Oh, social media, the bane of so many an existence.
Even the royal ones.
The latest bizarre flare-up in the conflict, no matter how real or trumped up, between the Sussexes and the Cambridges came Monday when some concerned royal watchers called out Meghan Markle and Prince Harryfor not using Prince George‘s full honorific when wishing him happy birthday… in an Instagram comment.
That’s right, folks took umbrage with the fact that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (or, in all honesty, whichever staffer wrote that comment on one of the pictures of George that were posted to his parents’ Kensington Royal account) did not refer to the 6-year-old as His Royal Highness, or HRH Prince George of Cambridge.
Not everyone noticed or cared, but…all it takes is a few, right?
Regardless, a new frontier has opened up for people to tirelessly wage war between the couples, or between Harry and Prince William, Meghan and Kate Middleton, themselves and their baser instincts, etc.
The Duchess of Cambridge/Instagram
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have skewed the perception of real life to an extent where it has come to matter whether or not families publicly express their affection for each other—lest they be accused of lacking interest, respect or even love.
And because the royals have to be modern and at least as accessible as the likes of Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon, they’re on social media, where their behaviors are scrutinized as if they’re truly indicative of what, exactly, is occurring in their daily lives offline.
Their social media presence in and of itself has provided fodder: up until a few months ago Harry, Meghan, William and Kate all shared the Kensington Royal account, but as part of their larger breakaway into their own household, Harry and Meghan launched a separate handle, Sussex Royal, in April. That should just mean twice the fun for those who cherish photos of royal business and baby pics, but it came at a time when the dynamic between the two couples was really under the microscope.
Not that that time has fully ended, though the arrival of baby Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor has ultimately led to stories of relations warming between Kate and Meghan as they bond over motherhood.
But in the absence of one narrative, another is always poised to take its place, and at the moment it’s Meghan and Harry’s insistence on a certain level of privacy that doesn’t sit well with traditionalists that’s making waves.
However, in an expected twist, similar to how neither Meghan nor Harry is personally responsible for George’s happy birthday, or for any Instagram comment for that matter, it’s being said that Meghan had nothing to do with her protection officers reportedly telling fellow spectators at Wimbledon this year not to take photos of her.
“I spoke to a source after that had happened,” royal commentator Omid Scobie said on the latest episode of Yahoo UK’s The Royal Box, ”and I was told that Meghan was quite disappointed at just how it played out because, in her words, she had said to this source that she would have happily taken a photo with anyone that had asked. So I think that perhaps this might have been a case of a protection officer being slightly too protective, although that’s probably his job.”
Meghan reportedly said during a chat in Australia last October that it felt “freeing” to no longer be on social media personally, which she was as a civilian, since “flattery and criticism run through the same filter.”
Having a team dedicated to managing your social media presence, combined with the fact that whether or not to share the no-makeup selfie or rant about Big Little Lies is a moot point for a royal, is indeed worlds apart from having one’s own personal account.
Interestingly, the Sussex Royal account went live about a month after the palace issued behavioral guidelines to the wider world in an attempt to cut down on the vitriol being left in the Kensington Royal comments sections, usually about Meghan, though no member of the family, from Kate and William to Duchess Camilla and Prince Charles, has been spared.
“I’m on Twitter and Instagram, and I’m grateful for the fact that they allow me to communicate directly with people who are interested, promote my charitable causes and let people read my own words rather than someone else’s slant on them,” Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, wrote in an essay for Hello! in February. “But the truth is, a lot about these sites terrifies me. I rarely if ever go ‘below the line’ on social media or news websites and read people’s comments. I know that a lot say nice things, but there’s a large minority who seem to think that all the normal rules of society don’t apply to the internet.”
The split reaction to the Sussexes’ birthday wishes for George also comes on the heels of the criticism of their salutation for Prince William on his birthday in June—which was also left in comment form under a photo of Harry’s big brother.
“Happy Birthday to The Duke of Cambridge!” was the comment left, and it proved most insufficient to some. (No one mentioned they left out the HRH; rather, it was “why so formal?!”)
It’s sweet that royal watchers want the siblings and their families to pour their hearts out to each other on social media, but that’s just not the way it is, or is ever going to be. From the family that brought Britain a lackluster response to the death of one of its most beloved public figures, you’re not going to get a splashy show of affection using this newfangled Internet technology.
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That perceived slight occurred in the wake of Harry and Meghan breaking away from the Royal Foundation, which Harry and William started together in 2009, to become heads of their own arm of the palace’s good works. It’s to be called Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—or, thank goodness, Sussex Royal for short.
And guess what? Not everyone liked the name.
“Surprised she hasn’t got highness in there somewhere like ‘ her royal highness of Dumbarton highness royal highness sussex highness royal foundation,” read one actually kind of hilarious tweet, one of many that accused the couple of over-branding.
“The new name is all about Harry and Meghan building their brand and doing it their way,” a royals source told The Sun. ”But the name is a little surprising as we were expecting something a bit more traditional.”
Meanwhile, the newly christened Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is getting a new CEO, Jason Knauf, when current chief executive Lorraine Heggessy steps down this fall. Both the Cambridges and Sussexes thanked her for her service and wished her luck moving forward. Knauf was previously head of the Kensington Palace press office, so he knows the royal ropes.
