On Wednesday morning, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle woke up defunct. As agreed with Buckingham Palace, their status as senior royals ended this week, taking their long-cherished dream of global Sussex Royal–brand domination down with it. This is the start of their new nonroyal life, and they’ve chosen to start it in Los Angeles. On April 1.
Like Britain before it, Canada is no longer their home. In a scramble that sounded more like the fall of Saigon than anything else, the panic-stricken pair fled southward with moments to spare before Trump shut up shop two weeks ago. A source breathlessly recounted to The Sun that “the borders were closing and flights were stopping. They had to get out.” There is some suggestion that the haste stemmed from Meghan’s unwillingness to pay taxes in two countries.
Ex-Royals on the Loose
Their exact whereabouts are unknown. Malibu was thought to be an option, except the public beaches would turn them into an automatic TMZ magnet. A more likely possibility is Beverly Park, which, given that Harry grew up surrounded by very rich old people, seems fitting. Beverly Park is a gated community where knots of unmarked, sidewalk-free streets are dotted with giant, individually gated houses. Photography is prohibited. Google Street View is banned. The communal park is barely used. Residents include Sumner Redstone, Sylvester Stallone, and the guy who introduced the Power Rangers to Americans. It sounds like somewhere billionaires go to seek isolation while they await death—a giant hospice clinic with nicer lawns.
But that’s the sort of confinement that Harry and Meghan need, now that they have to fund their own security. Their hopes of having protection assigned to them from the Secret Service and the State Department were dashed on Sunday when Trump—possibly still stung by their past criticism of him—tweeted that “they must pay!” It’s been reported that Prince Charles has agreed to dig deep and help out with their security costs, to the tune of up to $5 million a year. Charles, of course, is about to conclude a period of self-isolation after contracting the coronavirus. You’d hope that Harry at least FaceTimed him to say thank you.
And that’s helpful, because Sussex Royal isn’t going to provide for them anymore. On Monday, in their brand’s farewell Instagram post, Harry and Meghan touched upon the coronavirus, mentioning that “we are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute.” Well, yes, about that. Obviously you could argue that packing up and moving countries—on a private jet, no less—while the entire population of the world is being urged to stay at home isn’t exactly the most sensible contribution. Nor, for that matter, is leaving Canada (101 coronavirus deaths at the time of this writing) for America (4,056 deaths, and rising fast). But to each their own.
You could argue that moving countries while the entire world is being urged to stay home isn’t the most sensible contribution to the coronavirus cause.
So what’s next? Harry had hoped to launch into this new chapter by throwing himself into Travalyst, his tourism nonprofit. But, again, it doesn’t seem entirely sensible to cheerlead for the travel industry at a time when all the airlines and most hotel chains are in free fall. Short of their releasing a P.S.A. about the health benefits of licking subway handrails, it’s hard to imagine how this move could have gone any worse for them. Perhaps their new P.R. firm, Sunshine Sachs, will fix things. After all, their clients have included Harvey Weinstein and the Michael Jackson estate, so they must be quite good in a tight spot. Perhaps more will be clear when Catherine St-Laurent, the new chief of staff, formerly of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, settles into her new role.
On the plus side, however, lockdown means that more people are likely to watch Meghan’s first post-royal gig, as the narrator of the new Disney+ documentary Elephant. Reviews have been decidedly mixed so far, with her narration being described as “over-eager” and full of “spectacular torrents of schmaltz.” This, you’ll remember, is the job that Meghan reportedly got after Harry cornered Bob Iger at the Lion King premiere to praise her voice-over work.
But these are early days. Now that they’re free of the rigors of royal life, and with the world on pause, Harry and Meghan have plenty of time to exhale and figure out where they go from here. Maybe it’s time for Harry to sit on his throne as the ex-prince of Bel Air.
Stuart Heritage is a Writer at Large for Air Mail based in Kent, U.K.