JAN MOIR: I'm relieved Harry and Meghan's carousel has haltedAugust 3, 2023
JAN MOIR: I’m relieved Harry and Meghan’s carousel of caressing has halted. But it does make me fear for them…
Can all be well down in the fragrant dell of Montecito? I wonder. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made their first public appearance together in months, no doubt hoping to silence increasing speculation about the state of their marriage, their future together and their mutual career as saviours of the world — or whatever it is that they do out there in their fantasyland of compassion and creative activations.
The couple were filmed sitting together on a love seat in the sun-dappled garden of their Californian home as they made congratulatory phone calls to the winners of a technology grant. If this show of togetherness was supposed to quash rumours, it had the opposite effect on me.
Was it wrong to sense an underlying tension and a lack of interaction between the duke and duchess? It was certainly noticeable that the couple didn’t look at each other at all. Well, Harry gazed at Meghan, but she kept her eyes down and never looked at him, not once. At no point did their eyes meet, and no affectionate gazes were exchanged.
Some might think this is a loaded observation about what is only a brief promotional clip, but this is Harry and Meghan we are talking about. Since day one, their every public appearance has been characterised by a glutinous show of overt affection. They hold hands, they constantly pat, touch, clutch and comfort–rub each other like two high-net-worth meerkats enjoying a grooming session.
They delight in showing the world their delight in each other, even if that delight is not always entirely reciprocated in a wholly delightful way.
JAN MOIR: The couple were filmed sitting together on a love seat in the sun-dappled garden of their Californian home as they made congratulatory phone calls to the winners of a technology grant
JAN MOIR: Harry and Meghan built their brand on love; on being the heroic, loved–up couple who fled from the oppression of wealth, privilege and monarchy to build a brave new world
And whether on Oprah or on a palace balcony, their eye contact is invariably intense and locked on, like radar gunsights. Indeed, Meghan often makes a point of gazing at Harry with the kind of molten adoration you’d expect from a renaissance nun who has just seen a vision of God in a stained-glass window.
But not this time, baby. In their tonal summer neutrals and fixed grins, there was a faint undertow of awkwardness and distance that we haven’t seen before.
I want to be honest. I’m rather grateful for any new briskness in their public relationship. There have been too many moments in the past when Harry and Meghan’s adolescent pawings and moony spoony behaviour has made even an old romantic like me feel the urge to purge into the nearest sick bag. Even if one can appreciate how these relentless, open displays of tenderness had a purpose and were powerful in establishing the Sussex identity on a global stage.
After all, Harry and Meghan built their brand on love; on being the heroic, loved–up couple who fled from the oppression of wealth, privilege and monarchy to build a brave new world built on the very same wealth, privilege and monarchy they had crossed an ocean to escape. And if the course of their true love does not run smooth, where does that leave them?
Today is Meghan’s 42nd birthday, and I wonder what she will be reflecting upon as she blows out her candles in California. Perhaps she will exult in her triumphant exit from a cruel and wicked British institution which forced her to wear beige, denied her first choice of tiara and wasn’t keen on hugs, the utter b****rds.
JAN MOIR: Since day one, their every public appearance has been characterised by a glutinous show of overt affection
Perhaps her mind will turn once more to that momentous New York night in May, when the infamous ‘near-catastrophic car chase’ resulted in an utterly catastrophic negative shift in public perception of the Sussexes.
Overnight they went from being seen as compassion crusaders to deluded fools, mockingly exposed as a couple overinvested in their own importance and whirling around inside a tornado of unjustifiable paranoia. It was a seminal moment which resulted in more bad publicity, including cancelled broadcasting projects and being called ‘grifters’ by a Spotify executive.
Strong marriages can survive worse, but it is becoming clear that the pressure is on for the Sussexes, who have squandered much of their initial commercial goodwill in Hollywood and somehow managed to diminish their own prestige to boot.
The popular narrative about their relationship has always depicted Harry as the poor husband, forced to obey the demands of his ambitious wife — but being married to a privacy–obsessed monomaniac like him is surely no picnic, either. On that fateful night in New York, stuck in the back of a taxi in her pretty gold dress, Meghan’s duchess life didn’t look like much fun at all.
Of course, maybe all this speculation is wrong-headed and unfair. Maybe too much is being made of a short film clip that is supposed to be a celebration of good works. Yet after seven years of behaving like two handsy old hams overacting in a royal romcom set in a petting farm, Harry and Meghan can’t blame puzzled viewers for fearing the worst when the carousel of caressing suddenly stops.
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