Valentine Low’s Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown continues to be excerpted in the Times. Unlike the excerpts we’ve gotten from Katie Nicholl’s book and Angela Levin’s book, Low seems to be breaking some news here and there, whereas Nicholl and Levin are merely recycling old stories in really stupid ways. This one excerpt about the final negotiations for the Sussexit was particularly interesting, because Low editorializes into his summary, basically saying that all of his sources – the courtiers – did an exceptionally bad job managing two stars of the royal family, then the courtiers compounded all of their own errors by f–king up the exit negotiations. Some highlights:
Different exit scenarios: The people sitting around the table went through five different scenarios, which ranged from Harry and Meghan spending most of their time being working members of the royal family, but having a month a year to do their own thing, to them spending most of their time privately, but doing a select number of royal activities. There was, according to more than one source, a positive atmosphere in the room: they wanted to find a solution. At one stage, Alderton made the point that if they could get this right, they would be solving a problem for future generations of the royal family who were not in the direct line of succession.
The palace still wanted to control the Sussexes no matter what: By the end of the week, the five scenarios had been worked through. The view from the palace establishment was that, however much time Harry and Meghan spent away from royal duties, anything they did would reflect on the institution. That meant that the normal rules about royal behaviour would apply. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. But the Sussexes wanted their freedom: freedom to make money, freedom to dip their toes into American politics. There was no way for the two sides to reach an agreement on that point.
They blame it all on QEII: Crucially, it was the Queen who took the view that unless the couple were prepared to abide by the restrictions that applied to working members of the royal family, they could not be allowed to carry out official duties. One source said: “There was a very clear view: you can’t be in and out. And if you’ve got such clarity of view, it’s very difficult to say, ‘Why don’t we go 10 per cent this way instead of 20 per cent?’ ” Compromise was off the table, removed by the Queen.
The incompetent courtiers: One former palace insider believes the way the developing crisis was handled was “incompetent beyond belief”. They said: “I think Meghan thought she was going to be the Beyoncé of the UK. Being part of the royal family would give her that kudos. Whereas what she discovered was that there were so many rules that were so ridiculous that she couldn’t even do the things that she could do as a private individual, which is tough . . . It just required the decision-makers to sit around a table and say, ‘OK, what are we going to do about this? What do you need to feel better? And what can we give?’ ”
Collective failure: There was a collective failure on the part of those who work for the royal family to recognise that there was a serious problem, to flag it up, and to try to do something about it. There were no high-level discussions any time in the first eight months of 2019 — when Meghan was later to say that she had suicidal thoughts and the first clues were emerging that the Sussexes were plotting an escape — about the nature of their unhappiness and what could be done about it.
Finding freedom: There is one final thought on this, and it comes from a surprising source, someone who knows Harry well but remains upset about what Harry and Meghan did. Their view is that perhaps the Sussexes’ departure was not the untrammelled disaster that so many think it was. “There is a part of me that thinks Meghan did Harry the greatest kindness anyone could do to him, which was to take him out of the royal family, because he was just desperately unhappy in the last couple of years in his working life. We knew he was unhappy, but we didn’t really know what the solution would be. She came along and found the solution.”
“I think Meghan thought she was going to be the Beyoncé of the UK” tells me all I need to know about what Meghan was up against with these crusty old men. But Low actually underlined the point which should haunt the courtiers who are still smearing Meghan as a narcissistic bully and sociopath: if all of that was actually the case, why didn’t any of them actually do anything about it for two years? If Meghan and Harry were such a huge problem, why weren’t the courtiers in problem-solving mode long before the Sandringham Summit? Did they honestly think – as Meghan wondered in the Oprah interview – that Harry and Meghan were just going to sit back and take the endless smears and abuse in silence forever? Did they think Harry was just going to sit back and watch as the same people destroyed another woman he loved? The courtiers and the Windsors want to say that the family is “The Firm” and it’s run like a business – okay, then be a f–king a manager and manage the crisis. The courtiers and the family failed to do that.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.