It feels an age since Harry and Meghan first announced plans to step down as senior royals, doesn't it? Two years ago we were watching a star couple excited to take on their roles and undertaking a slew of successful engagements and away days as we eagerly awaited the royal wedding. I don't believe for a moment either of them expected things to take such a difficult and painful turn. Whether you're an avid supporter of the Sussexes or an observer who has disagreed with their choices from the beginning, if we take bias out of the equation on both sides, we can all come together on the fact Meghan was put through a hellish time by the British press, from a newlywed adjusting to a completely new life and country, through her pregnancy and first months of motherhood. This combined with a toxic situation behind the scenes, warring royal aides whose level of leaking crossed the line of gross unprofessionalism long ago, and the breakdown of Harry and William's relationship all made for an untenable situation moving forward.
Whilst acknowledging this, it's also important to note how they both must have felt by the time they left Windsor for Canada last November. They felt totally unsupported and alone within the institution and fed to the wolves by courtiers. The sense of hurt, frustration and sadness was laid bare in Tom Bradby's documentary last autumn. Bradby went so far as to write in The Times the whole story could leave the monarchy just about surviving, owing to racism and sexism within the Royal household. "I suspect the Royal family would carry British public opinion still — perhaps only just — but its international standing is a key part of its value to the British state. If that were to be tarnished, it could be very damaging indeed." Bradby is not only a respected journalist, he is one of very few both William and Harry have trusted for well over a decade. It's easy to blame Meghan - it's become the norm now - before rushing to judgement we need to remember how much we don't know. We may never know the full story about what really happened, but we do know anyone who thought Harry was going to watch his wife be treated so appallingly was very much mistaken.
It's important to remember too, when they moved to Canada it was with the hope they could continue serving as royals in a part-time fashion and represent the Crown in the Commonwealth country. Essentially it boiled down to all in or all out, and all out they had no role in Canada. They accepted this and gave up a huge amount for freedom from a very unhappy situation. The reality is to become financially independent the US is simply a better place for them to run their charitable entity and take on profitable work such as the Obamas have done through speaking engagements and potentially a production deal with a streamer. They are no longer working members of the Royal family, no longer representing the Queen, no longer using HRH. With that shift, we have to alter our own expectations and the lens through which we view them. I remember several years ago on my other blog, there was a very vocal portion of royal watchers who felt personally aggrieved we didn't see more of the then-baby Prince George. I remember feeling concerned about the level of entitlement and ownership some feel regarding the Royal family. So, in short, while their initial idea of basing life between the UK and the privacy of Vancouver Island was an excellent idea, the bottom line is they will absolutely need to be earning a steady stream of income moving forward.
Tomorrow, 1 April, marks the official end of their time as working members of the family.
To coincide with their final day using Sussex Royal, they shared the following message on Sussex Royal:
'As we can all feel, the world at this moment seems extraordinarily fragile. Yet we are confident that every human being has the potential and opportunity to make a difference—as seen now across the globe, in our families, our communities and those on the front line—together we can lift each other up to realise the fullness of that promise.
What’s most important right now is the health and wellbeing of everyone across the globe and finding solutions for the many issues that have presented themselves as a result of this pandemic.
As we all find the part we are to play in this global shift and changing of habits, we are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute.
While you may not see us here, the work continues.
Thank you to this community - for the support, the inspiration and the shared commitment to the good in the world. We look forward to reconnecting with you soon. You’ve been great!
Until then, please take good care of yourselves, and of one another.
Harry and Meghan'
Omid Scobie reports:
'A spokesperson for the couple announced today that though they “would prefer that in the immediate weeks and months, the focus remains on the global response to COVID-19,” the Duke and Duchess of Sussex understand that there are outstanding questions relating to their future outside of the Royal Household, which officially begins on April 1.'
As has previously been reported, the couple will now spend the future focusing on their nonprofit organization, having shelved ideas last year to establish a U.K.-based Sussex Royal Foundation. Though Travalyst—Harry’s sustainable tourism venture, which was to be an anchor initiative for the foundation—will continue, all other aspects of the charity are being wound up.
