Opinion: Harry & Meghan’s transition update is grating

Opinion: Harry & Meghan’s transition update is grating

After I posted my article on the latest statement from Buckingham Palace, Prince Harry and The Duchess of Sussex‘s website was updated with more information about the exit transition. I’ve gone back and forth on whether I even want to cover this, but I think it is important to point out some of the tactics that this update is using to absolve Harry and Meghan of responsibility, and position the Royal Family and the press as the bad actors.

It would be impossible to quote the full update, and even quoting, in context, all the quotes I want to discuss would take up too much space here, so I’ve provided links to screenshots at the bottom of this article. I will reference the paragraph numbers in these screenshots throughout the article, and you can view the full quote by clicking through to the linked screenshot.

The three main topics I noticed: use of passive voice; blaming the Royal Family; fostering distrust in the press.

I find this update grating, and I think the reason is the overuse of the passive voice – it’s annoying to read in general and it doesn’t match with what they say. On the one hand, they’re saying how happy they are to share information, while on the other hand, they’re withholding information by using the passive voice. By using passive voice, Harry and Meghan are attempting to absolve themselves of the action: Sussexit was done to them, rather than them being active participants. Passive voice, in general, comes across as weak, because the subject is not taking action, and that’s what I’m picking up here, too, that Harry and Meghan are shrinking away rather than excitedly sharing news (as they claim).

We all fall prey to passive voice at times, but I don’t think Harry and Meghan using passive voice here is an accident. Mostly because this was not a quickly written email at work or something along those lines; this was no doubt checked and double checked by multiple people before going live. This was a deliberate tactic to separate themselves from causing the outcomes and terms set forth in the update.

I think it’s especially notable in which paragraphs Harry and Meghan use passive voice because it shows the topics with which they want us to know they are the most unhappy: not releasing this information sooner [1], the 12-month review [2, 6], retaining but not using “HRH” [8], no longer carrying out official royal duties [10], retaining security [11], closure of their BP office [14], and no longer using “royal” in their branding [16, 18].

I think the security one is more about not being held accountable, rather than them being unhappy, because there has been such a commotion around Harry and Meghan continuing to receive taxpayer-funded security even though they are no longer working royals.

This leads into the second topic: blaming the Royal Family. In all of these examples of passive voice, the only logical party to assume as the subject, as Harry and Meghan have shifted it away from themselves, is the Royal Family. Who barred them from releasing information sooner? The Royal Family. Who installed this 12-month review even though other royals don’t have to do that? The Royal Family. Who forced them out from doing royal duties? The Royal Family. Who took away their BP office and fired all their staff? The Royal Family.

Using the passive voice, and reiterating statements they made in January (even if they are completely false) that they wanted to continue doing royal duties while earning an income [5], which other royals get to do [6], but the Royal Family forced them to quit [7], places so much of the responsibility for Sussexit squarely on the Royal Family. This was not an accident. Harry and Meghan didn’t get everything they wanted, so they want their audience to know that it was the Royal Family who took all these things away from them. Harry and Meghan aren’t walking away, the Royal Family is pushing them out.

Which may be 100% true. But is it wrong? No. Harry and Meghan’s original plan was ridiculous and never going to happen. The Royal Family made the right calls here by separating Harry and Meghan’s proposed commercial activities from their royal roles.

The quote that stands out most to me is the reiteration that there is precedent for their original proposal: “While there is precedent for other titled members of the Royal Family to seek employment outside of the institution, for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a 12-month review period has been put in place” [6].

This is completely misleading. As they’ve made this claim multiple times now, this cannot be ignorance or simply lack of context. They are purposefully trying to drive the narrative that other royals get to have the type of situation they asked for but they can’t (again, putting all the responsibility on the Royal Family), which is entirely false. I went into greater detail here, but no other royal has the setup that Harry and Meghan asked for. The York princesses don’t represent HM in the way that Harry and Meghan did and asked to continue to do, so when they have their various jobs it is not the same situation as Harry and Meghan. Harry and Meghan continuing to report this claim as justification for their ask is misleading at best and a lie at worst.

I’ve written before on how I think their website is designed to foster distrust in the press, and that theme continues here by claiming that without their website providing details there will be misreporting [1], and that their website is the source for factual information about the Sussexes [21]. What’s sickly amusing, however, is that their website, and the reasoning they present for why Harry and Meghan should have been allowed their original terms, provides quite a bit of misleading information. Their website may be the source for information they want people to know, but that doesn’t make it factually correct or provide the whole picture. There is nothing wrong with them using their website for positive PR, but we as audience members need to be aware of that and read it as such.

I won’t speculate on other motivations behind these choices, because I have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, but I wanted to put out my opinion and the problems I had with this update. I fully understand being privately upset that they didn’t get everything they wanted, but attempting to absolve themselves of their own responsibility in the negotiation of these terms, and for Sussexit, is a mistake in my mind.

References:
  1. Sussex Royal Transition Screenshots:
    1. Paragraphs 1-6
    2. Paragraphs 7-11
    3. Paragraphs 12-16
    4. Paragraphs 17-21
  2. Sussex Royal Spring 2020 Transition.

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