Prince Harry sidelined by Meghan
For a long time, Prince Harry had a type. Or scratch that, a few types. There were the bouncy, charismatic blondes who he tended to date longer term (Chelsea Davy and Cressida Bonas); there were the lesser known upper crust gals who didn’t tend to last very long (Astrid Harbord and Florence Brudnell-Bruce); and there were the occasional sort-of celebs whose names would semi-regularly (when he was single, mind) be linked to his (Ellie Goulding and Mollie King).
While his brother and sister-in-law, William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, clocked up the years of happy married life, Harry looked more and more like the world’s most famous, and outwardly affable, third wheel.
That status quo was irrevocably changed one summer night in London when singleton Harry was set up on a date with Meghan Markle.
The rest is, quite literally, history. Harry was no longer the Robin to their Batman, but one half of the world’s most famous and globally obsessed-over duo.
This week, the Harry and Meghan Show, the must-watch, eminently bingable, can’t-look-away soap opera, took an epic turn thanks to the revelation they are set to finally do a lengthy TV interview with Oprah about their decision to quit royal working life.
Make no mistake: Aaron Spelling at his peak or even Darren Starr on a post-Melrose Place high would have struggled to imagine a more rollicking soap opera, one stuffed with family feuds, private jets, a slew of celebrities, big money, and legal dramas.
While it has long, long, been rumoured and speculated that the Sussexes might want to share their authentic journey via a super high profile tele tell-all, what has largely gone unremarked upon is the extraordinary format of the interview.
(Oprah after all was a guest at their wedding despite only having ever met the bride once, though that was once more than fellow invitees George and Amal Clooney who reportedly, when asked how they knew the happy couple, simply said “we don’t.”)
However look closer at US TV network CBS’ press release about their prime time coup and something interesting becomes clear: Harry has become the supporting act in the melodrama of his own life.
RELATED: William’s dangerous new Meghan fight
In the interview, reportedly to be filmed this week and air on March 8 (AEDT), the talk show supremo will “first speak with Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, about stepping into royal life, marriage, motherhood, her philanthropic work and how she handles life under the public eye” before they will “be joined by” by Harry giving rise to the image of the sixth-in-line to the throne hovering in the wings off camera waiting for his cue.
What is interesting is what this order of appearance says about the level of American interest in Harry vs Meghan. While he might be the son of Diana, Princess of Wales who still occupies deity-status, she is the hometown girl who entered the royal lions’ den and faced off against the fusty British establishment.
Consider Google search trends: Ever since the couple announced their engagement in November 2017 Meghan has persistently maintained a far, far greater lead than her royal significant other when it comes to generating Google search interest both in the US and worldwide.
There is a certain irony that after decades of frustration of being in brother William’s shadow, and relegated to Eternally Cheerful Cambridge Add On, Harry has accidentally become a second string player, something of a sidekick to the leading lady who holds the world in her thrall.
It is also ironic that despite having issued the most public, vehement statement against royal life – i.e. by quitting the palace and moving across the world – the 37-year-old prince has is facing the same fate as other royal men have for decades: They are eternally destined to be outshone by their wives.
The absolute and utter zenith of this was when William and Harry’s father Prince Charles managed to get a teenage Lady Diana Spencer to agree to marry him, thus gifting the royal family and brand with their most powerful, electrifying weapon of the twentieth century.
Cuff-yanking, signet-ring twiddling Charles with his penchant for the writings of Jung, homoeopathy and 18th century Welsh traditional farming techniques was never going to strike a deep, affectionate chord with the British public so the introduction of a charismatic, electrifying beauty who brought with her a deep and real compassion was just what the palace spin-doctors ordered (not entirely metaphorically either).
The same dynamic played out when William finally, after nine long years, settled on Kate Middleton as his bride and whose induction into the house of Windsor has proven to be the greatest addition to the monarchy since Prince Albert decided to install indoor plumbing in Buckingham Palace in the 1850s.
In marrying Meghan, Harry fulfilled the most important function of the Windsor male which is to go out into the world and find the most dazzling and interesting woman open to trading her privacy, agency, independence and voice for marriage and manage to get her to sign up for the visscitudes of royal life.
So, it makes sense that today it is Meghan – a woman whose passion, hunger to do good and innate warmth – is the person who thoroughly and wildly dominates public interest and media coverage out of the two of them.
Now, before we go any further, let me make myself clear: This is no bad thing. Any notion that a woman who is more successful, ambitious or interesting than her male partner is somehow bad is deeply sexist. (In 2016 when news first broke that the couple was dating, Harry in a remarkable statement decried the racist and sexist tenor of the coverage the then-Suits star was receiving.)
I’m not suggesting for a moment that behind the walls of the Sussexes’ Montecito casa there is a whole lot of arm-twisting going on.
If you want any proof of just how happy Harry is with his lot in life, look no further than his adorably beaming mug in the couple’s Sussex pregnancy reveal photo. That is the grin of a man with a brilliant wife, a son, another baby on the way, a mansion with his very own koi pond, and $183 million coming the family’s way.
But Meghan starting to eclipse Harry popularity and public interest-wise sets up a fascinating dynamic for the years to come and perhaps presages what we can expect in the next few ‘seasons’ of the Sussex Show.
Earlier this month Vanity Fair quoted a friend saying that “Meghan has some very serious book deals on the table. They are all up for consideration.” Likewise, only two weeks ago it was revealed that both the Sussexes’ had an hour-long conversation with Californian governor Gavin Newsom last year prompting renewed speculation that Meghan might be entertaining the prospect of a political run down the track.
Only last week a prominent Democratic strategist told the Times, “She’s doing everything that’s appropriate and allowed given her new position but she’s definitely putting her toe in the water.”
It would be fascinating if we saw Meghan spread her wings and continue to add strings to her bow while Harry remained steadfastly focused on, and committed to, his core projects, namely mental health and supporting the armed services and veterans.
While the clock ticks down to the Oprah interview’s March air date, we are left with the very curious fact that somehow, despite moving a good 8750km away from his father and brother, Harry has paradoxically ended up following in their marital footsteps.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
Originally published as Prince Harry sidelined by Meghan