For a seasoned Hollywood actress, the Duchess of Sussex is not much good at PR. If the revelations in Finding Freedom, the new book about Harry and Meghan, are to be believed – and there's every indication the Sussexes helped the authors – she has been her own PR woman before. The book alleges that, before her marriage, she set up "a paparazzi photo here and there" to boost her career.
Well, this semi-authorised book has done quite the opposite. It has put a bomb under relations between the Sussexes and the royal family. And it has torched the Sussexes' bridges with the press. Contrary to what the book says about Meghan's reception in Britain, the media were overwhelmingly on her side when she first came on the scene.
Both Harry and Meghan have a one-sided view of public relations: that it's fine when newspapers and magazines write nice things about them and that it's OK for them to pump out positive news about themselves via social media. But, when the press are rude, then they bleat that their privacy is being invaded.
They have a one-sided view about royal attachments, too: that they should be allowed to withdraw from royal life, yet maintain their (now-withdrawn) own Sussex Royal brand. But royal life isn't a pick 'n' mix selection, you can't do all the fun stuff and get all the toys without doing some of the boring things and losing some of your privacy.
When the Sussexes were still carrying out official duties, it now turns out, according to Finding Freedom, that they also wanted to have their cake and eat it. They were allegedly aggrieved when they weren't given the deference accorded to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at this year's Commonwealth Service in Westminster Abbey. But at the same time they allegedly attacked the courtiers whose job it is to run the royal family in such a way that deference is maintained and all the minutiae of royal etiquette are observed. If you want to be royal, you have to accept the number one rule: the order of succession. Granny first; Dad next; then big brother.
If only Harry had asked Granny about PR when he had his long chat at Sandringham with the Queen on ending his official duties. In her 68 years on the throne, the Queen has mastered the art of being royal: never explain; never complain; never give interviews; and never go to court, as the Duchess of Sussex is currently doing.
The Queen embodies what the Victorian constitutionalist Walter Bagehot said of royalty: "Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic." Because the Queen has never given an interview, she retains mystery and magic. Because the Sussexes constantly air their hurt feelings – as in this new book – their mystery and magic are leaking away by the second.
If they'd stayed quiet, we could still imagine them as the modern embodiment of the beautiful prince and princess with their otherworldly thoughts on a higher plane. The moment they open their mouths, talk to an author or go to court, they reveal themselves as what they are: an actress with thoughts straight out of the Hallmark Greeting Cards School of Emotion; and a not very bright, unemployed man sitting in a McMansion in LA in a bobble hat.
If the Sussexes really wanted to withdraw from public life, they could do just that: no public speaking deals; no film work; no royal brands. Plenty of royals have done it: just look at Lord Nicholas Windsor, the Duke of Kent's youngest son, who turned 50 on Saturday with no mention in the press except in the birthdays column.
If a royal does dare to dance with the press, it's a tricky manoeuvre. Diana, Princess of Wales, was a master at it, carefully leaking quotes to Andrew Morton's 1992 tome Diana: Her True Story and batting those fluttering eyelashes at Martin Bashir on the BBC in 1995.
Because Diana was so deft at PR, she could use the media to bring the country over to her side against the royal family. Tragically, her son and daughter-in-law are having the reverse effect.