The crowds turning out in Australia to greet Meghan and Harry this week, where the couple are on a 16-day tour, are unprecedented.
At one event in Sydney, local media estimated that a crowd of 15,000 people waited to see the couple, who announced on the first day of their Australian trip that Meghan was pregnant. On a trip to Victoria on Thursday, well-wishers started assembling as early as 5am to get a glimpse.
Crowds of that size have not appeared for Queen Elizabeth on any of her trips to Australia (which date back as far as the 1950s), and Harry and “Megmania” easily eclipses the enthusiasm with which William and Kate’s 2104 trip to Australia—even with crowd-pulling Prince George in tow—were received.
But with great popularity comes great responsibility, and enjoying and harnessing for good causes their immense star power without putting other people’s noses out of joint requires sensitivity and self-control, a point that Meghan and Harry have arguably shown they don’t fully understand yet.
For example, the couple clearly goofed by announcing their pregnancy to close family and friends at, or very shortly before, Princess Eugenie’s wedding.
Maybe there were compelling strategic reasons why they couldn’t have informed Her Majesty earlier in the week of their happy news.
But few would blame Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew or the bride herself at last week’s wedding if they were intensely irritated by some pretty comprehensive thunder-stealing by the Sussexes, no matter how unintended it was, especially after the protracted negotiations within the family about how Eugenie’s wedding shouldn’t be conducted with any less fanfare than Harry’s.
Less than 40 minutes after Meghan’s pregnancy was announced on Monday, Fergie fired off celebratory pictures of the wedding and adoring messages to the designer of her dress on twitter, while notably omitting to utter a word of congratulation in the direction of Meghan and Harry.
Perhaps it was pure coincidence, or perhaps this was her way of doing unto others as had been done to her.
Prince Andrew’s official social account tweeted birthday wishes to Sarah Ferguson—and showed a picture of her in the dress she wore to the after-party, the designer of which Ferguson had been thanking earlier in the day—but also failed to mention the royal news that was galvanizing certain sections of the planet. However, Andrew did congratulate Harry and Meghan in an official communiqué.
If Andrew and Fergie really did conspire to undermine the revelation of Meghan’s pregnancy it would have been petty and childish, but also understandably human.
The official statement of the pregnancy from Kensington Palace actually made a point of saying Harry and Meghan had shared the news with family members ahead of the wedding, and used the wedding as a forum to receive their congratulations.
At best it was inconsiderate, at worst it gave an impression of not fully respecting Eugenie’s wedding—an impression that was compounded when news leaked out that Meghan and Harry did not attend the reception in Windsor’s Royal Lodge that evening, crying off owing to their flight to Australia in the morning. Again, it seems unlikely that at least one of them couldn’t have found a way to put in a brief appearance.
Shading a York doesn’t really matter. The divide between Andrew and his brother Charles has been well-documented and although the younger generations are friendly, the Yorks have been completely cast out of the inner circle of royalty ever since Andrew’s links to Jeffrey Epstein were publicized. But, as their Australian tour shows, Meghan and Harry could easily steal William and Kate’s thunder.
And that really wouldn’t be wise at all.
William is said by some who know him to share one of his father’s less admirable traits—jealousy. Sources have told The Daily Beast that fear of provoking his jealousy is rumored to be one of the reasons why Kate has consistently sought to dampen her public profile and withdraw from public life wherever possible.
As the royal biographer Penny Junor told The Daily Beast recently: “I suspect Kate is holding back slightly to ensure she doesn’t overshadow her husband. That is what went so disastrously wrong for his parents.”
Although he never, ever shows it publicly, William is hot-tempered, as his brother is well aware. When a French gossip mag published pictures of his wife Kate sunbathing topless in France, he was said to be “screaming down the phone” at his lawyers. Friends who have played football with or against him tell The Daily Beast attest to “the amount of ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ coming out of him when he screws up.”
William is also said to be intensely aware of his status as future king, to the extent, sources say, that he is often jestingly referred to in his absence as “King Billy” or “King William” by friends and staff, who clearly understand they are, in his eyes, playing supporting roles.
Harry and Meghan’s trip to Australia is part of that supporting role, and no one will be more delighted it is going so well than Kate and William. With another 10 days of this 16-day monster tour still to go, there will be no let-up on the intense coverage either at home or abroad.
What remains to be seen is how serenely William and Kate will cope with Harry and Meghan’s soaring profile, if, as seems entirely likely, the all-star Sussexes continue to claim a larger slice of global and domestic attention than the decidedly drab Cambridges.