There have been lots of questions about why Kate isn’t attending the unveiling of the Diana statue. First of all, to my knowledge, she was never publicly scheduled to go. I never saw any mainstream/reliable royal reporter claim or confirm that Kate would attend (I could have missed it, but I don’t think I did). I saw that The Mirror stated Kate would be there, but their source actually just reflected that it would be nice for Kate to go, which is undoubtedly true, but not confirmation that she would indeed go. Several Kate fan accounts repeated that on social media, but again, I didn’t see any press say Kate would go.
I am sure the Palace has a lot of reasons for keeping this a brothers-only event. I can imagine there are a variety or pros and cons they worked through. Camilla Tominey is reporting in the Telegraph this morning that:
“Aides had agonised over whether Kate, 39, should attend Thursday’s engagement but she will not be present. While William, 39, always wanted his wife of 10 years to be by his side, there were concerns that Harry might feel ‘outflanked’ by the Cambridges if they were there together, and he was on his own.“
I don’t mind that Kate isn’t going. This arrangement leaves the focus more squarely on the boys and Diana herself. Would it have also been nice to have Kate there? Sure. I just don’t think it is a huge, huge deal that she is not.
The other story that seems to be circulating is that this unveiling provides an opportunity for William and Harry to reconcile or start the healing process. I find that baffling. From the shocking allegations of racism in the Oprah interview, to the swipes at the family in the various interviews that followed after that (Dax Shepard and the Apple TV event), to the more recent doubling down by Omid Scobie on the race issue, William and Charles must be angrier than ever, and frankly Harry looks about as bitter as we’ve ever seen him. This is also an ongoing situation. The Sussexes seem to be waging an active campaign against Harry’s father and brother, and in doing so, against the monarchy as an institution. It isn’t like they’ve called a ceasefire.
Camilla Tominey’s Telegraph piece points out that although there had been more sympathy for Harry than Meghan when the couple initially left the Palace (“Before they left for the US, palace staff had nicknamed Meghan ‘Duchess Difficult’ while Harry was referred to as ‘The Hostage’.”), the royals now blame the couple equally:
“According to one source: ‘Before Oprah there was some sympathy for [Harry], but not after that. He knew the damage he was doing. That he looked deeply uncomfortable tells you everything you need to know.’”
To me, that is the key. Harry has been on the inside, watching his grandmother painstakingly steer the historic institution of the monarchy through troubled, modern waters. To survive, it is critical that the monarchy stave off scandal, remain politically neutral, and play its constitutional role properly. The royals aren’t guaranteed their position in a predominately democratic world. From the royals’ perspective, it is a very deadly game.
Those serious considerations, coupled with the very suspect manner in which Meghan alleged racism against the royals, leaves Harry with really no excuse. I cannot imagine how his family feels about him right now, but the attitude cannot be a warm one.
This week featured some interesting updates on the Sussexes. Rebecca English published an exclusive in which she claims that the Queen has conclusively determined that the Sussexes cannot use the word “royal” in their branding. This seems like it should be an obvious extension of her decision to squash their hopes of creating a “progressive new role” within the institution, but, at the time that the Palace gave details about the Sandringham Summit, there was no decision or guidance given on the status of the Sussexes’ trademark and branding using “Sussex Royal.” I suspect that Harry and Meghan have been lobbying very hard to keep it, for many obvious reasons, but if Rebecca’s story is true, that effort has ended in defeat. She wrote:
The Mail understands that, amid what has been described as a ‘complex’ situation, the ‘fine detail’ is still being thrashed out.
However, it is understood the couple have accepted that, as part of their new working arrangements, they will not be able to use the Sussex Royal name as they had hoped.
Shortly after this story broke, a number of other royal reporters were able to share from Palace sources more details about the couple’s upcoming exit. Remember that the Palace made clear at the time of the Summit that Harry and Meghan would slowly transition out, with their complete departure not happening until the spring. So, although some fans were confused that the Sussexes still have engagements on the calendar, this was always the plan. Royal reporters are now telling us that the Palace has told them that March 31st is the final day, and the couple’s Buckingham Palace office will no longer be functioning on the 1st of April. Between then and now, the couple will undertake a number of engagements in the UK.
