Go Back To The Royals, Harry & Meghan, Where You Can Really Do Some Good
The launch of Brand Sussex has to go down as one of the most ill-timed in marketing history.
And, every day deeper into the coronavirus pandemic, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s chances of becoming a big deal in their independent lives are diminishing.
Of course, they had no way of knowing back in November that their much-publicized departure from Britain would coincide with a deadly, global pandemic.
But, they have missed a royal chance, so to speak, to play the useful, high-profile role that would have been the perfect segue into the lives they envision for themselves.
And it’s likely that they know it, too.
COVID-19 has given the royal family an opportunity to do what it ideally does best: participate, inspire and sympathize.
Its efforts are being led by the woman at the top: Queen Elizabeth II.
People would certainly excuse her if she played a lesser part. She recently turned 94, and is a member of the age group thought to be most at risk from COVID-19.
Yet, with her “chin up” speeches, she has become the leader the world has most desperately needed in this terrible time of illness. They’ve book-ended the role she played during World War II as a teenager.
Two generations beyond, Prince William and Duchess Catherine have been her wing man and wing woman. They, too, have made constant video appearances, judiciously involving their photogenic family.
The Cambridges displayed an enthusiasm and empathy that brings smiles and tears each time they appear on screen.
Other royals have stepped up, too, including Charles, who has first hand knowledge of COVID-19, and Camilla.
No matter your feelings about her role in Charles and Diana’s marriage, she has transformed into the consoling aunt or older friend that everyone has needed to stay calm.
Princess Anne, rarely one to show much emotion, has been a steady presence. We’ve seen Duchess Sophie in a soup kitchen, Princess Eugenie working with the Salvation Army, and lesser known royals doing their part as well.
Has anyone heard from them?
Given all that, Harry and Meghan are the equivalent of the missing co-workers who didn’t join the on-screen meeting, and nobody can reach them on their mobile phones.
Of course, there have been glimpses from Los Angeles of them trying to do something for the needy, among a vast flock of celebrities trying to show they care.
But much of the publicity surrounding Harry and Meghan since their departure for North America has basically been about them, not their service to others.
Their headlines mainly have involved expensive homes, and lawsuits, and anger at paparazzi, and statements about the evil tabloids, and the score-settling authorized biography that’s supposed to be published this summer.
That doesn’t include the bungling of their Sussex Royal launch, which I wrote about here last winter.
As a good friend with ties to the royals said to me, “It’s been six months since Megxit, and what do they have to show for it?”
Not all that much, to be honest, and they must be the most frustrated of all that they haven’t been able to turn things their way.
Book a return flight
But, I believe there is an opportunity to salvage their role in the pandemic, and set them on a promising path forward.
And the solution is: go home, meaning back to the royal family.
A physical return to Britain would solve a myriad of problems. They have a place to live, Frogmore Cottage, which is safely socially distant.
With palace police around, it provides the privacy they said they wanted for themselves and their son Archie.
Frogmore also provides the security on which they or their wealthy friends are spending millions of dollars, and as working royals, a case can be made for the public to bear at least some of the expense.
They wouldn’t have to worry about paparazzi shooting photos of them in their courtyard, and they certainly wouldn’t have to erect fences as they have on Tyler Perry’s property to keep out lookie loos.
Most importantly, they wouldn’t have to search for a role to play. There is plenty of space for more supporters of essential workers.
Think about the opportunities they’ve already missed. Meghan could have been right there, alongside Camilla and Kate and Sophie, sending cheerful greetings to nurses, doctors and mail carriers.
Harry could have presented the honorary colonelcy to super NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore on his 100th birthday.
Who better to honor him, after all, than someone who served in the military and by all accounts misses his army mates?
And, the pair of them could participate in all the virtual group events that the royal family’s social media team has coordinated, like the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, and what is likely to be a star-studded commemoration of the actual end of World War II in August.
Harry and Meghan could even put on a royal version of Some Good News, the heartwarming weekly videos by the actor John Krasinski.
Krasinski’s program is so beautifully produced, so full of joy and so touching that you have to have Kleenex nearby when you watched them, especially this week, when the cast of The Office witnessed the wedding of two fans of the show.
Like Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt, who makes occasional appearances, Harry and Meghan could be the smiling hosts of their own program, royally showcasing good works.
Back in the fold
Now you could argue that in a virtual world, Harry and Meghan don’t need to go anywhere,and travel to Britain might not be the easiest or wisest thing right now.
So, they can do it from Los Angeles.
But to be effective, they must go back into the royal fold full time, and set aside their money-making and money-raising schemes for the moment.
They made such a to-do about leaving the royal family that it might be seen as a defeat to return, tails between their legs.
But I’ve got news for them: it won’t.
If their effort is sincere, and they get on with it, there will be goodwill and gratitude.
Harry and Meghan still have a big fan base, and if they are cooperative with palace staff, they’ll have the structure to support them that they lack now.
Brand Sussex can wait. After all, 2020 was supposed to be a transition year, anyway. Transitions can mean going forward, but sometimes they can mean returning to where you were, as well.
Think about people who move into a new house, and realize three weeks on that they’d rather have their old one back. Think about people who file papers for divorce, and then never go through with it.
Think of the times you wanted to storm away from a job, and realized after a good weekend away that some adjustments would help you live with things.
That’s where Harry and Meghan are now.
Go ahead and click “join”
Sure, they will be reminded them of their great determination to find freedom, to borrow the title of that upcoming book about their great breakaway.
And there might be some revelations when it’s published that they now wish they’d left unsaid.
But wouldn’t it be much better in the long run to be where you can truly be useful, rather than be stuck on the sidelines, hoping someone notices?
Once the pandemic abates, they can back away and restart their new lives, surrounded by much better feelings than the tumult that accompanied them to North America.
I’d give it some real thought.
There are two empty Zoom boxes waiting for them, and a world of good that they can do for Britain, and for others, under the mantle of the royal family once more.
They might even be able to officially revive that Sussex Royal Instagram account, which still had 11.2 million followers when I checked this week.
The Queen has made it clear that they are always welcome. And William is still extending his hand, as his message to the Diana Awards this week indicated.
“My brother and I remain ever appreciative of the work you do to foster, develop and support young people, particularly at this time of uncertainty,” William wrote.
So Harry and Meghan, swallow hard, and click “join.”
Micheline Maynard is a journalist and author who tweets @mickimaynard