SINGAPORE: I’m as much of a royal watcher as the average pop culture hobbyist.
I watched the wedding of Charles and Diana and then of William and Kate Middleton. Otherwise, I have barely any interest in what the British royal family get up to.
But then Netflix’s The Crown came by and it was fantastic.
Even though the British royal family has steadfastly maintained that it’s all fiction, the highly-acclaimed series did a pretty good job delving into the complicated machinations — all that tradition, protocol, diplomacy, country before self, stiff upper lip, sacrifice, loss of privacy and freedom — that’s all part and parcel of being a British royalty.
And at the back of my mind, I would think: If they’re costing British taxpayers more than 67 million pounds (US$92million) a year, the least they can do is dress well, behave impeccably, and be grateful ordinary folk are still willing to pay for their extravagant lifestyles in the name of heritage.
Will and Kate have done exceedingly well on that front.
Then Harry met Meghan.
What was supposed to be a fairytale romance about a handsome prince who fell in love with, and married a beautiful American commoner has, within a few short years, devolved into the biggest blow to the monarchy’s image since Princess Diana’s death.
By now, you’re probably familiar with what transpired during the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, which drew 49.1 million viewers worldwide.
Just this past week, they’ve announced their first Netflix project — Heart of Invictus, a docu-series from their production company Archewell Productions.
This will follow "a group of extraordinary competitors from around the globe, all service members who have suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses on their road to the Invictus Games The Hague 2020, now set to take place in 2022”.
The couple had signed a multi-year production deal with Netflix last September, which includes scripted series, docuseries, features and children's programming.
BITS AND PIECES THAT DON’T ADD UP
Now, some say there’s nothing wrong with a young couple needing to make a living since they no longer receive any income from the palace after renouncing their royal duties. They have to raise baby Archie, and are expecting a daughter as well.
But does it all just sound a little too calculated, maybe even distasteful?
Online commentators have pointed out that the Oprah interview was filmed in February, when Prince Philip was admitted to hospital for feeling unwell, then aired when he was still recovering. He has since passed on.
Was that insensitive? Or there’s no space for feelings when the ambition train simply has to get cracking?
British host, Piers Morgan had been so incensed with the interview that he declared on his show that he felt Meghan was lying, stormed off his own set, then resigned from his job.
He has since appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show, calling her “a delusional duchess who wants to make millions off the royals while trashing family”, and claiming Meghan and Harry lied or exaggerated 17 times during the Oprah interview.
Indeed, Meghan’s claim that there had been a secret wedding three days before the actual one, has been debunked. It was nothing more than an informal ceremony, said officials.
She also claimed she “didn’t grow up knowing much about the royal family”, but in previous blog posts, had written about her dream of becoming a princess seven years ago, then discussed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding four years ago.
According to her former best friend (yes, there’s such a thing) Ninaki Priddy, who had posed beside Meghan for a photo in front of Buckingham Palace when they visited London in 1996 when they were 10, Meghan’s avowed ambition was to become “Princess Diana 2.0”.
As for that famous statement that a senior member of the royal family had raised concerns about how dark baby Archie’s skin would be, Harry’s version was that the conversation had happened “right at the beginning”, presumably at the start of their relationship. That was in 2016, years before baby Archie was even a twinkle in anyone’s eye.
BEHAVING LIKE A SPOILT PRINCESS
Meghan was apparently “left gutted” when the Queen would not let her and Harry live in a wing at Windsor Castle — but isn’t that like being annoyed at not being given the room of your choice, when you’re a guest at someone’s home?
It’s not as if the Queen’s counter-offer was insignificant— she’d gifted them the 10-bedroom Frogmore Cottage!
I’m also sceptical about poor little rich prince Harry saying his lucrative media deals from Netflix and Spotify were necessitated by the fact his family had “literally cut (him) off financially" in the first quarter of 2020 — to me, the couple appeared to be quite the savvy money-makers from the outset.
Right after they announced in January 2020 that they were stepping back from their royal duties, they started up Sussex Royal with the plan to hawk merchandise such as sweatshirts and mugs, but were stymied when told they had to remove the word “royal” from any of their enterprises.
They weren’t exactly broke at that point— according to some reports, Harry had a US$10 million inheritance from his late mum, while Meghan was estimated to be worth US$2 million based on her earnings from TV series Suits.
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By any stretch, US$12 million be enough for a couple to set up shop in the US and raise their family in peace and quiet.
But not if you buy a US$14.6 million Santa Barbara mansion which comes with a library, gym, separate wet and dry saunas, an elevator, arcade, game room and home theatre, a children’s cottage, a tea house, a full-size tennis court, a lap pool, a detached guesthouse with two bedrooms and bathrooms.
Altogether, the estate boasts nearly 19,000 sq ft of living space with a nine bedrooms and 16 bathrooms. Neighbours include A-list celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Ellen DeGeneres, Ariana Grande, and — drum roll, please — Oprah Winfrey herself.
That certainly shows aspirations to become Hollywood royalty.
INKING DEALS LEFT AND RIGHT
Then, Harry and Meghan quickly went about inking a three-year podcasting deal with Spotify, said to be worth between US$15 million to US$18 million. There’s also a deal with Harry Walker Agency, which also represents the Obamas, for public speaking engagements.
According to The New York Times, fees are estimated at US$1 million per speech, and the Duke is expected to discuss topics like mental health and grieving.
Perhaps they should expand their topics to self-entitlement, boundless avarice, unbridled ambition, fame-seeking, with a special section on victim politics.
It is also ironic that Harry has always railed at the press and yet courted exactly the kind of curated media coverage when they spoke to Oprah.
One can’t help but compare how these two have lived their lives to that of Queen Elizabeth II. She has been on the throne for 70 years and seen major political changes such as the devolution in the United Kingdom, the accession of the United Kingdom to the European communities, Brexit, Canadian patriation and the decolonisation of Africa.
She also lived through family issues such as the death of Princess Diana and the marriage breakdowns and sex scandals of her children. In the face of so much scrutiny and criticism, she’s remained stoic.
Harry and Meghan, on the other hand, stepped back from their royal duties after just two years. And this despite the fact they couldn’t have that many duties seeing as how far down the line of succession they were.
They’re the complete opposite of what the Queen and royalty have always represented: Elegance, restraint, respect, stoicism, resilience, sacrifice, duty, and class.
Come to think of it, Hollywood can have them.
Tracy Lee is a freelance writer who writes about food, travel, fashion and beauty.