There was some particularly interesting new news, though. The Palace also indicated that Harry will maintain his military ranks and his honorary positions for the duration of the “review period” (which, remember, is 12 months), and that although he will not fulfill any engagements in that capacity, he will not be replaced in his roles during the review period.
Finally, it sounds like the Sussexes’ new foundation will launch later this spring, at which point the new branding will be revealed (the Palace did not confirm or deny that the two cannot use ‘royal’).
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Part of this new news is not surprising, because permitting the Sussexes to continue to use the royal label was really out of the question. The brand is part and parcel with royalty. The same reasons that compelled the Palace to take the hardline they did and deny Harry and Meghan royal status compels the Palace to also require that the two stop using “royal” in their branding. For me, the official line at the time of the Sandringham Summit (that they were doing everything in their power to “find a way” for Harry and Meghan) has always been a little bit of a head scratcher. I wonder what exactly was floated, because it seems an either/or choice.
I don’t think the Palace could have made any decision but this one, so perhaps the more interesting question is, why this delay in announcing the status of the couple’s brand?
Although I have seen some fans try to soften what happened with Harry and Meghan’s sudden departure, the reports were all but unambiguous. Harry and Meghan did not warn their family they were taking the drastic step that they did (whatever notice they provided—a few hours, a day—was not meaningful). When they announced, the Palace, the press, and the people were left reeling. The Sussexes’ shock announcement sparked a dizzying period of meetings and, of course, the tough news for the Sussexes that their plan had a few hitches.
My first suspicion was that the Palace was trying to gauge public opinion on this topic. The Queen had to make a quick decision at the Sandringham Summit, and she made the right one—they couldn’t stay royal—but it was a hard one and probably not the one she emotionally wanted to make. There is a possibility that a second “have your cake and eat it, too” plan was floated. If the Sussexes kept “royal” in their branding, it would make the Queen’s technical ruling effectively null. She may have decided to let the PR shop do some digging and test some polls. Obviously, the public reaction was not positive, and so if this was ever the strategy, it proved up that the Queen had taken the right course and they couldn’t have it both ways. This option is remote. With this new news I think the situation comes into much clearer focus.
The Palace appears to be trying to maintain and mothball as much of Harry and Meghan’s royal life as possible so the two can take it back up again with relative ease.
Think about it from the BRF’s side. It was just two years ago that we were gearing up for a second spectacular royal wedding. Harry, who had gotten his mental health to a good place, had found the woman who could handle the strain of his public life and join him on that platform, and he was finally set to wed. There was no indication at that time that within two years he would mentally spiral as he has, or that the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be relinquishing their royal roles. This was not only not the expectation, but it almost certainly isn’t the best course of action for Harry, and I suspect his family—his father and grandmother especially—know that with a deep visceral certainty.
We already knew that the Palace was leaving the door open for the Sussexes, but I think this new news (particularly about leaving Harry’s military positions untouched during review) is a more intentional “review process” than we first realized. From the perspective of anyone trying to “mothball” the couple’s royal life, the big hitch is, of course, the branding. It’s not something that can hang in limbo.
The Sussexes like their brand “Sussex Royal.” Rebranding is both embarrassing and duplicative in terms of cost and effort. If they return to the royal fold in a year, keeping Sussex Royal would be the ideal option. But, it can’t be left in limbo—they can’t conduct business in the interim without a brand and since they might not come back (and even if they do, this next year is off the leash, so to speak) they just can’t use it. They have to rebrand. I think when they launch their foundation in the next month or so, it will be with fresh branding that does not include royal—but maybe something that could transition nicely back into the royal fold?
To conclude, the most interesting aspect of all this is probably what it hints at with respect to the internal thought-process. The long hesitation from the Palace, and this additional news that Harry’s military roles won’t be filled during the test period, make me wonder… Is the Palace very optimistic that the couple will return? Or are the Sussexes hedging their bets as strongly as possible? Because the real news this week is not so much any individual point—like the Sussexes can’t keep ‘royal’ in their branding—but rather how important this test period actually is. It isn’t an escape clause that has been casually included at the end of the Sandringham Summit agreement as an after-thought, it seems to be (or have become) the centerpiece—the focus.
