George III would be so happy this week. Oh yes, he closed out his years ambling about the Windsor Great Park, his marbles long gone, and having managed to lose the new world to those upstart Americans who thought they could run the show themselves. But now, nearly 200 years later, his great great great great grandson has just managed to do what he could not: To retake, re-win and re-conquer America. And he didn’t even need to bring his red coat.
In his first 24 hours on US soil, Prince William, the Prince of Wales managed to charm children; put on his global statesman hat to dashing effect meeting with United Nations Secretary General António Guterres; attract enormous crowds of jaded New Yorkers, his lure on keen show; have billionaire and former Presidential campaigner Michael Bloomberg gushing about him; and find time for a Central Park jog.
After nearly four years of émigrés Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex having staked out the States as their patch, the land of the ‘free’ and living one’s truth, here has come his big brother to blot out the sun.
Game, set, match, day, week, month, year: William.
Rather than being reviled by Americans, Harry having told the world about his older sibling’s wilful destruction of a dog bowl and petty jealousies of his beard, here was the Prince of Wales literally stopping traffic, having the red carpet rolled out at the UN and delighting grade-schoolers.
While the Sunday Times had previously reported that the prince would be taking a public “vow of silence” about his recalcitrant brother and failed podcaster, he still seemed to get what could very easily be interpreted as a bit of a right-hook in.
Taking to the podium at the Earthshot Summit at the Plaza Hotel, the father-of-three told the audience, “I decided to join the hordes of New Yorkers during their morning routine … It was wonderful waking up in New York on a sunny morning rather than the rain we had yesterday. It was beautiful getting some fresh air this morning.”
Here was the next King of Great Britain, going to lengths to demonstrate that he was able to get some huffy-puffy in, right in the very middle of the same city where the Sussexes claimed they were victims of a “near catastrophic car chase” only months ago.
Maybe he was not so willing to let sleeping dog bowls lie after all.
Still, big picture, this week in New York represented quite the win for a) the monarchy and b) planet Earth, big pluses for everyone who likes crowns and their homes not being submerged by several feet of melted ice cap.
Meanwhile, over on the West Coast, the sound of gnashing teeth could be heard …
In the fight with Buckingham Palace for American hearts and minds, Harry and Meghan are now looking like, while they might have won a few battles, ultimately they have lost the war.
William was, of course, recently voted the most popular public figure in the US, ahead of President Joe Biden and hoodie champion Volodymyr Zelenskyy, while a different polling found that the prince and his lady wife Kate, the Princess of Wales are the USA’s favourite members of the royal family, according to Newsweek.
The Sussexes might have thrown the monarchy and William and Kate under the bus, repeatedly, but Lazarus-like the prince and princess are enjoying approval ratings that are perkier than a surgically-enhanced C-cup.
New research done this week by Redfield & Wilton for Newsweek found that nearly half of Americans (47 per cent) supported William’s NY trip, with only 13 per cent opposed. (That view was even stronger on the East Coast with 58 per cent in favour of the prince’s jaunt and only 10 per cent against it.)
So far Kensington Palace has prevailed in the Sussex PR ground war without ever really having said anything. (The sole exception, days after their Oprah fusillade aired, William told journalists at a charity visit, “We’re very much not a racist family.”)
Still, there has been plenty of tit-for-tatting going on.
Earlier this month, William turned up in Bournemouth to wow crowds on the very day Harry arrived back in the UK for a charity engagement; then Harry made a surprise visit to the Windsor chapel where Her late Majesty is buried nearly right when William and Kate were leading the commemorations for the first anniversary of the last Queen’s death; before the very same day that the Invictus Games started, a nearly hour-long podcast featuring the Prince and Princess of Wales was released.
Notably, in the latter, William praised the London Paralympic Games in 2012, saying that it was a “huge moment for disability sport taking off … And it’s obviously got bigger and bigger since then,” blanking his brother’s incredibly successful sporting event for wounded military personnel.
The Duke of Sussex then, if you are so inclined to read things as such, managed to get what sounded like quite pointed jabs in during his Invictus closing speech, telling the audience that people not be ‘defined’ by “their backstory or past pain” and that “you don’t need to rely on a uniform” and should not “feel lost without one.”
Interesting indeed given Harry has been reduced to generally wearing civvies for official occasions after losing his honorary military appointments.
Despite all of the Sussexes’ Game of Moans, what William’s taking of the Big Apple represents is the prince swooping in and nicking the prize that Harry has seemed to hanker for so much.
It is William who was this week being feted at the United Nations with Secretary General Guterres taking time out of the most important general assembly’s in years to meet with him, a privilege not afforded to Harry and Meghan when they were in the city for their own knock-off royal tour two years ago.
It is William who is being hailed as the royal doing his darnedest to save the planet and who is garnering unfettered praise for his $95 million Earthshot Prize.
And it is William who has attracted the support of A+ listers including Sir David Attenborough, Cate Blanchett, the Queen of Jordan, Dame Jacinda Ardern and the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, who have all joined on to play key roles in the Prince of Wales’ “Nobel prize for working to save the planet”, as Bloomberg put it.
Kensington Palace, in the last 10 days, has been selling the prince as a global statesman in the making, with this US trip being his second solo international quickie this year, with him having visited Warsaw and the Ukrainian border in March.
Arise Mr World Stage, Willy!
And Harry? What has he really achieved that is new over the last few years aside from giving Elizabeth Arden cream global media exposure it never asked for? He’s launched court cases, given his family a drubbing, talked about trauma, written a bestseller and somewhere along the line got a hummingbird feeder.
Hardly the CV that has Secretary General Guterres clearing his diary to fit in a meeting.
Of course, the Invictus Games was and is an unquestionable and massive success, and you’d have to imagine it will only grow in the years to come, but the fact is, this was a project started long ago and from firmly inside the royal tent.
What has the Duke of Sussex got to show for himself for his post-palace years? What has he achieved for the greater good since he hightailed it out of Heathrow so that he could live his truth mercifully close to a Moon Juice outpost.
The answer is certainly not widespread US support. Harry is sitting on relatively low net approval ratings and no-one can blame conservative forces for this. That same research that looked at US support for the Prince of Wales US visit found that those who voted for President Joe Biden were nearly twice as likely to be in favour of the future King’s visit. (60 per cent versus 37 per cent.)
It is looking more and more like the US has, broadly speaking, picked a side and it has a royal cypher slapped all over it.
If there is one person Harry should consider taking advice from it’s Michael Bloomberg, who also told the crowd at the Plaza, “it’s not about yesterday, it’s about today and about tomorrow”.
William has very clearly plotted out and covered an entire whiteboard and a dozen spreadsheets with his plans for today and tomorrow and the day after that.
And Harry? Maybe it’s time someone taught him out to use Excel and work out what comes next.
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.