Kate Middleton accidentally blows whistle on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

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If Asprey doesn’t already make solid silver whistles then they need to start, posthaste, because there are a number of members of the royal family who could be in the market for them. Sometimes a varied assortment from Poundland just won’t do.

Of course, previously, no one has had a greater need for a couple of these than the two people who swapped shaking hands for a living to repeatedly talking about how unhappy they were shaking hands for a living, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Meghan.

Interestingly, it is now Kate the Princess of Wales who is doing some accidental lid-blowing of her own – not that she has actually said a peep.

Kate is, of course, off – off work, off manoeuvres and off public life – while she undergoes treatment for an unspecified form of cancer. The princess has not been heard from nor seen since revealing her cancer diagnosis and nor will she be, with no return date even tentatively rumoured.

However, if there is one thing that the incredible clamour around her ‘disappearance’, and then her cancer revelations, has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt is her nearly unfathomable global power and reach.

US TV stations broke into their live coverage of a major basketball match to report on her cancer news and, within hours, world leaders including President Joe Biden were queuing up to offer their loud support and praise.

In Kate becoming even more of a superpower – such that they should consider giving her a seat on the UN Security Council – that has, in turn, only illuminated a coincidental, second thing: how increasingly marginalised and diminished the Sussexes seem in comparison.

Last week – April 1 – marked four years since Harry and Meghan officially stepped out into the cold, crossing the threshold from palace-dom to civvy street.

Since then they have found their freedom and their voice, Ariel-style, and can now use words like ‘impactful’ in their press releases to their hearts’ content in between feeding their chickens, but increasingly the signs point to the Sussexes’ depreciating brand.

In the months following their momentous 2020 decision to no longer rep Crown Inc, and just as Harry was working out how to use the blender on his own, their every Zoom appearance and move made news. If some intrepid newshound had found out they were taking their own bins out, CNN would have probably broken into their live coverage to report on the developing, important story.

The Sussexes now exist on another strata altogether and are looking increasingly inconsequential.

This week the political and business news site Axios reported the couple’s Archewell Foundation is part of “a bipartisan coalition with support from Hollywood power players” that is “working to prepare US voters for a possible deepfake onslaught as the campaign year goes into high gear.”

If the Duke and Duchess’ participation in this campaign had happened back in their early US days, this Axios piece would have been spawned reporting across the internet and I’d bet good money that someone back in the UK would have been quick to dredge up some ‘royal source’ or ‘insider’ to offer some clipped, vaguely snippy critique.

Instead, this Axios story has barely caused a ripple.

Another example was in January when the Duke turned up in Las Vegas, this time wearing his trousers, to hand-out the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award at Annual NFL Honours. The outlets that covered his appearance included People, Vanity Fair, Page Six and the Daily Mail while it was overlooked by places including the New York Times and the Washington Post. (Though back in Blighty, the Times did.)

So too, last week a video and images of the Duchess of Sussex visiting the Los Angeles Childrens’ Hospital and reading to young patients was released. Again, it was mainly covered by the entertainment press with their local Los Angeles Times appearing to have skipped over it.

Or take Meghan marking International Women’s Day by taking part in a keynote panel discussion at the South By Southwest festival. Her comments about “hateful” social media bullying were duly reported on by outlets including the New York Times but generally, the excitement and heat of years past was missing.

Then there is the duchess’ fledgling lifestyle brand American Riviera Orchard. In the near month since Meghan debuted the name and the Instagram account with a 15-second video of her living out a Betty Friedan nightmare, it has gotten 588,000 followers.

While that’s a pretty hefty whack given the former Suits star has yet to sell a single pair of artisanal pinking shears or bottle of consciously-sourced jar of pistachio butter, consider that nearly five years ago exactly (on April 2, 2019), she and Harry launched their former Instagram account, @SussexRoyal.

That day, they broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest account to ever gain one million followers, managing to hit seven figures in five hours and 45 minutes. (Jennifer Aniston would surpass them the following year.) By the time the duke and duchess punched out of Buckingham Palace for the final time, the account had (and has, given it’s still live) 9.2 million followers.

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We’re not in Kensington Gardens any more Toto.

The lure of French linen napkins, even ones sold by an actual duchess, do not appear to be setting social media ablaze.

According to sussex.com, the couple’s third website in five years, they are “shaping the future through business and philanthropy”, but right now the only thing they seem to be shaping is the occasional People cover.

If there is one thing that the Sussexes cannot afford to lose it is their gravitational pull.

On a prosaic level, they need to bring with them a global audience of eyeballs if they want the Netflixs and Penguin Random Houses of the world to keep merrily handing over tens of millions of dollars for their creative talents and willingness to turn on their Macbooks in the morning.

And on a philanthropic level, the disappointing thing is, the Sussexes are doing, or at least trying to do, work that matters. That deep fake campaign reported by Axios? This is a serious issue that could have a significant impact on this year’s US presidential election and therefore whether American democracy is about to crumble.

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The strange and shocking events that have rattled the palace this year have only cemented Kate and husband Prince William as true figures of global consequence while Harry and Meghan, having forgone the royal imprimatur, have become sort of stateless actors who have slipped from news sections to the entertainment pages.

The Sussexes could – they should – be so much more.

Because at a time when so much hangs in the balance, the future needs to be shaped by people who care, and Harry and Meghan have that in spades – hand-tooled, leather-handled ones from a small Spanish atelier, of course.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles

Read related topics:Meghan MarklePrince Harry