As Meghan said, in typically syrupy style while promoting her Archetypes podcast last year, she and husband Prince Harry are ‘like salt and pepper — we always move together’.
And yet, as their media empire implodes, with their Spotify deal axed, today it seems that these particular condiments have somehow ended up on totally opposing shelves in the pantry.
Meghan, the ink fresh on her management deal with the ultimate Hollywood agent, Ari Emanuel at WME, is still pursuing creative and commercial opportunities. It was a solo deal — not her and Harry — and an enormous coup.
Harry, meanwhile, is said to be gravitating back to charity and campaigning work, planning a return to Africa to film a documentary following in the footsteps of his mother — a venture that will see him travelling to the continent alone. Their ambition to become a global humanitarian power couple seems, for the moment at least, to be on ice.
What’s expected to come next for Meghan is a string of commercial endorsements in fields meaningful to her, such as food, wellness, fashion and therapy.
For a couple who rarely seem to consider the consequences their actions will have on others, Harry, 38, and Meghan, 41, are convinced their downfall was nothing to do with them
Prince Harry and members of the Household Cavalry take part in educational games warning local children about the threat of Aids before a ‘Kick 4 Life’ football match at the Thuso Centre for disabled children in Lesotho, Africa, in 2008
Prince Harry plays rugby with orphans including Mafusi Maqhoane, 11, (in pink) and members of a youth group at the Mants’ase Children’s Home near Mohale’s Hoek 106km outside the capital Maseru in Lesotho in 2004
I hear that there will be a book, most likely with a feminist angle.
Most urgently, though, the WME team will seek to bolster — or should that be resuscitate — Meghan’s rather tattered credibility in the entertainment industry, after the embarrassing ending of the Sussexes £18 million deal ‘by mutual agreement’ earlier this month.
So far, the negativity has focused on Meghan, with talent agent Jeremy Zimmer remarking: ‘Turns out Meghan Markle was not a great audio talent or necessarily any kind of talent. You know, just because you’re famous doesn’t make you great at something.’
Those familiar with the situation say it was the lack of content, not the podcast viewing figures, which was the real disappointment for Spotify.
Incredibly, however, for a couple who rarely seem to consider the consequences their actions will have on others, Harry, 38, and Meghan, 41, are convinced their downfall was nothing to do with them.
I’m told both feel they have been ‘repeatedly unlucky’ with other world events. Attempts to launch themselves as global do-gooders, free to earn money once they had relieved themselves of royal duties, were severely impacted by the pandemic which followed within months of their Megxit announcement in January 2020.
Their deal with Netflix coincided with a huge and painful ‘correction’ in the economics of streaming — ditto their deal with Spotify. Both companies don’t have that kind of money to splash around any more.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are said to feel they have been ‘repeatedly unlucky’ in the endeavours with other world events
Prince Charles holds aloft a traditional Zulu shield and spear presented to him by local people as his bemused son Prince Harry looks on at Dukuduku villiage in 1997
Prince Harry with young orphan Mutsu Potsanse, 4, after they planted a peach tree together at the Mants’ase Children’s Home for orphans near Mohale’s Hoek, around 60 miles south of Maseru in Lesotho
Prince Harry with a child from one of the projects being helped by the Lesotho Fund
Prince Harry and members of the Household Cavalry take part in educational games warning local children about the threat of Aids before a ‘Kick 4 Life’ football match at the Thuso Centre for disabled children in Lesotho in 2008
Further incidents of so-called bad timings that beggar belief include the launch of Meghan’s podcast — publicity for this was impacted by the death of HM the Queen — and their explosive and highly insensitive Oprah interview which, I’m told, the couple felt was overshadowed by the failing health of Prince Philip, who died soon afterwards.
Sympathy will be scarce. Yet, a source in LA tells me: ‘The word is that they think they’ve been really unlucky.’
Meghan, incidentally, is a great believer in fate. I’m told she consulted a psychic to the stars, Mama Fay, at the suggestion of one of her Suits co-stars and was told that she was going to meet a man who was ‘like a king’ — and going to be globally famous, to boot.
But, luck aside, the big question is how long before Harry turns his back on the showbusiness life, for which he is obviously ill-suited and seems entirely uncomfortable with? Both he and Meghan were expected to make multiple podcasts under the terms of the Spotify deal. Meghan reached out to friends including tennis player Serena Williams to appear on Archetypes (and wrote a letter to singer Taylor Swift, who declined). But Harry was completely ineffective in this sphere.
In fact, according to the news website Bloomberg, he came up with ideas such as interviewing Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg about formative traumatic experiences.
If that wasn’t laughable enough, there was also an idea to do a podcast about fatherhood — and possibly interview The Pope for it. It almost sounds like a mean joke, with Harry as the punchline.
Netflix is also reportedly planning not to renew their deal with the Sussexes when it expires in 2025. Pictured: Harry in Cape Town in 2019. It’s understood he wants to return to Africa for a solo project
Prince Harry during his visit to southern Africa where he is helping in an operation to de-horn a rhino to deter poachers in 2015
Prince Harry and Prince William pose with a rock python during a visit to the Mokoloda Nature Reserve in Gabarone, Botswana, in 2010
Prince Harry visiting a crime scene with a forensic team of a rhino killed by poachers in Kruger National Parkas part of his tour to South Africa in 2015
In truth, Harry never really wanted to be a podcaster or a TV executive. He didn’t want to be the ‘pepper’ to Meghan’s ‘salt’.
