If you search on YouTube, it is easy to find the two hours and ten minutes of excruciating viewing that is 1987's It's A Royal Knockout.

In a family with a long and rich vein of embarrassing missteps to choose from, this humiliating episode surely did as much damage to the reputation of the monarchy than any toe-sucking sexual escapade ever did.

The Windsor to blame for this regrettable PR debacle is Prince Edward. Then in his 20s, the wannabe TV producer had hit on the idea of presenting a jolly, modern version of the royal family by taking part in a special charity edition of the top-rating show, news.com.au reports.

Instead, the British public was treated to watching the then second-in-line to the throne (Prince Andrew) being chased by a man dressed as a huge ham.


Sadly, today, this cringe worthy outing is perhaps Prince Edward's greatest legacy. In the years since then, his dreams of working in the theatre and conquering the small screen have been dashed thanks to his ill-fated production company's financial meltdown.

These days the Queen's youngest son is a portrait in the sort of bland affability and male pattern baldness that have been trademarks of the Windsor family for generations and he is just another a big-toothed gent who rocks up to royal events in a nice tweed jacket.

Prince Edward during his visit in Auckland in 2009. Photo / NZPA
Prince Edward during his visit in Auckland in 2009. Photo / NZPA

And yet, he is the one person who could nearly immediately help the Duke and Duchess of Sussex right their ship after months of battering media coverage and roiling public sentiment.

Let me explain.

Years ago, Edward and wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex made the canny decision to not take public money to fund their lifestyle. (They do use Sovereign Grant dosh to pay for official travel and security during royal outings.)

Rather, the Wessexes' have followed in the long tradition of members of the nobility and have had to make do with vast allowances from the family coffers. For years, their house, cars, skiing holidays and vast wardrobes of tweed have all been funded by his mother's own private fortune.

And this is exactly what Harry and Meghan should do, post haste.

So much of the criticism levelled at the Sussexes over the last year has stemmed from the fact they are full-time working royals whose upkeep is paid for by the British taxpayer.


Therefore their performance as members of the royal family (and their causes and official outings) have faced legitimate levels of scrutiny.

Crudely, they are bought and paid for by the roughly 54 million UK adults who pay income tax every year. When the public don't get what they perceive as their money's worth, they complain.

Harry and Meghan clearly are intent on prosecuting their genuinely exciting agenda — especially around climate change — with gusto. However, in doing so they are trying to radically re-make what a working royal looks like.

In a country where steadfastness and stoically clinging to tradition are defining national characteristics, the Sussexes' approach has seen them face a barrage of criticism for not, basically, doing what some of the public believes they are paying them to do. (Read: Wear hats, smile sweetly and produce photogenic children.)

Consider this: If Edward suddenly decided to lobby for trans rights, a contemporary issue dramatically removed from the benign causes the Windsors take on, he would be largely inured from criticism from conservative quarters.

The hours he would spend writing speeches, crafting Instagram posts and meeting relevant community leaders would be on his own dime.

For Harry and Meghan, adopting the Wessex model is clearly what they need to do.

If they announced that they too would now be living on the Windsors' vast private fortune (as opposed to money that comes from the UK government to fund the royal family's upkeep) it would be a PR masterstroke.

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Tonight, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended the first of a two game series of the Major League Baseball #LondonSeries, in support of @WeAreInvictusGames. Tonight’s highly anticipated game between the #Yankees and #RedSox took place at London stadium, Olympic Park. The @WeAreInvictusGames, of which His Royal Highness is Founding Patron, has been selected as charity partner for the @MLB 2019 series. The Invictus Games Foundation is the international charity that oversees the development of the Invictus Games, an international adaptive multi-sport event in which wounded, injured or sick armed service personnel and veterans participate. It celebrates the power of sport in recovery and how it can help, physically or psychologically, those suffering from injuries or illness. The word ‘invictus’ means ‘unconquered’ - it embodies the fighting spirit of the competitors. As part of the partnership, the Invictus Games Foundation have a team participating in London’s #Softball60, the social softball series built for the city and targeted to introduce the sport to new audiences and demonstrate that it is an inclusive sport. On this #ArmedForcesDay, tonight’s event was also a chance for Their Royal Highnesses to shine a light on the men and women here in the UK and around the world who have sacrificed so much for their country. Discover more about the Invictus Games Foundation through the link in our bio. Photo credit: PA

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This strategy would untether them from the responsibility of meeting the expectations of a public who largely likes their monarchy nicely dressed and dependably dull.

Broadly, by turning down the millions the British masses fork out to fund the Sussexes, Harry and Meghan would be taking the ammunition out of their critics' hands in one deft move. (Don't worry, they won't be doing it tough. Aside from the $30 million Charles rakes in annually from the Duchy of Cornwall, the couple themselves are worth close to $30 million.) Announcing they were only going to take public money for official travel and security during those outings would swiftly de-claw their opponents.

It would also give them the precious moral high ground to pursue their own agenda, unbothered by the brickbats that been regularly lobbed at them.

Paying for their own day-to-day lives would leave them free to be the thrilling and interesting global ambassadors they are clearly intent on being. It would be their money and their time, and they would be free to do whatever they wanted with it.

Just so long as they never, ever, ever contemplate taking part It's A Royal Knockout 2.0.