It is hard to believe that it was less than three weeks ago that Harry and Meghan’s "farewell tour" of the UK captivated audiences across the world. Beaming at each other in the rain, attending concerts and giving speeches, they made front page news as they always have when life was normal.
Now, newspapers and broadcasters have little room for smiling faces as the global coronavirus pandemic dominates.
Furor over whether or not the Sussexes use the term "royal" in their branding or scrutiny of what kind of working deals they might make seem a distant memory as populations the world over shelter in place, businesses close, and loved ones succumb to the virus. However, on Tuesday March 31, when the clock reaches midnight, a milestone will pass and the freedom that Harry and Meghan held out for will become theirs as they officially exit the Firm.
The moment is likely to feel very different to what they had anticipated. It was always going to be a “bittersweet” exit, with strained relations between family members and Harry and Meghan's frustration at the terms still raw. But as they boarded their planes to leave the country, the Sussexes could not have known how much life would change for everyone in such a short space of time.
There can be no doubt that the global pandemic has dramatically altered what the next year will look like for the couple. Practically, their ability to travel and implement a new working model will need adapting, at least in the short term. And the huge swell of communities who need support is likely to have an impact on the organizations they may champion. Notable events on their schedule have already been altered.
Harry’s Invictus Games have been rescheduled for 2021 and the London marathon, which he was due to attend in April, is also postponed.
But even before the coronavirus pandemic plunged everything—and everyone—into uncertainty, there were still a number of unanswered questions about how the Sussexes planned shape their new lives. They posted a lot of information on their website but most of the details remain vague. We know the causes that they care about—the environment, sustainability, young people, the military, and empowering women and girls—but specifically who they will help and how has not yet been fully outlined.
What we do know is that they don’t intend to start a foundation, and instead are planning to launch a “non-profit organisation.” When Prince Harry fell victim to hoax phonecalls a few weeks ago (he thought he was talking to Greta Thunberg), he said they were taking “a little bit more time to think about how we can use our platform and how we can use our voice to try and encourage real change and real difference as opposed to, you know, small incremental changes.”
The couple is keeping the patronages they took on while working royals, and are expected to conduct online and in-person engagements with them. They have received “updates from their patronages” recently and are making calls. They are, a source says, “continuing with the planning for their future” including “building a team.” The process will, understandably, slow given the pandemic.
And while Harry is stepping back from his honorary military appointments, the Invictus Games will continue as his project. The Endeavour Fund he set up while sharing a foundation with William and Kate is now expected to work closely with Invictus. His sustainable tourism initiative, Travalyst, will continue to run separately. And Harry’s charity Sentebale, set up in memory of Princess Diana to help young people affected by HIV in Lesotho, will carry on working in the same way.
But the Sussexes will soon be forced to change their brand name on their website and popular Instagram feed after making it clear they will not use the name Sussex Royal once they step back. They have said that they will continue to uphold the Queen’s values, but they will be free to choose what they want to work on, and who with.
The first project launched on their exit—Meghan's voiceover for Disneynature film Elephant, which she recorded in exchange for a donation to the charity Elephants Without Borders—gives a taste of the kind of things they will take on. In recent weeks, they visited Stanford University to discuss plans with academics there, and Harry made a speech at a JP Morgan investment summit.
The Prince also hinted during the hoax phonecall that he and Meghan may now take the opportunity to be more outspoken, and to potentially work on different types of projects. “Certainly being in a different position now gives us the ability to say things and do things that we might not have been able to do,” he said.
For now, they are using their platform to share “information and resources to help all of us navigate the uncertainty” and focusing on “inspiring stories.” But, as the rest of the royal family highlight each other’s efforts on social media, the Sussex operation now feels very separate.
It's worth remembering that the Sussexes' new arrangement is subject to a 12-month review, and the door has been left ajar for a final decision about Harry’s honorary military appointments, which he was required to give up in the transition and will remain open during this period. The Queen made it clear that Harry and Meghan will always be “a valued part of my family” and in these unprecedented times it can’t be ruled out that they could be brought back into the fold in some capacity.
However, just how far away they are from the royal family and the UK was spelled out this week as Britain honored its NHS heroes with a national #clapforourcarers campaign. On March 26 at 8 p.m., the royal family began to post images and videos of themselves clapping along with messages of support. The Sussex’s message read: “Thank you for all that you continue to do! Applauding you from across the pond.”
You Might Also Like