I thought we’d have received a slew of engagement announcements from Kensington Palace by now, but instead we’re making do with a hodgepodge of news. From new initiatives to Hollywood firms, the British Royal Family has clearly made the most of summer’s last days, so let’s catch up 😉
Let’s start with today’s news…the Duke of Sussex announced the launch of Travalyst, an initiative that will address the environmental impact of tourism on local communities, and which is backed by Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor, and Visa.
Given the subject matter, it’s interesting timing to say the least. I will admit to blinking several times while I read the Instagram post summarizing the project, but here we are. Harry made the announcement via a speech in Amsterdam and addressed the recent PR snafu:
“I came here by commercial. I spend 99 percent of my life traveling the world by commercial. Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe.”
During a Q&A session Harry stated that he would continue to fly private when he needs to ensure his family’s safety, but that he offsets the carbon emissions when he does so. Okay. It should also be noted that this initiative isn’t in response to the recent bad press, but two years in the making. Certainly announcing it now draws out the private planes news cycle, but I also think if they waited they ran the risk of making it appear more reactive. There’s also some sense to the notion that this will help close the loop on the story by addressing it and segueing back to the work.
Also announced over the weekend was the timing of the Africa trip. According to an Instagram post, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are due to arrive in South Africa on September 23rd with their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Further logistical details are forthcoming, but as a reminder, Harry will also travel solo to Malawi, Angola, and Botswana around the same time.
Two more stories cropped up over the past couple of days re: the Sussexes. One (which has subsequently been picked up) suggests that Harry and Meghan are eyeing properties in Malibu, California for their second home. The report states that they’ve rebuffed the Prince of Wales’s offer to secure them a home in Herefordshire and are instead interested in the privacy that the U.S. might afford them (plus Meghan is apparently homesick).
The second reports that Meghan retained a celebrity crisis management firm known as Sunshine Sachs. The supposed move has left Palace PR staff miffed on the grounds that the couple apparently don’t listen to them, but are going the unorthodox route of retaining outside (read: foreign) counsel.
Obviously neither story has been confirmed, so TBD at this point on whether there’s any veracity to either. I’m more inclined to believe the second than the first simply because it’s more in keeping with how Harry and Meghan have conducted their relationship with the media thus far. I can also understand how Meghan, given her background, would instinctively want to go this route. As for whether it’s a good idea, I guess time will tell, but I would throw out there that it’s probably not a good idea to put Palace staff on the defensive…much like it’s not a good idea to put the British media writ large on the defensive.
I would also add that if a PR firm was retained it wasn’t retained by Meghan alone, contrary to how every headline on this reads. We’ve really got to get away from blaming every questionable move on the wives. It’s something the Duchess of Cambridge bore the brunt of for years when she and the Duke were accused of being workshy.
That anything Harry and Meghan have done rises to the level of “crisis” is a bit baffling. I saw another blogger respond to someone on social media that she didn’t “hate” Meghan, but she thought she’d made mistakes damaging to the monarchy. A part of me feels like we’ve all just heard that so many times we now accept it as fact. Harry and Meghan haven’t done anything to “damage” an institution spanning well over a millennium. That’s just absurd. The christening, the Wimbledon photo thing, the private planes…none of those are that big of a deal, even if you believe some of those incidents stemmed from actual mistakes.
I think, unfortunately, these stories just built on themselves during slow season, while Harry and Meghan have poked the media bear. On this last point I do believe the couple are squarely in the wrong strategically. The celebrity tweets and Instagram posts are unhelpful, and the same goes for friends who have spoken to reporters on the record or on background over the last several months. It’s gone a long way in creating the very environment we’re seeing, but that’s a subject for another day.
Now, if you want to see an actual royal crisis, let’s move over to the Duke of York. On Friday he carried out a public engagement, while it’s been announced that he will be in Bruges this coming weekend to carry out another appearance on behalf of his mother, Queen Elizabeth. I suppose the thought process was that returning to regularly scheduled programming would help evolve press coverage, but that was hugely misguided. Prince Andrew should be laying low right now, and he certainly shouldn’t be representing the Queen. I almost hope this idea came from Andrew, because if it came from the communications staff then I better understand why Harry and Meghan are putting a crisis firm on retainer.
Moving on to KP: At the end of last week they announced that William and Kate would accompany Princess Charlotte for her first day of school this Thursday. The four-year-old will be joining big brother Prince George at Thomas’s Battersea, and we should receive pictures of the drop-off, as well as a few posed images taken at KP. We did this whole cycle two years ago when George started, but unfortunately Kate was unable to participate because she was ill with HG during her pregnancy with Prince Louis.
As for what they’ve been up to since they were photographed at Balmoral, the family reportedly spent last week in Norfolk, while I would imagine they are now back in London preparing for the new term. Ideally new engagements will pick up next week, and fingers crossed we get more information on the upcoming Pakistan tour soon. Any day now…
Last but not least, after proroguing Parliament for five weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not having a great time. This morning his party lost the majority when Conservative Phillip Lee joined the Liberal Democrats in protest; new legislation with bipartisan backing seeks to delay Brexit; and there’s a very real possibility early elections will be called. Perhaps the greatest crime of all is that the Queen’s holiday at Balmoral is being disrupted (I’m joking). She’s due at the very least to be back in time to address Parliament on October 14th, but I wouldn’t be shocked if she ends up returning to London a tad earlier. Quelling the chaos and all that.
You can follow along with the political theatre here.
In the meantime, barring any breaking news, I’ll be back here on Thursday to cover Charlotte’s first day of school and we’ll return to our Richard III coverage on the weekend. If you missed the most recent post, you can catch up here.