Just for a glorious second, imagine the possibilities. A $114 candle called ‘This Smells Like Buckingham Palace.’ A $417 curated selection of crystals to rid you of negative in-law energy. The perfect cashmere wrap for when the private jet gets a bit chilly.
In case you weren’t aware, in case other news like the US banking system teetering on the brink has distracted you, there are reports of a development out of Montecito.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex’s shuttered, pre-royal life blog The Tig is BACK! Or at least it could be, maybe, kinda, and she reportedly has Gwyneth Paltrow’s $375 million Goop empire in her sights. See, the New York Postreported it saw paperwork filed by the former actress with the US Patent and Trademark office to reboot the website, while across the pond the Mirror is saying it could be back up and running as early as next week. Major win for crystal fans everywhere.
This patent office document could mean two things: that Meghan is currently putting the finishing touches on her artisanal WordPress template, on the cusp of a digital land grab to sell overpriced vitamins to Lululemon-loving 40-somethings, or she simply has a canny lawyer wanting to ensure she retains control of the site and no enterprising sorts can get their mitts on it to sell Sussex merch.
However, if the 41-year-old is about to go down the path of taking on Paltrow’s empire of vagina eggs and aromatherapy essentials, it would be a huge mistake, one nearly as bad as that time La Paltrow starred in the egregious Shallow Hal.
We all know the score when it comes to Meghan and her husband Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. In January 2020, they decided they’d had enough of being pestered to open the Chelsea Flower Show and tormented by Fleet Street hacks every time they borrowed Uncle Elton’s private jet for a couple of days of sun and Sancerre. Instead, they were going to carve out “a progressive new role”, a new role that it subsequently turned out the late Queen had not signed off on.
Suddenly Harry and Meghan were just two titled sorts with a clutch of random letters tacked onto their names and with all the official status of Zayn from One Direction, meaning they lost their government protection team and the right to use the diplomatic lane at Heathrow. (OK, the last one is just a guess.)
And thus our two brave heroes were left with large axes to grind and a new mortgage to pay and so entered Netflix, Spotify and Penguin Random House.
Unfortunately, their professional stars have not exactly continued on the same stratospheric trajectory as back when they were inking those deals. Yes, both their Netflix series and his memoir Sparebroke huge records, thus ensuring in-house publicity teams could put out press releases trumpeting their success. But the issue with these is that they were both one-offs.
Today, Harry and Meghan are in quite the tight spot. They need to keep the dollars rolling in, however their aggrieved tales of royal woe seem unlikely to keep cutting the audience mustard.
The appetite in the United States for the Sussexes’ unique brand of often tin-eared, self-indulgent windbaggery would seem to have largely evaporated and the public fascination with watching a couple of real life royals bagging out the whole crown and dice having long since fizzled.
We get it: there were no hugs; Kate, the Princess of Wales never invited her sister-in-law around for a bonding vat of pinot grigio; and Meghan only realised too late that being a duchess meant being regularly told ‘no’ by ramrod straight ex-army courtiers, while living in a free house in grey Windsor. We’re a long way from Soho House, Toto.
However it’s a story the World has heard again and again and to paraphrase Marx, the first time, it sounded like a tragedy, the second time a farce.
It’s understandable that Meghan might want to revive The Tig: it would give her a platform to write mediocre essays about joy or the power of ‘yes’ or whatever twaddle occurs to her during her morning Qi Gong. More importantly, it could give the duchess the chance to make positively squillions.
A whole bevy of Hollywood actresses have pivoted from red carpet walking and turning down roles in the next Transformers to being highly successful lifestyle entrepreneurs. Leading the pack is Gwyneth and her jade vagina eggs but there is also Jessica Alba’s Nasdaq listed Honest Company, which is worth nearly $260 million, while Kate Hudson’s Fabletics reportedly generates $750 million in revenue a year.
However, if the Duchess of Sussex did decide to follow in their footsteps, flogging candles, sports bras and ‘clean’ baby products, it would be a very serious miscalculation on her part.
If she needs proof, look no further than her aunt-in-law Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, a woman who has had her hands in so many pies she would give Martha Stewart a serious run for her money.
Like Harry and Meghan, after finding herself on the outs with the royal family and in need of a large wodge of readies, off she trotted to America, a plan that worked for a bit. However her grasping, slap-her-name-on-anything approach has clearly backfired, her stock dropping with every new sponsorship deal and transparent cash grab.
Now, Fergie always seems to be about one step away from selling dodgy slimming teas on Instagram. In the past 25 years, her production company went bust, her two reality shows – Finding Sarah and The Duchess on the Estate – must have made the late Queen’s toes curl and Prince Philip chuck his empty lager tin at the tele.
Her Duchess Discoveries wellness website quietly disappeared, she turned up on the American home shopping network selling a juicer, has co-written two Mills & Boon books, has slapped her name on dozens of kids books. In 2020 she launched The Duchess Collection of over priced teas and biscuits, with an unspecified portion of proceeds going to her charity, and only a Gmail address on the website.
While there is something nearly impressive about her industrious wrenching of every last cent of income out of her royal association, clearly these days she is largely something of a punchline. (Guilty as charged.)
This is the future that Harry and Meghan are staring down if they don’t start to get much more choosy and careful. Already, aside from their content deals, they have also signed on to the Harry Walker speakers bureau, become “impact partners” and investors with Wall Street firm Ethic while he is the Chief Impact Officer for a coaching platform called BetterUp and she has invested in a vegan oat latte brand.
Every time they add another deal to their roster they spread themselves just that much thinner and dilute their brand just a skerrick more.
Keep in mind, all of that is before we even get into their humanitarian work and the highly ambitious collection of pressing modern issues, like the climate crisis, gender and racial inequality, access paid parental leave, and disinformation they have decided to fix and all that speculation that Meghan might harbour political aspirations.
Their MO seems to be everything, everywhere, all at once (and hopefully someone’s paying).
Except, running helter skelter from cause to book to TV show to speech to Harry having to learn how to refill the office toner is starting to make them look suspiciously like they are desperate. Desperate to not only cement their places in the American corporate, philanthropic and celebrity landscapes but to also, like Fergie, milk every last dollar they can out of their brand.
So if Meghan was to relaunch The Tig as a lifestyle website a la Gwyneth, that energetically promotes vegan tampons and $800 blenders, it might generate some cash in the short term, but it would be to their ultimate detriment.
Part of the issue here would seem to be they want to be both respected leaders on the humanitarian front and to also be pulling in millions. But I don’t think it’s possible for Meghan to embrace her inner Jeff Bezos while also wearing her halo.
Or to put it another way, you can’t save the World one speech at a time while also spruiking $172 sage smudging sticks. (You don’t see Michelle Obama selling instant smoothie kits now do you?)
Given they are looking down the barrel of decades and decades of having to pay their own bills in the US, they need a longer term strategy that protects their royal stardust from being eroded like Fergie’s was, and which in turn saw her commercial value slump.
What the Sussexes so badly need to do right now is regroup and change their brand from an attention-seeking two-person grievance machine into something more positive and representative of the public psyche. Not only might Americans start to actually like them – currently they are both sitting on record low net approval ratings and Queen Camilla is liked more in the US – but it would help safeguard their financial future.
Also, does the World really need another slim, beautiful woman selling overpriced active wear or hand carved cheese boards or some pastel nonsense that realigns your chakras?
I know what Marx would say.
Broadly speaking, Harry and Meghan are now facing the choice between dollars and sense. (Yes, yes, that might be my worst pun yet.) Who knows, Gwyneth probably sells a $8700 crystal ball that could help them see the right path …
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
Originally published at www.news.com.au