For anyone who has been paying close attention to royal news, or just casually perusing the mountain of articles and thought pieces that flood news and social media feeds, the British media and its royal press pack is desperately trying to sell you a bag of goods. It is packaged as a coordinated but barren effort to cast the Sussexes as bad for the business and image of the British Royal Family. They would have you believe that, they are doing their job of holding members of the royal family who are funded by the British taxpayer(more later) accountable; speaking truth to power.
Do not be hoodwinked by these snake oil-hawking scribes and talking heads. The fallacy of their submission is that, there is rarely accountability or truth involved. With the exception of a select few reporters (enumerable on one hand), what we have seen from the royal press is a hodgepodge of conjecture, deliberate misrepresentation of facts, embellishment, inconsistent standards of coverage, outright fabrication, creation of the most tenuous associations, and a stunning reluctance to objectivity or the pursuit of truth. And just so we’re clear, the “my source was wrong” fallback is NOT a defense. Multiple sourcing, corroboration and appropriate characterization of information exist for a reason. “Reporter”, when used in quotation marks is intended to convey the writer’s view that they fall short of the standard.
In the latest round of the manufactured press outrage, the “reporters” covering the royal beat have called the Sussexes hypocrites for mortal the sin of campaigning for the health of the environment and taking a yet unverified Spanish vacation by private jet. Prince Harry was also crucified by the royal press for allegedly flying private to google camp. As we all know, there are other members of the royal family who discuss the impact of human activity on the environment and yes, travel privately. You wouldn’t know it though, if the press had any say in it.
When about two weeks ago, it was initially reported that, the Cambridges were at google camp, there was no outrage or concern for mode of travel, but rather among a sea of fawning coverage, a romanticized headline: “Prince William and Kate join Google camp guests… for concert and dinner under the stars in Greek temple ruins”. Likewise was the coverage of their recent family vacation to the island of Mustique, billed as one fit for royalty, sans the ridiculous and nit-picky itemization of cost and outcry over carbon footprints.
Is there a legitimate and productive conversation that could occur around the travel arrangements of all working royals (plus others in positions of power) and a perceived conflict with their advocacy for the environment? Sure. Without knowing the contextual and logistic factors e.g. security considerations or mitigation measures taken, one risks making simplistic and probably ill-found conclusions. This one-sided , incomprehensive and agenda-driven approach taken by the media delegitimizes the accountability claim.
“Reporters” post what invariably turns out to be completely or mostly fabricated stories about the Sussexes, particularly, Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex. So have royal commentators made blatantly false and very easily disputable statements on air (September Issue anyone?), and been very quick to parrot every spurious and salacious rumor as a legitimate topic of discussion, worthy of the input of so-called royal experts. The default position of these “reporters” and their ilk is to latch on to the most outrageous angle of any Sussex-related story, offering assumptions and baseless diatribe in the name of expert opinion. When said commenters and “reporters” have been proven wrong, not a single one has offered a retraction or apology, a move that would hint at the presence of an ethical bone.
One day we are told that Duchess Meghan has caused her husband to be estranged from his friends. The next day we are somehow supposed to believe that these estranged/ non-existent friends are displeased with the Duke and Duchess’ seating preference and displays of affection at their dinner parties. It takes some acrobatic level contortions to make this sh*t up. Which is it? Friends or no friends? The list is endless, but indulge another example.
When ‘Wimbledongate’ broke, some readers and supporters of the duchess rightly questioned the veracity of Sally Jones’ account of events, as there was no photographic evidence of her sitting anywhere in the vicinity of the Duchess and her party. She is woman who claimed she was seated in the same row as the duchess, and was prevented from taking pictures by the duchess’ security detail. Her account was amended more than two times yet, in the face of all the documentary evidence to the contrary and her constantly evolving story, the press still sold her account as fact, without question or careful probing.
