World

The stage-managed world of Harry and Meghan

16 February 2021

1:21 AM

16 February 2021

1:21 AM

Congratulations Meghan and Harry! Another baby. How lovely! You both look so happy and relaxed: all bare-foot, belly-cradling, fondly-gazing into each other’s eyes. It’s just adorable to hear that Archie can’t wait to become a big brother. And that the Queen and Prince Philip are delighted by the news of their tenth great grandchild; or eleventh if Zara gets there first. And so thoughtful to give a nod to Harry’s mum, Princess Diana, who also made a Valentine’s Day pregnancy announcement. I bet you were relieved to have that pesky case against the Mail on Sunday settled in time to break the news!

Baby news! “We can confirm that Archie is going to be a big brother,” says a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to be expecting their second child.” pic.twitter.com/GrqSiBxaXa

— Omid Scobie (@scobie) February 14, 2021

But hang on a minute. I’m confused. Am I allowed to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Sussex or not? Should I feel guilty about poring over the details of their latest announcement? Am I somehow breaching their privacy when I read that their pregnancy photo was taken remotely, via an iPad, by a friend? Because Harry and Meghan are all about privacy, no?

It was, after all, only last week that a High Court judge ruled in the Duchess of Sussex’s favour in her privacy case against the publishers of Associated Newspapers. Not only did the judge uphold Meghan’s right to privacy above her father’s right to free speech – and, arguably, the right to information about a matter of public interest; in making a summary judgment he by-passed a trial with a jury and witnesses for part of the case.

This was just the latest round in Harry and Meghan’s pursuit of privacy. Back in December the couple settled a legal case against a paparazzi agency that photographed Meghan walking with Archie around a park in Canada. Before that, Harry took a different agency to court for taking photographs of his Cotswolds home. Then there’s the elaborate fences built around their homes. And – let’s not forget – their desire for greater privacy was one of the main reasons the Duke and Duchess took the drastic step of quitting the UK and abandoning their royal duties in the first place.


Even in this age of long-range photography and social media it is possible to retreat from the public glare if that is what you really want to do. The problem is, this privacy-loving couple are only ever two days away from their latest high-profile Zoom call. Whether it’s speaking out about the importance of protecting the environment, offering support for Black Lives Matter or urging us to reject hate speech, there are few issues on which Harry and Meghan do not publicly opine.

And of course, it is not just their woke views that make them newsworthy. Harry and Meghan frequently package up their own lives for public consumption. We moved rapidly from glossy engagement photos to Meghan’s tearful looks to camera complaining that, ‘not many people have asked if I’m OK’. Then came the publication of Finding Freedom – a biography containing details so personal only people who were there could know them.

And now, with their baby announcement, Harry and Meghan have shared their private joy with the entire planet. As the Daily Star puts it so perfectly today: ‘Publicity-shy woman tells 7.67 billion people: I’m pregnant’. The news is accompanied by an intimate black and white picture and a statement from the friend who took the shot: ‘Meg, I was there at the wedding to witness this love story begin… I am honoured to capture it grow.’ It’s all hilariously stage-managed and over the top.

Clearly, Harry and Meghan do not want privacy. But neither do they want media coverage that they have not explicitly sanctioned, approved and preferably written themselves. This on-brand couple want the right to control the narrative surrounding them – which means drip-feeding us plebs with woke messaging and filtered images. I would rather not care about any of this, but Harry does remain sixth in line to the throne. The new baby will be eighth. It’s an outside chance but, one day, Harry or his offspring could have real power to exercise without, it seems, being prepared for even the mildest form of public scrutiny.

So, congratulations Harry and Meghan. I really hope someone asks the Duchess of Sussex if she is OK this time around. But please, spare us the birth story details. And if you must share every intimate moment, just don’t complain when the public expects to know more.

 

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