Well, well, well. Look what Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have here. For the fourth time in five years, the Sussexes have a new online home, having today – TA DA! – unveiled a shiny new website.
Let us weep a collective, single tear for the now defunct Archewell.com (we hardly knew ye, mostly because there was nothing on there but the occasional press release), a site which has now gone the way of their former effort SussexRoyal.com and their brief half-ownership of RoyalFoundation.com.
Instead, let us welcome to the stage Sussex.com, which is demurely billed as “The Office of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex”. (Is there an inverse proportion of capital letters to grandiosity? Please discuss.)
Lordy lord. Where is a hardy royal writer to start here? Harry and Meghan’s guileless adoption of proforma royal branding? That sans any apparent irony the couple have decided to bluntly batter us about the head with their titled status? The replacing of Archewell’s touchy-feely who-wants-a-hug granola vibe with the pared back minimalism and dark blue hues of a much more regal offering? That the Sussexes’ bios make eye-popping exercise in editing? The site’s occasional typo? (Then again, stone, meet glass house.)
After all this time, Harry and Meghan still seem to want it both ways: The kudos and the pulling power of being members of the royal family but the lolly and the perks of never having to ever pretend to enjoy visiting a Women’s Institute meeting.
Let’s begin with the most obvious – the fact that the duke and duchess have devolved deep into the boxes in their Montecito attic to dig out a dusty coat of arms to slap all over this site. It’s a move that has all the subtlety and nuance of a partridge spork to the eyeball, a transparent attempt to remind the world and Hollywood that they are the only people within Range Rover distance of Nobu with titles. (Maybe WeAreStillRoyal.com was taken?)
Strangely, the only coat of arms used is Meghan’s and not Harry’s, according to brilliant royal resource Gertrude Daly.
Similarly, also ripped directly from the pages of How to Royal 101 is the site billing itself as being that of “The Office of…”. This nomenclature is usually only used by politicians and by actual working, official representatives of the crown – not two people available to speak at your bank’s next company retreat if the cheque comes with sufficient zeros. (For example, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie both do charitable work but they don’t have ‘Offices’.)
Only four years since the Sussexes lit the fuse on Megxit, and 97 interviews later, here we have the couple suddenly, and readily, reclaiming their royal identity with straight-faced gusto.
Post-Megxit, the duo went out into the world and entirely built their identity and careers on speaking truth to the crusty powers-that-be inside Buckingham Palace, thus forcing an untold number of Oxbridge graduates to Google what precisely ‘unconscious bias’ is. (I’m betting they still have no idea even if they have put all the blackamoor lamps in the under butler’s pantry.)
And yet now we have the same two people going to serious lengths to reassert their membership of said same institution that was, by the Sussexes own accounts, cruel, biased and basically willing to eat their own in order to survive.
It’s like Harry and Meghan are hoping we might all suddenly develop a swift and incurable case of collective amnesia about what has come before and suddenly take them at their website’s face value: that they are just two charity stalwarts who have not spent years firing broadsides at Crown Inc.
This of course is all happening as King Charles continues treatment for cancer, the type of which and treatment are unknown. Harry travelled to London last week, a trans-global sprint, cost and CO2 be damned, after the news of His Majesty’s diagnosis broke, only for the pair to spend 30 minutes together.
What must Charles now make of his son and daughter-in-law, that after everything – the interviews, the TV, the book and steady drumbeat of their emotional claims – to then watch them boldly start slapping their most saleable commodity, their royal titles, all over the shop?
Harry and Meghan had every right to walk away from royal life but again we are seeing them prove they are more than happy to claim membership of this problematic institution when it suits their purposes.
The launch of Sussex.com looks like the couple attempting to pull off a branding tabula rasa, a do over. Implicit in that is an acknowledgment that what they have been doing thus far has not exactly worked.
A year on from Harry releasing his memoir Spare, with this new site, the duke and duchess would appear to be attempting to stage a US relaunch, hardly a surprise given the current state of their careers. In the last month the couple have flown eight hours and walked the red carpet for an entertainment company that paid their expenses, and is not their main Hollywood squeeze, and Harry flew to Las Vegas to hand out a football trophy.
The UN has clearly not been calling.
This new site seems designed to reposition the Sussexes as much more serious and accomplished figures, people who truly matter and who occupy a meaningful role in public life.
Take the line “The Office of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex is shaping the future through business and philanthropy.”
“Shaping the future”? When exactly is this “shaping” going to start? I’m not sure teaching the world not to use face cream on a suffering “todger” or Harry taking a job at billion-dollar start-up BetterUp constitutes “shaping the future”.
So far, the Sussexes have had all the cultural and political impact as the slanket. A curiosity, a flash in the pain and a real fight to hold onto people’s attention.
The duke and duchess’ bios also make for some interesting reading.
The site also says of Meghan: “She is a NY Times Best Selling author, publishing the acclaimed children’s book, ‘The Bench’, and ‘Together: Our Community Kitchen’ a collaborative publication with the women of the Hubb Community Kitchen in the UK, who were displaced after the tragic Grenfell Fire.”
However, according to reporting from the time of Together’s release in 2018, the duchess’ involvement constituted coming up with the idea for the book and then writing the forward. All the actual content was provided by the women of Hubb.
Bizarrely, even though Harry and Meghan’s philanthropic achievements are covered, including the work the couple undertook as part of the Royal Foundation, the words ‘royal’ and ‘royal family’ do not appear once. Likewise, ‘Spotify’ and ‘Netflix’ do not appear on the new site.
I suppose reinvention is the original American sport …
Interestingly, only hours before Sussex.com went live, Taylor Swift and man mountain Travis Kelce were busy setting social media aflame. What’s worth considering here is that they represent everything that Harry and Meghan are not. Where the Grammy-winner and Super Bowl star are right now – the public adoration, the respect – is a by-product of what they have achieved through graft, guts and gumption. They have worked for it. They have earned it.
And all without having an “Office” too.
Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.