Amidst a flurry of Saturday morning tasks, I caught up with my sister on the phone yesterday. We mulled over several topics before she inquired about the blogs and reports concerning the Royal Foundation: "Why do they blame Meghan for everything? What exactly is she supposed to have done that's not in line with the way the royals operate professionally?"
The term "Global Brand" has been bandied about along with outlandish speculation. Harry and Meghan have been accused of attempting to profit personally, running amok from Buckingham Palace with their own agenda and using this platform to break the royal mould. In the eyes of some the Sussexes are the downfall of the monarchy. What with their solid work ethic, proven successful projects, worldwide popularity and desire to use their roles for good, the Queen and her top aides must be positively shaking in their boots (or in Her Majesty's case her black patent Anello & Davide shoes). This is all sounding rather ridiculous isn't it?
Why has this been allowed to continue, escalate and take over the narrative you might ask? It's stemmed from an era of click-bait media where the lay of the land allows online journalists to write first, ask questions later, or better still don't ask them at all. A seething online fan war where misinformation becomes factual and, particularly, a complete lack of understanding, education and knowledge about the monarchy is worn as a badge of honour. I'm going to underline that because this is the crux of the issue and one which badly needs to be addressed before we are to endure months and years of vicious attacks against the Sussexes' foundation and future work. As long as this level of false information circulates on the internet and readers accept this as reality, it's not going anywhere, and I for one find it outrageous.
So, back to my sister's questions... "Why do they blame Meghan for everything? What exactly is she supposed to have done that's not in line with the way the royals operate professionally?" Step by step, I intend to answer that question using facts and senior members of the Royal family.
A 'Global' Royal Family?
As noted above, talk of a global 'Sussex Brand' has been used in the most derogatory sense. Members of the Royal family never focus on global issues, right? Incorrect. The royals' work in the UK is of course their primary job, but it isn't representative of their roles' sum total. Not at all. Representing Her Majesty in the Commonwealth and globally, in addition to supporting their own causes around the world plays a part in the working lives of most of the Royal family. I'm pleased to have learned of, and I'm delighted to share, the extent of those efforts by members of the British Royal family.
Certainly, when one is searching for an exemplary example of charitable work on any scale, we need look no further than the Prince of Wales. I could easily dedicate ten posts to his life's work and only barely scratch the surface. What I will focus on are his efforts and successes outside the UK to demonstrate the reach the Royal family has had for decades. Since Charles founded the Prince's Trust in 1976 (using his navy severance pay) to help vulnerable people get their lives back on track, his interests have grown to the point where he has over 400 patronages. His boundless desire to help others and to maximise the impact of his role has seen him launch, lead and support a number of charities further afield.
Have you heard of the Prince of Wales's Foundation Romania? Established in 2015, to take forward Charles' work in the country, the foundation develops a number of projects to support architectural heritage preservation, farming and sustainable development in Romania. As with much of Charles' work, it's about taking a practical, results-driven, sustainable approach. Relevant skills and practical courses are delivered to small farmers, producers of artisan food as well as Romania's wounded soldiers. Charles fell in love with the country, culture and people following a visit to Transylvania in 2007. During a speech at the Babes-Bolyai University he said: "I have often been asked about what brings me so often to Romania, what makes this place so special. The answer is, to me, very simple: you, my Romanian friends; your cultural and nature patrimony, your traditions, but also your capacity for innovation and change. All that you represent after centuries of history – your identity and your entire potential. All the energy you can expand to change something. These are the things that make you truly special in the entire world."
As with all members of the Royal family, the Commonwealth is an important part of Charles' life. Throughout his visits to member nations, he knew he wanted to make a lasting impact wherever he could. The Prince's Trust Australia delivers social impact by "transforming lives and building sustainable communities in Australia". Promoting enterprise skills, sustainable communities and supporting young people and defence members and their families are the core areas of the trust.
