Queen’s ‘sublime’ Megxit ‘power play’


Queen Elizabeth II is a famous fan of frugality (this is a woman who uses a $55 bar heater inside a palace estimated to be worth $4 billion). That penchant for economy, it would seem, also extends to her choice of words.

This morning Her Majesty put out a spare 153-word statement, which somehow reduced Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s historic decision to quit royal life to five brief paragraphs (while still managing to shoehorn in the word “family” eight times).

The Queen’s statement about the ‘Megxit’ summit that was held today. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

The announcement comes after the 93-year-old monarch, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry met at the Queen’s private home Balmoral overnight to bash out the fine print about what exactly the Sussexes’ hasty exit from royal life will look like.

Her Majesty’s comments are being widely hailed as a win for Harry and Meghan who have very publicly chafed against the rigidity of royal life for nearly two years.

Today the Queen, much of the thinking goes, has capitulated to the Sussexes. After all, what chance does a 5ft 4in nonagenarian have against a couple with 10 million Instagram followers and the Clooneys on speed dial?

Actually, a damn good one.

While her statement does give the pair her reluctant blessing for them to skip off across the Atlantic, what is most telling about today’s release isn’t what the Queen wrote, but what is omitted. And what is conspicuously absent is any guarantee that Harry and Meghan will undertake any royal work in the future. It would seem like just maybe, they can’t have their cake and eat it too after all.

It looks like Meghan and Harry might not get the ‘Megxit’ they’re asking for after all. Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP

It looks like Meghan and Harry might not get the ‘Megxit’ they’re asking for after all. Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFPSource:AFP

Last week, when Harry and Meghan made the bombshell announcement that they wanted to quasi-abdicate, they simultaneously launched a shiny new website detailing their plans.

“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” the couple wrote. “We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.”

Basically, there was a lot of “continuing” in there. What they seemed to be getting at was this: Harry and Meghan would be much more selective about quite what royal work they got up to however they would still be strapping on their fascinators (her) and shimmying into their signature rumpled tan suits (him) to stump up for Queen and country when they fancied it.

The model the couple seemed to be proposing was a sort of one foot in, one foot out version of royal life, a pick ’n’ mix approach to duty that would see them front and centre at red carpet events and Royal Ascot, but avoiding the ribbon-cutting and dreary regional visits that make up the bulk of royal work.

In retrospect, the Sussexes’ carefully choreographed visit to the Hubb Community Kitchen last week (pre-grand resignation) was highly symbolic. This charity was the first solo project that Meghan worked with when she signed up for HRH duty two years ago and the message from last week’s visit was clear – the couple had no intention of stepping back from their established commitments.

Meghan and Harry’s engagements last week were carefully chosen to show their intention to continue as they see fit. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Meghan and Harry’s engagements last week were carefully chosen to show their intention to continue as they see fit. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Contrast that with today’s unheard-of, emotional missive from Her Majesty. The Sussexes last week said they were planning “to carve out a progressive new role within this institution”. A lofty goal indeed.

However, there is nothing in today’s regal pronouncement that supports their plan. Rather, in the Queen’s statement, we have the use of the curious phrase “period of transition” which would suggest a more dramatic and final shift.

More broadly, there is no mention anywhere that Harry and Meghan will continue to in any way serve the Queen. There is no reference to them becoming part-time working royals and there is not a skerrick of a suggestion that the family’s press secretaries and pinstriped mandarins are beavering behind the scenes away to come up with a blueprint for the Sussexes’ mooted “new working model”..

This omission is glaring. In their statement last week, Harry and Meghan said wanted to be able to “work to become financially independent”. The question now is whether the Queen felt that intention was drastically at odds with them continuing to have any sort of official role as representative of the Crown. Essentially, they can head Stateside and earn their own coin or they can do be official representatives of the woman whose face is on the coin. Not both.

It is also worth taking note of the repeated use of “my” which is a truly impressive offensive manoeuvre and a sublime power play. Language matters, deeply, and the Queen does nothing by accident – this was an unambiguous reminder of who is truly calling the shots.

Ditto the references to “Harry and Meghan” and the “Sussexes” with not an HRH or Ducal title in sight. Speculation that the couple will renounce their titles is now understandably rife.

Harry and Meghan may not be a Duke and Duchess much longer. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP

Harry and Meghan may not be a Duke and Duchess much longer. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFPSource:AFP

Lesser members of the royal family have repeatedly run into trouble when they have tried to walk the very fine line between dignified nobility and cashing in on the lustre that royal status conveys. Think Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York’s repeated American forays which have seen her do everything from a series on Oprah’s OWN Network (the six-parter called Finding Sarah managed to be beaten in the ratings by such gems as Finding Bigfoot and Freaky Eaters) and flogging a $70 juicer on the home shopping channel. Currently, the scandal-prone redhead is spruiking a lifestyle brand called Sarah Senses which includes tea bags.

While Harry and Meghan’s business projects are likely to be much more substantial (think TED talks rather than tea bags) the spectre of quite where their commercial ambitions might take them looms large. Last week it was revealed that the Sussexes have applied to globally trademark the “Sussex Royal” across a number of categories, including everything from pyjamas to greeting cards (along with education, social care services and charitable fundraising).

So, released from the bounds of royal propriety and Gran’s possible disapproval the couple are wading into unknown, potentially treacherous, territory.

What the Queen has done today is to make clear the demarcation between Buckingham Palace and Brand Sussex.

The Queen may not have capitulated after all. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The Queen may not have capitulated after all. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

On Thursday, Prince Harry will host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup draw at the Palace in his role as the patron of the Rugby Football League (a role handed to him by the Queen in 2016). Next year’s championship was slated to be a key event in the Duke’s calendar, however whether that comes to pass remains to be seen.

With Meghan already back in Canada and Harry rumoured to be planning on joining her later this week, the world is largely left to play the waiting game in terms of the duo’s next move. Your move Team Sussex.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.



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