Harry's leap of faith
The Australian Women's Weekly|February 2020
After months of talks, neither Prince Harry nor Her Majesty got what they wanted. Inspired by his mother, Harry followed his heart, but where does this leave the monarchy? Juliet Rieden unpicks an unprecedented royal split.
Juliet Rieden
When Harry met Meghan everything changed. He was floating on cloud nine, falling hard and fast for this passionate, nurturing, exciting Californian with her brilliant TV career and thriving lifestyle blog. Prince Harry was a young man aching to find love, to start his own family, to stand by his brother with his own wife by his side and find a partner for his very unique line of work.

In those halcyon months before the world knew about their secret romance, Harry and Meghan forged a powerful union and a tender love. Together they planned to take on the world, to inspire and empower, and have a go at fixing many of the problems that troubled their generation. Those closest to Prince Harry saw the change immediately.

At a recent dinner for his most personal passion project, Sentebale, the Lesotho charity he set up with his friend and fellow royal Prince Seeiso to help children affected by AIDS and HIV, Harry said: “I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurray!”

No sooner had they wed (in front of an estimated 1.9 billion global audience), than they got straight to work. “We were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve,” he said.

Harry and Meghan brought their special brand of can-do positivity to the royal arena and for the House of Windsor this was gold dust. The couple became catnip for a new international audience hungry for young leaders they could look up to.

For a honeymoon period the couple became the people’s royals. There was a Diana frisson to their warmth, charisma and their ability to connect with everyone they met.

Then a tall poppy resentment kicked in with a jaw-dropping ferocity. Not everyone bought into their progressive ideas. They were branded hypocrites for jumping on private jets while espousing environmentalism and portrayed as “pushy” and “demanding” by a media that seemed determined to pull them down.

In response the Sussex family opted to connect with their followers directly through their own social media channels, garnering millions of followers. But ironically it was in the social media space that Meghan especially faced the most alarming commentary, fuelled by an ugly racist agenda. Controlling the media is still a work in progress for the couple. “The media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us,” Harry said.

Having watched paparazzi hound his mother, this new attack on his wife was a chilling reminder of desperately sad times. Diana had counselled her sons: “If you find someone you love in life, you must hang onto it and look after it …protect it.” And here her youngest, who a few years earlier had admitted “all I’ve ever wanted to do is make my mother proud”, opted to follow his mother’s advice.

For Meghan, the endless barrage of criticism she and Harry faced was neither “fair” nor accurate. “My wife upholds the same values as I do,” Harry has pleaded. Meghan was at a loss to understand the backlash she was facing.

And then Harry dropped a bombshell.

Just two years into the job, with baby Archie not yet a year old, the Sussex family announced they would quit their roles as “senior royals”. They hoped to broker a deal to work part-time for Her Majesty The Queen, dividing their time between North America and Britain. They would become “financially independent”, earning their own crust while also supporting the monarchy.

In the wake of this momentous announcement, hurt, confusion and anger reigned. “I don’t believe Meghan came into the marriage with a pre-formed idea of changing everything, turning over the apple-cart, but the culture shock of joining an ancient and venerable institution and having to follow its rules turned out not to be to her taste, and she started to plan an escape route,” royal biographer Christopher Wilson tells me.

For traditionalists, Harry and Meghan’s demands seemed outlandish and presumptive: from their privileged ivory tower the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were refusing to fulfil their duties to the Crown, it seemed.

“The situation’s unprecedented because Harry has decided to leave the country and will only return occasionally. There is a great deal of anger, especially among the military who were his greatest supporters (and he theirs), that he has just dumped them. The idea that he will be going out making money off a red carpet when he should be turning up on parade hasn’t gone down well,” Wilson explains.

But many others, including those new young fans, felt Harry and Meghan deserved to be free, to choose how they live and work, that it was time the monarchy modernised. “It’s true the House of Windsor has been slow to recognise the need to find an exit-route for those family members who are not royal-central, and the problem can only get worse until the system changes,” comments Wilson.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLYView All

Role model royals

As we celebrate William and Kate’s 10th wedding anniversary, Juliet Rieden asks: can the close-knit Cambridge five steady the royal ship with their duty, dignity and family values?

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

TOGETHER FOR CHANGE

As allegations of sexual assault and harassment swirl around our federal Parliament, Samantha Trenoweth sits down with some of the most powerful women in the land to consider the issues that have shaken the nation.

