Prince Harry and Meghan’s surprise decision – at least to members of the royal family, now said to be “incandescent with rage”– to split the confines of palace life for North America, most likely Canada appears to be a more carefully plotted escape than anyone recognized.
The couple trademarked more than 100 items including pencils, socks, and bookmarks to their Sussex Royal brand more than six months ago, according to the Daily Mail, in a move that could possibly set them up to pursue lucrative business opportunities in life in the New World.
With a new website and cushioned for the road to become “financially independent” by an estimated £34m ($44m) fortune from Meghan’s TV earnings and an inheritance from the prince’s mother, the couple may be free to pursue book deals, TV deals, public speaking, fashion and brand partnerships after the fashion of celebrity empire builders like the Obamas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Kardashians.
US retail expert Andy Barr told the paper he would expect Prince Harry and Meghan’s global product empire to generate revenues of around $500m. “They are effectively trading on the back of the Royal name which is ironic given they are seemingly trying to escape its clutches,” Barr told MailOnline.
Meghan announced last September she was teaming up with fashion designer Misha Nonoo to create a capsule collection of workwear clothes to benefit the UK women’s charity Smart Works, which provides clothing and tools to unemployed women.
But fashion is a hard road, and Nonoo’s business empire is still relatively limited. The problem for the Sussexes, said PR guru Mark Borkowski, is the cost of living in North America, even royalist Toronto, coupled with the cost of security – testing, he says, even for the Beckhams – requires deep pockets and the couple will have to be highly selective and judicious in their choice of commercial hook-ups.
“The foundation they’re setting up has real purpose and they want to be embrace better-world projects so any charity donations or investment has to be clean money,” said Borkowski, mindful of the wave of scandals currently plaguing institutional and foundational gifting.
“The type of people who want to launder their image through the royals are exactly the kind of people they need to keep away from. They don’t have a lot of choices so they’ll have to do a lot of commercial deals that might cheapen what they’re trying to do. So it’s difficult for water to navigate.
“They’ll be a force to be reckoned with but it’s a long journey and there’s always another circus coming to town,” Borkowski added.
Whatever course they choose to follow, he advises, don’t look to the Kardashians and Jenners.
“They may look to them as a great machine, a multinational corporation exploiting celebrity at every turn, but that’s different from acting as a hybrid NGO for good. They’re going to have to sell more than a few mugs and plates to make this thing real.”
If any of their friends can provide a roadmap, it could be George Clooney who set up and sold a tequila brand for $1bn. Or the Obamas, who recently inked a new deal with Instagram as part of a growing media empire.
But what kind of life the couple anticipates is open to question. Canada, lying within the commonwealth, might seem a better option than New York, where the New York Post this morning imagined the couple in a tenement apartment.
“Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are hypocrites – abdicate or stay!” the paper trumpeted.
For the Sussexes the issue of employment will be simpler for Meghan to solve than for a husband set out on a first-job search at age 35.
“It’s not like he can say I’m an expert in human behavior, so the best thing he can do first supports his wife and learn from her,” says Australian celebrity life coach Patrick Wanis.
Prince Harry, Wanis said, needs to locate his passion. “He’s got to have great ideas. He needs to think, where can my passion make a difference? At 35, he’s probably environmentally conscious.”
But Wanis, who has clients across the US, offered a strict warning:
“Don’t mix up with plasticity of Los Angeles, and stay away from the trappings, the glitter, glam artificiality, and emptiness of celebrity style. I wouldn’t be spending my time at this party or that event – unless he wants to be a philanthropist and show up to every Met gala opening. The lure of the glamorous celebrity lifestyle is actually quite dangerous.”
The prince, he said: “Needs to focus on who am I? What excites me? And how can I make a difference? He can open a door but he needs to think which door do I want to open? He has a fantastic chance to create a legacy that no other Royal has had.”
But, he adds: “Can other people see him beyond his title and his power? He has a clean slate, and he needs to communicate his humanness and his passion.”