Meghan and Harry’s interview last Sunday night with Oprah was far more explosive than I expected. It was absolutely a calculated and deliberate hit job on the Royal Family and on the monarchy as an institution. All three participants bear responsibility for the lies and the misinformation they disseminated to a global audience, the majority of whom don’t track the ins-and-outs of royalty closely enough to fact-check or call foul.
Since the interview aired, I have gotten quite a few messages from impassioned Meghan fans—or perhaps just social justice do-gooders—who have demanded to know why I don’t believe Meghan. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “why don’t I believe her? Why would I believe?!” The idea that I have to accept everything Meghan says, and that I cannot make a reasonable judgment on the veracity of her allegations is, well, completely illogical to me. We all can watch the interview, question the allegations, and make our own judgments on the extent to which we believe Meghan and Harry’s story.
In America, we have a justice system that utilizes trials by jury. When the government brings charges against a person, the burden is on the government to make its case. If the United States fails to meet its burden, the defendant is acquitted. In a jury trial, the government has to convince a jury of its case against the defendant. Juries are regular people who listen to and view the evidence presented by the government. A lot of evidence is testimonial, i.e. a witness providing an oral account. Among other things, the jury assesses the credibility of the witnesses to determine what weight it will give the evidence (the testimony) of the witness. When a jury makes its decision, we are—as a society—certain enough in its conclusions that we permit the court to enter judgment against the defendant and impose a sentence. We are willing to take freedom and even life based on the conclusions that juries come to by listening to evidence, assessing credibility, and drawing conclusions. So, I certainly believe that all of us have the rational capacity to assess Meghan and Harry and assert our own conclusions about their credibility.
A prosecutor or a defense attorney might sometimes seek to impeach a witness. When you impeach a witness, you show places where the witness has contradicted herself. When an attorney impeaches a witness in front of a jury, not only does he rebut that particular point in the witness’s testimony, but he calls into question the witness’s overall credibility. After all, if you lie about one thing, we are going to be more suspicious that you might lie in other areas, too.
In Sunday’s interview, Meghan was a knot of contradictions. She was an eminently impeachable witness. Oprah never once sought to push back on anything Meghan alleged, but the rest of us certainly can. Let’s jump in…
Meghan doubled down on the same fib she told us in her engagement interview, that she never Googled Harry or researched the royals before she married. I think every woman reading this is raising an eyebrow. Even Oprah couldn’t swallow it with a straight face, and Meghan’s implausible assertion drew one of the few follow-up questions from Oprah that had even a hint of tough with any bite.
I don’t believe for a second that Meghan didn’t do deep research on both Harry and the monarchy. It is the natural and the responsible thing to do. This is the same woman who made a point of exiting the plane at the start of one of her tours clutching color-coordinated binders. Meghan does her homework. Why—in the most important area of her life—would she not research?
Plus, love is knowledge. When you love someone, or are falling in love with someone, you want to know all about them. It is basic human nature to desire to know about the object of your affection. I would expect that Meghan Googled Harry, read all about Diana, read about the monarchy as an institution, read about protocol, read about Britain… In short, researched anything and everything connected to the man she claimed she adored.
This “little fib,” though was a just a warm-up.
Meghan’s Big Lie
Meghan grossly misled the public about the dispute over Archie’s title. The 1917 Letters Patent were issued by George V expressly to clarify and limit the HRH (His/Her Royal Highness) status. This is the relevant portion of the text:
George the Fifth by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith To all to whom these presents shall come Greeting: Whereas Her late Majesty Queen Victoria did by Her Letters Patent dated the thirtieth day of January in the twenty seventh year of Her Reign declare her Royal Pleasure as to the style and title of the Princes and Princesses of the Royal Family in the manner in the said Letters Patent particularly mentioned And whereas we deem it expedient that the said Letters Patent should be extended and amended and that the styles and titles to be borne by the Princes and Princesses of the Royal Family should be henceforth established defined and limited in manner hereinafter declared Now Know Ye that We of our especial grace certain knowledge and mere motion do hereby declare our Royal Will and Pleasure that the children of any Sovereign of these Realms and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Walesshall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour… [emphasis added]
So, George V limited HRH status to the children of the monarch; at the second generation (the grandchildren), to children of the male line; and at the third generation, to the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. So, as you can see, George V wanted to keep the HRHs (princes and princesses) in the family, and only to those persons with a close connection to the throne.
You can see these rules in practice in the BRF today. Anne was born the daughter of the reigning monarch and therefore was born an HRH—a royal princess. But, as a female child of the monarch, her children (Zara and Peter) were not entitled to HRH status according to the 1917 Letters Patent. Anne and her husband declined other titles, but Zara and Peter were never entitled to HRH status. Contrast that to Andrew’s daughters (Beatrice and Eugenie), both of whom are HRHs.
There is a plot twist with Edward’s children. As the children of a male child of the monarch, you’d think they would be HRHs just like Beatrice and Eugenie, but instead they are styled as children of an earl. The Queen decided at the time Edward married Sophie that their children would not be styled HRH. There is an interesting British constitutional question about whether the Wessex children are legally HRHs, but just not using their HRHs (as Harry and Meghan are not using theirs, even though they retain their royal status), or if the Queen’s press release at the time of their parents’ marriage legally withdrew their HRH status. I am inclined to agree with the constitutional argument that supports the latter position—they are not legally HRHs. Regardless, the point is that as the children of a male child of the monarch, they would have been HRHs, but according to the pleasure of the sovereign they either do not use them, or legally never had them.
At the third generation, only Kate’s first-born son would have been entitled to HRH status at birth. Because the rules were changed around this time to permit a female born before a male to inherit the throne, Kate’s eldest child (boy or girl) was destined to take the throne. Therefore, in December of 2012, the Queen issued Letters Patent to make all children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge HRHs at birth. All William and Kate’s children will be the children of the monarch, and it seems in keeping with the dignity of the Crown to grant them that status from birth.
Letters patent are not issued willy-nilly. Harry was obviously going to marry at some point and presumably have children. Had the Queen wanted Harry’s children to be HRHs at birth, she could have included them at that time. She could have had the language drafted to say all the grandchildren of the Prince of Wales, or all the grandchildren of the Prince of Wales in the male line. She did not. That was long before Meghan or any question of race was in the mix.
The rules governing HRH status are, therefore, longstanding and obeyed, and the deviations have been for reasons that pertain either to the longevity of the monarchy (as was the case with Edward’s children) or to the dignity of status that comes from very intimate proximity to the throne—intimacy that Archie doesn’t have and will never have.
When Meghan said Archie was denied a title to which he had a right, that was false. She lied. It sounds very much like Meghan and Harry requested Letters Patent to make Archie an HRH at birth, as the Queen had done for Kate’s children, and were told no. If that is the case, she misled us by claiming the rules were changed to deny Archie a title at birth when in fact she was simply told that the Queen wouldn’t make an exception for Archie.
Now, several commentators have noted that Meghan said something to suggest that Charles might have also disclosed that he doesn’t plan to extend an HRH to Meghan and Harry’s children even when he ascends the throne. If that is the case, Meghan has twisted the story with a sleight of hand. She has conflated the two important dates–Archie’s birth (when he was indisputably not entitled to HRH status according to longstanding royal rules) and the time when Charles ascends the throne (when Archie would be raised to an HRH). I suspect the truth is that Meghan and Harry asked for Archie to get his HRH status early–for the Queen to issue new Letters Patent for him, and were told no. That in itself was probably the source of significant drama. I think is possible that in addition to that news, they were then told something even more catastrophic in their minds–that Charles was thinking of slimming the monarchy and was not planning to grant HRH status to Meghan and Harry’s children at all, even when he ascends the throne. I am less sure of that, but it would make sense on several levels. If that second part is true, and because I think Meghan is very focused on royal status and titles, I think this would have put her into a tail spin.
