Love and work. Those, according to Sigmund Freud, are the two essential things that a person needs to be happy.
On paper, Prince Harry unequivocally now has both.
In 2016, after years of dating, he met the love of his life in the sort of romantic set-up that would make for a cracking lifetime movie. (Reader, he obviously married her.)
Then, in 2019, he and wife Meghan Duchess of Sussex welcomed their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Hours after his son’s birth, Harry fronted a handful of press in Windsor and his absolute joy and wonder was blinding evident.
The man positively beamed; the world breathed a happy sigh of relief. More than two decades after watching the little boy walk behind his mother’s coffin at the age of only 12-years-old, Harry finally had a precious family of his very own.
Next up, work. This week the news broke that the Sussexes have signed a headline-grabbing deal with Netflix, with estimates pegging the value of the arrangement at somewhere around $130 million in the long term. For a man whose CV boasts proud military service, a lot of hand shaking and zero experience behind the camera, it was a serious Hollywood coup.
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The other big news week was that the duo had paid off, in one fell swoop, the $4.3 million they had promised to repay the Sovereign Grant for the renovation of their UK home Frogmore Cottage.
The use of what, very crudely, amounts to taxpayer funds used to refurbish their Windsor house was used as justification by some quarters of the British press to heavily criticise the couple for their refusal to allow the press any part in Archie’s christening, as per tradition.
If you’re taking our dosh, this school of thought went, then you better let us into your charmed new lives.
So, no more debt, no more being harangued in the press.
Of their surprising Frogmore money move The Telegraph reported: “The Sussexes have been particularly concerned with removing what they see as unjustified ‘public interest’ in their new lives from the British media.”
And therein lives a huge, yawning black hole of a gap in the couple’s alleged thinking.
To think that by paying off Frogmore Cottage and setting up home in the sunshine-dappled city of Santa Barbara is going to somehow dial down the interest in their family is simply magical thinking. Financial independence does not and will not equate to a sudden downturn of interest in the couple.
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Harry has long struggled to make peace with the intense, frenzied coverage he has faced since birth. In 2016, his press secretary released a statement taking aim at the media squall that had engulfed Meghan after she was ‘outed’ as his girlfriend.
It said that Harry is “aware that there is significant curiosity about his private life. He has never been comfortable with this, but he has tried to develop a thick skin about the level of media interest that comes with it.”
Likewise, last year in a TV interview, Harry said that “every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back” to his mother’s death.
How could anyone read that and not feel their heartbreak for the man, just a little at least?
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Given his history, it is eminently understandable why Harry desperately craves peace and some breathing space from the claustrophobic intensity of global interest in his life.
However, the reality is more complicated.
While he and Meghan may no longer be HRHs, accepting Sovereign Grant cash and thus being obliged to spend their days toiling away in the service of the Crown, they are, and will always be, two of the most famous people in the world. It is nearly impossible to conceive of that ever changing and them sliding into glorious obscurity and irrelevance.
As uncomfortable as it might be, their celebrity is a millstone around their necks that they will never, ever be able to jettison.
Let’s say that Harry and Meghan – stay with me here for a bit of a thought experiment – did the unthinkable and junked their dazzling new US life and moved to, say, a remote Scottish island. They would spend their days tending to their Aga and taking long bracing walks in freezing winds, far, far away from Wi-Fi and with nary a yoga studio in sight.
And still, even in this scenario, they would be the objects of extreme public fascination. You can bet that within hours, the Fleet Street tabloids would have chartered a small flotilla of boats and a clutch of shivering snappers would forever more have to spend their days bobbing off the island’s waters, long lenses trained on the Sussexes’ crofter’s cottage.
There is another issue with their concerns about, as The Telegraph put it, “unjustified ‘public interest’.”
Because, just what is the ‘justified’ amount?
Harry and Meghan snagged their megabucks Netflix contract not simply because they are captivating and passionate humanitarians but because their fame and attendant pulling power is unbeatable on a global scale.
Consider: In an interview this week the company’s CEO Reed Hastings predicted that Sussex-produced content will be some of “most viewed content next year.” The pressure will be on for Harry and Meghan to now deliver, eyeball-wise.
Like it or not, attention is something that the newbie producers are going to have to deliver in spades to the streaming giant for them to really coin it. (And they are not small numbers – this week it was revealed that Netflix’s Umbrella Academy was watched for more than three billion minutes in the week it was released.)
There is a cognitive dissonance that the couple, reportedly, bristles at the intense public curiosity about them and yet will need millions of people to hungrily pay attention to them when they start rolling out their TV and movie projects.
To expect both is to give rise to charges of a certain Marie Antoinette/cake-eating type hypocrisy.
Clearly, there do need to be boundaries, for example, Harry and Meghan are now taking legal action in a Los Angeles court over allegations that the paparazzi flew drones and helicopters over their previous home and photographed Archie in the garden. Obviously, they deserve privacy.
But there is a big distinction between a very reasonable expectation to protect their home life and son and thinking it is possible, and again reasonable, that public interest can be turned off and on like a tap.
Here’s the bigger question: Given that there is no skerrick of a chance the world’s fixation with the couple is going to wane in the slightest in the near future, will Harry ever find happiness?
He might have an incredible wife, an adorable son, his very own house paid for with his own money and a fortune, of his own making, coming his way. But will he ever make peace with the level of public interest in him? Especially given he now lives in a country with far fewer legal protections against the press and with a horde of paparazzi on his doorstep.
Harry and Meghan may no longer be financially reliant on anyone else but their new-found careers might perhaps necessitate they generate more public interest – not less.
This time next year, there is every chance we will all be gloriously, happily bingeing on the hope-filled content the Sussexes have in the works right now. And, there is no absolutely chance the press and public will be any less obsessed with them.
I wonder what Freud would make of that.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.