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Royals’ cold reaction to Meghan baby news
Royals’ cold reaction to Meghan baby news avatar

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It should have been a joyful pregnancy announcement for Meghan and Harry but so far the reaction from the rest of the royals has been unduly rude.

A charming, beloved Brit smiles, at peace, in a perfect garden, lovingly cradling his wife’s head in his lap, her baby bump on full display, as she beams up at him. It is an image suffused with contentment, a touching of intimacy and love.

I’m talking, of course, about the final scene of Notting Hill, a movie all about the unlikely romance between a British charmer and an American actress after they serendipitously meet in London.

Whether they meant to or not, the picture released in the early hours of this morning by Harry and Meghan Duke and Duchess of Sussex to announce they were expecting their second child bears something of an uncanny likeness to their cinematic doppelgangers.

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However, rather than, as in the Richard Curtis’ hit, the moment signalling the beginning of their very own happily-ever-after, the Sussexes’ new image is a far more laden and potentially fraught prospect.

Before we go any further, let’s pause here and collectively, full-throated, and joyously congratulate the Sussex family. The last year has been one of tumult, upheaval and saw the duchess suffer a devastating miscarriage. That they are going to welcome an adorable little new baby later this year is truly wonderful news. Meghan, according to the UK Telegraph is thought to be about five months pregnant and that the bub will be born during the northern summer.

It’s also particularly sweet that they chose not only Valentine’s Day but the fact that the day marks 37 years exactly since it was revealed Diana, Princess of Wales was expecting for the second time to make the announcement. All together now – awwwww ….

But the debut of today’s new shot is a highly freighted milestone.

Let’s start with the very fact they released an image at all. Sydney Harbour played an unlikely backdrop to their 2018 announcement that they were pregnant with the duke and duchess announcing the news hours prior to their first day of their Down under tour. In what was seen as a deeply touching and poignant tribute to her mother-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, the newly-minted royal wore a pair of her favourite diamond butterfly earrings. It was just the sort of loaded semaphoring that is about as royal as horse-breeding, grouse-hunting and singing Merry Christmas in the family’s native German.

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But that, that was the full extent of any sort of even vaguely gushy, outpouring of emotion. There was no carefully stage managed photo shoot in the grounds of NSW’s Government House where they were staying or press call. The media got sent a statement and Harry and Meghan got on with their job. All those hands weren’t just going to shake themselves.

Which is why even releasing an image at all, especially one that has been so artfully and self-consciously rendered is highly significant, made even more so by the informality and tenderness of the chosen shot which was taken by an iPad and shot remotely by photographer Misan Harriman. (Harry might just have made history as the first prince to release an official photo sans shoes. The family’s namesake Dickie Mountbatten would be rolling over in his grave at the insouciance of the whole thing.)

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That they decided to stage a baby reveal photo shoot is unabashedly Hollywood, made even more so by the fact that the composition of the whole thing seems more redolent of a former Love Island fan favourite posing for a Hello! magazine spread rather than the sort of press outing undertaking prince of the realm.

For Harry and Meghan, going this route speaks volumes, most notably, it shows a certain glorious contemptuousness for Windsor precedent and seems like an obvious rejection of the palace’s modus operandi.

Yes, Princess Beatrice and husband Jack Brooksbank told the world they were set to become parents last year via a cutesy Instagram image but – critically – she has never been a frontline, senior working member of the royal family and thus has always had far more license to be as twee as she wants.

By deciding to go beyond a short statement stuffed with all the usual cheery epithets and careful inclusion of the royal WAG’s family, the Harry and Meghan photograph epitomises just how willing if not hungry they are to turn their backs on palace life and to do things the way they see fit.

Consider, it was only a scant 11 months ago that they were stiffly appearing alongside the Queen at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey and now today we are seeing them deploy a move straight out of the Beyonce playbook.

There is one interesting, disappointing coda to the Sussexes’ good news. At the time of writing, it is at least four hours since the news broke and in that time the family, including the Queen, Prince Charles and William and Kate Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have all notably failed to publicly congratulate the Sussexes via their official social media channels, relying instead on a very generic statement from a palace spokesperson saying they “delighted” and “wish them well.”

Given that the Windsor clan would have known for a while that Meghan is pregnant and that some sort of announcement was in the offing, their muted reaction seems unduly cold, if not quite rude and callous.

If there was ever a moment that symbolised the end of any sort of fidelity to the prevailing strictures of HRH-dom and the true advent of their American lives, it was this one that is far more Kardashian than courtly.

Look a bit closer and I wonder if there is even more going on in the Sussex shot, metaphorically speaking.

Since landing in California in March last year, the couple has notched up a series of high-profile wins, such as their reported $180 million worth of content deals and inclusion on the TIME 100 most powerful people list, but they have also been buffeted by criticism, largely out of the UK.

They have taken heat for their touchy-feely decidedly un-British emoting and willingness to talk about their feelings and personal experiences, everywhere from high-profile female power confabs to a mental health podcast hosted by teenagers.

In September they dipped their toes into particularly fraught and dicey political waters, speaking out against “hate speech, misinformation and online negativity” in what was widely held to be a rebuke of Donald Trump. The move saw senior palace aides tell the Sunday Times that the Sussexes’ comments were a ‘violation’ of their Megxit deal with the palace with claims their intervention could potentially further jeopardise their relationship with the monarchy.

When in December Oprah took to Instagram to enthusiastically plug an instant vegan latte brand which Meghan had invested in, the M irror reported that the move had “prompted fury from the palace.”

Similarly their son Archie uttering his first public words via their debut Archewell Audio podcast, their first outing as part of their reported $54 million Spotify deal proved controversial.

My point is here, after repeatedly drawing fire for their rule-breaking, Californian ways, did they decide to obediently fall in line and do what generations of HRHs have done before them to get back on London’s goodside?

Absolutely not. You have to admire their staunch commitment to being guided by their own north star, no matter the waves that might create.

If this rule-busting departure from tradition is any indication, the events of last year, the nine-figure deals and the fledgling vegan latte empire, are just the tip-of the iceberg when it comes to Sussexes’ initiatives, appetite and passions.

In recent weeks, reports have circulated saying that the 39-year-old duchess is weighing up penning a book (“Meghan has some very serious book deals on the table,” a friend told Vanity Fair recently, “they are all up for consideration”) along with claims that she might also be entertaining the idea of entering politics after it was revealed the duke and duchess had held an hour-long phone call with Democratic governor Gavin Newsom last year.

Time and again, the Sussexes have unabashedly indicated they have no plans to let their creativity, ambition and plans be curtailed or clipped by starchy palace thinking or tradition, and today’s debut is a logical, very sweet extension of that.

With their Valentine’s Day photo reveal, it would seem that nothing is off the table and that is an electrifying thought.

Here’s one interesting titbit to leave you on. If Meghan is indeed, as reported, due in around four to five months, that would bring us up to June slash July which would be right around the time of several high-profile royal events such as Prince Philip’s 100th birthday and Trooping the Colour. Earlier this year the Sunday Times reported that the Queen is keen to get “back to business” during the British summer.

Even in utero it would seem, a member of the Sussex family can outmanoeuvre the palace.


Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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