Twelve days ago, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle showed a desire to carve out a high-profile role for themselves amid the coronavirus epidemic. Newly unmoored from the royal family, they used their popular Sussex Royal Instagram account to promote compassion, inspiration and themselves as trusted sources of accurate information about COVID-19.
But now people might wonder how self-serving that March 18 post was and whether it came before or after they reportedly made their secret move to leave Canada for Los Angeles, aboard a private plane before the U.S. border closed.
On Monday morning, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex issued a new post, in which they didn’t mention their move to Los Angeles, but said they were focusing on a “new chapter” as “we all find the part we are to play in this global shift and changing of habits.”
“What’s most important right now is the health and wellbeing of everyone across the globe and finding solutions for the many issues that have presented themselves as a result of this pandemic,” their post said.
But on Sunday, Harry and Meghan’s “new chapter” may have become more fraught after President Donald Trump called them out on Twitter over nagging questions about who is paying for their security. He declared, “The U.S. will not pay for their security protection. They must pay!”
Through a spokeswoman, Harry and Meghan issued a statement that seemed to confirm their move and dismiss Trump’s tweet but that only somewhat addressed their security costs. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have no plans to ask the U.S. government for security resources. Privately funded security arrangements have been made,” the statement said.
This effort to address their security situation comes as the couple are reportedly set to take to Instagram this week and let the world know about their new post-Sussex Royal brand and announce new charitable projects, The Sun reported. Their post Monday Morning was seen as their farewell to the Sussex Royal brand, as they thanked supporters for their “support, inspiration and shared commitment to do good in the world.”
“They’ve said they don’t want a foundation but have held talks with experts in the U.S. and Canada on how they can achieve their aims outside the royal family,” a source told the Sun. “A post will explain everything. It’s very Harry and Meghan to announce their plans on Instagram.”
The move is to supposed to mark a clean break and new image makeover for the couple, who on Tuesday will officially step down from their role as senior royals.
But it remains to be seen how easily they can get their new projects off the ground right now, given that they and everyone else in California are sheltering in place and the work of many businesses and nonprofits has stalled.
Meanwhile, the furor stirred up by Trump’s tweet shows the extent to which the world-famous couple have become divisive figures.
Of course, people can wonder why the president of the United States would take time out of his administration’s urgent coronavirus response to address the security needs of Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and his former TV actress wife.
Trump’s tweet nonetheless generated more than 460,000 likes and incited his followers to condemn Harry and Meghan’s perceived sense of entitlement during an international crisis, especially after they had both been recorded saying disparaging things about Trump over the years.
On the other side, Trump’s critics accused him of hypocrisy, given the Secret Service costs he and his family have amassed for their private vacation and business travel. Critics also argued that the president was probably using Harry and Meghan’s L.A. move as a way to distract from criticism over his administration’s response to COVID-19, as a tweet from CNN royal commentator Victoria Arbiter noted.
Reports added that it’s highly unlikely that the U.S. government, or state and local authorities, were ever expected to help guard Harry and Meghan going forward.
But there was enough ambiguity over the couple’s security status to leave the issue open to question and to show “what (an) invidious position the couple are now in, having decided to leave the U.K. and move to America,” Daily Mail royal editor tweeted.
Harry and Meghan themselves added to the confusion after announcing in January their plans to step down as senior members of the royal family, leave the U.K. and seek financial independence through potentially lucrative media and commercial ventures.
But on their Sussex Royal website they insisted that they were still entitled to taxpayer-funded security by virtue of Harry being born into the royal family, his military service and Meghan’s “own independent profile.” They and the royal family were then loath to give more information, citing security concerns.
London’s Metropolitan Police reportedly had to sort out their security needs and figure out how to pay for it. Annual costs for Harry and Meghan’s security, while they lived outside the U.K. and traveled around the world for their business and philanthropic endeavors, was estimated to run anywhere from more than $1 million to up to $25 million.
During the months that Harry and Meghan lived in a borrowed $13 million mansion on Vancouver Island, the Canadian government helped cover their security costs and dispatched Royal Mounted Canadian Police officers to provide protection. The Canadian government said it did so because Harry and Meghan were “international protected persons.”
This status is given to heads of state and other dignitaries under a reciprocal agreement among different countries. Reports say there’s a possibility that Meghan enjoyed this status when she traveled to New York City for her baby shower in February 2018 and therefore received protection from local U.S. authorities.
In Canada’s view, Harry and Meghan were to this lose this status this week, when they officially ceased to be working members of the royal family. Canada announced it would stop providing protection, which may be one reason the couple decided to leave that country and finally settle in the United States.
While Harry and Meghan’s spokeswoman said “privately funded security arrangements have been made,” that leaves open the question of whether they have dispensed with Metropolitan Police services altogether or if their private arrangements supplement taxpayer-funded guards, the Daily Mail’s English tweeted. Some also wonder if they themselves are paying for their private security or are relying on Prince Charles.
Now, it remains to be seen whether any announcement about Harry and Meghan’s new brand and charitable projects will be overshadowed by Trump’s tweet or over other questions about how they have handled their exit — or “Megxit” — from royal life.
In a recent essay for The Atlantic, writer Caitlin Flanagan called Megxit “the most complicated, self-involved, grandiose, half-assed, high-minded, shortsighted, greedy-graspy, swing-for-the-fences, letter of partial, fingers-crossed resignation in history.”
Flanagan contrasted Meghan’s dismissal of the British stiff-upper-lip in an ITV documentary in October with the queen’s decades of duty and forbearance during times of crisis, including when she was a 14-year-old princess during World War II, when she said in a BBC address: “We are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war.”
Sources told The Sun and The Daily Mail over the weekend that Harry and Meghan didn’t carefully think through all the implications of leaving the royal family, such as whether it would be practical or financially wise to try to reestablish themselves in Canada.
The queen and Prince Charles warned the couple that they should carefully consider these implications before making their final decision.
“They understood that he and Meghan wanted something different and were willing to help but it was complicated,” a source told the Daily Mail. “There were issues like security and funding, visas and tax, which neither of them had thought through. Harry was told to put his request in writing and come up with some ideas.”
But Harry, gripped by “a siege mentality,” “thought his family were stonewalling and decided to push the nuclear button,” the Daily Mail source said.
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