Well, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wanted financial independence, and the Queen has certainly given it to them.
Perhaps the most important line of the Buckingham Palace statement issued on Saturday evening, announcing the terms of their royal exit, was when the newly liberated young couple vowed that in future “everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.”
This, of course, is a purely subjective measure on the part of both Harry and Meghan, and the Queen and royal family. It may also be the hardest to define and patrol, and the line which could be most damagingly crossed.
One thing we do know is that the Queen does not approve of trading off one’s royal connections.
Into this category might fall branding yourself “Sussex Royal” all over the internet, especially after the monarch has issued a statement explicitly stating you will no longer be “working members of the royal family,” and no longer receiving public monies to do so.
Meghan and Harry are said to be philosophical about losing their HRH titles. They’ll still be the “Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” and “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle,” with all the renegade royal stardust that confers for their now-prime North American audience, where they will be spending most of their time—and seeking to make their money.
They will pay back $3.1 million of public money used to decorate Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. The funding of their security remains unclear.
But giving up “Sussex Royal,” if that is what they will ultimately be forced to do, will represent an enormous blow. Harry and Meghan have painstakingly developed the brand over the past few years, creating an Instagram page with 10 million followers, building websites that used the name, and trademarking the name for hundreds of products last year.
Of course, Buckingham Palace could agree to allow them to keep using “Sussex Royal,” but the public—and tabloid—response to that could be extremely negative. If Harry and Meghan are not working royals, why should they continue to use the word royal to sell and market themselves?
Ominously for them, a senior source at Buckingham Palace told The Daily Beast Saturday that whether Harry and Meghan would be able to retain the “Sussex Royal” branding was “one of the issues to be worked through.”
So what will Harry and Meghan do for money, if forced to surrender the moniker?
They are said to be worth some $45 million so they could, of course, live a very pleasant life without ever lifting a finger again, but their dramatic statement two weeks ago that triggered this crisis spoke eloquently of their desire to earn an income.
But if “everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty,” then we must assume there will be no big American sit-down TV interview that may expose the racism, sexism, and classism of the royal family (as had been mentioned as a possibility last week), and no lucrative embarking on the after-dinner speaking circuit. What juicy or damning stories can Harry and Meghan tell if they are to “uphold” the ultimate royal family value: discretion?
If there does come to be a multi-million dollar book deal, Harry and Meghan, in accordance with the same thinking, would have to ensure it did not embarrass or damagingly expose the royal family.
One recalls Crawfie, aka Marion Crawford, the Queen’s childhood governess, who was cruelly ostracized by the palace for the crime of writing an article, then a book (The Little Princesses, 1950), about the Queen and Princess Margaret as little girls, despite the book being respectful, and her having secured the Queen Mother’s prior permission for the article.
This, of course, leaves working in the media—and Harry and Meghan specializing in projects that do not require them dishing the royal dirt, but rather TV shows or documentary films that echo their social and charitable concerns.
They could find another branding name for themselves without the word “royal” in it, and pop that on as many cups, sweatshirts, and baseball caps as they want—and presumably they would want part of any profits made to go to one or more of their chosen charities.
They will not go poor. The exit deal still leaves Harry and Meghan as members of the royal family, just not actively working ones. It was being briefed on Saturday night that Prince Charles will continue funding Harry and Meghan from his private funds, which are generated by the vast land and property holdings which constitute the Duchy of Cornwall, in what looks suspiciously like an annual pay-off to ensure their ongoing silence.
Such things go unsaid in the palace statement—but both sides are setting the terms of engagement for a delicate dance into the future. What Harry and Meghan are not able to say, or the ways they are not able to make money, may only become apparent when they say, or make money, in a way deemed inappropriate.
It has been estimated that Charles was giving Harry and Meghan between $2 million and $4 million per year—we probably won’t find out even roughly how much they are getting under the new arrangement, which begins later this year, until accounts for 2021 are published in 2022.
By that time, the Queen may be dead (immortality is, sadly, not among her many splendid qualities). Whenever she dies, and Charles becomes King, the Duchy of Cornwall and all its income passes automatically to the new Prince of Wales, which will—in all likelihood—be Prince William, Harry’s brother, with whom he has had an argument sufficiently gigantic to make him leave the country.
What if Harry still needs funding? To avoid the awkward position of William holding his brother’s purse strings, Charles might opt to continue paying for Harry out of the even vaster and richer estate that provides the Monarch with a private income, the Duchy of Lancaster.
But, eventually, Charles, like all of us, will die, and William will be Harry’s paymaster, an arrangement that could add an extra edge to an already tense relationship.
Harry and Meghan must hope that their plan for financial independence is complete by then.