Meghan and Harry have lit a fire under the monarchy in one simple shoot. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP
Meghan and Harry have lit a fire under the monarchy in one simple shoot. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP

Photo that changes royal family forever

COMMENT

In 1992, a devastating fire swept through Windsor Castle and destroyed much of the 1000-year-old joint.

The Queen was photographed walking through the castle's grounds looking desolate and heartbroken. The grandiose and imposing St George's Hall was devastated, its roof collapsed.

Never fear, Her Maj got out her bulging chequebook and the hall was rebuilt, however overnight something no less incendiary happened in that very same location.

Specifically, I mean when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex introduced baby Archie to the world, a little boy who already knows the pleasures of a cashmere beanie and the appropriate moment to ignore the waiting press and snooze instead.

Meghan, Harry and their gorgeous sleeping baby. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP
Meghan, Harry and their gorgeous sleeping baby. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP

On the surface, the photos the tiny gaggle of journalists captured are hardly explosive - nor is there much of wee Archie to actually see. Harry and Meghan look as tired, shell-shocked and jubilant as any new parents. (Unlike other new parents: clothing without any visible splashes of breast milk or baby vomit.)

But, those images are the culmination of a historic week that has seismic implications for the The Firm and their future.

Because Harry and Meghan have been rewriting the royal script by refusing to follow in William and Kate's dependable footsteps.

This week was the Sussexes' declaration of independence from the royal family.

If they had borrowed the Queen's piper and all of the heraldic trumpet players they could get their hands on, their intention would not have been any more apparent. (Though, much more meme-able. Something to keep in mind for the future guys.)

Let's review, shall we.

First, there was the Bourne-esqe arrival of the sproglet. It was planned and executed with the sort of covert nous that would make the most hardened of CIA operatives smile.

Scotland Yard managed to ferry Harry and Meghan from Windsor into the midst of London for her to go into labour and have the baby, and then have them back in Frogmore Cottage by lunchtime the next day without even the most tenacious of tabloid hacks having even the foggiest idea.

This wasn't just about keeping things private, this was abjectly about doing what they wanted, expectations and tradition be damned.

Secondly, there is his name. As far as this royal obsessive can tell, this is the first legal name of a member of the royal family that is a contraction of a traditional moniker. ('Get the smelling salts Jenkins and my fainting couch!') Similarly, the fact he has a paltry two names is glaring - everyone else born into the Windsor family has at least five.

Add to this the decision to have grandmother Doria Ragland in the official shot. No other non-royal rellie has ever been included in such a prominent way in the birth announcement. The Middletons have only ever been allowed to stiffly pose in the same room as the Queen, let alone cheerfully share a lovely moment on camera. (I bet Carole is seething.)

This photo changes everything. Picture: Chris Allerton/ SussexRoyal via AP
This photo changes everything. Picture: Chris Allerton/ SussexRoyal via AP

Even the staging of the shot conveys a powerful message: Both of our families are equally important. Now everyone look at our heavenly baby and his pricey hat!

Lastly, we get to the decision to eschew a title, which is the biggest bombshell. It is the clearest and most articulate rejoinder Harry and Meghan have no intention of maintaining the royal status quo and are blithely ignoring the weight of history to chart their own path.

Combined together, plus the credible reports the couple are considering spending extended periods of time in Africa in coming years, suggests their future will include fewer and fewer tangible ties to the royal family.

Basically, they will be Tasmania to the royal family's mainland.

The images released overnight reveal a couple expertly and cleverly extracting themselves from the archaic maw of an institution vainly trying to cling to some semblance of relevance.

Harry and Meghan seem to have a clear and definitive idea of where they want to go and how they want to peddle their considerable influence. They are forging their own identity and brand, independent of the strictures and hoary precedents that run Windsor life.

All of which is a very bad harbinger for the palace's Men in Grey.

Without Harry and Meghan's warmth, style and innate understanding of contemporary issues that matter to the great unwashed masses, maintaining the popularity and goodwill the royal family currently enjoys is a tough sell.

While Wills and Kate are hugely popular, can they alone carry the weight of this creaky monarchy into the future on their Marks & Spencer-clad backs? I'm not sure.

There is one thing we do know for sure right now: It is going to be fascinating, and very enjoyable, to watch Harry and Meghan over the coming months and years. And, this is one thing that Her Majesty won't be able to fix by getting out her chequebook.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and freelance writer. Continue the conversation @DanielaElser



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