Next, we look at the Prince's Trust International, the definition of an organisation with global reach. Since its launch, the focus has been on delivering pilot programmes in countries around the world. They now have pilot programmes underway and established partners delivering programmes in Australia, Barbados, Canada, Greece, Jordan, Malta, Pakistan and New Zealand. If that's not enough, the plan is to move to a number of others countries in the coming years. Much like the Prince's Trust UK, the goal is to support and enable young people to avail of opportunities and improve their futures.
the Brooke, a worldwide organisation providing veterinary treatment for horses and donkeys. They reach over two million working horses, donkeys and mules across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Organisation staff include vets, animal welfare experts, and advocacy and development specialists. Camilla, a lifelong animal lover, is also a joint president of Elephant Family, a charity founded by her late brother Mark Shand in 2002 to save the Asian elephants. Again, supporting causes close to her heart is in addition to her duties on behalf of Her Majesty - it's not a case of running roughshod over the monarchy.
Shortly before the Earl and Countess of Wessex married, the Wessex Youth Trust was established to help, support and advance registered charities which provide opportunities specifically for children and young people. The Trust is proud to support worthy organisations both at home and internationally. "Internationally, funds have been directed to a wide variety of organisations - a Down Syndrome speech therapy centre in Moscow, and an orphanage in Chernobyl; a paediatric ophthalmology unit, training scheme and Flying Eye Hospital in Nepal and the Philippines as well as an HIV/Aids support programme in Uganda. In addition, donations have also been made to disaster relief operations - such as 9/11 and a children's home in Sri Lanka which helped victims of the 2004 tsunami."
Sophie has been a global ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness since 2013. More from the Palace: "In 2013, this role took Her Royal Highness to the Orbis flying hospital programme in India and Qatar where she saw first-hand the many global issues around preventable blindness. Following the Countess' visit to India and Qatar, Her Royal Highness wrote an article for the Telegraph to coincide with World Sight Day. In India, Bangladesh and Nepal the sight-saving organisations are focusing on childhood blindness. In Sudan, Pakistan and Egypt the organisations are focusing on the Trachoma Elimination Programme. Her Royal Highness has drawn much attention to these on-going projects through her visits to the regions and has helped drive the plans forward through working closely with the organisations, and many youth and community events."
'On International Women’s Day 2019, the Countess publicly announced her commitment to champion the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), at a reception for Women Peacebuilders at Buckingham Palace. WPS both recognises the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls and the positive role women play in building peace and stability.
The PSVI aims to prevent conflict-related sexual violence as well as responding to the needs of survivors, tackling stigma and strengthening justice and accountability. As a central pillar of the Countess’s work, HRH has spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York, and attended a Foreign Office conference on PSVI with survivors, government and NGO representatives. The Countess also continues to highlight international efforts towards women’s role in peacebuilding - in India, for example, HRH learnt about the country’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping and heard from women peacekeepers on active deployment.'
A life of service has seen Princess Anne travel all over the world. After serving as President of Save the Children since 1970, Anne officially became Patron in 2016. Most recently, she has travelled to Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. (with many thanks to Helen G for her research on this). In her role Anne has also visited China, Cambodia, Botswana, Madagascar and the Philippines. Save the Children strives tirelessly to protect children and give them the best possible opportunities in life.
The Princess has been involved in the creation of several charities including TransAid, transforming lives through safe and sustainable transport in 23 countries. More from the charity: "In Sub-Saharan Africa, road deaths are the third biggest killer following HIV/AIDS and Malaria (Source: the World Bank) and the problem will only rise with the growing population. Drivers are at risk every time they sit behind the wheel due to a lack of legal enforcement and training, and badly maintained and overloaded vehicles. People living in rural areas of Africa often struggle to access vital services. Around 75% of maternal deaths can be avoided through timely access to vital childbirth-related care. Our work includes an Emergency Transport Scheme to transport pregnant mothers with complications. We also help community health workers reach the families who need them." Anne also works closely with Riders For Health, an international non profit that provides health care to rural African villages.
