AFTER last Saturday evening’s statement on the terms of the Sussexes’ withdrawal from full-time working membership of the royal family was released by Buckingham Palace, the immediate verdicts were mostly unequivocal.
This was the hardest possible Megxit, cutting them off from public funds as well as from membership of The Firm, insisted Camilla Tominey in the Daily Telegraph. It might just work, but it’s definitely a hard Megxit, declared the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson. There’s a chasm between what the Sussexes wanted and what they got, averred Victoria Ward, also in the Daily Telegraph.
Yet ‘hard Megxit’ seemed to be a slightly hyperbolic label to attach to a settlement in which the Woke-Harkles:
1. retained their HRH handles, merely ‘agreeing not to use them’;
2. safeguarded their Duke and Duchess of Sussex titles;
3. appeared to give up only the 5 per cent of their income which comes from the Sovereign Grant Fund;
4. consented to reimburse the taxpayer for the work on Frogmore Cottage, but courtesy of a gift from the Duchy of Cornwall in the near-equivalent amount,
yet could still walk away from most if not all of their obligations.
It was perhaps fitting that it fell to the Sun’s Dan Wootton, who about ten days before had originally broken the story that they were about to up sticks and bale out, to give us a clue about this seeming conundrum.
The difference of course lies in the fact that all three articles cited above are based on their authors’ assessments of what both Harry and Meghan apparently wanted, whereas Dan Wootton’s tweet focuses solely on Meghan’s presumed aims. From that perspective, he has a point, hasn’t he?
To assess the effect of the ‘titles’ aspects of the couple’s departure settlement on their planned future, we need to recap what that future is likely to be. The Daily Telegraph’s Madeleine Grant probably came as close as anyone to summarising it accurately when she described it on the BBC’s Question Time thus:
‘A strange hybrid, a woke celebrity, Gwyneth Paltrow meets Greta Thunberg with a bit of Kardashian thrown in for good measure.’
In other words, Hollywood-sleb self-promotion, rampant brand-monetisation, and virtue-signalling Woke Green-Left politics.
The route to the money, whether billions or even mere millions is already mapped out. For a glimpse of the principal courtiers to the Court of the aspiring Queen of Global Woke, it’s necessary to look not at discreet advisers but at the lifestyle gurus, the fashion stylists and the Instagram-influencers. Plus of course the media and PR types who can be relied on to provide unfailingly fawning coverage, seldom to ask awkward questions and, above all, never to criticise. The Oprah sofa for the tearful tell-all interview is already lined up, as TCW’s Laura Perrins has pointed out. It’s just a question of whether the book launch makes it first.
Given all of the above, plus Markle’s evident eagerness to leverage the pair’s royal status, both commercially and in promoting her favoured Woke-Left political causes, the decision to allow them formally to retain their ‘HRH’ styles but merely ‘agree not to use them’ looks insufficiently robust, and to a risky degree.
Granted, the provisions of the settlement were stated to come into force only ‘from the spring of 2020’ – incidentally, why not with immediate effect when the Prince-turned-Frog has already decamped? – but the HRH styles were still being used on the Sussex-Royal website a few days ago. What sanctions does the Crown have if they’re flagrantly abused, which I suspect can’t be ruled out?
I would have been happier to see the ‘Sussex’ titles either relinquished or withdrawn as well, given the circumstances of their departure and their future intentions. Obviously, the point gets made that the Duchess of York wasn’t required to surrender her title, even on divorce from Prince Andrew – though in the light of recent events, she may wish she’d surrendered it voluntarily – but then again, Fergie was trying to flog children’s books off the back of it, not to launch a multi-million-dollar commercial empire with a crossover into Hollywood-‘liberal’ Woke-celebrity politics.
However, removing or revoking a dukedom isn’t easy. As far as I can see, it requires Letters Patent to be issued by the Crown and possibly, when a dukedom conferred on a member of the Royal Family is involved, approval of both houses of Parliament as well, so one can understand the reluctance of the Palace to go down that route.
But it’s perhaps a shame that an existing dukedom couldn’t be altered to be made morganatic. If (or rather, when) Markle decides the Prince-turned-Frog has outlived his usefulness, the sight of an again-divorced minor American actress possibly running for political office with a ‘Duchess’ handle will, I reckon, stick in quite a few craws.
The concession to allow the use of ‘Royal’ in the ‘Sussex Royal’ brand, including both website and Instagram feed, is already beginning to be challenged as incompatible with the Woke-Harkles’ ‘agreement’ not to use their ‘HRH’ styles in consideration of withdrawing from royal duties, although they could apparently end up being allowed to use it in connection with charitable purposes only.
It isn’t difficult to see that compromise running into trouble. If its allowed ‘use for charitable purposes’ extends to the ‘charitable foundation which [they] are expected to launch shortly’, then given that Markle’s planned charitable foundation on a typical US-celebrity model is arguably far more likely also to function as a vehicle for her pet political obsessions, the likelihood is that that itself will endorse or promote highly woke and Left-wing political causes and could well still taint the royal family by association. Better, perhaps, if it were to be withdrawn totally at the outset.
The purpose of questioning the lack of more rigorous restrictions on the couple’s continuing use of any royal handles isn’t vindictive, though I’ve no doubt their woke groupies would disagree, and shrilly. Actually, it’s to put the greatest possible distance between them and the monarchy, so as to minimise the risk of the institution being tainted by either or both of them, if their promotion of themselves, their brand, their causes and, let’s face it, Markle’s profile, becomes politically embarrassing or descends into gaudy commercialism.
Despite the setbacks of the past few months, support in Britain for the monarchy as an institution remains strong, according to polling.
These results look encouraging, given the events of the past two weeks. It seems that Brits not only understand, but appreciate, the distinction between the monarchy as an institution and the personality flaws of some of its current, hopefully temporary, members; and that they recognise that, for all its faults, it’s still preferable to having some tainted, divisive political has-been, or some washed-up grubby ex-‘celebrity’, as an ‘elected’ head of state.
It’s for that reason that the maximum separation needs to exist between the monarchy on the one hand, and the self-centred and aggressively acquisitive – both financially and emotionally – future that the Woke-Harkles have chosen for themselves, on the other. And it’s to fulfil that need that a harder Megxit should have been insisted on as far as titles were concerned.