Decision Meghan might live to regret

 

COMMENT

Tuesday this week was a day the Queen would most likely rather forget about. That's because it happened to be the 83rd anniversary of the abdication of her uncle King Edward VIII. That decision is a particular sore point for Her Majesty because his choice to put love before duty irrevocably changed the course of the young Princess' life.

Rather than growing up to, say, marry a Duke and spend her days surrounded labradors in some draughty Norfolk pile, instead she was forced into an existence governed by grinding, ceaseless responsibility.

There is a certain irony that during the same week that this anniversary fell, two other high-profile members of the family are similarly struggling with the same predicament, namely how to balance personal needs with their royal roles.

The last time that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex appeared in public was during the Remembrance Day events on November 11.

Since then, she and husband Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, have taken a step back from their official roles and are currently in the midst of a previously announced six-week sabbatical.

However, this break raises a few very tricky questions about privacy and what their future might look like.

 

Firstly, they are the world's most famous couple yet they have not been photographed, caught by the paparazzi, or snapped by a member of the smartphone-wielding public.

They have not been spied shopping, at an airport, hanging out at home in Windsor or even with her mother Doria Ragland in Los Angeles. Thus, Harry and Meghan have seemingly confirmed that it is eminently possible to be an HRH and to enjoy a relative amount of seclusion.

Unlike Diana, Princess of Wales, whose every move was dogged by photographers chasing her, Meghan (like Kate, Duchess of Cambridge) has enjoyed a far more low-key existence. Consider how very rarely any photos of Meghan or Kate out and about in civilian mode appear.

In the last 18 months or so, you can count on one hand the number of times they have been photographed when they weren't undertaking official duties.

Given their global level of fame this is quite extraordinary when you think about it. The takeaway here is that Harry and Meghan are able to live relatively under-the-radar existences a lot of the time.

Secondly, Harry and Meghan are meant to be taking a break to recharge after a big year. For any couple, royal or not, working full-time, having a baby and moving house in the space of a few months would be exhausting.

Add the various controversies and PR contretemps they have faced and it's enough to make any sane person want to take a very long lie down.

Meghan has, even by royal standards, had a very tough year. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Meghan has, even by royal standards, had a very tough year. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

However, they are not doing that.

Britain's The Telegraph has reported that Meghan is in "work mode" and using this time to work with mega PR agency Sunshine Sachs on the stateside launch of their Sussex Royal Foundation.

"While Harry and Meghan are technically on rest, she is not the type of woman who likes doing nothing; so this break actually could be seen by some as very fortuitous," a source told the newspaper.

"What is most interesting is that Meghan feels that while the charity will be a worldwide venture, she sees Hollywood and American business circles as key to fundraising. Meghan feels that focusing on fundraising stateside will bring in tens of millions of dollars quickly."

Likewise, their @SussexRoyal Instagram account, of which Meghan is reported to be keenly involved with, has continued to post.

The past 12 months or so have seen the couple try and walk the very, very fine line between being passionate and effective working royals, using their platform to highlight and amplify a number of charities, and building private lives independent of their royal identities.

Harry and Meghan are clearly two people who are deeply compassionate and driven to try and make a difference - but who also hunger for the simplicity of family life. Balancing the two is an extremely difficult feat to achieve, as the Sussexes are discovering.

The Duke and Duchess Chris Jackson/Getty Images
The Duke and Duchess Chris Jackson/Getty Images

In October this year, first Meghan and then Harry launched legal proceedings against a total of three UK newspapers for alleged infringement of copyright and misuse of private information and alleged hacking respectively.

This pugilistic move shocked the press and represented an escalation in their fight to redefine the boundaries between their public and private lives.

Given the last few weeks have proven they can fly under the radar, the question is whether these courtroom maneuverings might start to seem overly combative and counter-productive given a healthy working relationship with the media will only help them bring even more attention to their causes.

On Christmas Day, when the Windsors make their way to church on the Sandringham Estate, Harry and Meghan won't be there (they are widely reported to be planning on celebrating the holidays with Meghan's mother Doria).

Though this is far from unprecedented - the Cambridges have twice spent the day with the Middletons since 2011 - their absence will still be conspicuous.

As we approach the new year, it is clear that the Sussexes seem determined to reshape the role of a working royal but only 2020 will tell if they have pulled off a truly genius coup or have created a new headache for Buckingham Palace.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years' experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.



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