What if the crisis unleashed in the British monarchy by Meghan Markle and Prince Henry had been a communication problem? It’s a trap question, obviously. Because at this point there are hardly any people left who have not taken sides in the conflict provoked by an interview that left nothing to improvisation. The conversation, between stone and vines, with host Oprah Winfrey was the most rehearsed and measured communication exercise in recent times. The trail of unknowns, inconsistencies or unsupported accusations left by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, however, has aroused the voracity of the British tabloids, who are unwilling to let go of the dam. Meghan and Henry have given up on feeding that channel of hate and mutual benefit that has connected the royal family to the yellow press for decades. The “invisible contract” to which the Duke of Sussex referred. “If you are willing to share a wine or a dinner, and offer full access to all these reporters, you will get much better press,” Enrique said.
It is not a secret lodge or an unspeakable pact, but a much simpler reality, and at the same time more complex to handle. Journalists covering the affairs of the British royal house use a form of rotation imitated by other European monarchies. At each official event, access is allowed to a reporter, a photographer and a cameraman who will then share their material — images, information and clicks — with the rest of the media attached to the system. The problem comes later, because the speeches or photographs are fixed, but the interpretations of gestures and context, malleable. And to counter that threat, allies are needed. Either in the form of friends who from anonymity present the version of the parties, or under the authority of alleged “experts in royalty” of which the tabloids do not tire of laying hold. Or through complicit journalists who are given ample entry into privacy in exchange for a favorable version.
The last attempt to rehearse this last variety resulted in the book Finding Freedom (Finding Freedom), by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, “an attempt to create an intimate and rigorous portrait of a truly modern royal couple [Meghan y Enrique] that, although his decisions have led to criticism or praise, he has always been able to remain faithful to his beliefs,” according to the authors. This kind of authoritative manifesto appeared in the midst of the pandemic, and failed to calm the spirits of those who continued to present the couple as a pair of spoiled teenagers who had fled their obligations, nor to gain the attention of those media that would have been more inclined to understand and support the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a battle that was then banal. dwarfed by the tragedy that the country was experiencing.
There are few occasions when a member of the British royal family stands before the cameras to tell “his truth”. And most have been explosive. None has served to settle the debate, because it is in its very nature that it never ends. The show must go on. So the Sussexes, after the interview with Winfrey, have returned to the traditional technique to continue sending errands and answering the reproaches. It was the American journalist Gayle King, a friend of the couple, who was in charge of revealing that Henry finally spoke with his brother William and his father Charles of England: “As I have been told, the conversations were not very productive. But they are happy that the dialogue has resumed,” King said. She was also the one who justified the interview being broadcast just as Prince Philip of Edinburgh, 99, was lying convalescing in hospital after undergoing delicate heart surgery. “He was programmed and recorded before he was hospitalized,” he said. “If something, God forbid, had happened to him, the programming would have been suspended.”
Meghan Markle and Prince Henry have not given up on the game of crisscrossed messages, through intermediaries, that the British royal family has been practicing for decades. They have only decided to stay in friendly territory thousands of miles away from London. Another victim of tabloid viciousness, Camilla Parker Bowles, chose the opposite path. Defined at the time as the “most hated woman in the UK”, at the height of her romance with the Prince of Wales and the breakup with Lady Di, the Duchess of Cornwall used patience, a sense of humour and intuition. that nothing is more fickle than public opinion to turn the situation around. He learned the name of each of the journalists covering his actions, filled them with complicit gestures, understood what was the right time to smile at the camera or drop a precise comment. Unlike Meghan, the future queen consort – and there is growing acceptance among Britons of that fact – understood that nothing tames the media more than to cultivate their vanity and pay some attention to them.