Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in the January 20 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
Last week was all about the Duke of Sussex. This week, it’s the royal family’s turn.
Considering the disclosures from the vexed prince – both in his book, “Spare,” and his promotional media appearances – many were curious about how the clan would handle returning to the public eye after the holidays.
When asked by US comedian Stephen Colbert last week, Prince Harry said “of course” his family, along with the British media, is actively campaigning to undermine his book. The royal added: “After 38 years, they have told their side of the story. This is the other side of the story and there’s a lot in there that perhaps makes people feel uncomfortable and scared.”
However, the reality is not quite as black and white. Certainly, multiple British newspapers are still running frequent follow-up headlines using sound-bites from commentators. But there appears little evidence of a coordinated effort from an army of unnamed palace sources, as Harry has asserted, to debunk his grievances. And, of course, there continues to be radio silence from the palace whenever the book is raised.
What we have seen is the Windsors throwing themselves into lots of walkabouts and meetings as they embarked on their first engagements of the year.
King Charles and the Prince and Princess of Wales kicked things off two days after “Spare” hit bookshelves. Up in Scotland, the monarch laughed heartily with members of the public while at a local community space aiming to combat rural loneliness.
The same day, William and Kate appeared at ease as they called in at the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the mental health charity Open Door in Merseyside, northern England. There were no signs of apparent sadness over their disgruntled relative in California and questions shouted toward the couple asking if they had been “hurt by the comments in Harry’s book” went unanswered.
In the days since, senior royals have conducted engagements at schools, youth charities and other royal patronages.
The prince’s tell-all has gone on to break records, with its publisher claiming Tuesday that it had sold three quarters of a million copies in the UK since its release. Larry Finlay, managing director of Transworld Penguin Random House, said: “We announced last week that SPARE was the fastest selling non-fiction book ever on its first day of publication, a record that has been confirmed by Guinness World Records. We now know that it is also the biggest selling memoir ever in its first week of publication.”
That doesn’t appear to have fazed the royals. They will be keenly aware of the optics following the book’s publication. But rather than be dragged deeper into the soap opera by releasing statements or canceling planned events, they have focused on earning back any civic trust that may have been damaged – by getting back to work.
The royals know “the power of our platform,” as Harry so succinctly put it in his memoir. They know that they need to be seen, that personally greeting the public at events they care about resonates long after they leave and that throwing the royal spotlight on local enterprises can amplify an organization’s message and needs like nothing else.
Their actions this past week have served as a reminder to the public that family feuds aren’t stealing their attention. It remains firmly on the British people and the challenges they face as the new year gets underway. King Charles’ recent request to use some of the Crown Estate profits for “the wider public good,” instead of reinforcing the royal coffers, is another example of this.
The Crown Estate announced Thursday that six new offshore wind energy lease agreements had generated a large windfall. Through an arrangement established in 1760, the monarch surrenders all profits from the estate to the UK government in return for a slice called the Sovereign Grant – which is essentially the King’s expense account.
However, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson told CNN: “In view of the offshore energy windfall, The Keeper of the Privy Purse has written to the Prime Minister and Chancellor to share The King’s wish that this windfall be directed for wider public good, rather than to the Sovereign Grant, through an appropriate reduction in the proportion of Crown Estate surplus that funds the Sovereign Grant.”
As royal trustees of the fund, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt and Keeper of the Privy Purse Michael Stevens determine the actual amount of the grant. The fund is currently set at 25% of the annual net profits of the Crown Estate. That means that in the past financial year the UK Treasury paid out £86.3 million, which is used to cover official travel, staff costs and palace expenses.
The exact sum headed to the public purse from the King is not yet clear. It also won’t leave him worse off this year because the amount he receives is based on the two financial years prior – so the impact of the monarch’s moves won’t hit the grant until 2024-2025. But it will probably be seen as a welcome symbolic gesture at a time when families across the nation are grappling with financial hardship.
King Charles has previously shown himself to be mindful of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, having acknowledged how people in the UK may have struggled to pay their bills and “keep their families fed and warm” in his first Christmas broadcast.
And without complaining or explaining, the family have chosen their response – to lean into their value through service rather than engage in a war of words that would do them more harm than good.
In the past few years, Prince Harry and wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex have traded their broken relationship with the UK press system for the celebrity industrial complex of the US. This week on “The Assignment,” host Audie Cornish turns to insiders from both media ecosystems to discuss how the duke and duchess are using the press to reshape their narrative. We hear from Los Angeles Times culture critic Mary McNamara and Newsweek’s Chief Royal Correspondent, Jack Royston. Check out the podcast here.
Prince Harry dragged into execution spat after book admission.
The Duke of Sussex has found himself pulled into a quarrel between the UK and Iran over the execution of a British citizen, after claiming in his memoir that he killed Taliban fighters during his military career. Harry wrote in “Spare” that he killed 25 of the insurgent group’s fighters in Afghanistan while serving in the British Army. His words have drawn criticism from some British security and military experts. Iran said this week that the UK is in no position to preach human rights after Harry’s confession and accused Britain of turning a blind eye to this “war crime.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry wrote on its Twitter page Monday, “The British regime, whose royal family member, sees the killing of 25 innocent people as removal of chess pieces and has no regrets over the issue, and those who turn a blind eye to this war crime, are in no position to preach others on human rights.” The tweets came after British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned Iran that it “will be held to account” for the execution of dual British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari. Akbari was hanged by Tehran on charges of espionage and corruption, according to a state-affiliated media outlet over the weekend.
Kim Kardashian buys Princess Diana pendant.
The Skims founder and reality TV star has acquired the diamond-lined Attallah Cross pendant worn on several occasions by Diana, Princess of Wales for £163,800 (about $200,000). In the last five minutes of the Royal and Noble collection sale at Sotheby’s auction house in London on Wednesday, a representative for Kardashian successfully outbid others vying for the amethyst cross. The item sold for more than double its pre-auction estimate, Sotheby’s said. Made by court jewelers Garrard in 1920, according to the auction house, the pendant features square-cut amethyst stones in the shape of a cross, decorated with circular-cut diamonds in a distinctive flowery design. It was bought from Garrard in the 1980s by the late businessman Naim Attallah, who lent the item to his friend, Princess Diana, several times to wear to events, according to Sotheby’s. Read more on this story here.
A local council has been slammed for wasting money on a mural in Northampton, England depicting the late Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III, with critics saying the street art bears little resemblance to the monarchs. The mural was commissioned by the town council to mark Charles’ accession to the crown.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex this week dismissed the latest apology from TV host Jeremy Clarkson for penning a widely condemned article about Meghan in Britain’s Sun newspaper last month. The pair said it fails to address “his long standing pattern of writing articles that spread hate rhetoric, dangerous conspiracy theories, and misogyny,” according to a spokesperson for the couple.
“Unless each of his other pieces were also written ‘in a hurry’, as he states, it is clear that this is not an isolated incident shared in haste, but rather a series of articles shared in hate,” the statement released Monday continued.
The Sussexes also rejected Clarkson’s claim that a letter he sent on Christmas Day to apologize for the article – in which he expressed his hatred for the duchess and wrote about wanting to see a naked Meghan being pelted with excrement – was addressed to both the duke and duchess. According to the couple’s spokesperson, it was sent “solely to Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex.” The letter was marked “Private and Confidential,” the statement added.
Clarkson previously apologized publicly shortly after the publication of the column, as did the newspaper, which also removed it from its website.
The King’s wife this week visited the new Science Teaching Hub at the University of Aberdeen, where she has been Chancellor for the past decade and in 2020 was conferred with an honorary degree.