In all the inevitable questions swirling around the fact that Prince Harry has gotten himself a new, office-bound job – has he ever used a printer before?
Does he have any concept of just how egregious it would be to microwave Meghan’s line-caught tuna leftovers at work? Does he know what level of pen pilfering is acceptable? – there is one we already have a firm answer to: What he’ll wear.
Harry has trotted out what appears to be the same grey suit with such ubiquity over the last couple of years that either he is attempting to pull off some sort of ta-da statement about gender a la Karl Stefanovic or no-one has explained online shopping to him.
If he, and wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, hadn’t inked somewhere north of $180 million worth of deals in the last 12 months, a kind-hearted soul with not much to do might nearly be inclined to start a GoFundMe page. Nearly.
But it might just be time for Harry to up his style game, or just start by grey hoodies by the pallet, because Mr Windsor is off to Silicon Valley.
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal broke the news that the 36-year-old royal had landed the (maybe?) plum job of being Chief Impact Officer for BetterUp, a billion-dollar coaching and mental health company.
Harry told the venerable business paper, “I intend to help create impact in people’s lives,” and made history as the first member of the house of Windsor to ever use ‘proactive’ without any hint of sarcasm.
Here’s the thing: After a year of the Sussexes’ ‘crossing lines’ and smashing norms, all these phrases have necessarily been deployed so many times that, as 2021 putters along, they’ve become a tad shopworn. However, that does not change the fact that this latest news – again – constitutes another instance of a Sussex trouncing expectations and norms.
Because no matter how much the BetterUp marketing team schooled Harry on selling this job as about empowering America’s white collar strivers, let’s just be bloody honest here. The Duke is not doing this out of the goodness of his heart; this is not a philanthropic endeavour or they would have told us.
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But let’s be honest about what in all likelihood lies at the heart of this move.
Cash. And lots and lots of it potentially.
(The Mirror has estimated that the gig could be worth somewhere between $900,000 and $3.6 million.)
BetterUp CEO Alexi Robichaux “declined to comment on how Prince Harry would be compensated” while speaking to the Journal. Surely if Harry had taken this role out of the goodness of his heart they would have said so, hiding one’s bushel not being the done thing anywhere west of Idaho.
Whether he’s taking a pay cheque, he has invested in the company with his own new fortune or has been given stock in the start-up (which is valued at $2.27 billion), it seems highly unlikely Harry is doing this out of the goodness of his heart and because he has a hole in his schedule between his daily reiki and his whiteboard-wielding, blue-sky-thinking ideation sessions with his horde of wide-eyed producers.
When Harry and Meghan announced first their Netflix contract last year and then, three months later, their Spotify content deal, these new shiny endeavours fit, just, under their philanthropic umbrella.
The duo, and one would guess a legion of bright-eyed producers, would churn out TV series, documentaries and podcasts which would all aim to make the world a better place.
It seemed the perfect solution to the (we’ve later learned) couple’s financial ‘woes’. As Harry recently told Oprah Winfrey during their two-hour TV interview, when he left the royal family he was cut off financially, the approximately $4 million the couple used to receive from Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall coffers annually suddenly coming to an abrupt halt.
“I’ve got all my mum left me and without that we would not be able to do this,” Harry told Oprah, with audiences no doubt nodding along at home, able to keenly relate to the stress of having to make do with only the millions of dollars that he has inherited.
So, just what was a hard scrabble Prince to do?
Thankfully, one of the couple’s quick-thinking mates came to the rescue as he explained to Oprah saying, “During COVID, the suggestion by a friend was, ‘What about streamers (content streaming)?’”
“We genuinely hadn’t thought about it before,” Meghan added and thus content history was made.
Harry and Meghan could suddenly fund their new Californian lives, including buying a $20 million Montecito estate and repaying the $4.2 million taxpayers had spent on renovating their Windsor home Frogmore Cottage, while still sleeping soundly at night knowing they were earning all that lovely coin by doing something that aligned with their values.
Their integrity would remain intact; their bank accounts, newly swollen.
However, Harry’s new tech job is not a natural progression of this.
