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The latest episode in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal exit is a dramatic regrouping—one that looks more like battle lines being drawn.
On one side of the world, Harry and Meghan are tentatively experimenting with a new life of making money, and making friends with very rich, very connected people—and, as ever, getting criticized for it.
On Thursday night, the Daily Mail reported that Harry and Meghan had fired 15 U.K. staff and closed their Buckingham Palace office. “It is the surest sign yet that the couple and their son Archie are unlikely ever to return to the UK to live,” the Mail reported, calling the mass firing a “Megxit bloodbath.”
Those losing their jobs include their private secretary, Fiona Mcilwham, and many of the couple’s press team, including head of communications Sara Latham.
The dramatic move underlines that Harry and Meghan do not see the U.K. as their home anymore.
So, in a sense that the media narrative never changes—Harry and Meghan get the barbs, William and Kate the laurels—the last week has been, one could say, plus ça change. What has changed is the reality behind the optics: William and Kate are now the frontest-facing royals practically and symbolically.
The expectation clearly is for them to show up and charm in as many places as possible, such as what Kate did this week at a Northern Irish farm and Scottish café to promote her “5 Big Questions on the Under Fives” campaign about childhood development and care. Next, she and William will be visiting the Republic of Ireland in March and are said to be planning a bushfire-recovery tour to Australia.
Diary planners even scheduled a bit of intergenerational royal activity this week, when Charles, Camilla, William, and Kate visited a military rehabilitation center in Leicestershire, underlining the royals’ support of those who serve in the British armed forces.
The quartet grouping was significant for more visual reasons too. Harry and Meghan are gone. Prince Andrew is in exile, still in the crosshairs of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and his lack of cooperation with American law enforcement. This group of four is the future royal power structure.
We are yet to see if the whispers that the Queen would like Andrew’s daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, to take up royal duties prove true—maybe the next significant moment in that evolution will occur after Beatrice’s wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in May.
The quiet rise of Sophie Wessex also continues. Known to be close to the Queen, Prince Edward’s wife was photographed this week at a children’s hospice, Shooting Star House, in Hampton, southwest London, which she called “a very special place” in a speech.
And so, in the U.K., royal life continues. For many years, Kate and William kept a lower profile and were criticized for the paltry number of official events in their calendar. Harry and Meghan’s departure seems to have released a new royal genie—now Kate and William are suddenly out there, a lot, whether they particularly want to be or not. They have to be. They are the royal family’s youthful trump card.
Contrast this to Harry and Meghan, who are being criticized for their newfound closeness to bankers. First, there was the JPMorgan event held at the 1 Hotel in Miami’s South Beach, for which the couple received an estimated $500,000-$1 million fee, plus expenses, to attend the annual AIS (Alternative Investment Summit).
Harry, it was reported, talked to the assembled guests about his years in therapy as a result of the trauma of his mother, Princess Diana’s, death. He also reportedly spoke about living under the media glare and the couple’s alleged desire for media privacy.
It was also revealed this week that Harry was in talks with Goldman Sachs to give a speech for employees that would be broadcast on YouTube. “Goldman does not pay its guest speakers for the series but, sources say, it could pave the way for the Sussexes to forge a lucrative future relationship,” reported Britain’s Mirror. This is the same Goldman Sachs, as the Mirror noted, that “agreed to pay a $5 billion settlement for its role in the 2008 financial crisis.”
The Mirror said Harry and Meghan’s courting of big business was causing “alarm” in royal circles, which may have something to do with a kind-of refutation in Harper’s Bazaar, in which a source made clear that Harry’s discussions with Goldman had begun long before Harry and Meghan’s exit from royal life.
The big business alignments have certainly stirred Harry and Meghan’s critics.
Maureen Callahan in the New York Post said Harry—who caused worldwide headlines by claiming the pop of flashbulbs was traumatizing to him—“for the right price” would “dredge up all that deeply personal emotional chaos, held sacred for decades, to a room full of global powerbrokers—despite zero chance any of it will elucidate or ameliorate a single real-world problem.”
The headline of Piers Morgan’s most recent column for the Mail about Meghan and Harry poured scorn on the peace and privacy Meghan and Harry claimed they wanted—“in fact they just wanted the freedom to exploit Diana’s death for millions of dollars from environment-destroying bankers.”
“By commercially exploiting his mother’s death to make vast pots of money like this, Harry is surely behaving in exactly the same way he professes to despise from the media?” Morgan wrote.
Morgan also accused the couple of hypocrisy for attending the JPMorgan event via private plane and skewered JPMorgan’s own environmental record. The bank invested $195 billion in fossil fuel companies in the past three years alone, Morgan wrote.
The freedom Meghan and Harry really want, wrote Morgan, is “to whore out their royal names to the highest planet-wrecking investment bank bidders.”
According to NBC’s Today show, the couple also visited Stanford University this week to discuss the new charitable organization they want to set up with professors and academics. One line leapt out from the story, given the accusations of hypocrisy over Meghan and Harry taking private flights while preaching eco-responsibility: “They flew commercial.”
The two now separate royal worlds—one, steady and official; the other, cut-loose, and free-floating—is mirrored in the continued stories of the very different William and Harry, a reported rift still existing between them.
In what perhaps is the least surprising royal exclusive of the week, US Weekly reported that the brothers have “different coping mechanisms.”
“Harry’s more sensitive and emotional than William—he takes everything so personally. He can be rather impulsive at times,” the source told Us Weekly. “Harry wants the world to know that no one should suffer in silence, which is why he opened up about Princess Diana and going to therapy.”
William, the source added, “is a more logical thinker… He doesn’t let things get to him, like Harry does. That’s not to say William has a heart of steel—he’s actually an incredibly loving and kind man, he just has a different way of dealing with emotions and is more level-headed than his brother. If William has a problem, he’ll talk to Kate about it. William confides in her about everything.”
This source, however pro-William and Kate they seem to be, underlines the emerging storyline royal saga: There are now two very different brothers leading two very different royal courts vying for public attention.
As Thursday night’s “Megxit bloodbath” at Buckingham Palace showed, Harry and Meghan mean to make North America their home and professional base. Expect the battle of smiles and speeches, on both sides of the Atlantic, to become a lot more passive-aggressive.