“The Slow Fade” was an expression that came to use a few years ago online when referring to breakups. It’s basically the opposite of ghosting someone. And while I’m not saying that there’s an exact “slow fade’ happening between House Sussex and the British Royal Family, the timeline feels excruciatingly similar. This, obviously, is a complicated process and, sure, it’s not like you can just pull off the band-aid. But the way it’s playing out publicly seems like we’re witnessing their version of Marriage Story – a painful, step-by-step real-time portrait of a divorce. 

So here’s the latest – last week, the Daily Mail had the exclusive that it had been decided that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would not be able to refer to their brand as “Sussex Royal”, with the word “royal” being the point of contention. On Friday, the Sussexes updated their website, still called “Sussex Royal”, as is their Instagram account, with a thorough point-by-point breakdown of the agreement and an explanation about their transition. You can read that here

Needless to say, everyone’s now done forensics on their post and a certain narrative has emerged: Harry and Meghan, by the interpretation of royal commentators who’ve been critical of House Sussex, are seeing it as a “spiteful” attack on the Queen and the British royal family at large – basically accusing the Sussexes of petty sniping. I mean, at this point, who ISN’T being petty? 

These are the paragraphs in question: 

“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.”
Anti-Sussex translation: OfMichael and her husband, and the York princesses are getting paid, why can’t we? 

“For the above reason, the trademark applications that had been filed as protective measures and that reflected the same standard trademarking requests as done for The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been removed.” 

Anti-Sussex translation: Prince William and Catherine did the same thing and we hate them. 

“While there is not any jurisdiction by The Monarchy or Cabinet Office over the use of the word ‘Royal’ overseas, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use ‘Sussex Royal’ or any iteration of the word ‘Royal’ in any territory (either within the UK or otherwise) when the transition occurs Spring 2020.”

Anti-Sussex translation: we had every right to use the word “royal” but we won’t since you’re all being such bitches about it and f-ck you. 

It’s a royal gossip buffet. If you’re Harry and Meghan haters (and let’s face it, what you really are is a Meghan hater), this is your read too. That Harry and Meghan wanted everything served up to them the way they demanded it and who are they to dictate to this institution. 

If you are not Harry and Meghan haters, and you don’t take the Anti-Sussex read of the situation, your interpretation of your points might be that they weren’t necessarily targeting the Queen and the British royal family members in their post but attempting to address all the inaccuracies that have been reported about them in the British papers, and also the viper courtiers who’ve been feeding them – many of whom have their own agendas. 

When it was reported, for example, that Harry and Meghan had trademarked “Sussex Royal”, there was very little mention that House Cambridge had done the same, not because they wanted to put their faces on umbrellas and coasters, but because they were protecting their brand from exploitation. When it was reported that they were trying to be out here profiting and making bank, it was conveniently underreported that the Yorks did the same – and when William becomes Prince of Wales, House Sussex will in effect occupy the same standing as House York. 

As for the “jurisdiction” about the use of the word “royal”, clarification around that too has been unclear and complicated in the British press so if the Sussexes are indeed being petty (the language is definitely sharp by the standards of that circle), once again, their enemy #1 has always been the tabloids, and especially the ones they’re suing. One of the outlets they’re suing actually got it so wrong just this past weekend when they reported that Jessica Mulroney was filing trademark requests for the new Sussex foundation branding, even though the paperwork was filed to a place in North Carolina by someone completely different. That story has yet to be corrected at the time of this post. 

That said, it doesn’t mean the Sussexes don’t have ambitions. They’ve now clarified that they won’t be starting a “foundation” but exploring new ways to support their causes which is why, in part, they’ve been taking meetings at Stanford and meeting with investment banks. Partnerships and deals are still in play and, right now, the priority is to figure out the proper naming since “royal” is off the table. What’s interesting here, beyond titles and salutations and semantics is a question of… competition. 

Look at this from the perspective of the pitch. Let’s say XYZ company has dedicated 10% of their budget for charitable contribution. Every charitable foundation and academic institution then goes in to pitch, right? I used to work in fund development for both The University of British Columbia and Covenant House Vancouver and part of my job was to prepare our organisational leadership to go into meetings to secure major donations. It’s not that we talked about it competitively – ie. The University of Toronto is our competition! Or the Union Gospel Mission is our competition! – but you’re aware that there are other asks out there, and you hope that your presentation in how those funds are used, and who they’ll be helping, will put your pitch over the top. 

There is so much need in the world and, unfortunately, not the same amount of opportunity (or willingness, perhaps) to address it. 

Before, when the Sussexes were part of the British royal fold, all of those asks benefited and fell under one house. Now that the Sussexes are independent, they might be presenting to the same organisations and individuals as other Houses in the British royal family. And they’re shiny and glamorous and they know how to play the game. On some level, someone behind the palace has to be considering this, non?