The Duke of York launched Key to Freedom following his 2012 Diamond Jubilee Visit to Women’s Interlink Foundation (WIF) in India. The aim of the initiative is to empower women who have been victims of abuse by helping them acquire skills to become economically independent. Today, scarves made by women participating in Key to Freedom are sold at the Royal Collection Trust Shop.
The Foundation in the US
The next segment involves the US element. I think it's only natural to assume the Sussex Foundation will have supporters from the US. After all, Meghan is American. She has very well-connected friends in the US and she's going to bring an element of support to the table from across the pond. This has been largely feted as hugely controversial and another example of Meghan not following a traditional royal path. Using facts, this can be disproved as nonsense once again. When the Royal Foundation become operational in 2011, an American wing was established. American Friends of the Royal Foundation donated over $3.6 million since its inception. Prince Harry joined the US arm of the Foundation in 2013 for a major event supporting projects including the Royal Foundation's partnership with Harlem RBI to support Project Coach.
During a visit to New York in 2014, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a private dinner for American friends of the Royal Foundation hosted by long-term supporter, Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of the WPP advertising group.
In fact, Prince Charles set up a charitable foundation in the US: "The Prince of Wales Foundation USA is the affiliate organisation of the Prince’s Trust, enabling tax-efficient giving for US supporters of His Royal Highness’s philanthropic interests. We are fortunate to have a growing base of American supporters who see real value in investing in the lives of disadvantaged and marginalised young people in the UK. The Prince of Wales Foundation was founded by HRH, the Prince of Wales in 1997."
Prince Harry's collaboration with Oprah on a mental health series has been cited as the ultimate example of the Sussexes going rogue. Not so. Prince Charles has collaborated with US entities on several documentaries including the 2012 documentary Harmony: a New Way of Looking at Our World. The piece focused on three decades of Charles' work to combat climate change. The film was based on the book of the same name, which Charles co-authored, about how man has become "dangerously disconnected from nature".
NBC released the following statement at the time of the collaboration:
'NBC is teaming up with Prince Charles for a new TV special about the environment. Harmony, which is slated to air in November, stems from Prince Charles' three decades of work fighting climate change and searching for new solutions to the worldwide environmental crisis.
"The Prince of Wales has such a passion and vision in providing leadership on this crucial climate issue that confronts the world," Paul Telegdy, NBC's executive vice president of alternative programming, said in a statement. "We are honored to partner with him to showcase these issues that are important to American audiences."
The film, which will air during NBC's annual "Green Is Universal" week, features rare footage of Prince Charles' interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Vice President and longtime environmental activist Al Gore, as well as interviews with other government leaders, farmers, environmentalists and entrepreneurs.'
Charles' environmental work has not been without its setbacks. He was actually ridiculed for being one of the first to talk about climate change: "I found myself in conflict with the conventional outlook which, as I discovered, is not exactly the most pleasant situation to find yourself." Determined to following in his father's footsteps, Harry declared last year he hopes to continue his work in Australia: "Ladies and gentleman, those words were shared in speeches dating back to 1970 and up until 2002, by my father, the Prince of Wales. And yet now, nearly 50 years later, those sentiments resonate just as much today, if not more, than ever before. My father and others have been speaking about the environment for decades - not basing it on fallacy or new-age hypothesis, but rooted in science and facts, and the sobering awareness of our environmental vulnerability. And while those speeches would sometimes fall on deaf ears, he and others were unrelenting in their commitment to preserve the most valuable resource we have – our planet."
What About Commercial Partnerships?
Although the Sussexes' foundation does not yet have a name, it has been suggested (with not so thinly-veiled attacks) commercial partnerships may be in its future. Whilst we have absolutely no idea what the plan is at this time, yes it's possible and no it's not unusual. Commercial partnerships have been essential to ensuring the success of Charles' projects. Take Duchy Originals for example. Established almost 30 years ago, the leading organic brand is now stocked on the shelves of Waitrose supermarkets. It's aim is to support local producers and all profits go to charity.
