COMMENT

Here is a sweet piece of palace trivia to start the week: The royal family receives hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail every year. In this day and age, there is something quite touching that a veritable army which spans the globe still goes to the real trouble of actually penning some sort of missive, finding a stamp and getting it into a letterbox. (The Queen alone receives about 110,000 pieces of mail each year.)

And responding to all that post? That requires the sort of military-like operation that the royal family excels at. (Yes, they actually send out official reply cards to most letters and which generally feature some nice, smiling, boring shot of the HRHs in question. Should you want the Queen to send you a card - and she will - you can find out how here.)

 

Today, Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are about to find out just how involved this process is with news that Prince Charles has decided that his Clarence House team will no longer handle snail mail for the couple, leaving them to find their own official UK address (should they want one) and to work out how to handle their post.

See, up until now, Charles' Clarence House press outfit has taken care of this boring but necessary function, namely the four-person Correspondence Section team, which handles both his and wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall's mail and the Sussexes. (Question: What do ardent fans send to Camilla? Crates of Gordon's Gin and dog-breeding mailers?)

While, according to The Telegraph, "the volume of letters trickling in for the Sussexes is thought to have dwindled since they moved abroad" (which hardly is much of an ego boost), big life events such as birthdays or red letter announcements result in "notable spikes".

The news of the postal decision comes nearly two weeks after it was announced that a second Sussex bub was due later this year, an event which could see an astronomical jump in wellwishers deluging Clarence House with cards and gifts.

While the price tag of this crack mail team is unlikely to come anywhere close to say Charles' pocket square budget or how much he and Camilla spend on Jack Russell grooming (I'm guessing) it is still nothing to sniff at with the cost of staff, stationery, stamps and running costs reportedly totalling "tens of thousands of pounds".

Given that Harry and Meghan have signed an estimated $180 million worth of deals in the last six months alone, it seems unlikely they will be quaking at the prospect of assuming the financial burden of dealing with their own mail. (Archie's fair trade, artisan play doh probably costs them more per annum.)

However, this Clarence House/mail development does raise the question of whether the Sussexes' new independently wealthy life might actually be something of a double-edged sword.

RELATED: Harry's greatest failing exposed

 

When the Duke and Duchess released the bombshell news last January that they were quitting as senior working members of the royal family, they said they wanted to "work to become financially independent" while still also "continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen".

(Up until that point, according to the Sussexes, "5 per cent of the funding for their official office" came via the Sovereign Grant with the rest coming from an allowance from Charles, aka the Bank of Dad. Charles pulls in about $39 million a year from his Duchy of Cornwall estate, of which pre-Megxit, about $9 million was shared between the Sussexes and the Cambridges.)

This proposed vision was a sort of cobbling together of both official duty and paying jobs, which seemingly went down with the Queen about as well as proposing she give up her daily ration of finger sandwiches and Jammy Dodgers.

The result, of course, was Megxit, with Harry and Meghan charging off into the sunset to make their fortunes in California and leaving the royal family suddenly sans their two most charismatic crowd-pullers.

 

But cutting the parental purse strings and standing on their own two feet brings with it a new set of issues.

Sure, no longer relying on Daddy or the Sovereign Grant to doll out an allowance takes away a favourite cudgel with which the British press have resoundingly battered Harry and Meghan.

Now, their financial emancipation gives them the glorious freedom to travel (one day anyway) and spend how they fancy. A gold-plated kombucha dispenser? Why not? A series of whopping donations to their cause du jour? Get the cheque book. Private jets hither and froo? Why, of course!

However, the other side of that coin is that they have themselves out into the financial wilderness.

By deciding on such a high-profile, luxe existence straight out of the gate - their nine-bedroom Montecito home, replete with a home theatre and two saunas, seems like a far more opulent billet than four-bedroom Frogmore which happens to be perilously close to Heathrow Airport - they are also saddling themselves with eye-watering bills.

Their new lifestyle might be seriously fabulous but it is also far from cheap. Last year, the Daily Mail estimated they faced an annual bill of $7.9 million.

Harry and Meghan’s Montecito home will take a lot of running. Credit: Sotheby's International Realty
Harry and Meghan’s Montecito home will take a lot of running. Credit: Sotheby's International Realty

While the couple might earn more in a year or two than you and I will in a lifetime, nor do we have a retinue of lawyers, advisers, and managers all hungry for a cut or have to fork out for the personal staff required to keep the whole show on the road.

In setting up their new shiny, exciting new life they have also set themselves up for a lifetime of hefty bills and the knowledge they will have to find a way to cover them, year after year. While their money-making ability right now is in the stratosphere, fame and celebrity are fickle things. What happens if, one day, they are no longer the flavour of the month? What happens when Hollywood and Silicon Valley are not quite so desperate to court the couple?

What happens if one day the torrent of megabucks deals evaporates only a trickle? What happens if the novelty value for a streaming giant or corporate titan of having a real life Duke and Duchess on their books slips away?

The couple's ability to earn a crust, long-term, is far from set in stone and all their protestations about "financial independence" leaves them without any sort of safety net.

And, when normal life does return and they start to travel back and forth to the UK (beyond family ties, they both still have personal charitable roles back in London) their financial independence could create a new and different headache.

By making it such a significant part of their new life, there seems like little chance Fleet Street will let them forget their promise.

Grabs from trailer of Harry and Meghan’s upcoming Oprah interview. Picture: CBS
Grabs from trailer of Harry and Meghan’s upcoming Oprah interview. Picture: CBS

So, for example, who will pay for the power at Frogmore? The gardeners and the cleaners? When they touch down at Heathrow, who will pay for their chauffeur-driven cars that pick them up? And what about the staff that would most likely travel with them?

Beyond all of that, the symbolism of Charles' post decree is undeniable.

Faced with the Sussexes' recent confirmation, at the end of the 12-month Megxit review period, that they had no intention of returning to royal life, Charles has shown that he is, professionally speaking, willing to cut them off and to do what needs to be done.

(Now they are private citizens, it may well have caused quite the kerfuffle if it turned out he was using his official staff to handle their post.)

Who knows where that sort of ruthless-but-monarchically-necessary attitude could lead in the future?

Over the weekend it was reported that Prince Andrew would not be on the Buckingham Palace balcony for this year's Trooping the Colour.

While the event is technically a family event, and therefore the scandal-ridden Prince technically has a right to be there, his non-appearance would demonstrate the palace is willing to do what needs to be done to protect the Crown.

 

Also this weekend saw the three-year anniversary of the first and only official outing of the so-called 'Fab Four' that is Harry, Meghan and William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. When the quartet took the stage, the future of the royal family burned bright and hard - here was the charismatic, photogenic and unified future of the monarchy.

Charles' mail ruling is the final snuffing of that flame.

That such stunning promise never came to pass, thanks in part to the palace so spectacularly mismanaging and failing the Sussexes, is tragic.

In 2021, the palace's approach to Harry and Meghan is simple: Return to sender.

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 Charles hits back at Harry


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