However, royal births always have many layers of meaning, symbolism and opportunity. This birth is no different.
Most obviously, the safe delivery of Meghan and Harry’s daughter Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor (named after her great-grandmother, the queen, as well as her late grandmother Diana, the Princess of Wales)—which will be all the more of a joyful relief to them after Meghan suffered a miscarriage last year—represents an absolutely pivotal opportunity for both the British Royal family and the Sussexes to move on from the very public washing of their dirty linen that has come to define all their narratives for several years now.
If the royal family has any sense, they will immediately, effusively and publicly congratulate Harry and Meghan on all available private, public, and social media channels.
The usual dry statements of delight won’t cut it. William felt able to issue a video message on Twitter excoriating the BBC after the corporation published its report into Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana. The couple also released Instagram clips of the entire family clapping the NHS at the height of the coronavirus crisis and playing on the beach for their anniversary.
How wonderful it would be if he and Kate and her children could push out a 10 second clip expressing their happiness for the Sussexes at the earliest opportunity.
This may seem like an unimaginable slice of humble pie for the Windsors to swallow given the couple’s televised denunciation of them and the institution they represent, but if the British Royal family know one thing it is the art of grinning and bearing it for the cameras.
And if they truly want to put the nightmare of Harry and Meghan’s rancorous departure behind them, they are going to have to leave behind them playground-level questions of who started it—and focus on ending it. That means the Windsors, however wronged they may feel, have to make the first move, and make it big.
The birth of this child gives them the ideal opportunity to do so.
Harry and Meghan would be likely to accept any proffered olive branch, not least because it would be a sound commercial decision. The attention economy has lavishly rewarded the Sussexes for talking publicly at great length and in granular detail about their resentment, anger and irritation with the royal family for the many sleights, insults and affronts delivered to them.
No doubt there is plenty more they could say, if they chose, but for the Californian Royals, discretion now may be the more lucrative part of valor.
Their fledgling Archewell brand is built on the concept of “compassion,” and to publicly move on and restore diplomatic ties, and to allow others to interpret such actions as them forgiving the Windsors, would neatly embody that ideal.
Public sympathy for the couple, which fell off a cliff in the U.K. after they started publicly calling out the queen, William, Kate and Prince Charles, has so far held up remarkably well in American polling. But that could start to fray if the principal narrative defining them continues to be the reheating of an increasingly distant argument with some crusty British toffs not exactly known for their commitment to letting it all hang out.
Prince Harry has been fortunate that reaction to his criticism of the First Amendment—he called this founding principle of the American constitution “bonkers” in an unguarded podcast chat—has not taken off and become a full-blown “thing.” But it can hardly have escaped the notice of Meghan and Harry’s brand management army that the slip-up remarks prompted commentators in the right-wing silo to indulge in an orgy of Harry-hating.
Of course, these commentators are not exactly Harry and Meghan’s target market (Americans who identify as Trump supporters have an even lower approval rating of Harry and Meghan than the generality of Brits) but if the couple care to heed it, the reaction on Fox News and its brethren to Harry’s ill-judged comments was a valuable sign of just how fast things can flip for celebrities when they do things that allow them to be portrayed as hypocrites, anti-patriotic or mere virtue signalers.
Attacking a celebrity will almost always produce more attention than lavishing praise on them. Harry and Meghan know this better than anyone. Would we all have listened, awe-struck, to the Oprah interview were it not for their astonishing take downs of Kate Middleton, Prince Charles and the wider institution of monarchy?
Would Harry’s show about mental health have garnered one-tenth of the column inches it did had it not featured Harry unloading on the parenting failures of Prince Charles, Prince Philip and the queen?
But as Harry and Meghan move further away from their lives as royals, they will start running out of this truly industrial-grade gossip.
And do they really want to be known just for providing juicy dish on the royal family? The lofty humanitarian goals expressed on their website suggests not—and there is no doubt that the royals, who have always jealously guarded their privacy, would like the selling of their secrets to the highest bidder to stop too.
A permanent war of attrition will, in the long run, be hugely damaging for both sides. The moment of new life is not the time for the settling of old scores. This joyous news offers an ideal opportunity for both sides to move on.