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Meghan and Harry’s palace revenge

Harry and Meghan Duke and Duchess of Sussex have achieved a number of incredible things during their 20-month royal tenure but this year they achieved the nearly unthinkable – they made the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey actually interesting.Usually the annual outing is something of a snoozefest, a worthy procession of senior members of…

Harry and Meghan Duke and Duchess of Sussex have achieved a number of incredible things during their 20-month royal tenure but this year they achieved the nearly unthinkable – they made the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey actually interesting.

Usually the annual outing is something of a snoozefest, a worthy procession of senior members of the royal family kitted out expensive hats, proving just how innately dull being a working Windsor really is.

This year, the service represented a historic moment in royal history, with Harry and Meghan’s attendance marking their final outing as frontline working HRHs. There they were: Meghan, resplendent in emerald, her smile plastered on with practised perfection; and Harry, glowering and dark, like a storm cloud in a Saville Row suit.

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Royal watchers parsed every blink, word and gesture of the couple as they came face-to-face with William and Kate Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for the first time in months, the two couples having very publicly fallen out.

Not even a Dynasty rerun could have managed to cram so much tension and family dram-ahhhh into an hour.

Finally, Harry and Meghan strode out of the Abbey’s doors to start their new North American life (their Canada sojourn to prove as fleeting as was widely mooted at the time) and into the great unknown.

Unknown in terms of who would fork out the wads of cash they would need to achieve their goal of financial independence. Unknown if they would end peddling meditation stools on the home shopping network a la Fergie or whether their independent life would devolve into a constant quest to find pliant billionaires willing to pick up their private jet tab.

In short, Harry and Meghan – ‘freed’ from royal life – were an unknown quantity with a lot to prove.

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There is a particularly nifty symmetry that six months to the day since their Abbey departure, Harry and Meghan have provided a succinct rejoinder those questions, thanks to their recently inked “megawatt” deal with Netflix (rumoured to ultimately to be worth about $130 million) and signing with A-list firm Harry Walker Agency for lucrative speaking gigs.

The kids are fine, money-wise anyway.

This week, they delivered their coup de grace, announcing that they had repaid in full the $4.3 million they had promised to repay the Sovereign Grant for the renovation of their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage. (Previously, the couple had reportedly agreed to pay off the outstanding sum on a monthly basis.)

“This has been a proactive step and something they wanted to do from the outset,” a source has told Vanity Fair. “There was no requirement [from the Queen] for them to pay the money back but it was important to them that they did, and after the Netflix deal they were in a position to do so. I think this is quite a significant moment for them. They’re now in their forever home, it’s the start of their new life and they’re very much looking forward to everything that’s about to come.”

Or, in other words, adios drizzly Britain! You can take your carping criticism and pearl clutching bleating and shove it where even Santa Barbara’s pre-eminent colonic therapist can’t find it. The Sussexes are off for a crisp glass of Californian chardonnay and to work out how to change millions of lives. Tootles!

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The underlying meaning of their expensive Frogmore move was abundantly clear: By no longer owing British taxpayers a single pound, they were unshackling themselves from the cudgel that was their debt. No longer could pontificating London columnists moan about the Sussexes’ alleged hypocrisy of wanting privacy and freedom while still being financially beholden to the public.

For Harry and Meghan, this wasn’t so much a case of finding freedom as slapping down their bank details and happily paying for it.

However, this was not the only development in the long saga of the Sussexes’ fortunes. This week a number of reports, including in the Times and the Daily Mail, have confirmed that the duo is no longer receiving any financial assistance from Prince Charles and are paying for their security detail themselves. (No small feat considering their retinue of bodyguards is said to come with a $1.3 million and $2.7 million-a-year price tag.)

In January, in the wake of the Sandringham Summit where the practical details of Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal life were hammered out by Harry, the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William, it was revealed that all the parties had agreed to a year-long transition period.

However this week’s news has firmly put paid to the couple needing a full 12-months to stand on their own feet.

What is so interesting about the Frogmore repayment and their achieving financial independence is not just what Harry and Meghan have done (securing big-bucks deals; cutting the umbilical cord to the Bank of Dad) but it is the truly breathtaking speed with which they did it. Not even the most ardent of the Sussexes’ acolytes would have guessed they would make such headline-grabbing commercial inroads so fast.

The symbolism of the couple having repaid Frogmore and severing their money ties to the UK is significant, marking a closing of the tumultuous and controversy-plagued chapter of their lives. And, in so spectacularly demonstrating their self-reliance, Harry and Meghan have proven they don’t need the house of Windsor’s largesse to survive, thank you very much.

While it is expected that, once COVID-related travel restrictions are eased, they will return to Blighty to both see his family and undertake engagements there (they are both still patrons to a combined 20 charities plus are the President and Vice-President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust) they clearly see that their future is Stateside.

In signing their Netflix deal, settling their Frogmore debt and no longer taking Charles’ dosh, Harry and Meghan have now provided very clear answers to those lingering Commonwealth Day questions. Because, more was riding on the success of Megxit that simply working out how they would pay their bills.

The prevailing narrative is that Harry and Meghan were driven to quit royal life out of frustration with the royal machine and with their treatment at the hands of the censorious, catty British press.

When the couple stepped out of Westminster Abbey in March and walked away from life, it was the most public and glaring rejection of royal life since King Edward VIII chose life in exile with Wallis Simpson over the crown.

In choosing to no longer obediently accept their lot and to comply with the demands and strictures of being an HRH, they inadvertently challenged the very fabric of the monarchy. Their success – or failure – out in the cold, hard real world was always going to serve as something of a referendum on whether their sensational departure and rejection of royal life was a masterstroke or an appalling mistake.

Here’s the thing: If this is what Harry and Meghan can achieve in six months, imagine what they will have notched up by the time the next Commonwealth Day service rolls around next year. The mind boggles – and so will their bank account.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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