There are a few indisputable facts when it comes to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
The woman can wear the hell out of several thousand dollars worth of cashmere; she is to the humble selfie what Monet was to a canvas; and she must rank as one of the most devoted royal spouses on record, even coming close to Queen Victoria’s legendary devotion to Prince Albert.
Ever since that day in late 2017 when Meghan and then fiance, Prince Harry, a man who looked like it would require medical intervention to wipe the smile off his face, fronted the press to tell the world they were going a’hitchin,’ the Duchess has been by Aitch’s side like an extraordinarily chic, eternally superglued double act – and vice versa.
They have been a twofer if you will, supporting one another and popping up in each other’s video calls with a certain, kinda sweet ubiquity.
However, continuing the trend for 2023 to be a slightly bizarro royal ride, with frozen royal wieners trending on Twitter and Prince Andrew reportedly considering trying to have his settlement with sex abuse accuser Virginia Giuffre overturned, comes news that Meghan reportedly had “concerns” over Harry’s decision to write his autobiography, Spare.
In the eternal words of their neighbour Oprah Winfrey when she interviewed them in 2021: “Whaaaaaat?”
Camilla Tominey, writing in UK’s The Telegraph, has revealed the notion that “Meghan’s fingerprints” were “all over” Harry’s record-busting memoir and that “she is the puppetmaster pulling the strings” in fact “could not be further from the truth”.
Per the Telegraph: “Sources suggest that media-savvy Meghan was slightly more circumspect about the concept of a memoir and may have raised gentle concerns about whether it was the right move.
“No stranger to taking on her enemies, she is understood to have been more wary than the Duke about this particular project.
“That said, once Harry had made up his mind … the Duchess is said to have offered her full support and is immensely proud of his achievements.”
A source told Tominey: “Is this the way she would have approached things? Possibly not. But she will always back him.”
Huh. Whoever would have thought we would see such cautiousness from the same person who told Netflix’s cameras, “Doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?”
What is so interesting here is that the Duchess’ reticent instincts seem to have been on the money because while Harry’s decision to spend 400-pages tarring and feathering his family in between teaching the world exactly where not to apply Elizabeth Ardern might turn out to be lucrative, it has come at a cost to the Sussexes’. (In short: If you have to take your day-of-the-week boxers to apply the pricey cream, stop what you are doing.)
Three lots of polling have come in the last week and all have painted a pretty desultory picture for the Duke and Duchess, not only in the UK but crucially in the United States.
The most recent set of numbers, from Ipsos, has found that even after Harry and Meghan’s barrage of criticisms about the royal family and the institution of the monarchy, things are still relatively tickety-boo for anyone with an official cipher to their name.
According to the Ipsos polling, out on Tuesday, while both William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales have taken a slight hit in the UK, down eight points for Willy and down seven points for reluctant lip gloss-shareer Kate, this just brings them back in line with their support prior to the Queen Elizabeth’s death.
Things are generally the same for King Charles, down only 1 percentage point post-Spare.
For both His Majesty and son William, the percentage of respondents who believe they will do a good job on the throne is roughly where it was this time last year.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Harry and Meghan who have taken something of a pommeling in the approval stakes in the US, according to the data.
In America, the Duchess’ support has fallen eight points, to 35 per cent of people having a favourable view of her. For the Duke, he has suffered an 11 point hit, and is setting on 41 per cent approval.
Potentially rubbing salt into that reputational wound, is that William, a man Harry refers to in Spare as his “arch-nemesis,” is basically neck-and-neck with him support-wise on 40 per cent, even after he told the world his brother had assaulted him during an altercation in 2019.
Trouncing them all is Kate, who is not only approved of by the highest percentage of Americans – sitting on 47 per cent – but is viewed unfavourably by the smallest percentage, with only 11 per cent reporting a negative view of her. (Meanwhile Harry’s unfavourability sits at Harry is at 23 per cent, Meghan, 26 per cent and William 15 per cent.)
