It was early March 2021, and millions of eyes around the world were glued to their TV screens.
Jaws dropped as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – two of the most private yet talked-about people in the entire world – delivered sordid details about all the dramas that had been playing out behind palace doors.
They spoke of the senior royal who had questioned the colour of their baby’s skin. They directly addressed Meghan’s feud with Kate, revealing it was the future Queen who’d made her cry. They spoke of being trapped, of being prisoners in their own lives, without even access to their passports.
It was almost too much to take in at once.
We’d heard whispers of infighting since shortly after the Duke and Duchess’s wedding, but as with all royal scandals, had barely anything officially confirmed.
But that all changed when TV talk show queen Oprah Winfrey began courting the couple, just a year after they ditched royal life and – very conveniently – moved into her ultra-exclusive Californian suburb, Montecito.
Make no mistake, that highly anticipated TV special was everything we could have hoped for – and more. Actually, much more. In fact … too much.
2021 was all set to be Harry and Meghan’s year of global domination.
They’d ripped off the royal shackles with extraordinary fanfare, done their time lying low as Covid thwarted everyone’s plans, and with life slowly returning to normal, began to roll out their post-royal strategy to become superstar humanitarians.
Deal after deal was announced. Their foundation was launched. Strategic and stunning photo-ops began dropping into the daily news cycle. There was a Sussex buzz in the air.
The message was clear: they’d hit the ground running, and they were building an empire.
And it was on track to be a resounding success. They’d proven divisive at times, but their power and influence as members of the royal family were undeniable.
That skyrocketed the moment they made history with their decision to cut themselves loose.
And the Sussex buzz transitioned into a deafening roar as it was revealed they’d sat down for a no-holds-barred interview with Oprah.
Whether or not you were Team Sussex, it was captivating viewing.
But as we look back on the year, the Sussexes’ high-speed train to global domination has derailed – and all signs point to that explosive tell-all as the point of impact.
Here’s the thing about the royal family, the real deep, dark secret: when you boil it all down, they’re pretty ordinary.
For centuries, the “majesty” of royals has endured almost solely on the air of mystery and secrecy that surrounds their utterly pampered, privileged and rather dull lives.
So the moment Harry and Meghan ripped back the curtain on the royal establishment in their TV tell-all, their shots didn’t just hit the monarchy – they also backfired.
It was captivating viewing, and fuelled the news cycle for days. But then, as with any big scandal, interest eventually waned.
Which leads me to the other issue: the couple have now fired all their guns, and they’re less than two years into their post-royal life.
Fast-forward just eight months, and Meghan was performing cringeworthy hidden-camera pranks on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, sucking milk from a baby’s bottle and doing squats on the street in front of unsuspecting members of the public. It’s a long way from the untouchable mystique she had at the start of the year.
Their fizzer of a year is not helped by the fact major commercial deals with Netflix and Spotify (reportedly worth $180 million and $30 million, respectively) are yet to really make a splash. In fact, the couple are yet to produce a single piece of Spotify podcast content for 2021, with their one and only episode airing a year ago.
Meanwhile, their megawatt Netflix contract, which promised to see a flood of “documentaries, docu-series, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming”, has barely yielded a couple of releases.
In April, it was revealed their first project would be Heart of Invictus, a docu-series about the sporting tournament for wounded veterans, the Invictus Games, which Harry founded.
(Unfortunately, the pandemic forced organisers to postpone the Games until 2022, which also delayed the release of the series).
A few months later, Meghan was announced as the creator of Pearl, an animated Netflix series described as a “family series that centres on the adventures of a 12-year-old girl, who is inspired by a variety of influential women from history”.
No air date has been given.
With New Year’s Eve fast approaching, like all of us, I’m sure the couple will be raising a glass to a prosperous 2022.
But presumably, with no more explosive moments up their sleeve, they now find themselves in the unusual royal position of having to maintain the public’s interest and make their fortunes solely on the quality of their work.
Based on their CV for 2021, that may prove difficult.
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