As he told a conference in San Francisco earlier this year: ‘For me, personally, I get so much out of helping other people.
‘To be in the service of others is what drives me, what gets me out of bed every day.’
He’d even told Oprah as much, during that bombshell interview in 2021: that he only signed the deals with Netflix, for £79 million, and Spotify, for £18 million, because his family had ‘cut him off’ and he needed to pay for security (not to mention the £11 million Montecito mansion they bought, four weeks after the Netflix deal was announced).
Last year, while the couple were filming their incendiary Harry & Meghan documentary, Meghan mused in an interview of the experience: ‘It’s interesting. My husband has never worked in this industry before.’
After the release of that documentary, and the publicity drive for his bestselling memoir Spare, which he did on his own, questions were asked as to how long Harry would remain in the spotlight.
For one thing, he is much engaged in a battle to set right perceived past wrongs. In the UK, he is engaged in multiple legal actions against newspaper groups over allegations of phone hacking and unlawful information-gathering, all denied.
In America, which is now home, he is seldom seen.
A documentary about his charity for servicemen, Heart Of Invictus, has been commissioned by Netflix and is close to completion.
Meanwhile, Meghan and her team at Archewell will continue to try to get a green light on films and TV shows from Netflix, until the deal runs out in 2025.
New agent Emanuel will connect her with the key creative talent she will need to make a success of a new career as a TV producer. Actress and model turned producer Tracy Ryerson has now joined as the head of scripted content. She is backed by Nishika Kumble who is the senior vice president of scripted TV. The two women have much to do.
Sources at Netflix say Archewell have proposals in for scripted content ‘across the board’.
In addition to the already reported Great Expectations inspired spin-off, there are TV sitcoms and movie romcoms in the offing. They face various hurdles — not least the current writers’ strike which means no work is being done by anyone on any scripts. When the strike is resolved there will be a logjam of work and the best writers will be tied up for months — if not years.
Maybe Meghan, with the help of seasoned power broker Emanuel, can break through and end her run of bad luck.
She is modelling herself on her old boss Bonnie Hammer, an executive at NBC who gave her her big break in Suits.
But even as she races towards bigger and more lucrative media ventures, her husband’s concerns are centred on the environment and mental health.
He was hired as Chief Impact Officer at a firm called BetterUp in March 2021, which he says is the fastest access to mental health coaching and an app he turns to often on his phone.
He told a conference this year: ‘I never, ever, ever thought I would be sitting on this stage saying, ‘therapy is good and coaching will change your life’ or ‘both will change your life’. And the more people that we can get that to, the better. What we’re trying to do now — the goal — is the democratisation of coaching to make sure we can get it to the masses.’
His other passion is the sustainable travel coalition Travalyst. Founded in 2019, it has grown into a genuinely impressive operation which now includes some of the biggest brands in travel including Tripadvisor, Google, Booking.com, Visa and the Expedia group.
All have signed up to an environmental sustainability rating system. CEO Sally Davey says of Harry: ‘He understands the complexity involved in sustainability and that there’s a broad spectrum of issues impacted by a range of factors.’ She says that he commissioned a report five inches thick on the topic and read and made notes ‘on every page’.
Prince Harry plays with children during a visit to Phelisanong Children’s Home on December 6, 2014 in Pitseng, Lesotho, in 2006
Prince Harry watches a group of women singing during a visit to the village of Phororong in the Northern Mountains, while on a return visit to Lesotho in Southern Africa
The Prince of Wales and son Prince Harry leave their mark in cement, at the Dukuduku village school in South Africa in 1997
You can’t blame Harry — who is highly sensitive to reports which suggest he’s not bright — if he wants to spend his time concentrating on good works which have demonstrable impact and meaning, rather than suggesting ideas for comedy shows or animations.
Day to day, also, the couple have young children — Archie, four; Lilibet, two — who pull their focus. A report in the Telegraph suggested some, quite normal, tensions in the five-year marriage.
One friend told the paper that the couple are ‘like any parents of such young kids — frazzled’, adding: ‘They are really happy together and live this idyllic life in Montecito which is essentially a giant gated community of multimillionaires. But at the end of the day, they’ve been through a lot and I think they’ve both felt quite ground down by it all. They’re like any married couple, five years in.’
It was suggested that Harry occasionally stays on his own at a leading hotel chain in Montecito and that he also stayed at the San Vicente Bungalows when visiting LA as an ‘escape place’. A spokesman for the couple said simply: ‘This is not true.’
Socially, Harry is involved with a group of polo-playing friends — the Los Padres team in Santa Barbara. Old friends in London complain that he has disappeared from their lives. Guy Pelly, a key member of his gang, was out dancing with Prince William in London this week. Given the complete fracture in relations between the brothers, it was an intriguing sighting, to say the least.
Meghan has managed to hang onto her ‘pre-Harry’ friends, such as yoga instructor Heather Dorak and Soho House executive Markus Anderson, both of whom joined her for Archie’s birthday in May and went hiking with her the following day.
Harry, who had just returned from King Charles’s Coronation, wasn’t on the walk with them.
They may still be very much married, but Harry seems happiest at the edge of the spotlight — a few paces behind his wife.