the Sussex Royal Instagram account was not the sought-after update of crisis discussions within the palace, but rather a photo of the Duke and Duchess returning to visit the Hubb Community Kitchen, where they were visiting a group of women who came together in the wake of Grenfell to cook meals for friends and neighbours who had been displaced from the fire. Harper’s Bazaar reported that following political commentator Damon Eavans’ comments on Twitter encouraging people to support Meghan by ordering a copy of Together: Our Community Cookbook, which the Duchess had co-created with the Hubb Community Kitchen, they have seen a “considerable increase” in book sales. This overwhelming support for Meghan in a time of crisis provides a glimpse into the potential impact the couple’s new branding and social media presence could have on their future philanthropic endeavours.
But for me, the award for best PR timing goes to… Madame Tussauds. The iconic wax museum relocated Harry and Meghan’s figures in an effort to “mirror their progressive new role within the Royal institution”. Predictably, the figures will now live in the ‘A-list party room’, located next to the likes of Brad Pitt and the Kardashians, though Meghan and Harry’s new life in Canada may not be all that dissimilar from other celebrities as they seek to establish their own brand and identity. And with whispers of Meghan having already established a voiceover deal with Disney, we could very well be looking at the next Disney princess.
Part and parcel of their new role is to be ‘financially independent’, and with this Harry and Meghan are set to make millions from speaker fees, contracts and social media endorsements. They’ve faced scores of criticism for being solely self-focused, but nevertheless, the Sussexes add their own individual value to the family brand of “British-ness”, which continues to return billions in revenue to the national economy each year. Brand Finance estimated that the British Monarchy brand alone which they will keep close ties with is worth £67.5 billion.
Sussex Royal, then, could turn out to be the branded family of the future. Started by the Beckhams more than two decades ago, this cultural phenomenon has since spawned a series of successes from the Kardashians to the Carters (who the couple have already been seen schmoozing with), with the ‘Royal’ taking it away from the gawdy money-grabbing excess those who have gone before were so famous for.
With this in mind, the Obamas graceful exit from the White house in 2017 could provide a valuable template for Meghan and Harry to follow. The former president was allegedly paid $400,000 to speak at a Wall Street Conference following his departure, so opportunities like this could provide a way to help them on their way to independence. No doubt the Sussex purse strings will be closely monitored over the coming months, with concerns being raised over who pays for their security detail – estimated to be in the region of £600,000 to £1m each year – and the fate of Frogmore Cottage. So should the UK pay for it?
In the midst of phone hacking accusations and privacy breaches, it seems narrow-minded of the government to no longer protect a former Army captain who served in Afghanistan, who through no choice of his own was born into privilege. Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who are not classed as ‘working royals’ but can often be spotted at royal events such as Ascot, have shown that it is possible to hold down careers outside of the palace walls without dipping their toes in the sovereign grant.
Following a historic summit at Sandringham, the Queen has agreed to a period of transition for the couple to adapt to their new roles, of which she is “entirely supportive”. Despite confirming that she would have preferred them to remain full-time working royals, her statement feels candid and somewhat unfamiliar to the stoicism we are accustomed to. Regardless of whether you’re for or against Megxit, or simply couldn’t care less, it’s a progressive and historic step towards a modern day monarchy. Meghan and Harry will have the space to experiment with their new trademark, whether that be signing a new book deal or releasing their own clothing range, it will be a unique and exciting chapter in royal history – one where they are free to create their own narrative.