FOR THE children of Casterton Primary Academy in Burnley, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge turning up on screen for a Zoom phone call was tremendously special.
It was only a virtual royal engagement, but the way in which Kate and William giggled and joked with the pupils – all children of key workers – made it easy for everyone to forget the serious reasons behind the physical distance between them all.
The same can be said of the sunny photograph that Clarence House published of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall ahead of their 15th wedding anniversary on the same day. The couple look happy and relaxed at their Scottish residence, Birkhall, but the photograph also deftly inspires hope that Prince Charles is making a good recovery from the coronavirus.
This royal show of support to the nation all of course comes just days after the Queen successfully appealed to both republicans and royalists alike with her moving televised broadcast. All in all, the royal family, who have at times endured criticism and who are currently navigating their way through Prince Andrew’s awkward and undeniable involvement with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, have shown the country once more what they do best: to reassure, to comfort, to inspire hope.
Compare all this with the recently departed Meghan and Harry, now ensconced in Los Angeles, whose only contribution last week was to announce the name of their new charity, the Archewell Foundation.
It is less than a fortnight since the couple, saying they were seeking freedom from the hounding press, primarily to protect their baby son Archie, and aiming to become ‘financially independent’, officially left the royal family at the end of March. It was generally hoped, particularly by ‘the Firm’ whose delicate negotiation of an exit strategy for the petulant pair has been an ongoing strain, that they would now observe a period of silence.
The opposite has been true. In the run-up to their announcement, there were cringeworthy messages of support via Instagram about being part of a ‘global community’ – advice they might well have heeded themselves.
The news of their new venture’s name seemed to arrive at an utterly heartless and inappropriate moment given the rising death tolls in their respective countries, and with the UK reeling from the news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson – whom they had sat opposite in March at the Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey – had been moved into intensive care.
The following day, there were more headlines when it transpired that someone had hijacked their as yet unregistered domain name, and ensured their charity’s website linked straight to US rapper Kanye West’s YouTube video of Gold Digger. This weekend, there were more column inches suggesting they will find it hard to slot into Instagram with derivatives of, and Archewell itself, already taken as profile names. Somehow I’m sure that Harry and Meghan, who are used to getting what they want, will twist the arm of someone at Silicon Valley enough to achieve their desired result.
For a couple who spoke recently over their social media channels about finding parts to play ‘in this global shift and changing of habits’, it seems theirs remains firmly on ensuring the camera never moves far from their every – now seemingly irrelevant – move.
What a shame they have been reduced to this. What else could they be doing with their time? With reports that this lockdown is to be extended almost everywhere where death tolls have yet to show any slowdown, there is still time for Meghan and Harry to use these extraordinary and unprecedented times to forget about their quest for freedom for a while and use their undisputed fame to raise spirits – even if just over Zoom, even if just in California. Why is it that something tells me they are simply beavering away and oiling the wheels of what will be the wider launch of Archewell?
It is clear to me that while this couple have seemingly argued and fought for privacy, what they really want and require to survive is the very opposite: exposure, omnipresence and publicity.