No amount of dressing this role up in the flummery of PR speak or West Coast pep can quite hide the fact that this is not a move driven by a pure philanthropic bent.
While he has a long and truly impressive track record when it comes to advocating for mental health issues, BetterUp is a commercial endeavour whose clients include Hilton, Chevron and Salesforce.
If Harry had wanted to focus on mental wellbeing then there must be a plethora of charities absolutely gagging to get a bona fide royal on board to drum up some publicity and to help him fill in the hours.
(He need look no further than The Loveland Foundation, which helps black women and girls access therapy, and which he and Meghan chose as one of the handful of not-for-profit organisations the Archewell Foundation has chosen to support.)
For the Sussexes, a couple whose brand is all about truth, why not just be upfront about it? If there is one country in the world that would not only understand but applaud their financial chutzpah it would have to be the United States.
We get it – truly. The Sussexes like, and maybe need, cash to keep their whole operation going like every other taxpaying soul. Liking lovely money and wanting more of it does not for a second take away from their ability to effect real change and to help millions of people.
There is no shame in wanting or simply requiring money. And there is certainly no shame in toddling off to get a job to keep your family afloat.
So … why not just say so? Why keep slathering a sheen of altruism on things?
It’s hard to wonder what all of this must feel like for the Duke. For the vast majority of his life, thanks to the army and the monarchy, wherever he went he was provided with lodgings, three square meals and Wi-Fi of sufficient strength to play Grand Theft Auto. He has never wanted or had to worry about ensuring his basic needs were met.
Money seems to have never been a consideration in his life until he took the precipitous step of quitting the job his granny had given him and finding out, painfully, that actions have consequences. In this case, that meant he suddenly had to come up with the millions of dollars required to fund their family’s life and to pay for their retinue of burly security guards.
Which is how in this topsy-turvy upside down world, a man who was born third-in-line to the British throne has somehow come to embody the American Dream: A desperate soul who washed up on the nation’s shores craving safe harbour and the chance to make oodles of lovely dosh.
Historically, the intersection of the Queen’s family members and blatant commercial endeavours has been embarrassing flops.
Take Princess Anne’s son, Peter Phillips’, embarrassing 2020 ads for a Chinese milk company or his sister Zara Tindall’s backing of a COVID app which was referred to the UK advertising regulator or whatever the hell Prince Andrew has been doing all of these years.
(No one has ever satisfactorily answered how a man who was making just shy of $500,000-a-year could afford a $33 million Swiss ski chalet.)
Maybe the real lesson here is that Prince Charles shouldn’t have turned off the money spout quite so vigorously and quite so soon. Look no further than Andrew’s ex-wife and current housemate Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, for living proof of the debasing depths a former HRH in dire need of a buck can sink to.
While we me might not see Harry and Meghan on the home shopping network schilling juicers to the masses (which Fergie has done) or writing a 21st century reboot of Dieting with the Duchess (which the scandal-prone former HRH published in 1998), what the trio does have in common is need to find a way to support themselves.
When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped away last year they promised “everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty”.
Now Her Majesty is by no means above making a quick buck. In 2017, the Paradise Papers leak revealed she had millions of pounds invested offshore. As odd as it might sound, she actually needs her own money (as opposed to the Sovereign Grant cash she gets from the government to keep the Crown’s palaces humming and the royal machine chugging along.)
After all, someone has to pay to heat the 78 bathrooms at her private Scottish bolthole Balmoral.
But this is a question of degrees and this week the dial has been jolted, hard, towards the greenback.
Consider here too that, according to the UK’s The Telegraph, “it is understood that Harry is also expected to appear at corporate events” thus creating the previously unthinkable situation where, forget foosball tables and on-demand oat milk lattes, corporate America’s newest must-have could be about to become an HRH in the C-suite.
Jeff Bezos is going to be on the blower in no time. With over one million employees and the question of unionisation reaching a head, what better way to distract all those disgruntled staffers than a royal hire?
Whoever would have thought it? Harry and the business is a match made in Wall Street heaven. So long as he remembers about not microwaving fish.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years of experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.