Guardian op-ed: ‘The slick Sussex brand’ looks a lot better than Brand Windsor

Guardian op-ed: ‘The slick Sussex brand’ looks a lot better than Brand Windsor

December 6, 2022

There was an op-ed in the Guardian making some noise this weekend. The column is called “Harry and Meghan are showing the royal family how brand management is done,” written by Gaby Hinsliff (a white woman). Hinsliff makes some good points about how the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix trailer reveals a photogenic, charismatic couple who excel at their brand management. Which is dreadful news for the Windsors, who are terrible at brand management. The past week has been perfect, honestly – watching Buckingham Palace deal with the Susan Hussey fallout whilst William and Kate flopped hard in Boston, against the backdrop of excitement for the Netflix series. Some highlights:

Brand Sussex: But, of course, this is the Sussexes as they want the world to see them: young and in love, happy and free, defiantly enjoying the fairytale romance that unleashed such baffling hatred in some quarters when Meghan first married into the royal family. After the death threats and the trolls, the pressures that left her feeling suicidal and him terrified of losing her, like he lost his mother, it’s not surprising that they are so anxious to take back control and overwrite the ugliness with something beautiful. They may be presenting a highly stage-managed version of themselves to the world, but isn’t that what royalty has always sought to do? It’s just that, lately, the slick Sussex brand looks rather better at it than the established market leader.

The Susan Hussey Debacle: It’s been another terrible week for the royal family, once again accused of harbouring racism within the institution after a Black female guest at a reception hosted by Camilla, the Queen Consort, said she was persistently questioned by a lady-in-waiting about where she was “really” from. A Black woman, invited into the heart of the family but made to feel profoundly unwelcome? Well, that rings too many bells for comfort… When it was only Meghan’s word against the palace’s about the racism she claimed to have experienced, she could more easily be dismissed as simply difficult, especially once she was herself accused of bullying palace staff. Not any more.

The Palace understood that the Hussey situation was bad: King Charles has, to be fair, spent years thinking deeply about how to modernise the monarchy, appealing to younger Britons at home and dealing with the painful legacy of empire within the Commonwealth. But the Firm now appears to have hit that painful stage of corporate evolution when an organisation knows it needs to diversify, but is aghast to discover that means it actually has to change, rather than making a few token adjustments and blithely carrying on much as before.

The problem with trying to excuse Susan Hussey: But Hussey was not most pensioners. She was a professional at work, whose role was to put every guest entering what can be an intimidatingly grand environment at their ease, and that requires the ability to move with the times. Every guest invited to the palace is there because their work is deemed important to the nation, and the institution is responsible for ensuring they all go home with a magical story to tell their grandchildren. Diversifying the guest list is commendable – no doubt there weren’t many Black women from Hackney on it when Hussey joined the court 60 years ago – but it isn’t progress if it means people turning up only to be insulted. Which brings us, inevitably, back to Meghan.

The palace needed Meghan more than she needed them: What this week has underlined, meanwhile, is that the royal family arguably needed Meghan more than she needed them. She and Harry were always a creaking Windsor brand’s best hope of renewal, its way into the hearts of a young, diverse, emotionally literate and politically aware new generation of Britons who still haven’t warmed in quite the same way to the new Prince and Princess of Wales and who recoil in horror from stories like this week’s. After all the dust has settled, Meghan still has her Prince Charming. The Windsors, battling against a future of dwindling cultural relevance, are still searching for their happy ending.

[From The Guardian]

I’m always surprised when I read pieces like this in the British media, although to be fair, it’s usually only the Guardian publishing unflatteringly honest commentary about the Windsors. It’s just a reminder that there are *some* people on Salt Island who get it, who see the larger issue, and some of those people are white. The worst thing that’s happened in the past three years is that the larger Sussex conversations became about race solely, that there was “royal racism” versus “the Sussexes are too woke.” The Windsors set themselves up for failure there, because now when anything racial/racist happens around them, it’s a callback to Meghan and how she was treated. When really, the problems are racism-plus, clearly – it’s not just these people are contemptibly racist, it’s that they’re incompetent at branding, at public relations, at appearing to be modern. When QEII said “après moi le déluge,” she meant it.

Photos courtesy of Netflix.

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