STEPHEN GLOVER: The Sussexes' pleas for privacy will see them tell all
STEPHEN GLOVER: What rich irony that the Sussexes’ pleas for privacy will see them tell all on the TV sofa
They could hardly have scripted it more carefully. No sooner do the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announce they are expecting a second child than it emerges that the two of them will give a long interview to their friend, U.S. TV host Oprah Winfrey, to be broadcast on March 7.
One can only imagine how the Palace will have received the news. Officially it is playing it cool, with royal sources emphasising that Harry and Meghan are no longer working members of the Royal Family and can undertake whatever media commitments they want. But there will be considerable unease.
What an irony, as well as an outrage, if Meghan compromises the privacy of the royals on the sofa.
For the woman who releases intimate photos of herself, and is willing to chat to Oprah Winfrey in front of tens of millions of people, guards her own privacy ferociously.
Many will have similar qualms about the photograph released over the weekend by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s PR people showing them in summer clothing in their Californian paradise.
Meghan is lying on the grass, her head cradled in Harry’s hand and partly resting on his leg, gazing lovingly upwards at her husband’s smiling face. Her right hand is placed gently on her ‘baby bump’.
Despite previous pleas for privacy, it’s announced Sussexes will give Oprah Winfrey interview
The more generous-hearted will feel nothing but joy at the announcement of the advent of an American-born baby, who will be eighth in line to the throne.
For them, a cold and dismal winter will have been brightened by an image of Californian bliss.
Others, though welcoming news of a royal birth, will wonder if this was the most tactful way to announce it. Wasn’t there an element of Hollywood narcissism in the photograph?
Countless ‘influencers’ flaunt themselves in places like Dubai: scantily clad young women whose hedonism jars in the time of Covid.
And now, more upmarket and more seemly, we have the world’s aspiring pre-eminent influencers — Meghan and Harry.
There is a contradiction here. A couple who ferociously insist on their privacy thirst at the same time for international publicity.
No sooner do the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announce they are expecting a second child than it emerges that they will give a long interview to their friend, U.S. TV host Oprah Winfrey
But it is publicity the Hollywood way — exclusively on their own terms. A friendly photographer takes the picture they want, and Meghan and Harry release it to the world.
They wish to be portrayed as two make-believe people deeply in love in their own Garden of Eden.
Will it work? Is it possible for Meghan and Harry to write their own script in which they star as perfect heroes, becoming ever richer and more famous — and more widely loved? I doubt it.
Last week, she won a legal case against this paper’s sister title, The Mail on Sunday. She had objected to it publishing the contents of a five-page letter to her father, Thomas Markle, after their relationship became strained.
The paper had argued that publication of the letter, given to it by Mr Markle, was in the public interest because it had been written with a view to publication, and parts of it had been selectively leaked to an American magazine.
The judge ruled that the paper had breached her right to privacy and her copyright as the letter’s author.
The Sussexes use publicity the Hollywood way — exclusively on their own terms. A friendly photographer takes the picture they want, and Meghan and Harry release it to the world
Details of the judgment, against which The Mail on Sunday may appeal, need not concern us now.
The point is that the same Meghan Markle who fiercely defends her privacy in respect of a letter has a near-inexhaustible appetite for favourable media coverage.
When it suits her, she is perfectly happy to invite the public to share her innermost secrets.
A few months after a miscarriage last summer, she wrote an article for the New York Times in which she disclosed deeply private feelings.
I can’t imagine many women wanting to write in so confidential a way after such a terrible experience: ‘Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand.
‘I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.’
There was a glimpse of similar double standards when she and Harry signed a mega-deal last year with the American media giant Netflix, said to be worth £112 million, to make a TV series
Some will applaud her for expressing herself so frankly. But this champion of privacy is sending out mixed messages in writing about herself with such abandon. Less generous souls will accuse her of hypocrisy.
There was a glimpse of similar double standards when she and Harry signed a mega-deal last year with the American media giant Netflix, said to be worth £112 million, to make TV series, films and children’s shows for the streaming service.
Although it has been denied that the Sussexes will star in a fly-on-the-wall Netflix reality series with cameras following them for three months, it is surely certain that the couple will use programmes to burnish their image.
Incidentally, Meghan and Harry have ignored their scruples about privacy in signing a deal with Netflix.
The company produced The Crown, in which disagreeable personal details about the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles are simply invented.
Sooner or later, hard-headed Netflix executives are going to demand material about the private lives of the Sussexes in return for their millions. I doubt Meghan and Harry will be able to satisfy them entirely on their own terms.
And there’s the rub. People who don’t seek publicity can justifiably expect absolute privacy. Even a well-behaved and conscientious member of the Royal Family — Princess Anne, for example — should feel entitled to a high degree of privacy.
But the Sussexes are different. They have cut themselves adrift from the Royal Family and preach about issues such as climate change, even though they frequently use private jets.
They energetically promote their own image. Should they be surprised if the spotlight turns on them?
Of course they have a right to a private life. But when they share aspects of it with the public — for example, that intimate photograph of them in their Californian paradise — then they invite interest and scrutiny.
Starring on Netflix and putting themselves about on U.S. television, they will find that they can’t determine which aspects of their private life are deemed public property. They won’t be able to set the parameters.
There are fewer privacy laws in America than in Britain. If Meghan has ambitions to become a politician in California, as reports suggest, does she really think the U.S. media will give her a wide berth and allow her to present herself on her own terms? It would be either arrogant or fatally naive to believe so.
Even if they restrict themselves to Netflix and lecturing the world, a couple who aspire to fuse Hollywood glamour with royal cachet will discover they are considered fair game.
I wish they would return to Britain and devote themselves to public service rather than making millions as celebrities trading on their royal status.
But of course I know that such an outcome is impossible because Meghan has her eye on other things and the Palace seems disinclined to let them straddle both roles.
The Sussexes won’t be able to control the public’s appetite by feeding it such bits of their privacy as they think will satisfy it. They will want more.
The nightmare, of course, is that Meghan — whether with Oprah Winfrey or later — will betray the privacy of the Royal Family.
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