So What Happens Now? Modernise or Wither Under “Tradition”? As we’ve documented the abuse that Sussexes, particularly Meghan has suffered at the hands of the British media and factions of the royal family, the underlying reasons are varied. What is undeniable however, is that there was a clear resentment of her can-do, hands on and results-oriented approach to charity work. Her approach suited her husband’s well, as he’s also very involved in his projects and looks to effect real change. Together, their impact was undeniable and rightly garnered global attention.
Royal Patronages are given out by the Queen to members of her family, not based on any business-like criteria, but as she deems fit. On the odd occasion there may be a particular interest of the person bestowed with a particular Patronage. Historically, the royal patrons have been figureheads for their Patronages, and they visit from time to time. Visits to these establishments are counted in the Court Circular along with other appearances, and the tallies give an indication of the royals’ workload. For example, the Queen has over 600 Patronages, collected over decades. With such a load, who can be anything but a figurehead for these charities?
There is limited evidence of added value for those charities which have the word Royal in their title, as a fundraising incentive over those without the word Royal in their Title. Overall, research carried out in the past suggested that most donors are driven by personal connection to a cause. Patronages are measured in what is known as a Charity Brand Index. This Index, monitors awareness, trust and likelihood of donations. Collectively the Queen’s 600 patronages have a donated income of approximately £1.5 million. No idea if these figures are verified for accuracy, but it seems that has never been regarded as important.
The Royal family is left with an outdated business model, and one with levels of seniority based on order of birth. The adults in that structure, have no business experience, and never had any aspiration to gain any. The process has always been that they were each entitled to their positions and that people around them would cater to their every need.
As far as projects go, I doubt there was any emphasis placed on outcomes. It has all been about launching things with lots of fanfare, and usually not a good chance of success either because there was no real implementation plan that would ensure achievement of set goals. In some cases, the ideas while they sound interesting and even laudable are not suitable for the kind of project or campaign that was launched. That speaks to a certain laxity in approach, that one cannot get away with in the real world, where programmes are accountable to donors. Further, the alliance with the Royal Rota group either by design or by evolution, ensures that the reporting is all fluffy with little to no substance. To be fair, a notable exception is the Prince of Wales’ Prince’s Trust that has done remarkably well in terms of sustainability and impact.
Imagine then, the response of the Royal family to the addition of Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, and the way the Sussexes work on their projects and Patronages. With clear outcomes, measurable activities and products, projects sustainability beyond the initial launch, all of the projects undertaken by the Sussexes are successes. The Together Cookbook alone has raised a third of what was collectively attributed to the Queen’s 600 patronages, per Charity Brand Index.
A look at the 2018 audited report of the Royal Foundation, when it was jointly patronised by the dukes and duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, reveals the pitfalls of the surface approach to charity work. There seemed to be a lot of creative accounting, where funds raised for profitable initiatives were siphoned to new projects, that were just money drainers. Most of the solvent initiatives were those of the Sussexes. The foundation’s cash reserves were not impressive as a result. It is thought that this fundamental difference in philosophy/approach informed the split of the foundation. Apart from being a bad way of doing business, the target audience deserve a proper shot at some real change, especially with the kind of money being spent.
Once the order was in to dim their shine, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex never had a fair shake from the media when it came to reporting on the initiatives. It didn’t matter how impressive or successful, they were always guaranteed to focus on tangential nonsense that could be sensationalised. It’s how the visit to one25 charity became about bananas and vulgarity, how their visit to the Number 7 Café in Birkenhead became about “Harry Krishna”, because Harry talked about meditation with one of the patrons and how the Hubb Community Kitchen project became about terrorists. It never fails. They even went as far as crediting the success of the Smart Set collection to Kate Middleton. Don’t ask me why or how. That’s royal reporting for you. I can count on one hand the number of journalist who fielded thorough and comprehensive reports, that appropriately shone the light on the causes and the work that was being done.
It probably became very clear to the Sussexes that they were being restricted in the way that they wanted to operate, and that they were not comfortable operating in this chaotic pretend project work with patronages. The Firm was not a functional or successful in that sense, without much accountability. Mostly ego driven individuals masquerading as diplomats, and the rest of them, quietly enjoying all the grace and favour being born into that family brings.
Just like Brexit, with the arrival of the Duchess of Sussex onto the scene in the UK, the hostile environment grew for a wide range of people who were deemed not welcome in the UK. Now, Brexit has happened and seen the exodus of a lot of professionals who faced uncertain futures in the UK, and, the Sussex family have also left the hostile environment. The Royal family, like the rest of the UK will now have to operate without the benefit of the skills and experience of people that could have contributed to their long term growth.
Economically there is going to be a huge shift. There is a chance that the country will eventually find a level at which it can operate without alienating itself any further. I am afraid for the monarchy though, as the writing is on the wall. The Firm is not open to new blood and expertise, but prefer to stay in the safe haven of the gene pool and to couple with other relatives, and keep it all in the family. No new skills or experiences. No one to rock the boat. No real world perspective. At least that is the impression they give.
Their actions however tell a different story. It is obvious that the royal family recognise the qualities in the Sussexes that endears them to so many, be it in their work or social interactions. While their media cronies have steadily lambasted the Sussexes for all of these things and more, like a sick joke, we are seeing before our very eyes an attempt to model the ‘beloved regal and protocol observing royals’ after the so-called rebel royals. The endless attempts to create warm moments that end up looking forced and awkward, are peppered with the unmistakable photo-ops with people of colour because why not? They’re inclusive right? Wrong.
It is no longer taboo for royal women to wear trouser suits to engagements or for royals post black and white pictures on social media, neither is it attention-seeking to create detailed and informative captions on Instagram. Who knew? The protocol gods have finally relented! But this act, is just that. It will take more than imitation to get and sustain the attention that is so coveted. At least on the scale that is being sought.
The copy will lose its temporary lustre compared to the now unrestricted original. If the royal family is really interested in charity work, then they have to learn and take the time to do it in an impactful way. It’s the only way to get the acclaim they want outside of their royal bubble because, calling something prestigious doesn’t make it so; the body of work and reputation confer that honour. Unlike their titles, that has to be earned. It remains to be seen whether they will stick with perfunctory activities which really aren’t legacy building or they will dig a little deeper.
In any case, if the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s year and half exploits within the restrictions of the royal family are any indication of what is to come, there is no doubt they will be a phenomenon for good on the world stage. If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud of abuse, it is that The Sussexes can now pursue charitable endeavours unhindered by prickly egos. There is so much need and there’s a lot of good that this humanitarian couple can do. Goodness will always triumph over evil. Harry and Meghan, you are loved and your supporters have your back. Go and take the world by storm.
Emotional abuse involves exposing a person to behaviour or language, through verbal speech based harassment, that can result in psychological trauma. Dependant on the circumstances, the victim may be able to sue for damages. Source
Coercive control is an act of pattern of acts of assault, threats, harassment and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. Coercive control creates invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life. Source: www.womensaid.org.uk > information-support > what is domestic abuse.
Canada. National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Psychological Abuse: A Discussion Paper. Prepared by Deborah Doherty and Dorothy Berglund. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008. ISBN 978-0-662-48994-8 Cat.: HP20-12/2008E
Fisher, Judith. “Healing Beyond Emotional Abuse” (2019).Lake Union Herald. 841.
(This book showed up in many different searches that I made for reference material, and was recommended by a number of people. It may be of interest to some of the readers).