Prince Harry and Meghan have left the royal family because they want to have cake and eat it too
Marie Antoinette cemented her status – at least in popular traditions – like the most disconnected royal with her mythical proclamation, “Let them eat cake.” Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, certainly don’t seem so callous. But after announcing that they are backing down of their roles as members of the “senior” royal family, it seems clear that they want to have their cake – and eat it, too.
The announcement came as no surprise to royal watchers, as the pair have long been angered by the (often unfair) media attention around them.
“After many months of internal reflection and discussion, we have chosen to transition this year by starting to carve out a new progressive role within this institution,” the couple wrote in a statement. on their Instagram (who supposedly they did not run by the queen). “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work towards becoming financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.
The ad was not a surprise for royal watchers, since the couple has long been irritated by the media attention (often unfair) that surrounds them. Many applauded the announcement as an indication of independence and a progressive direction for the monarchy.
But like so many other people living in a home owned by their grandmother, the real truth of the statement seems to be in the phrase “financially independent.” Since both receive money from the Sovereign Grant, a fund established by the UK government for the official business of the Royal Family, they are prohibited from earning their own money. With taking that money comes a lot of conditions – like press access not only to their royal duties, but to certain family events.
Harry and Meghan already have high net worth, estimated by some to be around $ 30 million. They are among the most financially independent people on planet Earth. Their money, an accumulation of money from Meghan’s salary as an actress in America, as well as Harry’s seven-figure annual allowance and investments inherited from his mother, Diana, are separate from grant funds.
Perhaps Harry and Meghan are hoping to shield themselves from media scrutiny of how they spend their millions. The press growled when they take private jets or allegedly too much spent renovating their royal residence. It can also be to prevent the press from feeling entitled to access taxpayer money.
Don’t excuse the media attention and social media comments on the two – which, particularly in the UK, have been wild and at times overtly racist – but this plan doesn’t seem to be working. Or at least, not the way their fans seem to think. Harry and Meghan’s celebrity status isn’t just going to go away as if they were a forgotten member of a boy group or the winner of season three of ‘Survivor’.
In a less covered aspect of their ad, the couple also launched their website Sussex Royal the same day. (The finesse of the whole affair makes me think that their negotiations with the Windsor family were not so “early” in the official palace declaration would have us believe.) The site exposes what little we know of the couple’s idea of what their role in the Royal Family will look like in the future. Other than to say that they want to earn their own income, that doesn’t clarify much, although it does state that UK taxpayers will continue to pay for their security and that their new businesses will not capitalize on their status as royals.
But this last point seems improbable to the point of naivety. In addition to their healthy investment portfolios, for what types of trades are these two trades equipped? If Meghan returned to the theater, any job she booked would at least in part be due to the publicity it generated.
And even if Harry, who has never worked outside of the British Army, gets a job at a financial institution, for example, it would be impossible to think that the appointment was not in part linked to his proximity to the crown jewels. Chelsea Clinton is certainly an educated woman, but her job (even at NBC News) were in part due to the sphere of influence in which she was born. Meghan and Harry imply they won’t trade on their fame, but without a miracle they inevitably will (and employers will rely on it).
Some are already speculating that the pair could be the the biggest influencers in the world, but if they chose that route, it would make their stance towards the media as obnoxious as a Vegemite sandwich. Harry, of course, was born in his place and never wooed the attention of the press. However, if the couple were to step into the growing global attention economy, would they be much better than a real housewife, trading access for cash? (Please, please don’t become something as common as “influencers”.)
The couple’s website also states that media announcements will now be carried out on their website and social media accounts and this press access will be granted by invitation only. While I applaud both steps taken to improve their mental health, that’s not exactly how modern celebrity works. (And, make no mistake, with no official royal duties, they’re essentially a sleeker iteration of the Kardashians.)
In the age of social media, where stars have direct access to their fans and no longer have to barter access with media gatekeepers, many have tried to have tighter control over their image. Look at Beyoncé, who announced her pregnancy on Instagram, wrote and directed his own documentary which was uploaded directly to Netflix, and makes the cover of a national magazine without submitting to an interview. Still, that doesn’t stop the footage of her sister and husband from brawling. introduce yourself on TMZ.
It looks like Meghan and Harry want to choose which events they’ll attend, which charities they support, and what efforts they want the public to participate in.
It looks like Meghan and Harry want to choose which events they attend, which charities they support and what efforts they want the public to participate in without having to experience the inconvenience of public life.
In fact, this announcement could mean the opposite: the fact that they are withdrawing makes the press even more curious. Now that bedbugs can’t spot Harry and Meghan at factory openings and ribbon cuts, maybe they’ll start to sneak through the bushes of the Canadian city they decide to settle in. Maybe they’ll start digging through the semi-royal garbage for clues about baby Archie’s eating habits. We can all certainly hope not, but who knows?
The only way to completely exclude the media is to withdraw from public life altogether, which would unfortunately include their charities and possibly all attempts to get even richer than they already are today. Only then will the press get bored and move on.
Harry didn’t ask for this life per se, but Meghan needs to know better. The life of a B-level actress in Hollywood is both artisanal and branded; you hope to make art, but you also have to sell yourself for people to watch it. Before leaving to become Duchess, Meghan capitalized on her fame as ‘Suits’ with a career of minor influence, which included a blog called The Tig. Not at all by chance, the designers behind The Tig also created the new Sussex Royal website.
The couple’s treatment in the press definitely needs to change, and the most popular royals could be the ones to forge a new relationship. But stepping back in part for more control seems like a foolish task. There might be a balance to be struck between how much of an audience they want their life to be and how they’re covered, but the Sussexes are lying to themselves – or us – by acting like they were above the lucrative cycle of influence, access and branding that is the culture of modern celebrities.