It was reported a couple of days ago that the British senior royals have hired new staff – specifically communications staff. Which is interesting because for the last few weeks, much of my posts about them have been about their piss poor comms strategy and their need for effective crisis management because the way they’ve been going about it is not it.
“The Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have appointed two NHS spin doctors to oversee their communications. Simon Enright, currently director of communications at the NHS and formerly the deputy editor of BBC Newsnight, will be joining Clarence House to take charge of Charles’ public relations. Meanwhile, Victoria O’Byrne, director of communications for NHS Test and Trace, will be joining Kensington Palace to work with William and Kate.
Both are expected to start in May.
They are tasked with repairing the reputation of the royal family after the shocking allegations made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this month.”
It’s one thing to hire crisis management professionals, it’s another matter entirely whether or not the British royals and their courtiers will heed their recommendations. These are people who’ve been slow as f-ck to evolve, who been resistant to it, who have insisted on maintaining the status quo. If these experts who’ve been brought on to “repair the reputation” are good at their jobs, they’ll be making suggestions that might take the British royals out of their comfort zone. Or they’ll have their suggestions shut down – as in they won’t be given the opportunity to actually do the job they’ve been hired to do. Unless, you know, Charles, William, and Kate are committed to the changes.
Simon Enright and Victoria O’Byrne don’t start until May but over the last week or so, there’s been a lot of activity in service of House Cambridge’s image rehab. Kate was on the cover of the Sunday Mirror using a photo of her at a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, the woman killed earlier this month while walking home from a friend’s. Apparently Kate wrote a letter to Sarah Everard’s family, sharing that she knows what it’s like to be a woman out alone at night. The palace has not confirmed that Kate sent the letter but the story had to get out there somehow.
And from a PR perspective, it’s understandable for them to want this to be made public. Of course Kate would want people to know that she’s in solidarity, that she supports a woman’s human right to be free from violence, that she is actively coming out against gender-based violence. If we’re talking about palace PR though, specifically in favour of Kate, Buzzfeed’s Ellie Hall wrote last week about the difference in how the palace defended Kate and didn’t defend Meghan Markle when the Sussexes were still working royals.
Ellie does a great job, it’s a thorough deep dive, and it underscores what Meghan told Oprah during the Television Event of the Year:
“Not only was I not being protected, but they were willing to lie to protect other members of the family,” she said. “They weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband. ... They knew it wasn’t true. And I thought, Well, if they’re not going to kill things like that, then what are we going to do?”
If you are predisposed to be pro-Kate (and I’m not saying I am, I just know that there are those of you who are), the most generous assessment for how this has gone down, with so much effort being directed in favour of Kate over Meghan, to Meghan – and also Harry’s – detriment, it’s also worth noting that it may also not be great for Kate. Whatever these courtiers and the palace bosses are deciding in how Kate is positioned, how does it really enhance her overall image? Sure, there are people who want to perpetuate the Kate vs Meghan narrative and choose Kate’s side, but in the long run, I’m not sure it helps her.
Because there are some who are now looking at Kate as the girl who’d let another girl get thrown under the bus and not say anything. In her interview with Oprah, Meghan referred to Kate as a “good person”, she talked about how quickly Kate apologised to her and sent her flowers. But at some point, when it was reported that it was Meghan who made Kate cry, and not the other way around (and you’ll note, the royals have come out hard in the weeks since the Television Event of the Year with all kinds of rationalisations and justifications and counterpoints but they haven’t been able to outright deny the “how dark will Archie be” allegations or the “Kate was the one who made Meghan cry and sent flowers to apologise” stories), the palace did not move to correct it.
What if Kate wanted to correct it? Again, if we are to take a generous read of Kate’s character, and if she’s not the girl who’d want to pit one woman against the other, it’s possible that she wasn’t happy with how that sh-t was handled, or not handled, either. And if that’s the case, then she’s being held back from sticking up for another woman by the institution…which then means that she’s being silenced, that her feminism is being curtailed. And if that’s a directive from the British royal family, aren’t they actually doing her a disservice? IF, that is, how it really is behind the scenes, and I know that’s a big IF because there are those who do not believe that Kate is an ally, but IF she wants to be an ally, IF she actually doesn’t want to be in a Team Kate or Team Meghan situation, and is held back by the institution, then this increasingly archaic family business is also being shortsighted about how they’re branding their future queen.