Give them their due, Meghan and Harry appear to have played a blinder with their Netflix deal. We have wondered about the valuation they place on their celebrity: it turns out to be about £100 million, if reports are to be believed.
No wonder they bet the £11 million, nine-bedroom, 17-bathroom Californian house on it.
We don’t know what audiences will make of their documentaries of hope and inspiration but the Duke and Duchess of Sussex can afford to get professionals in to make the shows, plus a ton of liberal money is moving towards the causes they support. It might irritate their critics but wokeness is commercial.
The exiled couple are a triumph of their own narrative. They have taken to heart the guidance of the self-help guru Brené Brown: ‘You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness.’
Celebrity is an act of faith. The British tend to say: ‘It is for other people to judge.’ Americans have been quicker to understand that a new world is ready to take them at their own estimation.
Publicists and admirers and influential friends such as Oprah Winfrey are there to help the couple achieve what they want. To be virtuous and rich and private.
Meghan has studied her role model Michelle Obama carefully and exhibits some of the same luminous charisma. I wonder if she would like to be on a political ticket if Michelle should ever change her mind about keeping out of politics.
Or perhaps Brené Brown has a more audacious narrative: Michelle Obama as a supporter of Meghan’s presidential bid. Michelle and Meghan have both spoken about finding a ‘voice’.
SARAH SANDS: Harry and Meghan (pictured earlier this year) appear to have played a blinder with their new Netflix deal which, if reports are to be believed, is worth over £100 million
Meghan’s ‘ordeal’ in Britain was, to her mind, the subjugation of her voice. A colleague who was at a broadcast by the Royal Family’s short-lived Fab Four – how poignant it is to recall the two couples looking so happy together – remembers the microphone moving down the line: William…Kate…Harry…
Meghan, at the end of the line was disinclined to wait. ‘Don’t I have a voice?’ she asked, icily. At last, she can be heard, loud and clear. It’s obvious that she feels delighted to be home again.
Can California also feel like home for Harry? Three years ago, he guest edited an edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and, as the regular editor, I spent some time with him. My first trip to Kensington Palace to discuss his plans for the show was just about this time of year.
We’d had the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana and the gates to the palace looked like Lourdes – a shrine of offerings to the wronged princess, piled high with photos and mementos of her life.
The Greek tragedy of a son’s revenge for his mother’s suffering could have been an irresistible theme. Instead, I thought how sane Prince Harry was to put aside the sanctification of Diana and the populist attempt to use her image to destroy the monarchy.
But he was very down on the press and keen to crack on with his agenda of filtering out the cruelty of social media, of seeking out positive leadership, and of supporting British troops.
As we discussed the running order of the programme, I slyly suggested that his address book was a lot fancier than mine. President Obama would return his calls. Prince Harry was organised and pragmatic.
He was happy to make those calls. And he offered to do some of the interviews himself. He asked former President Obama about the direction of America, confronting Trumpism by implication.
Sarah Sands, the outgoing editor of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, writes: We have wondered about the valuation Harry and Meghan place on their celebrity: it turns out to be about £100 million, if reports are to be believed
And he added some cheeky quick fire questions, including asking Obama his opinion of his fiancée’s television drama, Suits. Obama sounded… fatherly.
Netflix will also want access to the Prince’s pulling power and they may have ideas about his interviews. During his Today guest edit, Harry suggested that the presenter should put a question to the Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. It was that oficers were doing a fine job under difficult circumstances. I winced that it was not really a question.
Harry struck me as bursting with ideas and passion and needing only a restraining hand. I was happy that Meghan would be a savvy, cool-headed influence. She claimed that she didn’t really know who he was when they first met.
Perhaps I was naïve, but I was so pleased that she was apparently unaware of the heartbreaking image of the small boy walking behind his mother’s coffin, in perhaps the most televised funeral since President Kennedy’s.
We interviewed Prince Harry at the end of the programme and he said how delighted he was that Meghan would join his relatives at Christmas, because she hadn’t grown up with this kind of family unity.
I remember smiling at his loving, reconciled expression as he spoke. How impressive that he could find such comfort in his own family, given its own, well-reported problems.
NOBLE CAUSE: How Prince Harry might look building bridges with Scotland
Last week I reflected on all this as I looked at the shrine building at Kensington Palace for the 23rd anniversary of Diana’s death. Those of us who have been through divorce know that it is a state of flux.
Lives are rebuilt and grievances resolved. Would Princess Diana – who would now be 57 – be the same vulnerable, beautiful, destructive force she was in 1997? Of course not.
Would she have fled Britain, as she threatened to, to become a Hollywood humanitarian? Or might she have been drawn back to her Sloane Ranger roots, a doting Norfolk grandmother?
This year I noticed that the anger of the crowd had subsided. The letters D-I-A-N-A were spelt out as if on a wedding cake. The photographs of her among the flowers were radiant rather than reproachful. A banner congratulated her sons on continuing her work.
And there is work to be done. Harry is a prince and his country needs him.
In the first of the punishments that he doled out on his family, he and Meghan turned down an invitation to Balmoral. Apparently a small thing at the time, its significance is magnified now.
Nicola Sturgeon is calling for another referendum on Scottish independence, the polls north of the border are moving and the threat to the Union is graver this time than at the referendum in 2014. It was close enough then.
I remember an urgent conversation between the then prime minister David Cameron and the London mayor Boris Johnson.
It was at the opening of Prince Harry’s Invictus Games on September 10, 2014, at the Olympic Park in East London. I was editing the Evening Standard at the time, and was a guest of Boris’s at the ceremony. The referendum was the following week and Cameron stopped to talk before taking his seat.
Boris asked him if it was going to be OK and Cameron replied that he thought so, but it was tense. I measured the popularity of the respective heads that evening by the welcome from the veterans and their families.
Cameron got polite applause, Boris a great cheer, Prince Harry a deafening one. Prince Harry and Boris Johnson joshed together, bonded by optimism and a common touch. And patriotism.
David Cameron won the Scottish referendum and divulged later that he had sought the Queen’s help, asking if she could ‘raise an eyebrow’ about the Scots voting for independence.
SARAH SANDS: We don’t know what audiences will make of Harry and Meghan’s documentaries of hope and inspiration but the Duke and Duchess of Sussex can afford to get professionals in to make the shows
Boris Johnson needs all the help he can get from the Royal Family this time. Downing Street has made the Union the priority. The reason that the Brexit negotiations are stuck firmly on fish is that the Scots (to whom the industry is worth about £600m a year) must see the benefits of leaving the EU.
We need to nurture every union bond. We need more than the economy and common currency to hold things together. What of the emotional ties? What of the monarchy and the military? Prince Harry can evoke both.
The monarchy embraces two important concepts, the Commonwealth and the Union. We’ve got off to a bad start, for Harry and Meghan have undermined the Commonwealth by framing it is an instrument of oppression.
Surely they cannot think the same of Scotland. What can Harry say now about the Union? Come on, Harry. Nature documentaries are fine and will pay the bills, but there is a bigger prize to fight for.
The survival of the United Kingdom is at stake.
You must evoke Shakespeare’s Henry V at Agincourt: ‘By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,/ Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;/ It yearns me not if men my garments wear;/ Such outward things dwell not in my desires:/ But if it be a sin to covet honour,/ I am the most offending soul alive.’
Doesn’t that sound a more stirring cause for a noble Prince than being just another West Coast Wokeness Warrior?