A guest at one of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s royal engagements is said to have described the experience as “joyless” – comparing it to a witness protection program. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex conducted a string of engagements during their time as royals, including a royal tour of Australia.
However, it has now emerged that some were less than impressed with the events attended by the royal couple. Just three months after their trip to Australia in 2019, Meghan and Harry were guests of honour at a gala for the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, held at the Natural History Museum.
Royal biographer Robert Hardman said well wishers paid £120 (A$215) per head for the event and expected to “at least see and hear the Sussexes, if not receive a handshake”. But, writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Hardman added: “As the couple arrived, huge screens were erected in the atrium to prevent anyone obtaining a photo or even a glimpse as the couple were swiftly ushered into a side room.” One benefactor is said to have commented: “It was joyless.
“It felt more like a witness–protection program than a royal fundraiser.”
The gala night came three months after the Sussexes returned from their royal tour of Australia in October 2018. They took on an extensive Commonwealth trip around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, with coverage overwhelmingly positive.
But according to Hardman, Meghan and Harry “made no effort to engage with the accompanying press corps”. He wrote: “At the end of 16 days of travelling and 76 engagements, from Tonga to Sydney, their officials asked them if they would, at least, acknowledge the press corps [attending the royal trip with them].
“Finally, during the last leg of the tour, the couple grudgingly walked to the back of the plane where the press were working. “The Duke kept things short. ‘Thanks for coming,’ he told them, before adding: ‘Not that we invited you.’” Meghan and Harry were also said to be “deflated” by the lack of feedback from within the royal institution on their return.
To make matters worse, they were later told to move their offices out of Kensington Palace.
Harry and Meghan were initially said to have been offered a back office at Buckingham Palace, but Robert Hardman said it was “so small and inadequate that Prince Harry rejected it instantly”. It followed an announcement from the Palace in March 2019, which said the Cambridges and the Sussexes would be splitting their offices and staff.
Meghan and Harry carried out a number of royal appearances during their time as senior royals, carrying out their final public engagement being the Commonwealth Day service in March, 2019. They have continued to work publicly beyond royal life in a personal capacity and for their charitable foundation, Archewell.
Last week, the former royals were awarded the NAACP’s prestigious President’s Award for special achievement and distinguished public service. The award, which commends those who fight racism and tackle inequalities, recognised their work through the Archewell Foundation, including their support in tackling the Covid pandemic and attention brought to the Black Lives Matter movement.