And, just like that, Sussex Royal is no more. The centerpiece of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s post-royal life, Sussex Royal was going to be what Goop is to Gwyneth Paltrow, what Nobu is to Robert De Niro, what those little tins of protein pudding are to Sylvester Stallone. Sussex Royal was to be their Web site, their social-media umbrella, their charitable foundation, their line of magazines, greeting cards, posters, and clothing. Yes, it sounded like something a mediocre cruise-ship company would name its third-best vessel, but it was theirs.
But now it may be no more. On Tuesday, the Queen reportedly “banned” Harry and Meghan from invoking the term “royal” in their personal branding, on the basis that neither of them is royal anymore. It’s a blow to the couple, who are thought to have plowed tens of thousands of dollars into the idea of Sussex Royal, and it means a rethink is now in order. How do a pair of nonroyal royals present themselves to the world? Harry and Meg? Markle & Co.? H&M? (No—that’s already taken.) Vancouver Windsor? No other option has quite the same pizzazz.
Still, perhaps this is to be expected. In the last couple of weeks, Harry and Meghan have started to show glimpses of what they’re going to be like as fully fledged celebrities rather than duty-bound ornaments lacking in identifiable function. Now that they have shuttered their Buckingham Palace office and let 15 members of their staff go, they are finally free to behave in whatever manner they like. So far, the results haven’t exactly been pretty. If you were the Queen, you’d probably want to distance yourself a little bit, too.
The Queen reportedly “banned” Harry and Meghan from invoking the term “royal” in their personal branding.
Harry and Meghan have only made two inroads into their new careers, but both have involved aligning themselves with colossal corporations, and both have resulted in unexpected public spankings. There was their Instagram patronage of Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk mental-health campaign, which ran into difficulty when they were reportedly called out by the sister of a mentally ill man who killed himself because Bell wouldn’t allow him to make collect calls to mobile phones. And then there was Harry’s most recent appointment.
Earlier this month, Harry was the star speaker at JPMorgan’s Alternative Investment Summit. Addressing 400 influential guests, such as Tony Blair, Robert Kraft, Alex Rodriguez, and Sir Norman Foster, Harry apparently revealed that he’s in therapy to help him deal with the death of Princess Diana. And this, too, has earned him criticism. After all, there is something slightly distasteful about the manner in which Harry’s desire to appear woke has collided with his willingness to take a big paycheck from an ethically muddy bank to talk about his dead mum days after underlining his need for privacy on that exact matter.
Nor is Meghan Markle faring particularly well. One of her first acts as a consciously un-royaled citizen was to post an Instagram video that Buckingham Palace had reportedly begged her not to release back in the days when it had a say in these things. The video—in which she sits on a sofa and lauds her guest-editing stint at British Vogue—was apparently deemed “too casual” at the time. And now that it’s out, it’s hard to disagree.
The thrust of the video is basically that Meghan Markle has secretly been the world’s greatest magazine editor all along. Vogue editor Edward Enninful gushes, “You have an editor’s eye! I’ve never seen anything like it!,” adding, “You wanted to focus on women who are changing the world.” Which would be great except that of the 15 women she focused on, 6 were actors, 3 were models, and 1 was a small shiny rectangle that ostensibly doubled as a mirror. And how did Meghan mark such a momentous landmark in the history of publishing? By putting on a sparkly party top hat and honking on a party blower for Instagram. It is many things, and you have to agree that “too casual” is one of them.
One of her first acts as a consciously un-royaled citizen was to post an Instagram video that Buckingham Palace had reportedly begged her not to release.
However, things aren’t all bad for Harry and Meghan. If nothing else, at least Harry gets to sort his hair out now. According to some experts, Prince Harry’s bald patch has almost doubled in size since he married Meghan. And, speaking as someone who looks like the harrowing results of a doomed attempt to balance a fistful of cooked vermicelli on top of a bowling ball, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But most of us in the follicly challenged community haven’t just set out on a course to become global celebrities. Prince Harry has. He now finds himself having to mingle with the likes of J.Lo and Beyoncé, rather than the bouquet-clutching suburban pensioners of old, and as such he has to prioritize his physical appearance.
Unattended, it would be just a matter of time before some glossy magazine drew a big red circle around his bald patch and started calling him “Prince Bonehead.” Reputations such as Harry’s live and die on this stuff. And this might be why Harry apparently underwent hair-thickening treatment at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic. The community wishes him well, even if we do secretly think he’s a traitor.
