Pictures of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s latest trip reveal royal nightmare

You have to nearly, and I stress the word ‘nearly’, feel sorry for Buckingham Palace and all her toil within her.

An annual budget of more than $163 million. More than 490 staff. The personal phone numbers of every president, prime minister, major religious leader and four out of five members of Girls Aloud.

And yet still.

Still, they are being bested by two Californians who make infotainment programming for a living and probably have colour-co-ordinating, side-by-side Vitamixes.

This month has seen Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex fly to Nigeria for their first overseas tour since departing the palace way back when.

In 72 hours, they came, they saw and they hugged. There were schoolchildren, veterans, charity meetings, posing with a variety of government bigwigs and enough outfit changes to sate the cottage industry built around chronicling Meghan’s incredible style.

If you squinted you could almost imagine it was 2019, a time when hand sanitiser was only for they hypochondriacally-inclined and the duke and duchess still swore fealty to Crown Inc and Duchy Organic biscuits.

Except of course, it’s not and the Sussexes are two people who currently have all the official status of Lifestyle Channel presenters and whose HRHs are currently being stored in the cavernous Clarence House attics.

Now a former royal staffer has told The Daily Beast’s Tom Sykes: “Harry and Meghan being freelance royals is the stuff of nightmares for the Palace. It’s exactly what the late Queen Elizabeth wanted to avoid.”

Which does make it sound like Queen Camilla should be sleeping with one eye open and permanently watching on the people.com homepage – the entertainment magazine’s chief foreign correspondent was the only journalist allowed to join the Sussexes in Nigeria along with their friend, renowned photographer Misan Harriman.

The Sussexes, taking themselves off to do some DIY royaling, is one outcome Her late Majesty reportedly wanted to prevent coming to pass.

None of us, I’m sure, have forgotten the events of January 2020, when Harry and Meghan announced they were done being tractable palace employees, forced to live on a fixed seven-figure allowance and required to lower themselves to opening new trolley bays at the whim of old Etonian courtiers.

The couple had come up with a new hybrid working model, a combination of royal charity doings with them being able to earn some lolly too.

All of their peppy can-do optimism was met with a dour royal reality check. Harry was presented with two options during the Sandringham Summit. The couple could be in or out. Royal or not. A or B. Yes or no.

Queen Elizabeth’s bottom line seemed to be, there would be no middle ground where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could have the luxury of being free agents while still enjoying the official royal imprimatur.

The couple chose door number two and off they went to live down the road from Katy Perry.

However what this Nigeria trip looks like is them forcibly wedging a foot back into the royal door number one.

This scenario poses a serious public relations threat back to Crown Inc.

As the former royal staffer told Sykes: “Harry and Meghan have different priorities because they are no longer working royals. But of course the vast majority of the world is ignorant of such distinctions and regard Harry and Meghan as every bit as representative of the royal family as William and Charles.

“The reason [the Sussexes] went to Nigeria was to promote Invictus (the Paralympic-style event Harry set up) — and themselves. That’s not what royal tours are about.”

The problem is that when the public sees images of the duke and duchess visiting a school or posing with government ministers, they still look royal, despite the late Queen’s adjudication on the matter.

The photos coming out of Nigeria last week pretty much replicated every visual beat we would normally see from an official tour despite the fact that the duke and duchess now occupy a murky liminal space between royalty and civilian status.

They have titles but do not officially represent the crown. They have a cipher on their website but are not allowed to brand themselves as ‘royal’.

They-are-but-they-aren’t-royal-but-they-are-still-kinda-too in most people’s minds.

The palace has tried to bat away and to dismiss Harry and Meghan’s goings-on as that of only private citizens but the truth is that the Sussexes can’t so simply or easily be boxed in or reduced.

You have to consider here what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have come to represent: Comparative youth, modernity, and bravery in standing up to inherited privilege and challenging hierarchical, power structures.

After the wider events of the last few years, after #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, the Sussexes now carry with them a social, political and cultural resonance far greater than they would otherwise as two people who didn’t want to spend their days christening lifeboats and having their wings clipped by tweedy sorts.

But, back to those furrowed well-bred brows of palace mandarins. After the success of the Sussexes’ Nigeria trip, it seems unlikely we won’t see the duke and duchess take flight again and this has insiders in a lather.

Sykes reports: “Of particular alarm in some quarters is the clear suggestion by the couple that the trip to Nigeria was not an isolated event and that more such sorties are being planned.”

The former staffer told the Beast, “If these rival foreign tours become a regular thing, it could muddy the waters [for the palace].”

With Crown Inc on the back foot after both the King and Kate, the Princess of Wales, were both diagnosed with cancer this year, this development – Harry and Meghan operating as rogue, quasi-royal agents roaming the world unchecked – is the real royal icing on the cake.

But you know what they say. One King and Queen’s “nightmare” is another duke and duchess’ gluten-free delight.

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

Read related topics:Meghan MarklePrince Harry

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