Of course, anyone who has been watching the royals for any length of time knows that Charles has been fixated on slimming the monarchy for years. He understands that the whole institution is a bit of misfit in a world of democracies, and having fewer HRHs running around is a survival mechanism in his mind. His plan to slim the monarchy predates Meghan or any question of race. It’s a trend most of the royal families of Europe are following. Recall the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 when only the six senior members were presented on the balcony. That was a major signal at the time. Now that Harry has his own wife and is establishing his own family, and the Cambridge princes and princess are growing and will be taking their places in the royal universe, Harry begins to fade as a primary royal, and his children simply are not that senior. As has been noted ad nauseam, “Diana’s boys” were always destined for very different futures. Their children even more so. I don’t think Meghan is willing to accept this.
Meghan didn’t just obfuscate or omit, she affirmatively lied to us in this segment. But, she did not stop there. Lying about the titles was her foundation to create an even more damaging narrative. When Oprah asked why Archie was denied a title (and again, Meghan has led the audience to believe that Archie was entitled to an HRH at birth and they changed something just for him), Meghan sighed deeply. Oprah, playing the consummate foil, prompted again, “was it about his race? And I know that’s a loaded question.” Meghan replied, “but I can give an honest answer.” Then Meghan told the story about the conversation that Harry had with an unnamed member of his family about what color the baby might be and what that might look like. So, Meghan set up a wholly false premise—that the BRF denied Archie HRH status he was entitled to receive—and then came in with this story about skin color to support her allegation that the reason Archie was denied an HRH was due to racism in the royal family.
This was the mega-revelation, the biggest allegation of all. To give her credit, Oprah asked for more details. My inbox has dozens of stories from you (readers) who are in mixed-race marriages or who have a sibling who is. You have told me about the conversations you and your family members have had about mixed-race children. You all have told me this is a fairly common discussion to have. That is to say, when a mixed-race couple marries, wondering what the children will look like is a discussion that couples have among themselves and with close family members. It doesn’t have to be racist to discuss it. Certainly, such a conversation is personal and most definitely could be racist. But we’d need details; we’d need some context to know. Oprah understood that, because she followed up with a question for Meghan: “How does one have that meeting?” Meghan replied: “That was relayed to me from Harry; those were conversations that family had with him.” Ok, so Meghan was not there. Oprah asked again: “They were concerned that if he were too brown, that that would be a problem? Are you saying that?” That’s the critical part. Meghan didn’t answer yes. She gave an evasive answer. “I wasn’t able to follow up with why,” she admitted, “but if that’s the assumption you are making, I think that feels like a pretty safe one.” WHAT? You didn’t bother following up, but you just aired this issue on global tv and told Oprah and the rest of us, you feel we can safely assume racism?
Meghan has given us no detail. Not what was said exactly, not who said it, not where they said it, what the context was…nothing. She herself was not present for the conversations. Apparently, she didn’t even bother to follow-up on the possible motivation or meaning of the statements. We (the audience and Oprah) know essentially nothing expect something about the possible color of Archie’s skin was mentioned privately to Harry, yet Meghan is inviting Oprah and a global audience, to make an assumption that Harry’s family—let’s give them names, because these are people we are talking about: William, Charles, Kate, Camilla—are bigoted racists. Do you see how profoundly unjust this all is?
I will repeat myself: We, as the jury, have nothing. No evidence. We don’t even know what the statement was, to say nothing of tone and context. Yet, we are invited to make this very, very serious judgment—and people all over the globe have done so. Based on her word? Meghan just lied to us about the titles, and now, without any actual evidence at all, and relaying to us a conversation for which she was not present and about which she did not follow up, we are supposed to freely associate that over to racism.
Meghan knew exactly what she was doing in that segment. She framed her in-laws as racists with a predicate based on a lie (the HRH dispute) and then a wholly unsupported assumption. Truly astounding. But there was more to come…
SMASHING THE ROYALS’ MENTAL HEALTH WORK
Meghan’s other major bombshell was the claim that she became suicidal and that the Royal Family didn’t give her any support. It is deeply troubling to hear anyone assert they are suicidal. I hope, if this is true, that Meghan has sought help and is continuing treatment.
