If nothing else, you really have to admire the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s aptitude for timing. Just when one is needed, a precision, laser-guided PR bomb drops. An Exocet missile of melodrama, a lethal Molotov mocktail: subtle enough for the intention to be roundly denied by their spokespeople, but plain enough for the world to comprehend.
The latest is, of course, the release of two trailers for Harry & Meghan, and within them there's one frame in particular: at 25 seconds in the first, a still from the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in 2019. Meghan, angelic in white and neutral in expression, sits behind the then Duchess of Cambridge, who is in the centre of the image looking like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Just as the Prince and Princess of Wales attempted – with middling success – to charm the US with their visit to Boston for the Earthshot Prize, over on the west coast, the other half of the group formerly known as the Fab Four prepared their latest drop. Sources insist the timing is accidental, but it’s also everything. You can’t say they’re without form…
A few months after their blockbuster wedding, the couple’s first overseas tour to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand begins with the announcement they are expecting a baby. The happy news had been shared with the Queen and other members of the Royal Family at Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s wedding, and was then made public just as a new poll showed an increase in support for a republic in Australia.
The tour was a triumph, though it was later discovered that in the same month, a complaint was made claiming the Duchess drove two personal assistants out of the household, and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member. Prince Harry allegedly pleaded with Jason Knauf, the couple’s communications secretary at the time, not to pursue it.
The first of a now seemingly annual bombshell trailer drop from the Sussexes, this time for ITV’s Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, which set in motion the events that eventually led to their departure from the working Royal Family.
Ostensibly meant to cover Harry’s charity work on the continent, following in his late mother’s footsteps, it also contained some marmalade-dropper soundbites. “[William and I] are certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him, as I know he will always be there for me,” Harry said, confirming a conscious uncoupling of the Fab Four.
Meghan, meanwhile, spoke for the first – but not last – time about how difficult she was finding the pressure of being a working royal. This was at the same time as the couple were launching legal action against the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers over articles that reproduced a handwritten letter Meghan had sent her father.
Via Instagram, the Sussexes announced their plans to “step back” from their life as working royals. At the time, the BBC said it understood that no other family member was consulted before the statement. Palace officials were “disappointed”, while senior royals were said to be “hurt” by the announcement.
Despite the so-called Sandringham Summit, the damage was done: the Sussexes said they would split their time between the UK and North America and “work to become financially independent.” It later became clear that a key income stream over the next two years would stem from raking through the very act of leaving The Firm.
The Sussexes’ self-extrication culminated in an earth-shattering 90-minute interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired while the Duke of Edinburgh was in hospital. The revelations were many and numerous, ranging from the gravely serious (accusations of racism, Meghan saying she contemplated suicide) to the trivial (they keep chickens). Was she silent, or silenced? “Some recollections may vary,” the Palace responded.
Just as the dust settled in a tumultuous year for the Queen, including the Oprah interview, the continuing scrutiny over Prince Andrew’s Jeffrey Epstein-adjacent shenanigans and the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry announced he would publish – though not necessarily write – a “raw, unflinching” memoir with Penguin Random House.
“I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the course of my life so far and excited for people to read a firsthand account of my life that’s accurate and wholly truthful,” he says. It will be called Spare, and is already discounted at WHSmith.
And here we are. In the week that the Prince and Princess of Wales attempted to garner themselves some attention, the Duchess of Sussex’s podcast comes to an end and here come not one but two trailers for a “behind the scenes” Netflix documentary, with a telling still at its heart. The Waleses’ tour had been planned for at least six months. They managed to keep the Sussexes off the front pages for about 12 hours.