“The Trustees of the Sussex Royal Foundation have been an invaluable resource to The Duke and Duchess, providing essential guidance,” said the spokesperson. “The Duke and Duchess are incredibly grateful for the Trustees’ support and counsel in recent months.”
Travalyst, one of Harry’s main focuses for the year ahead, is now being established as an independent nonprofit organization based in the United Kingdom.
Despite President Donald Trump’s breathless March 29 tweet about refusing the couple security in the United States, where they are now currently based, Harry and Meghan have already made their own private security arrangements. “For their safety and that of those protecting them, no further comment or guidance will be provided,” says the Sussex spokesperson, who adds that tabloid reports and speculation on security measures “interferes with operational ability and adds risk to all those receiving protection, those who are protecting them, and potentially to members of the public.”
We won't see much of the couple in the months ahead as they focus on family, plans for the future and setting up a permanent home in the US. Carolyn Durand writes:
'ELLE has learned that Meghan and Harry will continue to be focused on the issues closest to their heart including gender equity and education, mental health, conservation, and support for the military community.
Catherine St-Laurent, who was a former senior executive of Melinda Gates staff, has been tapped to become chief of staff to the Sussexes and serve as executive director of their new non-profit organization. St-Laurent, formerly the director of Pivotal Ventures, worked lovely with Melinda Gates, spearheading the foundation’s work on women and family planning initiatives including making sure contraception and birth control is available to women globally, regardless of circumstance.
Meghan and Harry confirmed the hiring, saying today, "We are proud to be joined by Catherine St-Laurent in this next chapter with us. Her leadership and proven track record working within two organizations that have tremendous impact in the world—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Pivotal Ventures—make her an incredible asset and we are excited to have her on our team.”
St-Laurent expressed her excitement too, saying, “From our very first conversation, Harry and Meghan have expressed a deep commitment to improving lives and having a positive impact on society. Their perspective on the role that empathy, connection, and compassion can play in that mission is both deeply personal and incredibly timely. I am delighted and honored to be able to play a role in realizing their vision as they embark on this journey of learning, listening, and inspiring all of us to act.”
James Holt, a valued member of Harry and Meghan’s staff, will also stay on with the couple in a new role. The highly regraded Holt had served as communications director for the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex before moving to the Sussexes' household when the Foundation split.'
As previously revealed, it will all be reviewed early next year as agreed upon by the Sussexes and the Royal family. They will be represented by US firm Sunshine Sachs for now.
From Meghan's time in the UK, I will particularly remember in the earliest days, before she and Harry married, she chose to support, uplift and empower the women of the Hubb community following the devastating Grenfell tragedy. Many of you will remember Munira Mahmoud: "I lost my best friend Rania and her two children, I was the last person she talked to on the phone, and I remember that she was very happy that I had managed to escape, being aware that she was going to die. She was the type of person that is always thinking of others."
In the darkest days that followed, Murina and a group of women came together through cooking and then one day unexpectedly Meghan arrived. She described the Duchess as "generous, modest and kind" with her "feet firmly on the ground".
In her foreword for Together, Meghan recalled meeting Munira:
'On my first visit, I asked Munira, the resident chef de cuisine (so to speak), how I could help. An apron was quickly wrapped around me, I pushed up my sleeves, and I found myself washing the rice for lunch. Munira’s sister-in-law, who had flown in from Egypt after Grenfell to help the family, helped me divide the correct amount of butter and fresh thyme to pour into the pot of rice bubbling away on the stovetop. All the aromas percolating in a kitchen filled with countless languages aflutter remains one of my most treasured memories from my first visit to the kitchen.'
Proceeds from Together enabled the Hubb to open seven days per week and to educate the women and enable them to take their careers further. Munira successfully launched Kina Mama, which provides nutritious food to local mothers and their families. Kina Mama is Swahili for ‘the mothers’. The ethos of the business follows that of the Hubb - women supporting women through food. They cater for parties, private occasions, weddings and community gatherings. In a time of great need like this, Munira and her team are providing free meals for our National Health Service staff as they work tirelessly in the weeks and months ahead.
This is the ripple effect Meghan so often spoke of and just one example of why she should be so proud of the work she did in the UK.