The success or failure of any royal trust or foundation lies with its principles and the team behind it. Harry and Meghan are taking this on with a record of success. Simply look at the Invictus Games, look at Sentebale, the Endeavour Fund, Coach Core and many other projects and initiatives Harry has worked with. Meghan's first project with the Hubb exceeded all goals, and smashed it's target of £250,000, raising over half a million. The ripple effect is heartwarming and inspiring. Today, the women of the Hubb were working with British Red Cross to welcome and feed refugees in Hackney London.
The pair have tangible results behind them and there's every reason to believe this will be a success. Fundraising will be an important element; again they've proven more than adept at this, raising millions for Sentebale with 'Sentebale Nights' and the Sentebale Polo Cup.
Again, fundraising has been key to Charles' success. In 2017 he raised £170 million for charity. He raised more money than anyone else in the UK. In 2013-2014 he raised £143 million for 15 of his charities. It's the year-after-year dedication that has led to these results. It's a case of beating the drum constantly, and loudly.
Overshadowing Senior Royals
The next accusation hurled at Harry, and particularly Meghan, is the suggestion they are somehow trying to overshadow more senior royals, namely the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Was Prince Charles trying to overshadow his parents with the Prince's Trust? Was Anne playing a game of one-upmanship against Charles with her tireless efforts and global work? Of course not. Harry and Meghan are not in competition with William and Kate. They are not setting out to outdo them and derail the course of the monarchy.
The Queen is the monarch. Then it will be Charles, and then William. The monarch is the head of the family, there's no issue there. The monarchy is comprised of working members and their collective efforts up and down the country, across the UK, across the Commonwealth, and across the globe. It's a team effort. That's not going to change. Harry and Meghan want to use their roles to the full, they want to work hard on behalf of Her Majesty and, like the other royals referenced, use their platforms to support causes close to their heart. This is all being done with the full approval of the Queen and Charles. The new Foundation has the full support of the family. The Queen appointed Harry and Meghan to Commonwealth roles; she passed her patronage of the Association of Commonwealth Universities to Meghan almost immediately after the marriage. That sounds to me like a monarch who has faith in her granddaughter-in-law. Not a Queen who fears the newest member is rebelling against the system. The rapturous reception the Sussexes have received in Dublin, Morocco, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga is further evidence these roles are ideal for the pair. Their popularity and soft power needs to be harnessed to the full. This is all good for Team Windsor as a whole.
Prince Harry has been a global star all his life; his wife was always going to be under the spotlight. It is not the Sussexes' fault the media are obsessed with their every move. They are an asset to the monarchy and have carried out their roles with aplomb. From the day of their engagement, Meghan has thrown herself into her role, and she hasn't put a foot wrong. To chastise and tear her down because she's an intelligent woman who wants to succeed in this role is appalling and frankly sexist. Ambition is not a dirty word, especially when it's being channeled into a life of philanthropic dedication. The royals have a fantastic platform; they are uniquely placed to be in the position to help others and effect change. The fact they are being belittled for doing their jobs is truly baffling to me. We should unreservedly expect the very best from working members of the family.
The reality is the monarchy must modernise to survive and the Sussexes will play an important role in that modernisation. More from Vernon Bogdanor who famously wrote: "Monarchy has to adapt and evolve to survive. It can't be ahead of public opinion, but it can't be too far behind."
'In November 2005, Chris Mullin, the former editor of Tribune and then Labour MP, was invited to Clarence House where he heard the prince [Charles] speak "without notes, with passion and self-deprecating humour, holding our attention for a full 20 minutes. Always he comes back to the same point. How to widen the horizons of the young, especially the disaffected, the unlucky and even the malign … What influence he has he uses, sometimes to great effect, even at the risk of treading on official toes. It isn't just talk. His mentality is can-do – and he has a track record of achievement clearly visible for anyone who cares to look. Let he who has done more cast the first stone.'
So, when my sister asked me: "Why do they blame Meghan for everything? What exactly is she supposed to have done that's not in line with the way the royals operate professionally?" My answer is quite simple. Meghan has done nothing wrong; she's simply following in the footsteps of those who came before her.
*A sincere word of thanks to those who helped with the research, facts, figures and links on this.*