We are in the kind of news cycle with the Sussex drama where I wake up in the morning and immediately check my phone to see if there are new developments. Yesterday’s twists came hard and fast.
First of all, I had missed the second story in The Times. Valentine Low had so much to say, he wrote two articles on the allegations that Meghan bullied staff members. The second one (you can read here), had more detail on the allegations, or at least more detail on the type of behavior she supposedly engaged in. It is important to detail what exactly was said or done, so that the rest of us can make a fair judgment.
Later in the day yesterday, Buckingham Palace released a short announcement that it would open an investigation into the allegations.
What else could the Palace do? The Times story alleges two things. First, that Meghan as a principal/senior royal engaged in abusive behavior toward her staff members, and second, that the Palace HR swept it under the rug. So, Meghan is the primary culprit in this story, but certainly it reflects poorly on the Palace HR that it (allegedly) didn’t follow up. Now that news has broken, they obviously have to rush out there and assure the public that this will be investigated. So that was our lunchtime update.
Then, as a treat to consider on the commute home, CBS aired a new teaser to the Oprah interview, that makes clear Meghan will attack the Royal Family in her interview. As one reporter pointed out, “the Firm” is a name for the family, not the Palace as a corporation/organization.
Remember, the allegations in The Times articles are a direct, preemptive response to the upcoming interview. I guarantee you that the Palace, with its connections, has gotten a sense of what is in the interview, and they obviously know it will be very ugly. No one is hiding the ball on the fact that these allegations are coming from the Palace now because of that. The articles state that several times.
The gloves are coming off. I suspect by the time the closing music starts on the Oprah interview, the war of the Sussexes v. the Monarchy will have moved from quasi-cold war to fully kinetic.
Someone sent me some gossipy tidbits this morning—just some chatter about the upcoming interview. I sincerely hope that Meghan doesn’t hint at or openly discuss the allegations of infidelity that were leveled against William a year or so ago. That would be worse than anything she could say about the monarchy as an institution. Attacking the Cambridges’ marriage would be the absolute lowest point to which she could sink, and it would genuinely appall me. I really hope that isn’t the direction this is going.
Many of you have asked why this is happening and where this is all going. There is lots more to discuss, and I will try to cover that in another post.
Tonight, The Times (of London) published a long and explosive article alleging that several complaints of “bullying” were lodged against Meghan Sussex by her Palace staffers while she was still an active British royal and living in London. The article comes in the run-up to Harry and Meghan’s interview with American television queen Oprah Winfrey, which will air on March 6, 2021.
According to Valentine Low, who broke the story:
The complaint claimed that [Meghan] drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member. It was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the couple’s communications secretary at the time, seemingly in an effort to get Buckingham Palace to protect staff who he claimed were coming under pressure from the duchess. Prince Harry pleaded with Knauf not to pursue it, according to a source.
The report goes on to detail:
Knauf sent an email to Simon Case, then the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary and now the cabinet secretary, after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of HR. Case then forwarded it to Carruthers, who was based at Clarence House.
In his email Knauf said Carruthers “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious”. He added: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”
(Harry and Meghan’s people have denied the allegations in the article and deemed it a deliberate smear campaign)
I am not shocked by the substance of these revelations. There were contemporaneous whispers of this at the time, e.g. the Sun report that Meghan texted and called staffers at 5am and one assistant quit in tears. Whether every detail of a particular story was true might not have been verifiable, but those sorts of stories are generally bread-crumb trails at the very least. This new report tracks with the picture we were getting back at the time.
To me, the most interesting part of this Royal Divorce plot-twist is how the Sussexes and Palace appear to be on the brink of all out war. The Times story seems to reveal Palace turmoil about the proper course of action. It starts by saying, “Royal aides have hit back,” but then notes later in the article that “The Times understands that the palace establishment is highly concerned that the allegations have emerged.” So, either the aides broke out on their own, or there is disagreement on how to handle this within the Palace. Whether this was an unauthorized leak (that feels unlikely) or not, Meghan and Harry consider the attack to be sanctioned by BP. The Times reported:
The couple’s lawyers told The Times that this newspaper is “being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative” before the interview. (emphasis added).
It should be noted that the sequence of events that led up to this is as follows: The Queen wrote to Harry privately announcing her decision that the couple could not maintain their royal patronages if they weren’t working royals, the news that Harry and Meghan had already recorded an interview with Oprah was leaked, it was officially announced the couple won’t return to royal duties and would lose their patronages, Harry’s segment with James Corden aired, it was announced that the Oprah interview that had been a 90-minute special will now be a full 2 hours. There is most certainly some escalation in there.
I think we all knew that Meghan was high-maintenance. Both the reports at the time and her approach to royal life generally sketch out that picture pretty accurately. This article in The Times confirms as much, but obviously making that perception concrete with these details results in a very damaging piece for Meghan. It suggests that the Palace (or at least some factions in the Palace) are willing to risk the turmoil of a public fracas to tangle with Meghan. I assume the Palace has gotten wind of at least some of the content of the upcoming interview.
