Joanna Williams, the founder of the think tank Cieo. She is the author of Women vs Feminism, Why We All Need Liberating From the Gender Wars and is a regular columnist for Spiked.
You have to hand it to the Duchess of Sussex. Despite all the problems with her immediate and extended families, she’s bravely venturing into the public arena again to serve up a woke kiddies’ book… on family life.
Ker-ching! Meghan Markle has written a children’s book, The Bench. The story of the special bond between dads and sons will hit the shelves just before Father’s Day and will, no doubt, set cash registers ringing across the globe.
I take my hat off to Meghan. She might be heavily pregnant and mum to a toddler, but she’s clearly not spending afternoons curled up on the sofa with a packet of biscuits. Not a bit of it. Her foray into authorship comes on top of Spotify podcasting, Netflix producing, coffee company investing and, of course, giving interviews, motivational speeches and overseeing the Archewell Foundation.
It seems that Meghan’s great talent is not acting but entrepreneurship. If, post-lockdown, Britain’s government is on the lookout for ways to kick-start the economy, the prime minister could do worse than get on the phone to Meghan. She’s bound to have some cracking ideas.
Meghan’s top tip for increasing cash flow is, it seems, to start with your own life. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have justified their decision to leave the royal family, and indeed the UK, as a desperate attempt to secure greater privacy, but when it comes to generating revenue, nothing can be off limits.
Take titles, for example. She may have told Oprah that, ‘the most important title I will ever have is Mom’ but the front cover of The Bench proudly declares the author to be: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Likewise, when husband Harry spoke at a recebt charity concert in LA held to help drive global Covid-19 vaccination efforts, he did so against a huge backdrop announcing ‘Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex’. If you’re serious about making money, you have to remind the world exactly who you are.
When it comes to using royal titles to capitalize on the children’s book market, other members of Harry’s family got there first. We must not forget that Sarah Ferguson, aka the Duchess of York and ex-wife of Prince Andrew, published an entire series of books based on Budgie the Little Helicopter and, later, on a doll, Little Red. And Fergie was herself following in the footsteps of her brother-in-law, Prince Charles. Harry’s father wrote The Old Man of Lochnagar in 1980.
But, with The Bench, Meghan seems to offer something far more personal than stories about a helicopter, a doll, or an old man who lives in a cave. The privacy-loving Duchess goes further in drawing upon her family life – if not for actual content then at the very least for pre-publication publicity. We already know that, later this year, we will have an updated version of the Duke and Duchess’s unauthorised, but not complained-about, biography: Finding Freedom by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand. This looks set to include behind-the-scenes details of the fallout from that Oprah interview. Nothing is spared when it comes to selling the formerly royal couple to the book-buying public.
The Bench, however, offers up something still more intimate. The story of the special bond between father and son is inspired, we are told, by the relationship between her husband, Prince Harry, and their son, Archie. And it’s surely no coincidence that one of the few pages released so far shows a red-headed dad returning home in his soldier’s uniform.
The book apparently evolved from a poem the Duchess wrote for Prince Harry to mark his first Fathers’ Day. This is a very sweet gesture, but it was also, surely, an intimate family moment and one that did not need to be subjected to either publication or media scrutiny. There is something a little odd about writing a poem for your husband one year – only to publish it the next.
Top tip number two for money making like Meghan must be to have a brass neck. After all, it takes some gall to write a book about fatherhood and families when your own personal relationships are quite so publicly complicated. As everyone knows, Meghan’s own father, Thomas Markle, did not attend her wedding and the pair appear to have been estranged ever since. Thomas Markle, much to his public disgruntlement, is yet to meet either his grandson or his son-in-law. Sadly, Harry’s relationship with his own father seems to be heading in the same direction. He took the opportunity of being interviewed by Oprah to announce that his father had stopped taking his calls and that his family “literally cut me off financially.”
Although, as Meghan has been at pains to point out, The Bench may have been inspired by Harry’s relationship with Archie, it is meant to speak to fathers and sons ‘from all walks of life.’ Indeed, she worked with illustrator Christian Robinson, “to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens.” This added dose of woke is almost enough to make me long for straightforward stories about helicopters and dolls.
Meghan and Harry do, it seems, have some important lessons for the world. Don’t let a desire for privacy get in the way of selling your most intimate experiences. Don’t let complicated family relationships stop you extolling the important bond between fathers and sons. Don’t let showing off your royal titles prevent you from preaching the importance of inclusivity. If we all follow these simple lessons then, who knows? – perhaps we will all be able to afford a Californian mansion. Ker-ching!
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