By Alex Webb Bloomberg News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to the Financial Times, when Harry and Meghan announced their "Sussex Royal" charitable foundation in June, they trademarked the name for everything from hoodies to health and wellness training.
There's a hypocrisy at the heart of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's assertion that they will strive to become "financially independent." No matter what they do, they're likely to be cashing in on their status as A-list members of the royal family.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle want "space to focus on the next chapter," they said in a bombshell statement this week. It's an effort to cut themselves free of the worst vicissitudes of life as members of the British monarchy, not least the unwanted scrutiny of the country's fearsome tabloid press.
But it's hard to conceive of a path they can plot that doesn't exploit that very "royalness" they want to flee. And the "His and Her Royal Highness" brand certainly affords them plenty of opportunity.
When they announced their "Sussex Royal" charitable foundation in June, they trademarked the name for everything from hoodies to health and wellness training, according to the Financial Times.
While the profit from these products would probably go to charity, as is the case with Prince Charles's Duchy Organic food business, it would still pose a risk to a royal brand that has been cultivated carefully for decades by those around the Queen and the Prince of Wales. That's one reason why "the firm", Princess Diana's nickname for the Windsor family, is so agitated by the potential lack of control over a Sussex spin-off.
Were Meghan and Harry to capitalize on their 10 million Instagram followers, they could expect to make $34,000 for a sponsored post, according to an estimate from the website InfluencerMarketingHub.
For the duchess, the evolution of Rihanna from popstar to social media influencer to fashion impresario might offer some useful pointers.
Last year, the singer joined forces with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, the world's biggest fashion company, to create the fashion brand Fenty. There are already rumors about Markle speaking to LVMH-owned Givenchy about possible collaborations. It would be a far cry from her earlier royal duties, which ranged from visiting primary schools to netball shootouts in England's East Midlands.
It's absurd to argue that any of this would be possible without the Windsor cachet. Indeed, if the duke is ever truly able to command $500,000 speaking fees, in line with former U.S. President Barack Obama, as Bloomberg News reported he might on Wednesday, it won't be because he has unparalleled leadership experience or insights, or his Cicero-like oratory skills. It's because of who his family is.
The desire to strike out alone is in some ways admirable. With Charles looking to slim down the "working royals" to their core essentials, there's logic in Harry getting on the front foot (even if his seizing the initiative might have infuriated his father, who would probably have preferred a gentler decoupling, if it were to happen at all).
But Harry is 35 years old and has been raised to be a prince. Though he's a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and a qualified helicopter pilot, he doesn't have so much as an undergraduate degree. That makes a transition to a normal civilian existence that could sustain his current quality of life tricky. The couple's yearly security costs alone probably stretch into the millions of dollars.
Prior to the pair's marriage, Markle did of course have a successful acting career, with some estimates that she made more than $400,000 per season as a cast member on the TV series Suits. Perhaps she'll resume that path; if so, her box office clout will have been hugely augmented by her royalty.
Prince Charles also has a decision to make. The couple says 95% of their funding comes from the Duchy of Cornwall, the property and financial portfolio controlled by Harry's father, money that pays for their public duties as well as some private costs. Unless that's stopped, it would hardly be an example of Harry's sought-for financial freedom.
He does have personal wealth of some $39 million, thanks to inheritances from his mother and great-grandmother. Neither of those is, strictly speaking, tied to his royal status, but rather the product of aristocratic antecedents. Perhaps the capital provides an opportunity to branch into angel investing or other ventures, but he'd need savvy advisers if he's going down that route.
The queen, blindsided by this week's furor, is reportedly seeking a "workable solution" for the couples' future roles. That the Sussexes didn't work with the royal household to thrash this out before their announcement suggests they haven't properly thought out their plans.
Perhaps they will prove everybody wrong, and maybe they'll use the proceeds of their new lives to fund the noble causes that are dear to them, such as tackling climate change, protecting the environment and promoting diversity. But they will need to tread extremely carefully after already attracting criticism for their occasional use of private jets.
A life where they pick and choose the royal obligations that suit them, while benefiting from the perks afforded by their status, would not go down too well with the British public. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.