Are All the Royal Family Philanthropists?

Are All the Royal Family Philanthropists?


For all the speculation around the motivation for Harry and Meghan’s incendiary decision to step back from royal duties last year—was it the hounding tabloids? A rift between brothers? A desire to conquer Holly­wood? —the couple themselves peddled a central theme in what became known as Megxit: their desire to change the world.

At Sussex Royal, the website the couple launched in January (shortly before it was determined that they could no longer use the word royal in their branding), the most prominent page, “Supporting Community,” featured photos of a beaming Meghan with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and of Harry high-fiving kids in Botswana. It also included a scattergun list of causes the couple aimed to support, from combating HIV to empowering women and girls.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House on March 05, 2020, during their farewell tour of England before officially exiting royal life.

The Sussexes “do not plan to start a ‘foundation,’” the page stated, “but rather intend to develop a new way to effect change.” The details were fuzzy, but the implication was clear: The young couple could accomplish far more outside the confines of traditional, fusty royal philanthropy.

The rest of Harry’s family hardly seems willing to concede the point. Their recent and very public shows of civic duty can be seen as a direct response to Harry and Meghan deeming them an unworthy organization. “You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part,” the Queen said in a statement early on in the Covid-19 crisis, perhaps spying an opportunity for the firm to bounce back from its recent scandals and rifts.

In late April, William and Kate, who had beamed themselves into a school for the children of essential workers and a new emergency hospital, led the couple’s launch of Our Frontline, a union of mental health charities supporting key workers.

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Even Sophie Wessex, normally one of the less visible royals, stepped up just as Harry stepped down; the former PR executive and wife of Prince Edward has been spotted in recent months at buzzy philanthropic gatherings, and she spent much of April volunteering for a charity that has been making packed lunches for NHS workers.

The obvious rolling up of royal sleeves made Harry and Meghan’s next move seem rather uneventful. In April we learned a little more about their much-hyped plans: The couple were going to…start a foundation. Or at least the charitable organization they registered in the U.S. looked a lot like one. It would be called Archewell (“Arche,” the couple explained, is the Greek word meaning “source of action”), and its focus would be broad, to say the least, covering “emotional counseling” and “coordinating social, personal care,” among other things.

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Perhaps Harry and Meghan will soon dazzle the public with the specificity and efficacy of their plans, but for now the couple appear simply to be adding a dollop of Beverly Hills Goopishness to a tried-and-tested royal recipe. For at least two centuries the royal family has used a dizzying array of charitable pursuits—in tandem with a canny employment of PR—to add legitimacy to its reign.

 

 






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