I do not know if Meghan truly was suicidal. She may have been. Valentine Low reported that he had heard she was very emotional at that time, although not that she was contemplating suicide. Only she knows. I can say that I found Meghan’s claim that the Palace refused to help her very, very suspect. Harry went public with his mental health challenges around the time of the London Marathon and discussed how he sought and received professional help for years. Kate’s brother James Middleton revealed in the last year or two that he has battled serious depression, and that Kate was taking time away from family and royal duties to accompany him to therapy. The royals have been tangling with and addressing mental health issues intimately, both within and without the Palace walls, yet we are supposed to believe that Meghan approached the Palace with suicidal ideations and they callously ignored her pleas? I very frankly do not believe that.
The fact that Meghan had already misled us so shockingly in earlier parts of the interview made it even harder to swallow this next massive bombshell. If ever a witness had no credibility, it was the Duchess of Sussex on national tv.
There were a lot of other discrepancies in this interview—too many to count—but, these were the two headliners, for obvious reasons. In our day and age, the allegation of racism is very hard to defend against once it has been alleged. I am thinking of writing a post about William’s one-sentence defense of his family. But, this was a serious, serious allegation that had, as discussed above, no substance at all. It is shocking that Meghan would attack her in-laws so viciously, so publicly, with no real evidence to support her claim.
The mental health claim (that the royals wouldn’t give her help) is equally shocking. If they weren’t willing to get her help, what she is really alleging is they were willing to risk her death. That’s pretty heavy. Why would she say the Palace wouldn’t help her? I think Meghan was on a mission to inflict maximum damage on the institution of the monarchy and to carve out a role for herself outside the firm. Because, this allegation also strikes at the heart of William and Kate’s headline issues—mental health support.
Meghan needs a product to sell now that she isn’t a British Royal. In addition to what seems to be a bizarre obsession with being Diana 2.0, Meghan also needs a product to generate income. She needs to create relevancy in a crowded market. By claiming racism, by claiming she couldn’t get needed mental health help, she has set herself up to now be a motivational speaker on these issues–an advocate with actual experience in these thorny and dark passageways of life. And indeed, that is exactly what Meghan transitioned to right after smearing her in-laws; she seamlessly pitched herself as the perfect Commonwealth princess. As she noted herself, “60 or 70% [of the Commonwealth] are people of color, and they need examples of people who look like them, according to Meghan. This back and forth between smear the royals, allege a hardship, and advocate for others about that hardship was a pattern throughout the interview. And just at the end of this week, Archewell announced new partnerships with a number of charities, and the two primary types of charities the foundation is focusing on are race related and mental health.
In the Oprah interview, we saw some manipulation (maybe checkmating Charles into giving Archie an HRH, since he’ll be smeared as a racist now if he doesn’t); we saw her settling scores with in-laws (Kate made me cry); we saw her attacking an institution to destroy it (the green-eyed monster—if I can’t have it, no one can); and we saw her do some pretty solid business development. I’ll be writing more on some of these topics.
The key is that we can assess a witness’s credibility. We can probe her statements, measure them against facts we know to be true; we can point out the assertions that don’t click with common sense. We can come to fairly reasonable conclusions.
The thing about lying is that when you lie in little things, eventually you are willing to lie about big things. And the more you lie, the harder it is for other people to trust your word…on any topic. I knew from the engagement interview that Meghan wasn’t beneath the occasional fib, but Sunday night she proved she is willing to twist the truth on a major scale to inflict serious, real-world damage on people who stand in the way of her goals. Sunday’s interview was explosive, but not because it told us the Royal Family is racist or indifferent to the pleas of a woman contemplating suicide, but because we found out just how ruthlessly Meghan Markle is willing to lie to achieve an end. That was truly the breathtaking revelation.
