Opinion: Why the Sussexes will never get the privacy they crave

Katherine Chatfield
·Columnist
·5-min read

OPINION

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have launched multiple libel cases in the past year. Ranging from suing paparazzi and picture agencies in California and Vancouver for taking pictures of their son Archie, to Meghan suing two UK papers for publishing extracts from a letter she sent to her dad, Thomas Markle, there’s an emerging theme: Privacy.

The Sussexes maintain they want privacy. It was ostensibly part of the reason they wanted to leave the UK and forge their own path away from the royal family. They wanted to escape the press intrusion they felt so keenly in the UK, and be free to live as they chose.

 Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet members of the public during a visit of Birkenhead at Hamilton Square on January 14, 2019 in Birkenhead, UK.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit their roles as senior royal in March this year. Photo: Getty Images

But while they – understandably, for the sake of their young son - want privacy, they also need attention. And the two don’t go hand in hand. Now the couple have to make their own money, rather than relying on public funding, they have no choice but to stay in the public eye. (Whether their egos fuel this desire is another story.)

Their recent Netflix deal will net them somewhere between $130-170 million dollars, but that sort of payday comes at a price – and that is exposure.

Despite the pair insisting they were “not taking part in any reality shows”, it’s believed they will appear in front of the camera and reveal parts of their personal life, rather than simply produce projects for the streaming giant.

Sources have reported that viewers will see video footage of the pair leaving Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, and that their team had pitched personal videos to seal the mammoth deal.

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend a Terrence Higgins Trust World AIDS Day charity fair at Nottingham Contemporary on December 1, 2017 in Nottingham, England.
the Sussexes moved to LA where they signed a multimillion dollar deal with streaming giant, Netflix. Photo: Getty Images

“They are very keen to highlight their worthy charity work, and cameras will film them going from one good cause to another,” a Netflix source told The Sun. “For example, when they drop food off at food banks – a camera will be there to capture it.”

As well as the need to make money, there’s another issue too at play too. The Sussexes are so aggrieved about their treatment by other members of the royal family and the press, that they just can’t stay silent about it.

The more determined they are to tell their side of the story, the more furore they create. After Meghan admitted to giving a friend permission to talk to the authors of Finding Freedom “in order to correct the narrative” about her father, it raised questions about what the couple really want. Is it more important for them to retain some privacy, or to be heard? For a high-profile couple, the two are mutually exclusive.

The same eyebrows were raised when Meghan penned a column for the New York Times about her miscarriage.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Commonwealth Day Celebrations at Westminster Abbey
The couple were seen in March for the Commonwealth Day Celebrations at Westminster Abbey, which was their last event as senior royals. Photo: Getty Images

She wrote that she wanted to share her experience in a bid to get rid of the taboo surrounding miscarriage. “Some have bravely shared their stories; they have opened the door, knowing that when one person speaks truth, it gives license for all of us to do the same,” she said.

There’s no doubt that speaking about her private pain has encouraged others to do the same.

“It was very generous of her to share her story publicly,” the national director of the UK’s Miscarriage Association, Bender Atik, told People.

“It gives license for others to do the same. It can have the effect of validating what somebody feels.”

Thousands of articles have been written about Meghan’s miscarriage since her op-ed appeared; every detail raked over. For one of the most famous women in the world, altruism comes at the expense of privacy – she must decide which is more important to her.

Of course, there is another option for Harry and Meghan. And that’s to disappear altogether. Make their money, then take off and live somewhere remote where they can be incognito.

Whether they want to be truly anonymous is up for debate, but even if they did, it might not be that simple, suggests ex-royal protection officer Simon Morgan.

“There will always be an interest in the Sussexes,” he said US Weekly podcast Royalty Us. “That interest may peak and trough as time goes on, but I think the more that they are not in the public eye, the more that they will want to know what they are up to - and that creates its own monster within itself.”

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex arrive at the British High Commissioner residency in Johannesburg where they  will meet with Graca Machel, widow of former South African president Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg, on October 2, 2019.
The Sussexes crave privacy in their new life. Photo: Getty Images

In other words, whatever they do, they can’t win. If they choose to step back from public life, there will be an insatiable appetite for news of them, because they’ve become an enigma. If they stay in public life, they need attention to keep themselves relevant.

If Harry and Meghan thought stepping down as senior royals would lead to a more private life, they’ve undoubtedly been proved wrong.

The laws which protect royals in the UK from press exposure meant that since between their wedding in May 2018, and leaving the UK in early 2020, they’d rarely been papped.

Within two weeks of arriving in Canada in January, Meghan had already been papped three times. Of course, the couple are aware of the rules, and must have known full well that they wouldn’t be protected in the same way when they left the UK. Which begs the question, is it really privacy they want, or is it freedom?

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