And anyway, mistakes were always bound to happen. The important thing is that Harry and Meghan are out, and being out means that they got to do something that all their former peers must be mad with jealousy over. They got to skip their creepy uncle’s birthday.
Harry apparently underwent hair-thickening treatment at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic.
Or at least what remained of it, anyway. Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday was originally intended to be a lavish affair, complete with a huge party, but things were downgraded after he self-combusted during his disastrous BBC interview. And this week even his more modest family dinner seemed to struggle for numbers. On Tuesday it was reported that so many guests had pulled out that Sarah Ferguson was forced to send out a raft of additional invitations just to get bums on seats.
This comes after a new flurry of bad press for Andrew. First, Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, accused him of failing to cooperate with his office’s Jeffrey Epstein investigation, then his daughter reportedly had to change her wedding date twice to work around his ongoing implosion. This week the government released a statement saying that the Union Jack wouldn’t be required to be flown on government buildings to mark his birthday. And then—most importantly of all—there is Andrew’s new link to a second wealthy pedophile.
Canadian clothing magnate Peter Nygard is the subject of a civil class-action lawsuit alleging that he “recruited, lured and enticed young, impressionable and often impoverished children and women, with cash payments and false promises of lucrative modeling opportunities, to assault, rape and sodomize them.” According to the New York Post, one victim, then aged 15, “was brought to Nygard’s luxurious Lyford Cay estate where the fashion executive tried to anally sodomize her, successfully raped her and then asked her to defecate in his mouth before offering her money.” (Nygard has denied the allegations.) And, like clockwork, it has been revealed that Prince Andrew took his family to stay at that very estate in 2000.
And then—most importantly of all—there is Andrew’s new link to a second wealthy pedophile.
This is a very bad look. Anyone can accidentally mingle with one rich pedophile. But two? Especially when one of them looks, as Nygard does, like an unmasked Scooby-Doo villain at a pro-am Dog the Bounty Hunter convention. That looks like carelessness.
Still, with Andrew sidelined, it has fallen to Sarah Ferguson to shore up the family coffers. And guess what! Her big idea just so happens to be Sussex Royal 2.0. Fergie reportedly has plans to launch Duchess Inc, a lifestyle brand that will sell jewelry and frozen food in a way that somehow manages to combine “glamour” with “compassion.”
If that fails, and there can’t be many who don’t expect it to, Ferguson has also signed a deal to release seven children’s books for an Australian publisher. At least this might be interesting, given her tendency to draw from her own life in her writing. Her previous books have included Tea for Ruby (a clumsy redheaded girl meets the Queen) and When Katie’s Parents Separated (a young woman struggles to come to terms with divorce), so perhaps we should look out for “When Beatrice’s Daddy Creeped Everyone Out So Much That They All Turned Down a Free Hot Dinner.”
If nothing else, the books are a nice distraction from a bigger looming scandal. It was revealed this week that Fergie helped arrange an undisclosed $46,000 loan by Gate Ventures, a troubled business she helped to run, to her friend Manuel Fernandez’s lifestyle upstart, vVoosh. Accounts are overdue, and NASDAQ Copenhagen, where the company is listed, is now examining Gate’s transparency standards. With all this swirling around, you can probably forgive Andrew’s friends for wanting to stay at home for his birthday.
Even the members of the outer, outer, outer orbit of the royal family are starting to fracture. This last fortnight alone has seen the end of two minor royal marriages. On Tuesday the Earl of Snowdon (21st in line to the throne) announced that he is to divorce his wife of 26 years. This took place just six days after Peter Phillips (15th in line to the throne) announced the end of his own marriage. No reason was given for either separation, although Phillips did recently make a baffling Chinese television commercial for milk, so maybe that has something to do with it. Both couples have requested privacy, something that shouldn’t be too difficult given that a top Google-search result for “Peter Phillips” brings up a headline beginning, who is Peter Phillips?
At this stage, with so many family members bursting into flames around the Queen, you can’t help but think that her refusal to allow the Sussex Royal trademark was a smart move. Perhaps next she’ll start banning all her other problematic relatives from calling themselves “royal” in a bid to save the monarchy. Perhaps the logical endpoint to all this is Her Majesty’s forcibly removing all traces of royalty from every single person who isn’t her, barricading herself in Buckingham Palace, and rebranding herself as The One True Royal. It does seem like the most sensible option at this point.
Stuart Heritage is an Editor at Large for AIR MAIL based in Kent, U.K.