I wrote the below post in January 2020. It was part of a longer piece that I ultimately published called “The Queen’s Contract and Why the Sussexes Didn’t Get What They Wanted.” I had started out to write about why Meghan was having such a rocky road through royalty, but the whole post became far too long, and went in a different direction, so I left this in drafts. I planned to but never came back to it. I think I cut and pasted bits and pieces of the below into other posts over the next few months, so if anything sounds familiar, that’s why.
Ok, this is the intro that was cut from “The Queen’s Contract…”
When Meghan and Harry got engaged, I expressed some concern that Meghan would not understand and thrive within the British Royal Family. As the months rolled by and Meghan challenged royal convention, it became clear that Meghan did not recognize a very important principle of the British monarchy: The Palace will ruthlessly protect its central figures. It is a machine that will show no mercy in its quest to ensure the survival of the institution.
It was before the Sussexes even married that I saw this crisis looming. Meghan “hit the ground running,” and came in with the attitude of a CEO hired to save a failing company. She was praised as the breath of fresh air the stodgy monarchy needed. With her Hollywood glamour and her American can-do attitude, she was the darling of the media. Inevitably, the press compared her to Kate, and the narrative formed that Kate was dull next to Meghan’s shining stardom.
To me that spelled trouble, because the Palace reads the papers, too, and Kate is the senior royal. She is the future Queen and therefore a priority for the Palace. But, you can’t blame a girl for being charismatic, and I didn’t feel that Meghan herself was necessarily the source of her own trouble until she appeared with her future in-laws at the Royal Foundation Forum.
At that event, it was clear that the Palace was already sensitized to the headlines comparing the Duchess of Cambridge to the future-Duchess of Sussex, and the event was at pains to put the spotlight on the future queen. Where the Duchess of Cambridge might have once just listened, the pregnant princess instead took the podium to give a brief presentation. William, in his own remarks, made a point of attributing the massively successful “Heads Together” campaign to Kate.
Meghan joined her fiancé and his family at this event—a remarkable tribute to modernization in itself. (The royals welcomed Meghan so robustly that she was initiated into very formal public engagements like this one even before she married.)
As the four sat on stage together, Meghan was asked a question (I think about ways to make a difference, or empowerment) and she answered by very explicitly endorsing the me-too movement, and even suggesting how important it was to show support for the movement publicly.
The context here is everything. This event took place just at the inception and explosion of the me-too movement. In the run-up to the BAFTAs, which took place just the week before the Royal Foundation event, Kate was put under intense media pressure to wear black in support of me-too. Ever diplomatic and faithful to her non-partisan position as a royal, Kate wore green. Of course, she made the right decision to remain neutral on the hot-button issue, but she was excoriated in the press for declining to make a red-carpet statement. That was a very rough week for Kate in the press, and it came on top of already mixed headlines comparing her unfavorably to her shinier sister-in-law to-be.
So Meghan’s immediate and explicit endorsement of me-too, and her call for other women to publicly support it was like a slap in the face to Kate. It was stunning. You could see Kate struggling to maintain composure, and William was stone-faced. I can’t put it more bluntly than to say that Meghan threw Kate under the bus while sitting right next to her.
I don’t know that Meghan realized her blunder. I will say in her defense, although it hardly sounds like a defense, that I think Meghan often doesn’t realize the actual import of her words and actions—she seems so intent on her presentation she doesn’t read the room. She lacks that component of emotional intelligence, which is critical in a leader or public figure. For all her poise, and despite how articulate she is, she has proved time and time again that she doesn’t have a good read on the feelings and likely reactions of others. Given her chosen ambitions, it is her most critical liability.
If Meghan had understood the fundamental principle that the Palace protects the principals, she might still be royal, because she would have known that her game-plan would be a non-starter. We should mention Harry at this juncture, too. It is incredible that he isn’t savvy enough about the workings of his own family that he didn’t realize the two were boxing themselves out.
They’d both do well to learn this important lesson now, because one thing from yesterday is clear and that is that the Sussexes have a type of contract with the monarchy and they probably want to keep it in force, as least for the foreseeable future.
I will note as an addendum now in 2021, that I think Meghan knew she was throwing Kate under the bus… She didn’t understand all the repercussions that would have. It isn’t clear she understands even now.
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…