What was obvious instead, is the gentleman who was pictured, and appeared to have his phone camera squarely trained at, and in close proximity to, Meghan. Any rational thinker can see why the Royal Protection Officer(RPO) moved to admonish/caution the gentleman. Regardless of status, no person should be expected to tolerate such an encroachment of personal space. It’s just rude. Aren’t Brits all about what is proper? Furthermore, there is no way the RPO could have known from his vantage point that, the gentleman was taking a selfie. The action is reasonable enough if one considers the context of the event. Since they are so focused on scandal, it is inconceivable that “reporters” will fail to ask even the most basic questions about other members of the royal family who are alleged to be involved in sexual crimes against minors or allegedly engaged in extramarital affairs. Except of course, when this claim of holding royals accountable is a charade.
When called out for their relentless and unfair criticism, the response is usually akin to one of; it’s a rite of passage, every royal wife has gotten flack, the media builds you up and then tears you down. What? Are these same actors who project British people as having polish, class and sophistication, endorsing this barbaric enterprise? There is nothing classy or polished or sophisticated or enlightened about treating anybody poorly just for the sake of it. It is really rich to hear ill-behaved grown-ups telling others how they should behave and what is or isn’t “the done thing”.
Luckily for the royal press pack, they found a willing enabler within the palace walls. A couple of them have inadvertently told on themselves but, the most credible indication came via a journalist who is outside the royal beat, Tim Shipman, in his April 21, 2019 piece for the Times titled “Inside the rift between Harry and Meghan and the future king and queen”.
Most readers are probably familiar with the story, which in summary purports that Prince William is threatened/feels overshadowed by the popularity of the Sussexes and enlisted the help of media execs to knock Harry and Meghan down a few pegs for the benefit of raising his (and possibly his wife’s) profile. Also, that the palace was mauling plans to send Harry and Meghan to Africa, to train the spotlight back on the Cambridges. The quote is as follows:
“ This sense of embattlement has been entrenched by William’s decision to reach out to senior figures in the media as he prepares for kingship and by the apparent decision of those same newspapers to side with the palace over Meghan and Harry by peddling the most negative coverage of the duchess’ relationship with her father, Thomas Markle. ‘Harry sees that as part of the headwinds against him’, a friend said.”
First, did I miss the royal decree by which the Queen predicated the order of succession on popularity? And where was all this commotion about the present Prince of Wales being overshadowed by his newly married heir, who was the subject of media attention? He just soldiers on and keeps minding his work. His popularity may not match that of his sons, but his tireless work habit is largely unmatched, and for that he is highly respected.
The Sussexes, individually and as a couple have undeniable charisma, dynamism, and a hands-on approach to their work, that has endeared them to a great many people both at home and abroad. EVERYONE has endowed gifts, which when harnessed authentically, produces recognizable value. From this vantage point, the need to stand tall at the expense of another is not only futile, but looks incredibly weak and insecure. Frankly all this fragile energy is really ironic signaling for a future king, so it’s surprising that the courtiers appear to have co-signed and enabled/ facilitated this strategy.
The Ashanti proverb; Obi nnim obrempon ahyease, literally translates nobody knows the beginning of a great man. Essentially, the genesis of success/greatness is unpredictable thus, do not despise small beginnings or those who seem to be struggling. Prince Harry’s transformation has been years in the making and has likely taken great deal of personal effort, professional and family support. It’s a good thing that should be welcomed and celebrated as an asset, not viewed as a threat.
For years, his personal failings and misadventures have been weaponized by the media to frame him as the bad boy/problem prince. For the time, it appeared to serve a purpose; the foil, against which to contrast his brother’s image as the responsible and blemish-free heir… until it doesn’t. Then things gets tricky. In the long run, it doesn’t seem beneficial for the royal household to seemingly adopt a hands-off approach when one of their own is being castigated in the media. Especially, when they have intervened in far less consequential instances. If courtiers are concerned about the image of the monarchy, it’s time for some introspection. “A house divided against itself, it cannot stand”.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS 2: Royalists, the royals they support and the people who cover them
SMOKE AND MIRRORS 3: Royalists, the royals they support and the people who cover them