Harry and Meghan have made it clear they intend to step back from public life, but there’s one area where they haven’t held back, says Daniela Elser.
Harry and Meghan have made it clear they intend to step back from public life, but there’s one area where they haven’t held back, says Daniela Elser.

Harry and Meghan’s coded message to the Queen

Let's talk numbers. To start with, 16.34 million.

Since Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced on January 8 that they were handing in their notice to the royal family, they have notched up 16.34 million likes and video views of subsequent posts on their Instagram account. (And that is not including their resignation post which is, at the time of writing, sitting at 1.8 million likes.)

Compare that Kensington Palace's Insta presence which has notched up 9.13 million likes and views in the same time period. Or, Clarence House, which has only garnered 1.13 million likes and views - and that is even with climate change wunderkind Greta Thunberg making two appearances in Charles and Camilla's feed. (Rarely does writing a story about the royal family require quite so much hardcore calculator use so early in the morning.)

The takeaway is clear: The Sussexes are the clear-cut Windsor winners in the digital realm.

Today marks one week since Harry left the UK to be reunited with Meghan in Canada where they have been camping out in a mystery billionaire's $20 million-odd Vancouver Island mansion.

While their "retirement" won't officially begin until the end of the northern spring, with a number of engagements already in Harry's diary for the coming few months, the past week ostensibly marks the beginning of the Sussexes' new chapter.

Recent events have clearly, and totally understandably, been a bruising experience for the duo, with Harry last weekend saying, "it brings me great sadness that it has come to this".

When he arrived in North America, it would not have been surprising in the least if he and Meghan had decided to take a bit of time to recuperate and practice a spot of self-care. Maybe a dawn asana or two. Maybe a green juice. Or maybe just a hardcore binge-session of the latest season of Grace and Frankie while joyfully shovelling poutine into their mouths. Basically, whatever they needed to do to recover from being at the eye of a both an emotional family spat and global media storm simultaneously.

Instead, the couple has remained in the headlines thanks to them (or their diligent social media manager) sharing a steady stream of business-as-usual social media posts. In the seven days since Harry's speech, they have posted five times and amassed a whopping 2.1 million likes.

Among the shots that appeared, the day after Harry made a swift exit from that rainy island, the couple's official Instagram account marked the 10th anniversary of Walking with the Wounded, a charity that Harry has supported for years and with whom he trekked to the South Pole in 2013.

On January 22nd, it was Meghan's turn with previously unseen images posted from a recent visit she paid to Mayhew, the animal welfare charity of which she is a patron. The Duchess, a well-known animal-lover, was seen in one shot looking upset while a German Shepherd underwent some sort of test.

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Unseen images were posted from a recent visit Meghan paid to Mayhew, the animal welfare charity of which she is a patron. Picture: Instagram
Unseen images were posted from a recent visit Meghan paid to Mayhew, the animal welfare charity of which she is a patron. Picture: Instagram

 

Then on January 24th, more shots, among other pictures, of Meghan in Rwanda and India during charity trips taken prior to her engagement to Harry to mark International Day of Education.

Collectively, the message coming across is loud and clear from the Sussex Camp: They are not going anywhere and they have no intention of letting their activist credentials lapse. The purpose of the most recent series of posts seems glaring, which is to continue to firmly position them as powerful forces for global good.

What is even more interesting here is the timing of their Insta updates, and consequently the potential future problems this will pose for Buckingham Palace and beyond. For the Windsors still on royal duty, this has been a huge week. Last Monday, William hosted his first solo Palace reception to mark a UK-Africa investment summit (which sadly did not devolve into seeing Princess Anne do shots with Boris Johnson).

Then there is Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, who launched her biggest solo endeavour to date, an ambitious UK-wide survey, called 5 Big Questions, about early parenthood. To help rustle up coverage, she embarked on a whirlwind 24-hour series of engagements. Girl was busy.

These royal events would have been in the family members' respective diaries for months and months on end.

 

Britain's Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, centre, chats with mothers and babies during her visit to the Ely & Caerau Children's Centre in Cardiff. Picture: Geoff Caddick/PA via AP
Britain's Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, centre, chats with mothers and babies during her visit to the Ely & Caerau Children's Centre in Cardiff. Picture: Geoff Caddick/PA via AP

 

Each would have been carefully planned to not unnecessarily detract from one another.

Being royal is a team sport after all.

However, the shots of Meghan in Rwanda and India were posted at the same time as Kate was mid-publicity push for her early childhood survey. Harry's WWTW post was shared the same day as William's Big Palace Party. (Okay it was polite chitchat over white wine but you get the idea.)

To be clear: I'm not implying malicious intent here, Harry and Meghan didn't chose when International Day of Education should land or the timing of an investment summit, but this does set up an unfortunate precedent.

That is, Harry and Meghan are now free to play by their own rules and to post (or undertake charity visits) whenever they fancy, no pesky family diary juggling required. In fact, gone is any need for the emancipated pair to have to make concessions to other Windsor schedules or to take a back seat to any relative's altruistic endeavours.

By highlighting on Instagram their hard work over the years on issues that are particularly associated with Meghan and Harry - female education and empowerment and supporting veterans - the couple is sending a very clear signal: There will be no downtime. They intend to keep building their powerful and impressive brand as global philanthropists no matter whether this might interfere with Buckingham Palace's ambitions.

 

The Sussexes have sent a message to the Queen with their Instagram activity. Picture: Matt Dunham/AP
The Sussexes have sent a message to the Queen with their Instagram activity. Picture: Matt Dunham/AP

And that is a message that those left back in London manning the royal shop, so to speak, would surely not fail to heed.

For the charities of which the Sussexes are patrons, this all would be thrilling news. The duo's commitment to, and passion for, the organisations they work with is to be loudly applauded.

However, the fact that Harry and Meghan are now operating outside of the royal fold means any semblance of Palace control over their charitable work is long gone, especially when it comes to timing. And that, in turn, is only going to mean that in the future, these sorts of Instagram double-ups or accidental simultaneous posts could become more frequent.

Meghan was caught by lurking paparazzi out walking with baby Archie and her beloved dogs Guy and Oz this week. The smile on her face was unmistakeable and she looked far more at ease than she has of late. No matter what is going on back in the UK, freedom clearly feels good.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles