No spare to the heir: what Harry and Meghan’s latest move means
Hiring Hillary Clinton’s former adviser as their spokesperson suggests they're planning anything but a quiet life
For all their lives they have been seen as brothers in arms, the nation’s favourite royal double act. Yet, they always knew the time would come for destiny to take them on their different paths. And the shake-up of the royal households announced late last week signalled just that.
Finally, the royal court will be split as Prince William prepares to become the next Prince of Wales and a future king. It is a move that has been carefully planned for a while. As the Duke and Duchess of Sussex prepare to welcome their first child in the coming weeks, they will move their staff and offices to be with the queen at Buckingham Palace, cutting ties with Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge both live and work.
Comparisons have inevitably been made between Harry and the Duke of York, who was similarly seen to be sidelined as Prince Charles stepped up to heightened royal responsibilities following his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales. As was the case with Prince Andrew, Harry has been pushed down the royal pecking order following the birth of the Cambridges’ three children, and is now sixth in line to the throne, having occupied the number three slot for 28 years until Prince George’s birth in 2013.
Yet, while they may share a similar military background (like Harry in Afghanistan, Andrew was hailed a hero for fighting in the Falklands), the Duke of Sussex is not the “spare to the heir” his uncle was. On the contrary – and thanks to his mother’s insistence that he should never be overlooked – Harry has become the monarchy’s undisputed “soft power” prince.
The news that the royal couple has hired Sara Latham, described as “a chic and superbly connected public affairs consultant” who has held key roles for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, coincided with the confirmation of their split from the Cambridges’ household on Thursday. And this appointment of Clinton’s former adviser as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s new spokespersoan suggests that Harry and Meghan are planning anything but a quiet life, despite the imminent move of their court to Buckingham Palace.
It sent a signal to the world that while William and Kate may hold the real power behind the throne, it would be unwise to dismiss Harry and Meghan as worse off.
As an Anglo-American with dual citizenship, Latham’s appointment speaks volumes about the direction of the Sussexes, a couple who not only have trans-Atlantic reach but genuine global appeal. Once described as the “go-to girl for top Democrats visiting London”, whip-smart Latham, a former special adviser to former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, has got the very thing the Sussexes lack – experience and political nous.
For make no mistake, Harry and Meghan are already carving out a niche for themselves as the Firm’s foremost change-makers. Having been an outspoken champion for gender equality since she campaigned to change a sexist washing-up liquid advert as a child, Meghan has a voice, and is determined to use it. Equally, Harry, whose candour has endeared himself to millions over the years, has never been afraid of using his charm or expressing his point of view. Who else in the royal family could have convinced the queen and the Obamas to record a video for the Invictus Games or packed the Clooneys into pews at their wedding?
Not one to stick to the royal script, only last week he took the stage at the WE Day charity event to criticise the media for “distorting the truth”, suggesting that they were guilty of “trying to manipulate the power of positive thinking”, and praising youngsters for not listening.
Of course, with great power and privilege comes even greater responsibility and, with eyebrows having been raised by this and other outbursts, along with Meghan’s alleged “bypassing” of the Kensington Palace press office, it is perhaps not surprising that Latham’s appointment comes with a caveat. She and the rest of the Sussexes’ new communications team will be reporting to the queen’s new press secretary, Donal McCabe, suggesting she will not have the autonomy afforded the Cambridges’ new communications secretary, Christian Jones. (Their former spin king, Jason Knauf, will become their special adviser, another indication of the beefing up of the second-in-line’s increasingly statesmanlike role.)
It comes after Meghan’s friends spoke to People without the palace’s prior knowledge, to “stand up against the global bullying we are seeing and speak the truth about our friend”. It also did not go unnoticed that the LA-born former actress was at the centre of a much-publicised baby shower in New York last month – without any members of her household staff. As one royal insider put it: “It was inevitable that the households would split but it’s a smart move to have the comms reporting into Buckingham Palace. It makes it easier to co-ordinate.”
The new household will, unusually, be funded by both the queen and Prince Charles from their private fiefdoms, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, suggesting that the 92-year-old monarch has also played an influential role in the move.
Having worked for both Bill Clinton in the White House in the late 1990s and as an adviser on Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 US presidential campaign, Latham is well practised in handling negative publicity, of which Harry and Meghan have had their fair share lately. In 2005, she was part of Tony Blair’s general election team, and served as the late Jowell’s closest aide when she was in the department of culture, media and sport and London secured the Olympic bid.
After her stint at the White House, she moved to the UK as government affairs adviser at Microsoft Europe. She was MD at Philip Gould Associates before joining Freuds, a London-based PR firm founded by Matthew Freud in 1985. In 2005, Freud held fundraising dinners for Obama at the London house he shares with wife Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of media mogul Rupert.
Such stratospheric connections will prove invaluable to the Sussexes as they branch out on their own, not least when the palace has refused to rule out the dismantling of The Royal Foundation, which masterminded initiatives such as the mental health campaign Heads Together and Harry’s inspirational Invictus Games.
Sources have said the two couples acknowledge the changes would have “implications for how they manage their charitable and philanthropic activity”. But this would also give the Sussexes the freedom to champion their own, edgier, causes. By being pushed into the margins of royal life, they will have more room to test the boundaries further than being aligned with the Cambridges would have allowed.
Without doubt, there have been tensions between the two couples, but as with most families, time apart will inevitably bring them closer, not least when Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis have a new cousin to play with.
Latham’s appointment could not have come at a better time for Harry and Meghan, as they attempt to shore up their court following a string of resignations. Last week it was announced that the duchess’s assistant private secretary, Amy Pickerill, was leaving following the departure of her personal assistant, Melissa Touabti. The couple have not even started looking for a replacement for their temporary private secretary Samantha Cohen, but the recruitment of Latham suggests that the Sussexes’ newly solo court will soon be a force to be reckoned with.
– © Telegraph Media Group