Harry and Meghan launch palace fightback
In late January, the producers of The Crown revealed that the big budget royal drama would end after the fifth season.
Part of the thinking, reportedly, was that they didn't want to have to dramatise more recent events. That might have been a mistake because if the hit series had continued up until today, boy, would they be spoiled for a juicy storyline given the recent, nearly ceaseless series of crises, ructions and all round turmoil, that has buffeted Buckingham Palace and the Queen.
That level of tumult has shown no signs of slowing down, with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, releasing a long, at times emotional, statement over the weekend laying out their version of recent events and which on certain points appears to differ from Buckingham Palace's recent pronouncements.
Confused? Exhausted? Hooked on the sheer drama of it all? You're not alone.
Here's what has just happened.
Some quick background to this - in the last week it has been revealed that the Sussexes will officially cease to be working members of the royal family on March 31st and that they have been barred from marketing themselves as "royal", thus scuppering their ability to use their established 'Sussex Royal' brand. This is an issue given they have used this name for their Instagram account, which boasts 11.2 million followers despite only having been set up in April last year; their recently launched new personal website which is believed to have cost tens of thousands of dollars and which was allegedly personally funded; and lastly is the moniker which they were in the midst of trademarking internationally across dozens and dozens of products.
At 7.30pm on Friday night, UK time, a spokesman for the Sussexes put out a statement before a more detailed, 1114-word version was published on their website at 10pm.
The lengthy statement seems to allude Harry and Meghan's disappointment over recent events, seems to imply they feel they have not been treated equally to other family members, and includes a few spiky sentences that may well raise royal eyebrows.
QUEEN CAN'T TAKE AWAY 'ROYAL' STATUS
Perhaps the most pointed part of the wordy announcement concerns the vexatious question of whether they should be able to call themselves 'royal'.
A Palace statement earlier this week said: "As The Duke and Duchess are stepping back as senior Members of the Royal Family, and will work towards financial independence, use of the word 'Royal', in this context, needed to be reviewed."
However, according to the embattled Duke and Duchess: "While there is not any jurisdiction by The Monarchy or Cabinet Office over the use of the word 'Royal' overseas, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use 'Sussex Royal' or any iteration of the word 'Royal' in any territory."
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail has reported that, "In an unprecedented legal move, the queen has drafted in top lawyers in a bid to enforce the ban".
Likewise, the question of their status as His/Her Royal Highnesses is also highlighted with the statement spelling out that they will still officially be "His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex" however they "will no longer actively use their HRH titles as they will no longer be working members of the family as of Spring 2020."
Given this issue, like many raised here, seemed to have been previously settled by the Palace, it is interesting they have taken the opportunity to spotlight the fact they will still be (on paper) HRHs. Their announcement says they have accepted they will not use the styling "actively" though quite what that word might suggest is unclear.
SIXTH IN LINE TO THE THRONE
The couple seem to be trying to emphasise their inherent royal status, whether they can use the actual word or not, writing: "As the grandson of Her Majesty and second son of The Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex remains sixth in line to the throne of The British Monarchy and the Order of Precedence is unchanged."
In 2017, when Prince Philip retired from being a working member of the royal family after more than 50 years on the job, he asked his grandson to take over as Captain-General of the Royal Marines. It was a prestigious patronage and is reported to have been a deeply important post for Prince Harry.
The question of whether he would retain that role has clouded with some initial reports suggesting that no changes would be made in regards to this and the Duke's other military roles, for a 12-month period. That said, the Times has reported the Princess Anne will replace her nephew and take over the Marines role.
However, the statement reiterates Harry's military titles and roles and that he won't be replaced any time soon, saying: "The Duke of Sussex will retain the rank of Major, and honorary ranks of Lieutenant Commander, and Squadron Leader. During this 12-month period of review, The Duke's official military appointments will not be used as they are in the gift of the Sovereign. No new appointments will be made to fill these roles before the 12-month review of the new arrangements is completed."
DIFFERENT TREATMENT CLAIM
Another barbed comment seems to suggest they believe they are being treated differently to other members of the Queen's family. "While there is precedent for other titled members of the Royal Family to seek employment outside of the institution, for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a 12-month review period has been put in place," the statement sets out.
This particular comment has been read as them having what might be colloquially termed a bit of whinge and seems to be saying that they are being treated differently to other Windsors.
SECURITY BILL MYSTERY
One of the most contentious issues since Harry and Meghan first spectacularly revealed in January they wanted to renegotiate their royal working lives, was who would pay for their team of bodyguards? While living in the UK, the couple and their baby son Archie were protected by six armed officers from the Metropolitan Polices's Royalty and Specialist Protection unit. Per the Daily Mail, that roster of security staff has gone up since they relocated to Canada with officers having to be rotated in and up, thus seeing an increase in costs.
The question of paying for their around-the-clock protection has also been an issue in their host country, with a poll taken earlier this month finding that 77 per cent of Canadians did not think their nation should bear the financial cost.
This month, there were rumblings that some of the Sussexes' security team were unhappy with their roles, with a royal security source telling The Sun that some bodyguards reportedly felt like "skivvies" (domestic servants) and that, "while the guys are happy to be out there doing the jobs, there is a feeling they are carrying out menial tasks, like picking up takeaways and groceries".
While there had been some earlier reports saying that Harry and Meghan would personally pick up the tab for their bodyguards, today's statement leaves that question well and truly open.
"It is agreed that The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to require effective security to protect them and their son," the statement reads in part. "This is based on The Duke's public profile by virtue of being born into The Royal Family, his military service, the Duchess' own independent profile, and the shared threat and risk level documented specifically over the last few years."
The Sussexes had been widely expected to launch a personal charitable foundation later this year and had earlier sought to register "Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex."
That plan has now bitten the dust. Per today's announcement, they have revealed that they "do not plan to start a 'foundation', but rather intend to develop a new way to effect change and complement the efforts made by so many excellent foundations globally", and, "The creation of this non-profit entity will be in addition to their cause driven work that they remain deeply committed to".
WHAT THE DICKENS DOES THIS MEAN?
The biggest question here is - why? Why release this statement given the fact that many of these changes - such as their use of their HRHs, their patronages and their desire to become financially independent - have all been clearly established previously?
It is hard not to view this move as being combative and that this statement will be read as them challenging, very publicly, the authority of the palace.
This seems to be Harry and Meghan putting out their version of events. The fact they felt the need to take this step has the unfortunate consequence of highlighting the chasm - and the literal ocean - that now exists between the Sussex family and the rest of the royal family.
One of the most marked things about this statement is, at certain points, the tone with the overall effect being to cast a certain petulant, adolescent quality. (Royal biographer Penny Junor has said that the statement implied "barely suppressed rage".) The overall impression here is that the Sussexes are deeply frustrated and are still irascible about how the last six weeks or so have played out.
A member of Meghan's "inner circle" told the Daily Mail earlier this week that "Meghan said she's done with the drama and has no room in her life for naysayers, and the same goes for Harry". The notion of a calmer life seems inherently sound and if that is the case, then this is a very strange way of going about that.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.