LONDON – Just over a year after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they would be stepping down from the British royal family and moving to North America, the couple are embarking on a blitz public relations campaign that will underline the delicate balance that it will have to find between the two. links with the monarchy without being officially part of it.
On Sunday, the couple are expected to explain why they left frontline British royalty in a prime-time interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The lengthy celebrity interview, on TV and stream Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS,
marks the culmination of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s efforts to take control of how their lives are portrayed in the media and strengthen what so far appear to be a rare example of royals British who managed to leave what is called “The Firm” to earn a lot of money.
But tensions with their former employer intensify. Buckingham Palace said on Wednesday it was investigating allegations in British newspaper The Times of London that the Duchess of Sussex harassed assistants while working there. The Duchess of Sussex denies it.
Meanwhile, a teaser for Oprah’s interview shows the Duchess accusing the palace of “perpetuating lies” about her and Prince Harry. “If that carries a risk of losing things, I mean there are already a lot of things that have been lost,” she says.
An unseemly public argument risks tarnishing the monarchy and, in turn, the burgeoning brand of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, says Rita Clifton, former chair of branding consultancy firm Interbrand. “Like any brand relationship, you want to make sure that both are valid and you don’t want your association to kill the golden goose,” she says.
At first, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex tried to keep a foothold in the royal family. They registered the ‘Sussex Royal’ trademark and hoped to emulate other members of the minor royal family who retain their military titles and perform certain royal duties while retaining jobs. But officials at Buckingham Palace said no. The Sussex Royal brand was discontinued, and last month all formal ties were severed.
The total split was a big blow to the Sussexes, officials said. But it could prove to be a business boon for the couple, who are now free to capitalize on their royal origin without interference from Buckingham Palace, says David McClure, who has published books on the finances of British royalty including ” The Queen’s True Worth ”.
After moving to Montecito, California last year, the Sussexes formed Archewell Audio LLC and Archewell Productions LLC to create audio and video content. They also founded an Archewell Foundation to support their charitable work.
They signed an agreement to create content for Netflix Inc.
and another to present podcasts for Spotify technology HER
. Multi-year deal with Netflix is worth around $ 100 million, people familiar with the matter say
They are signed by the Harry Walker agency for speaking engagements. The terms of these contracts are not public. The couple are no longer receiving an allowance from Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles, or funds from UK taxpayers.
The Sussexes could become a billion dollar entity over the next decade if they choose to endorse products such as cosmetics or clothing, said David Haigh, managing director of Brand Finance PLC, a UK company. brand promotion.
But it all depends on whether the content they produce for Netflix or Spotify is popular and whether they can stay on good terms with Queen Elizabeth, he says. “They would earn more money if everything was done out of court.”
So far, the couple are playing a cautious hand. They appeared at a conference hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Miami last year. The Duchess of Sussex recently recounted a Disney nature documentary on elephants, a project she started before stepping down from royal duties. A Spotify podcast just after Christmas featured the couple’s son Archie. The Duchess has invested in a brand of instant coffee.
Closest to the controversy was a video call by Prince Harry ahead of the US election for people to reject ‘hate speech, disinformation and negativity’, which some commentators saw as a sideline against then-President Donald Trump and a violation of the royal family’s long tradition. political neutrality. Prince Harry’s advisers denied that was the case.
“The palace will be worried,” said Mr. McClure. If you leave the British Royal Family “you still have the royal sparkle on your shoulders, whether you like it or not. So you will monetize the links to the monarchy and you will be potentially embarrassing for the monarchy. “
Last month the couple said they remain ‘committed to duty and service in the UK and around the world’ and advisers are playing down the idea that they will do anything that is not in accordance with these values.
The British monarchy is full of examples of royals trying to go private. Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son Prince Edward started a TV production company which later closed. His wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, ran a public relations firm but was caught on camera making critical comments about Prince Charles.
More traumatic was the Queen’s uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated as king in 1936 to marry a divorced American. To supplement his royal allowance, the Duke of Windsor later sold his memoirs and appeared in several magazine interviews. He ended his days in exile just south of Paris. Other extended family members also cashed in. The Queen’s eldest grandson has already launched an advertising campaign to sell milk in China.
Royal interviews that go wrong are also a staple. The Queen’s second son Prince Andrew had to resign following a botched interview in 2019 where he tried to explain his friendship with late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Royal watchers have questioned the wisdom of interviews in which Prince Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, spoke about their failed marriage.
Prince Harry said one of the main motivations for leaving the UK was to get away from the media. Princess Diana died in a car crash in 1997 while being followed by paparazzi.
After Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in 2018, the couple struggled with the level of intrusion into their privacy and the way the palace handled the British press, according to an official. In the United States, they hope to find a more respectful medium, according to a person familiar with their thinking.
Last week, the prince appeared on James Corden’s “The Late Late Show” where he was interviewed on a double-decker bus touring Los Angeles before crawling through mud during a military assault course. Prince Harry played down his decision to part ways with the monarch. “It was about backing down rather than resigning,” he said. The prince said the British press was destroying his sanity. Leaving the country, “I did what any husband [or] father would do, ”he said.
On the same day as the interview with Ms Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth will also be on the air. The Queen and her immediate family, including her two direct heirs, Prince Charles and Prince William, will mark ‘Commonwealth Day’ – celebrating a club of nations that were mostly in the British Empire – and will pay tribute to the management of the pandemic by these countries. Buckingham Palace officials say the timing for the British Broadcasting Corp. is pure coincidence.
Write to Max Colchester at [email protected]
Corrections and amplifications
David McClure is the author of books on the finances of British royalty. An earlier version of this article misspelled his last name as McLure. (Corrected March 7)
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