Robert Lacey is quoted in this Guardian Article that puts the spotlight on the power behind the royals.
Spotlight is on the power behind the royals as much as on the Queen, Charles and William
Four days after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex eviscerated the “the firm” with the sharp blade of “their truth”, Prince William had still not spoken to his brother. “But they just do not communicate in the way other families do,” said one veteran royal watcher. “You wonder if anyone has rung Harry.”
According to one report, the Queen plans to personally offer an olive branch to the couple. She said in a statement this week that the extraordinarily damaging allegations from the Sussexes – of racism and of emotional neglect that Meghan said had left her feeling suicidal – would be dealt with privately.
“That should be a holding statement,” said the royal historian and author Robert Lacey. “The next step is to say: yes, with regard to the personal family issues, we are working on that in private. But, we acknowledge there are issues of public accountability here.”
It’s not just the aftermath of the Oprah Winfrey interview, Lacey said. Allegations that Meghan bullied staff are also in play. “This is about how this major institution of state, funded by the taxpayer, is actually organised. They should acknowledge: we have questions about HR policy. We have questions about our diversity. And we are going to handle those now, openly, in the way that any government department would.
“This is an agency of the British government. It’s more than people or a family. It’s about an institution. If you look at Buckingham Palace’s website, at its HR pages, they go into ecstasy about their wonderful human resources policy, and what you can expect if you join, and how much they care for their staff. It sounds like any modern American corporation on paper. But in practice it’s just run in the old-fashioned way.”
The phrase “the firm” has come to apply to the royal family and the institution around it – the “men in grey suits”, as Diana, Princess of Wales coined it. The power behind the royals include Sir Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, and Clive Alderton, a former diplomat and Prince Charles’s private secretary at Clarence House.
Following the Sussexes’ claims of being marginalised within the institution, the spotlight is now on these figures as much as on the Queen, Charles and William – the latter making his thoughts clearly known when he told journalists: “We’re very much not a racist family.”
How could they have failed to harness the potential of the campaigning, feminist Hollywood celebrity that was Meghan Markle, Lacey questioned.
And now, it seems, according to another royal expert of longstanding, the narrative is set. “In a sense they have set the trajectory by not keeping the door ajar, not offering a way back in.”
The couple were stung by the way Buckingham Palace framed their permanent departure last month, especially with its statement that by stepping away from the work of the royal family “it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service”.
It was badly worded, suggesting they could only do public service within the royal family, said Lacey. Yet Harry and Meghan had spent the last year trying to undertake public service. ‘That’s what the argument’s been all about,” said Lacey. “Those words seemed to misunderstand and misrepresent everything they had been trying to do in the best way.”
The couple’s response was pointed and terse: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”
Friends of the Sussexes indicate they will have no more to say, that nothing was left unsaid. “I doubt there will be more, once you’ve had that level of interview,’ said one who knows them.
They are “feeling free”, the actor Janina Gavankar, a close friend of Meghan, has said. She watched the Oprah interview. “Now they can get back to what they really were focused on,” she said of their humanitarian and environmental work through their Archewell charitable foundation.
Both are expected, throughout this month, to promote their International Women’s Day campaign, which aims to “unleash a groundswell of real acts of compassion for the women in your life and in your community”, their website states.
There is said to be relief – at having unburdened themselves, at getting it “over and done with” before they welcome their new daughter and become a family of four.
Their profile in the US could not be higher. Support from celebrity friends has boosted the Meghan and Harry brand right across North America. Beyoncé posted: “Thank you Meghan for your courage and leadership. We are all strengthened and inspired by you.”
Serena Williams wrote: “Meghan Markle, my selfless friend, lives her life – and leads by example – with empathy and compassion. She teaches me every day what it means to be truly noble.”
“They [the Sussexes] should clearly shut up now,” Lacey said. “They have said that’s the end of it. Archewell is a positive innovation. They should get on with the doing, with less of the talking.”
The tit-for-tat media briefings should cease, critics say. Media leaking between rival royals was on a scale not witnessed since the “war of the Waleses” between Charles and Diana.
The fallout, however, is ongoing. “I think their biggest unexploded bomb is their bullying investigation,” said a royal watcher of long standing, referring to Buckingham Palace’s inquiry into the handling of claims of alleged bullying of staff by Meghan, the results of which it has said will be made public.
“What are they going to do if people come forward and say ‘I was bullied by X royal, or X senior member of staff’? They will be desperate to keep as narrow a focus as possible. The risk is that it’s not a discrete matter about Meghan and Harry, but also about how staff reacted at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. And why are they doing it in-house? Why is an independent person not doing it?”
This crisis must jolt the institution towards change, said Lacey. Referring to the Queen’s words that “recollections may vary”, which implied questions over the couple’s account, was pointless, he said. “Harry and Meghan have created a new and disturbing truth, and one that the monarchy now has to live with,” he said.
Read the full article: Royal watchers say Harry and Meghan crisis must jolt ‘the firm’ towards change
Robert Lacey is the author of Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult.