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As Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was christened last weekend, much was made of the secrecy surrounding the ceremony that took place in a private chapel at Windsor Castle.
Such ceremonies are generally closed-door affairs, but there have often been photos of people arriving and announcements of godparents. Not so this time. And for some in the public and British media, that didn’t sit well.
Some umbrage focused on the fact this was coming soon after word broke that at least 2.4 million pounds of U.K. taxpayers’ money has funded refurbishment of the home the two-month-old shares with his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
General sentiments emerging from some quarters were variations on the idea that they can’t have it both ways — as royals who benefit from public money, they should not be trying so hard to shut the public out.
“Either they are totally private, pay for their own house and disappear out of view, or play the game the way it is played,” author Penny Junor, who has written a biography of Harry, told the Sunday Times.
Others took a different view.
“Ultimately this is a private christening for a citizen who will remain private until he is in a position to choose for himself,” royal commentator Omid Scobie told The Independent. “Until then, his parents — who are both public figures — will continue to share their own two lives with the world. Seems fair to me.”
There’s little doubt Harry and Meghan continue to do pretty much everything their own way, right down to seemingly drawing a new line around royal privacy.
Beyond the christening controversy, there was their initial refusal to say where Archie was born. Last week, it was reported Meghan’s security staff asked someone not to take a picture of her while she was sitting quite out in the open at Wimbledon, watching friend and tennis superstar Serena Williams play.
So it was more than a little interesting to see several photos pop up in the media a couple of days ago showing Meghan carrying Archie around at a charity polo event, where Harry and his brother, William, were taking part. William’s wife, Kate, and their three children were also there, and became the focus of a lot of pictures quickly circulating through social and traditional media as they had fun in the sun west of London. There was no royal protest at these shots.
It was hard not to suspect the heavy family presence at the polo event — where there would be cameras — was a deliberate move in the wake of recent negative headlines, and at least some degree of public relations damage control.
“Of course it is,” Mark Borkowski, a British public relations expert, said in an interview from London.
The recent dust-ups over privacy are hardly the first for the Royal Family. Sometimes the House of Windsor has called in the lawyers, whether it was over photos of a topless Kate in France or the potential publication of journals Harry and William’s father, Prince Charles, kept at the time of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. In another instance, Buckingham Palace got in touch with Britain’s Press Complaints Commission over photos of Harry cavorting naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.
As much as members of the House of Windsor may wish to preserve — or extend — the privacy around them, the question of how much they can truly expect is an open one.
“That’s a hundred-million-dollar question.” said Borkowski. “I suspect [Harry and Meghan are] trying to strike a line for that. They’re trying to see if they can create a new hemisphere.”
Expect there to be more friction in efforts to create that hemisphere.
“This is about building a new set of rules,” said Borkowski, and it “seems to be a bit of an experiment.”
Duchesses go courtside
Kate and Meghan were both on hand Saturday at Wimbledon, watching as Serena Williams played for her record-tying 24th Grand Slam title. She was defeated by Simona Halep of Romania in stunning fashion, 6-2, 6-2.
It was an interesting dual appearance that was watched closely by those who have been speculating about the relationship between the two duchesses.
While the appearance came just a few days after they were seen at that charity polo event, instances of the women in the same place, at the same time, in public, have been relatively rare (although they were also courtside last year, when Williams was playing in the Wimbledon final).
It all comes after numerous reports of possible distance or discord between them — or maybe more likely, their husbands, William and Harry.
What’s the economic impact?
Readers of The Royal Fascinator responded with several thoughtful questions and views in response to the piece in the last newsletter about the costs to refurbish Harry and Meghan’s home, Frogmore Cottage.
Some questioned or opposed public expenditure on the project or the Royal Family in general — in the U.K. or when they visit Canada. Others were curious about the potential economic impact the House of Windsor has on the U.K. economy in areas such as tourism or the building industry that does the royal refurbishments.
Determining the impact of the monarchy on the economy is always an interesting — and tricky — prospect.
One estimate by the consultancy firm Brand Finance suggested that in 2017, the monarchy’s contribution to the U.K. economy was about 1.8 billion pounds a year. There was also an additional 550 million pounds in tourism revenue, and a 150-million-pound increase in trade as a result of business-boosting initiatives by members of the Royal Family.
But, The Independent newspaper cautioned, “it’s important to put those numbers in context.”
“Overseas visitors are estimated to have spent 22.5 billion pounds in the U.K. in 2016. And total U.K. exports summed to 543 billion pounds. Viewed from that perspective, the additional royal-related revenues start to look somewhat trivial,” the newspaper said.
In Canada, recent costs for royal visits have included about $2 million the RCMP spent on policing during William and Kate’s eight-day visit in 2016. British Columbia spent $613,000 for the same visit.
Stepping up the diplomacy
A high-profile visit this fall will see two members of the Royal Family step up in their diplomatic roles.
William and Kate are going to Pakistan, the first members of the Royal Family to visit that country since 2006.
The trip will see them “take on a heavyweight role in Britain’s overseas diplomacy,” the Daily Telegraph reported.
William’s mother, Diana, visited Pakistan several times for charity work. His father, Charles, and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were the last members of the family to visit, 13 years ago.
While the visit will no doubt focus on the historic ties between the two countries, it’s likely more present-day concerns will also factor into planning for the trip: security.
The British government has a warning on its website about travel to Pakistan and a high threat of terrorism there.
“I’m still perfectly capable of planting a tree.”
— At the age of 93, Queen Elizabeth was quite clear in Cambridge a few days ago that she didn’t need any help doing one of the ceremonial duties she has carried out many, many times over the years. (For the record, she’s planted five trees at Rideau Hall in Ottawa alone.)
Royals in Canada
When the Queen arrived in Canada on July 13, 1976, she had numerous official duties on her agenda as usual.
The visit also had a considerably more personal significance: She would be on hand to watch her daughter, Princess Anne, in the equestrian competition at the Summer Olympics in Montreal.
The visit also represents the only time the Queen’s entire immediate family has been in the country at the same time. Prince Philip and Anne’s brothers Charles, Andrew and Edward were also on hand to cheer Anne on.
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