The Queen had been back from her Balmoral summer escape for only 10 days when the latest royal crisis erupted.

Last week, the world learnt that Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, had allowed a camera crew to follow them on their recent tour of South Africa.

Not only did it film them hard at work, winning hearts and charming crowds, it turned out they had decided to use the shoot for an outpouring of their personal anguish. After a year of traumatic, headline-grabbing mishaps and skirmishes with the media they were putting everything on the table.

Meghan in the An African Journey documentary.
Meghan in the An African Journey documentary.

It always promised to be explosive stuff but when the actual interviews with both Harry and Meghan aired, it was the media equivalent of a nuclear detonation.


Since the documentary was broadcast in the UK two days ago, (it airs on Labour Day Monday on TVNZ) headlines and front pages have been dominated by the jaw-dropping home truths the couple offered up, from Harry admitting to a rift with his brother Prince William to revealing "every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back" (to his mother's death).

And Meghan was dropping her own truth bombs, saying they are "existing not living" and confessing "I'm not OK".

You would have to be a psychopath or have had your heart surgically excised not to feel deeply for the couple. They are clearly tired and emotional, bruised and suffering, their mental health buckling.

But the doco raises more questions than it answers, specifically, where the heck do they go from here? Host Tom Bradby says at the end: "If taking it one day at a time does not prove enough? If this is existing not living? What then?"

And therein lies the conundrum that must surely be furrowing brows from Windsor Castle to Clarence House this week. This is a royal existential crisis the likes of which the Queen and the so-called Men in Grey who surround her have not had to contend with for decades. (Keep in mind that Harry and Meghan's office is housed in Buckingham Palace.)

What happens to two full-time working members of the royal family when it becomes apparent that being full-time working members of the royal family is taking such an extreme toll?

All of which puts the Queen & Co. in a dangerous position.

Harry speaks in the doco.
Harry speaks in the doco.

How can the royal edifice be suitably sympathetic and caring to the Sussexes while also ensuring they fulfil their responsibilities as working royals?


How to balance the Sussexes' drive to make a difference while also protecting them from the battering, buffering external forces that have been a constant in royal life for decades?

How to care for two human beings while also ensuring this situation doesn't divert all attention away from the rest of the royal family's dull but essential daily graft? (Those Scout halls and oncology units won't open themselves.)

While there is huge sympathy for Harry and Meghan's plight, Palace officials must surely also be cognisant of the constant need to prove that the royal family is a worthwhile investment from a public standpoint.

Part of the issue lies in the Sussexes' impressive work ethic. They might be taking a six-week break but they are showing no signs of ditching their day jobs to loll about at Frogmore Cottage creating vision boards or WhatsApping the Obamas.

To their immense credit, they have a global platform and are resolutely intent on using it.

But this scenario is akin to an injured football player wanting to go back out onto the pitch and hoping that no one will tackle them too hard and shatter any more bones.

Because while Harry and Meghan might have thrown down the gauntlet in regards to some quarters of the media after launching legal action against three UK newspapers earlier this month, it would be naive to think that much is going to change in the future. Tabloids and broadsheets of all stripes aren't suddenly going to pivot to non-stop rave reviews and a steady stream of plaudits.

Queen Elizabeth II and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are all smiles. Photo / Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are all smiles. Photo / Getty Images

The royal family has far more in common with the Kennedys than the Kardashians. They fill a political role and with that comes a level of scrutiny most of us would recoil from.

The personal cost of that level of public glare is nothing short of terrifying. There is a reason that Harry's two serious girlfriends prior to Meghan, Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas, baulked at the chance to be a bona fide HRH.

The headache for the Queen now is how to help the Sussexes forge a role in the royal family that meets their obligations while not letting them be sacrificed in the name of the greater royal good?

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive to attend the WellChild Awards Ceremony in London. Photo / AP
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive to attend the WellChild Awards Ceremony in London. Photo / AP

While there is global respect for their bravery in coming forward with their personal battles, Harry and Meghan crucially also need their work to generate respect from the British (and Commonwealth) public because that is the currency the royal family needs to survive.

The only thing that seems to be safe to say is that everyone from the Queen to royal flunkeys and mandarins to Harry and Meghan are now in uncharted territory. This is nearly an impossible situation and the solution most likely lies in some new, entirely novel royal modus operandi.

When Diana, Princess of Wales, separated from Prince Charles in 1992, she forged a new role for herself as a sort of de facto member of the royal family bearing less privilege but less responsibility. Three decades later, her son, for better or worse, is following in her footsteps.