As usual, it is important to remember that the Sussexes didn’t leave for privacy. They didn’t want to stop being royal. They forced their own hands, and are unhappy with the ultimate result (see my other post on this blog for details). Leaving them alone is unlikely to result in peace.
I’ll have to think more about this and maybe write more later, but as I said when the couple announced they wouldn’t return to active royal duties, the Windsors are far from done with the Sussexes (or perhaps more accurately, the Sussexes are far from done with the Windsors). These two will be a headache, possibly a catastrophe, for the foreseeable future. The fact that the 90-minute special with Oprah was extended to 2-hours after the Palace finalized the split has a very ominous feel to it.
You see it everywhere in the Megxit discussion: “they wanted out,” Harry and Meghan “finally got what they wanted,” and “they finally have the life they wanted all along…” etc., etc. The reality is that Harry and Meghan did not want out and they don’t have the life they wanted all along. Although Harry and Meghan weren’t happy with their position in the family, and they wanted to change the status quo, they did not want out of the royal universe. They didn’t want to relinquish their royal status, and their current situation is far from what they had planned. At its simplest, Meghan wanted, essentially, to change the couple’s place in the royal pecking order, but the two didn’t want to be thrown out of the coop.
I get a fair number of angry messages when I make this point, many of them saying, “how do you know what they wanted—did they tell you?” To which the answer is a very simple, “yes, they did tell me.” They told everyone…literally. They press-released to the world exactly what they wanted. Let’s refresh our memory on that. Here is their January statement:
“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” [emphasis added]
Read the statement. It talks about money, independence, and space, but what is the only specific attribute they attach to their desire for space?? Space to build their own brand. It certainly does not express a desire to relinquish their royal ties, indeed it underscores multiple times their determination to remain fully royal even while they chart their own course. It doesn’t talk about privacy, the press, a desire for a hidden life, or even protecting Archie. The only context in which it mentions Archie is to underscore they will be raising him with the constant reminder of his status and royal blood. In short, Meghan and Harry weren’t thinking of leaving behind their royal status in any way, shape, or form.
Meghan was desperate to break free from the royal hierarchy and compete with the Cambridges for the most prominent position in the family. Her reasoning was clear—money confers autonomy. She didn’t consider, as I have harped on in more than one blog post since the couple’s marriage, that you can’t fight the Palace on this. You can’t change a thousand-year-old institution that is only hanging on in our modern world by walking with extreme care down a neutral pathway.
You all know the story from here. The Queen put the kibosh on their plans. You just can’t circumvent the hierarchy in a monarchy. That goes against the core principles of a hereditary monarchy! I do think the Queen genuinely wanted the two to stay in the family, so they did choose to walk away, but they did not choose freely with a full range of options. They had boxed themselves in and chose from two unpleasant options.
But, if they didn’t want to leave, then why did they?
The Sussexes were facing a choice: get back in line and behave, or leave the fold and try to make it big on their own. They chose what they obviously considered the lesser of two evils. And if you look at it from Meghan’s perspective, it was better to roll of the dice. There was no wiggle room with Option 1—she’d be immediately defeated in her quest to be the international, UN-style x Royal superstar she wanted to be. Option 2 wasn’t very palatable, because she hadn’t planned to step out that far from the Royal Family and it involved enormous uncertainty and risk, but at least with Option 2 she had a shot. She had a chance to work her connections, work her title, and stay a mega-star on her own terms, rather than agreeing to a life as a secondary royal. You can see why Option 2 was attractive. I am not sure, though, that Meghan fully grasped the risk she was taking with Option 2.
In addition to the lurking difficulties of being a “royal in exile,” it seems that Meghan made the above calculation without even fully understanding what it would mean for her immediate future. Just like Meghan thought she could challenge the heir and his wife and win, she also obviously didn’t fully understand that the Queen is the font of royalty. The Queen controls the brand. When Meghan chose Option 2, she might not have fully understood just how thoroughly the BRF could freeze the Sussexes out. As discussed in a previous post, Meghan obviously thought that Harry had a kind of independent claim to “royalty” the way people claim their last name. She thought Harry’s claim would permit the couple to continue to operate as royals even if separated from the Palace. Obviously, the error in that theory was not fully brought home to Meghan until after the two made their decision at the Sandringham Summit, because they didn’t hammer out the trademark dispute until several months later. It was in accepting defeat over her trademark that Meghan got the full force and bitterness of the Queen’s royal supremacy. But, by that time they were some ways down the road from the Summit and their fateful decision.