“It has been a huge honour to work with Their Royal Highnesses to try to change mind-sets on a wide range of issues, from the Heads Together mental health initiatives through the well-being of veterans to conservation,” Heggessy stated, per the Daily Mail. “I am very proud of what The Royal Foundation has achieved during this exciting period of growth. However, as it enters its next phase, I believe it is the right time for me to step down and to pursue my interests in the media sector.”
According to both families, that next phase is still going to include Meghan, Harry, Kate and William all working together, on the existing Heads Together campaign and future projects. Though they haven’t commented further beyond official statements, the consensus that makes the most sense is that having two foundations means having twice as much reach, and ideally getting twice as much done.
Besides, were Harry and William always supposed to be attached at the hip? It made sense when neither was married, and there was no reason to change the arrangement when Kate joined the family in 2011, but now Harry has his own partner to carry out a vision with.
The establishment of two separate households is to chart “a path that is sustainable for the future,” a source told the Mail.
In a few months’ time it’s going to be a year since the state of Harry and William’s bond came under such mournful scrutiny for the first time in their lives, never mind the rough patches they experienced—and obviously powered through—as young men.
When Harry was still in school at Eton, he made headlines in 2002 for engaging in after-hours drinking and marijuana smoking at a couple of pubs—and, even worse, he acted like an entitled jerk, according to some who talked to the papers. The version of the story that came out was the one that was written after negotiations took place between the media and Prince Charles’ team at St. James’s Palace, which resulted in Harry visiting a south London rehab facility for a day, according to royal biographer Katie Nicholl’s William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls.
Meanwhile, William was certainly privy to those after-hours gatherings, and Harry was rather annoyed that the press had once again treated his brother, the future king, much more favorably. Moreover, William’s best friend Guy Pelly had been named as the one who introduced Harry to marijuana.
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“The Palace had to be seen to protect Charles and William, so it was Harry who took the stick,” a former aide told Nicholl. “It was decided that Guy Pelly would shoulder the blame and Harry would be named, but not William.”
The three lads were all together at Highgrove, Charles’ estate, when the news broke, but the brothers were said to barely be speaking. (As for Pelly, who whether he did actually provide pot for Harry really did buy porn magazines for William, he’s now one of Prince Louis‘ godparents, so it’s all so much beer under the bridge.)
“William felt guilty that his brother had taken all the blame while he had come out as Mr. Goody Two-Shoes,” a former aide said. “For the first time their relationship really suffered and they barely spoke. Harry resented the fact that William had got away so lightly. In the end he forgave William because it wasn’t really William’s fault, but it took some time. Harry was reeling for awhile.”
Harry opened up in 2017 about just how much he was reeling, and would continue to reel for some years, from the emotions left unprocessed in the wake of his mother’s death in 1997. William was 15 and Harry turned 13 a week after Princess Diana‘s funeral, which was the brothers’ first real public duty.
The younger prince later shared appreciation for William’s repeated attempts to convince him to get some help, to talk to a professional, but Harry acknowledged that he couldn’t actually take the plunge into counseling until he was ready.
So like a lot of brothers, William and Harry have a layered history between them, including an adolescence that went completely awry when they experienced the defining tragedy of their lives, but which they were expected to soldier through like the upstanding leader types they were born to be.
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“We are very close,” William said simply to British GQ when asked what effect the surreal week after their mother’s death had on their relationship.
He expanded upon that last year speaking at an event for the Campaign Against Living Miserably, or CALM, which is battling to lower the suicide rate among young men. “My brother and I’s relationship is closer than it’s been because of the situations we’ve been through,” William said. “Losing our mother at a young age has helped us to travel through that difficult patch together. You’re like-minded. You go through similar things, it’s a bond and it’s something you know you’ve tackled together and come out better for it.”
They’re far more likely to share good-natured jibes about each other, whether it was William teasing Harry about being messy when they roomed together at RAF Shawbury for Defense Helicopter Flying School in 2009, or when Harry pokes fun at William’s hair, or lack thereof. When he geared up to give his best man’s speech at William’s wedding in 2011, Harry promised the BBC that he and the other speakers would be sure to ”dig him in the ribs a few times and embarrass him, make him lose some hair.” (William and assorted pals reportedly had guests rolling in the aisles when they returned the favor at Harry’s wedding.)
Harry was on a Walking Wounded expedition in the Arctic at the time, and he said he was “looking forward to getting back, putting on a uniform and strolling down the aisle with him.” Regarding the royal wedding hoopla, Harry said he guessed his brother would actually prefer a more intimate affair with just his really close friends, “but we are who we are and the position comes with it, and the role comes with it.”
The same could be said of so much that William and Harry do.
In February 2018, Harry and Meghan made their first joint public appearance with Kate and William, a Royal Foundation event that included a Q&A with the dukes, duchess and then duchess-to-be.
They were asked whether the family ever disagreed while working together.
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“Oh, yes,” William assured, to which Harry added, “Healthy disagreements.” Asked how they resolved such disputes when they occurred, Harry quipped, “I can’t remember—they come so freaking fast.”
More seriously, Harry continued, “I think it’s really good that we’ve got four different personalities. You know, we’ve all got that same passion to want to make a difference. But, different opinions. And I think those opinions work really, really well. Working as family does have its challenges—of course it does… But look, you know, we’re stuck together for the rest of our lives so…”
“Togetherness at its finest,” Meghan interjected.
Now, if they could just translate all that personality and normalcy into their Instagram comments… perhaps all will be merry again in England.