A (Very Long) Sussex Roundup

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Last week, The Duchess of Sussex won her lawsuit against Associated Newspapers over the publication of a letter in The Mail on Sunday that she wrote her father back in 2018. This legal battle has been ongoing for over two years now – as many of you may remember, the Sussexes announced their suit at the end of their otherwise successful Africa tour back in the autumn of 2019 and it’s essentially been a circus ever since.

Meghan released a statement on the win, saying:

“In the nearly three years since this began, I have been patient in the face of deception, intimidation and calculated attacks. The courts have held the defendant to account and my hope is that we all begin to do the same. Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. Tomorrow it could be you. These harmful practices don’t happen once in a blue moon – they are a daily fail that divide us and we all deserve better.”

The use of “daily fail” is a pointed attack on The Daily Mail, which is occasionally referred to as The Daily Fail by its critics. The anger still runs deep.

Unfortunately for Meghan, it’s a bit of a hollow victory, though she may very well not see it that way. At the 11th hour, Jason Knauf, a former press secretary for the couple when their household was combined with that of the Cambridges (he now helps lead The Royal Foundation, run by William & Kate), provided evidence on Meghan’s handling of the press during her royal career. That evidence appeared to directly contradict previous statements made by Meghan both publicly and to the court, prompting her to issue a statement of apology that she never intended to mislead, but rather forgot various emails.

We’ll get to that in a moment. First, however, it bears noting that Knauf would almost certainly not have provided additional evidence without the approval, or at the very least, knowledge, of his “bosses,” William and Kate. As such, I think it’s fair to say that while the Cambridges don’t partake in tell-all interviews with Oprah Winfrey, their opinion of Meghan and this lawsuit almost certainly trends negative. That may seem obvious, but William and Kate have mostly stayed silent on these issues and this – alongside William’s response to reporters in March that the Royal Family isn’t a “racist family” – is one of the few tangible points on the board we have as to their feelings on the Sussexes’ actions.

The two most pertinent points to come to light via Knauf regard both the letter and the book, “Finding Freedom,” published last year by two royal journalists, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, which was viewed as intensely pro-Sussex. It has been established that Meghan ran the 2018 letter to her estranged father by Knauf, arguably undermining that she viewed the letter as private, however Knauf provided detail that the letter was in fact written and framed with the expectation that it may well be published. The pages were numbered to make it harder to only publish portions, and Meghan specifically told Knauf that she addressed it to “Daddy” because it would “pull on the heartstrings” of the public.

With the book, the couple and its authors have always maintained that the Sussexes never directly participated in its reporting or provided information. Technically they didn’t, however Knauf provided email traffic that showed Meghan (with Harry cc’d) re-upping background information on herself and her relationship with Harry and her family that Knauf was meant to cover when *he* sat down with Scobie and Durand. The emails show that Harry and Meghan were eager to use that meeting, and the book, as a means of correcting mistruths reported in the media. According to Meghan, such meetings and communications prep were so routine that she has no memory of that particular back and forth.

If we assume Meghan was acting in good faith, then even so, these incidents continue to support the ongoing criticism of her that she is – to put it bluntly – both manipulative and a liar. And it’s just not very believable that she doesn’t remember engaging indirectly on Finding Freedom – while there have been several books written on the couple, this was a very, very high-profile one, written by two reporters who have long been viewed in some quarters as biased in favor of the Sussexes. Their emails make clear they expected this book to be a vindication for them, and a meeting with its authors would in no way have been a run-of-the-mill press inquiry.

This, taken together with the hyperbole and contradictions from the Oprah interview show, at the very least, a breezy relationship with the truth. And, as always, an insistence on playing the victim when it comes to the British media and the Palace with little to no accountability.

Which brings us to the next issue of the day: the bullying claims. On the eve of the Oprah interview in March, anonymous Palace aides participated in a story that outlined an ongoing HR mess within Buckingham and Kensington palaces, which boils down to multiple staffers who worked for the Sussexes accusing Meghan of “bullying” them at work. These aides brought the issue to the famous Mr. Knauf, who relayed them up the food chain, and a formal complaint was made. Now, the Palace is running an internal investigation into the matter that has yet to conclude.

On the one hand, the timing of this situation becoming public was absolutely meant to undermine the Sussexes’ credibility before the Oprah interview aired and point to their being two sides to the story. It is also very possible that the aide or aides who engaged with the media on this story did so with the approval of a member, or members, of the Royal Family – meaning realistically The Prince of Wales and/or William.

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Even so, these bullying accusations answer a lot of unanswered questions from the Sussexes’ tenure at Kensington Palace. Claims that Meghan was a demanding boss with high staff turnover have been reported since the months just after her wedding. There have also been longstanding rumors that part of Kate’s issue with Meghan has been how she saw Meghan treat her staff, and that it was this issue that proved the nail in the coffin for William on dividing their households as quickly as they did. The split between the brothers is reportedly due to Harry asking William to stop the elevation of this issue among Palace staff and William not only refusing, but expressing outrage over Meghan’s behavior.

Right now, we still don’t know what happened. The Sussex party line is that Meghan is the victim of a smear campaign by the Palace, and the Palace won’t say much of anything until the investigation concludes. Needless to say, there will be much more to come.

