Believe it or not, lockdown and writing about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex share one key thing in common: The more that changes, the more that stays the same.
Here we are, roughly 20 months after the world first started hearing about this nasty virus called Covid-19 and much of Australia is still stuck behind closed doors and hoarding loo paper.
Likewise, here we are nearly 20 months after first hearing about this sensational notion of Megxit, and we are still stuck having to hear about just how rotten being a member of the royal family was for the California native.
Early next week, a new edition of the bombshell (but heavily sympathetic to Meghan and Harry) Sussex biography Finding Freedom will hit shelves with an epilogue covering the tumultuous events of the past 12 months. The death of Windsor patriarch (and the Noel Coward of the racist quip) Prince Philip is covered, along with Meghan and husband Harry, the Duke of Sussex’s decision to spill the palace beans for Oprah Winfrey and global TV audiences.
Overnight, some of the new details contained in Finding Freedom came out in the UK press, revealing: the couple considered naming the royal at the centre of their racism claims; Harry was “saddened and disappointed” that the Queen turned down his request to have a wreath laid on his behalf on Remembrance Day; that according to a friend of the couple, the bullying claims raised against the Duchess “felt like certain individuals at the palace were doing their very best to undermine and discredit” the Sussexes ahead of their Oprah interview; a friend said their TV tell-all was “liberating” and “all the things she had kept to herself or been too afraid to say [as a working member of the royal family] she felt safe to finally share”.
Elsewhere, Finding Freedom’s authors claim that on the question of the former actress attending Philip’s funeral, “several members of the royal family are understood to have been “quietly pleased” that Meghan stayed in California because they “didn’t want a circus” or, commented one senior royal source, “the Duchess creating a spectacle”.”
To make it perfectly clear here, Harry and Meghan have denied being involved with Finding Freedom and said via a spokesperson last year they “did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it”.
Still, the drum that this new version of the book seems to be banging sounds similar to the same drum the couple themselves have been banging for much of this year already.
Meghan, during their Oprah appearance, raised charges of institutional royal racism and of a level of indifference to her declining mental health during her first pregnancy that was nothing short of cruel.
Harry has, so far this year, accused his family of “total neglect”, “bullying him into silence”, of them being stuck in a cycle of “genetic pain” and cutting him off financially.
All signs point to even more of this same banging in the future.
For those who are firmly Team Sussex, these sorts of revelations only further entrench their belief in the cause; for anyone clutching their commemorative Diamond Jubilee tea towel collection to their chest while humming God Save The Queen, this only makes them more fervently incensed on the Queen’s behalf and for the masses somewhere more in the middle, it is just repetitive and boring.
And that is a very dangerous thing at this stage of play. The couple raised some very serious questions about a strain of racism in The Firm, a charge that the Queen must address publicly and substantively in some way or another. (New polling this week found 55 per cent of British and 61.6 per cent of American respondents agreed that Her Majesty had not “done enough” to respond to the Sussexes’ racism allegations.)
However, the more Harry and Meghan cry wolf here, the more people seem to be tuning them out and that is a huge bloody shame. This racism conversation needs to happen and the only way that will come to pass is if public pressure stays on Buckingham Palace.
Next year, Harry is set to release his biography having picked up a rumoured NZ$28million advance for the work. Given the money involved, chances are that publisher Penguin Random House expects him to turn in an eye-popping tell-all that will fly off the shelves, which is to say, another huge serving of self-styled monarchical martyrdom.
Sure, this might all be cleansing for the couple who clearly had a rough trot during their brief 20 month of joint HRH-dom but it is also a serious miscalculation.
According to Google Trends, web searches for “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex” in the United States, where the duo are busily trying to build their brand, are 50 per cent lower today than they were on January 3 this year.
Harry and Meghan have managed to render what at any other time in history would have constituted mind-bogglingly huge royal stories into the blandly pedestrian and yawningly mundane.
The couple lobbing a few more verbal grenades over the palace gates is now about as novel as MAFS stars topping up their lip fillers.
The Duke and Duchess seem to be suffering from a strange form of myopia where they think that painting themselves as casualties of a cruel institution represents some sort of savvy play. Cathartic? Sure. Clever? Sorry, no.
In fact, what we have here is essentially a zero sum game. They have won over as many hearts and minds as they will to their cause with their anti-palace MO.
The Sussexes risk the world becoming increasingly blase whenever they pop their heads above the parapet and that would be frustrating beyond belief because I do think the royal family must satisfactorily respond to their racism claims in a public forum. Her Majesty, after all, presides over a Commonwealth that is composed of more than 1.5 billion people of colour.
According to one report, Finding Freedom’s authors write in the revised edition: “As difficult as recent years have been, sources close to the Sussexes say that neither Harry nor Meghan have any regrets about the decisions they have made. What started as a fairytale romance became a story that reinvented the genre – a self-made, independent woman playing an equal role alongside her knight.” (Anyone else feel a tad queasy here?)
What Harry and Meghan (and this biography’s authors) have wrong is they seem unable to let go of these tired, shopworn tropes of victims and villains; of brave and bold warriors versus the calculating, oppressive forces standing in their way.
At least on the Covid front we have some rough idea of when we might be allowed out again but the same can’t be said for Harry and Meghan and the only song they seem to have any interest in playing.
– Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
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