Nor is the narrative that Harry finally has the life he dreamed of an accurate one, either. Harry has not always wanted out, and this certainly isn’t his dream life. Harry has always had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He has borne a grudge stoked, frankly, by an overly emotional press about his mother’s tragic death. The press didn’t kill Diana; a drunk chauffeur killed her. That pain is truly crippling, but, the aggressive press Diana battled (and that did not kill her) is long in the past. No one is spitting at Meghan or Kate; both women go about their daily lives largely unbothered and certainly unmolested. Long lens shots happen, press packs happen, negative headlines happen—none of this equates to Diana. Harry has unhealthily fixated on the press and the only person that has hurt is himself.
Harry has been frank in talking about his mental health struggles, but he was also getting better. He was happy and stable when he met Meghan; now he is living in a world of fabricated victimhood. Almost everything Harry thrived on he got from his royal status. He served honorably and should always be commended for that service, but his military career beyond his stint in combat is almost all a tale of advancement based upon royal status. His charity work for children, for wounded warriors, for endangered species—all of which seem to be his real life’s passion—all that is an option for him because he is royal. If Harry were a normal guy, he wouldn’t be traveling the world doing charity work, and he wouldn’t have been the Captain-General of the Royal Marines. Someone who really loved Harry and wanted his good would have given him some tough love. Royalty has its drawbacks, but its perks far outstrip the negative aspects. His passion and talent in connecting with people was given wings by being royal. He should have been grateful for the fortune of his birth. Instead, he indulged in whining self-pity and worked himself into the delusion that his privileged life was somehow a cage. Do you know the most miserable I think I have ever seen Harry as an adult? The night he made his final appearance as Captain-General of the Royal Marines. His pain was etched all over his face as he appeared to fight back tears in response to the standing ovation he was receiving.
He belongs there in Britain, doing the work he loves, supported and promoted by his powerful family. His charism, charm, and warmth—all of his strengths—flourish as a happy royal. He has destroyed himself by his self-pity which amounts to complete delusion.
People complain that Meghan unjustly bears the brunt of the blame for this fiasco, but the truth is that most everyone can see that Harry would still be a senior, active prince in the British Royal Family—living and working in the United Kingdom—if it weren’t for Meghan. Meghan has never been happy with her place in the royal family. She is one of the most obviously ambitious women I have ever seen on a national stage. Obvious is the important word there. There are a lot of ambitious women, but Meghan isn’t very good at hiding it. I hasten to add that I don’t have a problem with ambitious women—you could say I am one—but, ambitious women should know what their goals are and not follow life paths that box them out of the very goal they are seeking. Meghan married Harry, which she should have known would foreclose any possibility of being the top star in the royal stratosphere or being a politically active personality on the world stage.
Yet, Meghan married Harry. She knew he was the “second son,” the “spare to the heir.” She knew Kate was the queen of her generation, that the Cambridges would always be first, and that she could not pursue political or even very controversial “philanthropic” activities. She knew all that. It is no use saying she didn’t realize it. You have to choose: she is either a moron who was completely naive to reality, or she is a smart woman who understood the score and proceeded regardless.
So, why did Meghan marry Harry knowing what she did? Almost certainly because figuring out (down the road) the roadblocks presented by Harry’s position was a small price to pay for the skyrocketing position she acquired by marrying him. Meghan was not even a B-lister when she met Harry. The narrative that she was a big star in her own right is simply fabricated. There is a reason that when news outlets figured out the identity of Harry’s girlfriend the headlines simply said actress, rather than Meghan Markle. If Harry had been dating Emma Watson, or any number of starlets, the paper would have led with a name. The papers didn’t lead with a name, because the name was, for all relevant purposes, meaningless. Again, this isn’t a negative spin, it’s tough reality. For a very ambitious woman who wasn’t going to make it big in Hollywood, Harry was Meghan’s ticket to fame and an international platform. None of this is to say she wasn’t also in love with him, but you can’t really divorce all the extraneous attributes of a person from a relationship. People are drawn to those people who have similar tastes and want the same lifestyle–it is called compatibility. Meghan was marrying Harry for what she loved in him on a very raw human level, but also for their “lifestyle” compatibility Being a wealthy prince who lived the luxurious lifestyle that accompanies that status is part of who Harry is. People cannot and do not truly judge other people without those considerations. I know I am going to take flak for this, but think about it…it is human nature and it is true.
Meghan loved being royal. Royalty was an absolute jackpot. She never wanted to relinquish the ultimate A-lister status she had finally achieved. As we’ve discussed before, royalty has a special magic and a special stardust all its own.
So Meghan and Harry did not want out; they did not choose their current position. It has been a nightmare that has spiraled out of control for them. From the moment the BRF balked at their initial January statement, to the showdown at Sandringham where they had to make their choice, to the humiliation of losing permission to use their HRHs (a veritable stripping of their status), to the loss of their brand name/trademarks, to the current catastrophe of trying to launch a new (profitable venture) in the midst of a global pandemic, they have had a wretchedly rocky road. That’s the problem with choosing the option with risk…