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The eternal return of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

One year after the debut of the Netflix documentary in which they gave their version of the breakup with the British royal family, a trial and a book return the ‘exiled’ couple, now living in California, back into the spotlight

Enrique y Meghan duques de Sussex
Harry and Meghan Markle, in an image from their Netflix documentary.
Rafa de Miguel

Standup comic Jimmy Durante, who spent his career’s most prolific era in California, once sang, “Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go / But still had the feeling that you wanted to stay?” One year after the debut of the documentary Harry & Meghan on Netflix, in whose six episodes Mr. and Mrs. Sussex laid out their version of the breakup with the British royal family that led to their Californian exile, the couple has once again burst into the headlines of British tabloids. There are two reasons for this. The first is Harry’s battle against the British Home Office for having withdrawn him, his wife and their two children from the protective security enjoyed by the rest of the members of the royal family. And in second place, the new book by the couple’s chief journalist, Omid Scobie, Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival (Dey Street Books), whose Dutch edition had to be abruptly pulled from shelves because it exposed — through an “error” by the editorial for which the author denies all responsibility — the two Windsors who, according to Markle in her now-famous interview with U.S. television presenter Oprah Winfrey, had expressed their curiosity to know what color skin Archie, the Sussex’s firstborn, would have.

At first, British media did not want to publish the names that half of the Netherlands had already found out, and that American newspapers such as The New York Times had no problem in revealing. It was journalist and presenter Piers Morgan, whose particular vendetta with the couple led to his expulsion from channel ITV more than a year ago, who broke the taboo on his GB News program. They were, he said, King Charles III and Catherine, Princess of Wales.

If over the last year a certain truce-calm has been established between the Sussex and the rest of the family, and the citizenry and media have seemed to tired of the battle, with both parts resigned to stay a civil distance from each other, the resurgence of the racism accusations have revived tensions, not to mention the attention of both the British tabloids and more conventional press. “With their power waning, little wonder the Sussexes have made it known that an invitation to spend Christmas with the relatives at Sandringham [one of the king’s residences] would be favourably looked upon,” one of the Daily Telegraph’s star columnists Allison Pearson wrote, dripping with irony. “Well, they can forget that now. By publishing those two Royal names, Omid Scobie must have crushed any prospect of a reunion. This is war. [… the book is called] Endgame — the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival. We all know who–and what–the monarchy is fighting. There can be only one winner,” wrote Pearson.

“Feeling at home” in the United Kingdom

From a distance in California — he did not travel to London this time — Prince Harry has embarked on his umpteenth legal battle. This time, it’s against the Home Office. He is accusing the governmental department of jeopardizing the safety of his children through withdrawing the permanent security enjoyed by the rest of the House of Windsor, since the moment they ceased to have an official role as members of the royal family in 2020, by decision of Elizabeth II.

“The UK is my home. The UK is central to the heritage of my children and a place I want them to feel at home as much as where they live at the moment in the United States. “That cannot happen if there is no possibility to keep them safe when they are on UK soil,” stated Harry in a written statement read before court by his lawyer Shaheed Fatima, a practicing Muslim who does not remove her hijab in public, a specialist in public and private international law. “I can’t put my wife in danger like that, and given my experiences in life I’m reluctant to unnecessarily put myself in harm’s way too,” stated Harry.

Queen Camilla
From left to right, Queen Camilla, King Charles III and the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, at an official reception at the Palace of Buckingham on December 5, 2023.CHRIS JACKSON (AFP)

That feeling when you want to go… and that you want to stay. The back-and-forth is partly encouraged and aired by the Sussex themselves and their allies, such as the journalist Scobie, but also cheered by the tabloids, which can never resist the temptation to stir the pot, in a game of point-counterpoint between the two opposing parties. The conservative press, scandalized by the accusations of racism on behalf of the monarchy — the media refuses to accept the explanation that their publication was an accident — celebrated the apparent decision of Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, and his fiancée Olivia Henson, to not invite Harry and Meghan to their wedding, which will be held next June in the Chester Cathedral. It’s nearly certain that Charles and Camilla will attend, as well as the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine. “Harry and Meghan’s exclusion will [be] a particular blow to the couple because Grosvenor is so close to Harry that it can be revealed that he is also a godfather to the Sussexes’ son, Prince Archie. He is thought to be the only friend of William and Harry’s chosen as a godparent by both,” wrote the royal editor of The Times, Roya Nikkhah.

The Duke of Westminster’s decision, the media explained, was the only appropriate move available given the current situation, so as not to further cloud the internal conflicts of the Windsors. However, it did not take long for the Sussexes to leak, through allies in their entourage, that the decision to not attend the wedding of the largest landowner in the United Kingdom had been theirs. Harry, according to the website Page Six, received the invitation “a few months ago” and personally called his friend Hugh to explain that his presence at the event would be very awkward. In short, he didn’t go because he didn’t want to. To be there and not be there, in an eternal return.

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