Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Alex Webb, Tribune News Service
There’s hypocrisy at the heart of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s assertion that they will strive to become “financially independent.” No matter what they do, they’re likely to be cashing in on their status as A-list members of the royal family.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle want “space to focus on the next chapter,” they said in a bombshell statement last week. It’s an effort to cut themselves free of the worst vicissitudes of life as members of the British monarchy, not least the unwanted scrutiny of the country’s fearsome tabloid press.
But it’s hard to conceive of a path they can plot that doesn’t exploit that very “royalness” they want to flee. And the “His and Her Royal Highness” brand certainly affords them plenty of opportunity.
When they announced their “Sussex Royal” charitable foundation in June, they trademarked the name for everything from hoodies to health and wellness training, according to the Financial Times. While the profit from these products would probably go to charity, as is the case with Prince Charles’s Duchy Organic food business, it would still pose a risk to a royal brand that has been cultivated carefully for decades by those around the Queen and the Prince of Wales. That’s one reason why “the firm” — Princess Diana’s nickname for the Windsor family — is so agitated by the potential lack of control over a Sussex spin-off.
Were Meghan and Harry to capitalise on their 10 million Instagram followers, they could expect to make $34,000 for a sponsored post, according to an estimate from the website InfluencerMarketingHub. There are already rumours about Markle speaking to LVMH-owned Givenchy about possible collaborations. It would be a far cry from her earlier royal duties, which ranged from visiting primary schools to netball shootouts in England’s East Midlands.
It’s absurd to argue that any of this would be possible without the Windsor cachet. Indeed, if the duke is ever truly able to command $500,000 speaking fees, in line with former US President Barack Obama, as Bloomberg News reported he might on Wednesday, it won’t be because he has unparalleled leadership experience or insights — or his Cicero-like oratory skills. It’s because of who his family is.
The desire to strike out alone is in some ways admirable. With Charles looking to slim down the “working royals” to their core essentials, there’s logic in Harry getting on the front foot (even if his seizing the initiative might have infuriated his father, who would probably have preferred a gentler decoupling, if it were to happen at all).
But Harry is 35 years old and has been raised to be a prince. Though he’s a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and a qualified helicopter pilot, he doesn’t have so much as an undergraduate degree. That makes a transition to a normal civilian existence that could sustain his current quality of life tricky. The couple’s yearly security costs alone probably stretch into the millions of dollars.
Prior to the pair’s marriage, Markle did of course have a successful acting career, with some estimates that she made more than $400,000 per season as a cast member on the TV series Suits. Perhaps she’ll resume that path; if so, her box office clout will have been hugely augmented by her royalty.
Perhaps they will prove everybody wrong, and maybe they’ll use the proceeds of their new lives to fund the noble causes that are dear to them, such as tackling climate change, protecting the environment and promoting diversity. But they will need to tread extremely carefully after already attracting criticism for their occasional use of private jets.
A life where they pick and choose the royal obligations that suit them, while benefiting from the perks afforded by their status, would not go down too well with the British public.
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"I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side, because I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago,” Harry said, adding, "because it’s been unbelievably tough for the two of us.”
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