The bottom line is that Spare would not seem to have dramatically moved the needle in terms of support for Team Corgi but it has for the Montecito Two – and not in a good way.
In making the decision to write Spare, Harry would seem to have taken a gamble that telling his story, icy pecker and all, would tip the scales of public support in his favour and perhaps and/or away from the Crown.
Instead, the picture that has emerged over the last week is that while public fascination has been high with his story, the book has failed to trigger anything like the tidal wave of public support that his mother enjoyed after Diana: Her True Story came out in 1992.
With the release of Spare, the world has just gotten up close and personal with Aitch and has not come away freshly enamoured or impressed with the 39-year-old.
In fact, for the Duke, the decision to reveal a myriad of small, often petty, details, and gripes about his brother, sister-in-law and father and in breaching their privacy in such a blatant manner, Harry has in fact managed to open himself up for a wave of criticism that otherwise he would have been spared. (I truly could not help myself …)
Plenty of his book is him railing against the media and their constant incursions into his personal life – something he has now, without a twinge of irony, done to his own family.
There is also the increasingly bad case of Sussex exhaustion that US audiences would seem to be experiencing.
In October, Variety put Meghan on the cover; only two months later, in December after the release of their Netflix series, president and chief media analyst at Variety Intelligence Platform Andrew Wallenstein wrote of the Sussexes: “At some point, even the dimmest of minds among their fans is going to tire of their, ‘Oh, woe is us’ routine as they play the victim card again and again.
“That’s a tone-deaf message to be sending from their posh Montecito estate at a time of economic insecurity around the world.
“At some point soon, Harry and Meghan need to pivot to something beyond retelling their old plight over and over.”
Not only has that “pivot” not eventuated but Harry, with Spare, has doubled, if not tripled, down on their now chronic woe-is-us-ism.
In the wake of those Ipsos numbers, it looks a lot like Meghan’s reported “gentle concerns” were warranted.
There have been other signs which would seem to indicate that Americans are getting bored with the couple’s monotonous misery peddling.
In December, The Atlantic ran a piece titled, “The Cringeworthy End of Harry & Meghan on Netflix” and said, “The ex-royals insist they’re moving on. Viewers should be so lucky.”
This month the similarly liberal-leaning New York Times which has largely been sympathetic to the couple ran a story with the headline, “Has Prince Harry’s Confessional Tour Run Its Course?” and pondered, “Even in the United States, which has a high tolerance for redemptive stories about overcoming trauma and family dysfunction, the tide seems to be turning.”
Even though Spare has proven cash register gold for author Harry and publisher Penguin Random House, the professional auguries for the couple are very much a mixed bag right now.
On Monday, news broke that Spotify’s chief content officer Dawn Ostroff, the person who agreed to pay the couple a reported $35 million for their podcasting ‘talents,’ has exited the business.
It cannot exactly be argued that Meghan’s Archetypes series, the duo’s only meaningful podcasting outing, has really represented much bang-for-buck, for the platform.
Then there is the fact that the next 11 months of the year are stretching out before them with one doco, about Harry’s Invictus Games, representing their entire slate of confirmed upcoming work. That certainly leaves plenty of time for them to tend to their chickens and work on their adult colouring-in books.
They have not signed any new deals since 2021, when his deal with PRH was announced, and Harry has not appeared on behalf of BetterUp, where he is the ludicrously titled Chief Impact Officer, since October last year.
The future now stretches out before them and while I’m sure someone is currently enthusing about all the possibilities that lie ahead for the couple while scribbling on a non-toxic whiteboard and using words like “ideate” and “blue sky thinking”, the question that remains to be answered is – where do Harry and Meghan go from here?
In the three years since Megxit, the world has experienced a global pandemic, the deaths of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, an attempted coup in the United States, two Donald Trump impeachment trials, seven new Marvel universe movies and war has broken out in Eastern Europe.
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Which is to say, the world is a different place to the one it was in January 2020 and the world has moved on. But can – or will – Harry and Meghan?
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
Read related topics:Meghan MarklePrince Harry