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

Remember the time

APRIL 1823: The first Sydney Royal Easter Show

1 min read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

“Finding my power” -Toni Pearen

Facing her demons (and a few snakes) in the jungle led to a personal and professional renaissance for Toni Pearen. Jenny Brown meets the former pop princess as she steps into a brave new life.

9 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

“I was lost before Lauren”

It may seem a charmed life, but MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo has had serious lows with the highs. He tells Sue Smethurst how love saved him.

9 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

Ray of hope

Nobody would consider the parents of children with cancer lucky, but for two families who were included in a ground-breaking Australian program to fight childhood cancers, lucky is exactly how they feel. Genevieve Gannon meets those families.

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

My story: My journey out of darkness

When screenwriter Kristen Dunphy checked herself into a psychiatric ward, her world was unbearably dark, but with pen and paper in hand, she found the glimmer of hope that carried her home.

6 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

In the name of my daughter

When her 20-year-old daughter was brutally murdered in a Queensland hostel, Rosie Ayliffe needed answers. What she uncovered compelled her to launch a campaign to expose the dangers backpackers face in Australia, she tells Juliet Rieden.

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

How to MAX your morning RITUALS

In our quest for the best possible wake-up and start to our day, we need a multisensory approach that draws us out of slumber and kickstarts our body clock. Here, Russell Jones, author of Sense, shares simple ways to feel good.

4 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

Best friends forever

A trip down memory lane makes the perfect birthday gift for a much loved childhood friend.

3 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021
RELATED STORIES

DIANA DEATH FLICK IS ULTIMATE REVENGE!

Palace terrified Hollywood's royal power couple will bankroll project

2 mins read
National Enquirer
April 19, 2021

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry Reveal First Netflix Docuseries

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s first Netflix series will center on the Invictus Games, which gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports.

1 min read
AppleMagazine
April 09, 2021

Diana's Closest Friends TELL ALL

AS THE ROYAL FAMILY CONTINUES TO REEL IN THE WAKE OF HARRY ND MEGHAN MARKLE’S EXPLOSIVE SIT-DOWN, THOSE CLOSEST TO THE LATE PRINCESS DIANA (INCLUDING HER BUTLER OF 10 YEARS, PAUL BURRELL) SEPARATE FACT FROM FICTION.

4 mins read
Star
April 05, 2021

MEET DAYS'S PRECIOUS WAY

Chicago native Precious Way is thrilled to be making her soap debut as Chanel on DAYS, a show that has a special connection to her family.

3 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
April 05, 2021

FATHER-IN-LAW TRASHES NAZI PRINCE!

PRINCE HARRY’S estranged father-in-law, Thomas Markle Sr., is slamming the rogue royal as “snotty” and a lousy spouse who failed to give his daughter the shoulder she needed to lean on when the blues made her “suicidal.”

1 min read
Globe
March 29, 2021

MEGHAN'S SIS EXPOSES UGLY LIES!

DUCHESS Meghan’s furious sister, Samantha Markle, is blasting Harry’s wife for playing the victim and using “depression as an excuse to treat people like dishrags.”

1 min read
Globe
March 29, 2021

MEGHAN'S MELODRAMA!

Blames ‘smear campaign’ for charges she bullied aides

2 mins read
National Enquirer
March 22, 2021

ROYAL LIES REVEALED!

His embrace of ‘public service’ Her bid for sympathy Why they REALLY fled

4 mins read
National Enquirer
March 22, 2021

Meghan & Harry: INTERVIEW SHOCKERS!

AS THEY PREP FOR BABY NUMBER TWO, PRINCE HARRY AND MEGHAN MARKLE ANNOUNCE A NO-HOLDS-BARRED INTERVIEW— LEAVING THE PALACE ON EDGE.

3 mins read
Star
March 08, 2021

Harry & Olivia DOUBLE DATING WITH ZACH & FLORENCE!

Squad goals! Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles have found another dynamic duo to spend their downtime with: Florence Pugh and Zach Braff. An industry insider tells Star the foursome hit it off on the set of Don’t Worry, Darling which Olivia, 36, is directing, and in which Florence, 25, and the 27-year-old singer both star.

1 min read
Star
March 01, 2021