Against this backdrop, Harry and Meghan continue to launch their new life in California. Harry has signed a book deal for his memoirs that, based on the price tag, indicate there will be new attacks made against the Palace and the institution of the monarchy. Given that relations between Harry and his father and brother remain strained, there is a high risk that he will share more stories that paint them in a bad light. At the very least, that is certainly fear in London.

In September, the couple made a “mini tour” to New York that essentially mirrored the format of a typical royal visit, even prompting a statement from Mayor de Blasio that they were “wonderful guests.” They visited a school, stopped by the 9/11 memorial, and spoke about the need for ensuring developing countries had the same access to the COVID-19 vaccine. What was their specific goal with all of this? No one really knows, but from all appearances they are essentially acting like British royalty without the public service, responsibility, or limitations.

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There is nothing inherently problematic with these events, save that it begs the question as to what their goals are. Even high-profile philanthropists don’t generate this much attention, so it’s fair to say these two are still dining out almost exclusively on their association with the Royal Family. Which brings us, last but not least, to Meghan’s lobbying efforts on Paid Family Leave. In October, Meghan submitted an open letter to Congress advocating for paid family leave, which she followed up on by directly calling senators on their cell phones to ask for their support. In both the letter and the calls (as relayed to media), Meghan used her title. Put another way, a woman bequeathed her position from a foreign Head of State used it to interfere in a political issue. A position, I might add, that the U.S. founded their entire system of government on not recognizing.

When asked about it, Meghan responded that while there is a “precedent” in Harry’s family to not involve themselves in politics, she views Paid Family Leave as a humanitarian issue. Obviously that doesn’t quite work – if you are directly lobbying a Member of Congress then it really doesn’t matter how you personally feel about an issue, it’s political. The use of “precedent” is also interesting, because that shows a rather sophisticated understanding of how this all works – contrary to how this is usually discussed, especially in the U.S., it’s not that the Royal Family aren’t “allowed” to speak out on political issues, it’s that they haven’t in a very long time and are roundly criticized when they do. My point being, for a woman who often speaks of her ignorance for how royalty worked in the UK and why her son wasn’t to be named a prince, this is a rather self-serving point to have absorbed at the exclusion, apparently, of all others.

With that, Happy Thursday! I’ll try to get another post up soon on the rest of the Windsors.

23 thoughts on “A (Very Long) Sussex Roundup

  1. Laura Jordan

    Reasoned comment and criticism (if that is what one feels) is not “anti Sussex”, but called having an opinion. I could have not been happier when Harry married Meghan but over the last few years it has become harder and harder for me to think they are behaving with discretion or wisdom, quite a lot of the time. All the interviews, $$$$ jobs and visits anywhere are based on them still being Royal (admittedly, Harry at least can’t give that up, not really) but it sits ill when they use their place in an institution they give every impression of despising to garner money and attention.

  2. Naila

    I don’t think you are anti Sussex but I do think you are making this an easy issue when it is and was, very complicated. Yes the Sussex wanted to make money, but do engagements, like Bea and Eugenie have done for years. But let’s face it, Bea nor Eugenie really attract much attention when they do engagements so they aren’t really a problem. Harry and Meghan would have garnered much attention and it would have been harder to contain them back at the Palace.

    1. I’m not sure I’m following the logic of how I’m making this an “easy issue.” I’ve written tens of thousands of words on H&M at this point analyzing their tenure as royals and subsequent departure. And no, what H&M proposed initially was a more official role than what Beatrice & Eugenie carry out.

      1. Anonymous

        Well you can only expect people to read and comment on this one article, not your cumulative body of work. I’m commenting on this article only. But yes, H & M initially proposed a more official role coordinated with the other courts as Harry is Prince, son of the future monarch. But Beatrice and Eugenie are just as “official” as Princesses of House of Windsor. The only difference is who their father is.

      2. No, it’s not. Beatrice and Eugenie are not empowered to represent the monarch. That is a huge, crucial difference.

      3. Anonymous

        But they do, to an extent, by being from the BRF. But in any case, by how this Cambridge your went, they could have used a Harry and Meghan. Too bad the Cambridges and Sussex could not work out their differences. They could have all gone on tour together.

      4. I don’t know how else to say this – there is a HUGE difference between people associating B&E as granddaughters of the Queen and H&M being officially sent out to represent a head of state. That is literally the crux of the issue and why what H&M proposed was untenable.

      5. Anonymous

        There should have been a compromise to keep them. Or at least the family go to bat for them around the racism, as they requested.

      6. Anonymous

        None of this is separate. The whole issue was the racism that Meghan was getting thrown at her daily was untenable. The palace, evidently, for whatever reason wouldn’t help them. The Sussex duo tried to come up with a solution. Nobody took them seriously. Had they been protected, had they been taken seriously, had a role been created that all could live with, it would be Harry and Meghan in the Carribean doing a wonderful job. Seems like the “powers that be” have no clue what optics actually mean. Now they are sending out statements from William trying to clean up the mess.

      7. Separate from comparing them to B&E 🤦🏼‍♀️

        And to the original comment about oversimplifying, no, the “whole issue” wasn’t about racism. There were many, many factors at play, some internal and some external. Racist commentary and Palace mismanagement was a significant piece of a much more complicated puzzle.

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