Free from the ribbon-cutting duties of royal life, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are on the brink of becoming a new kind of global-media power couple.
Prince Harry owes his fortune and media savvy to three famous women: his mother, the late Princess Diana, who became a global superstar; his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, who helped bring the monarchy into the 20th and 21st Centuries, and his wife, Meghan Markle, an American-born self-made former actress who had a lifestyle brand before their life-changing meeting.
The couple announced Wednesday that they will “step back” from royal life, “work to become financially independent” and split their time between the U.K. and North America. “This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born,” they wrote on their Instagram account FB, +0.79%, which has 10.2 million followers.
Netflix would give the Sussexes a platform of 158 million paid subscribers and be a coup for the streaming service.
Prince Harry is friends with former U.S. president Barack Obama, and could consider adopting the Obamas’ post-White House career model. The former president and his wife, Michelle, reportedly signed an eight-figure deal with Netflix NFLX, -0.96% to produce a slate of high-brow historical, biographical and social-justice programing with their company, Higher Ground Productions.
Netflix would give the Sussexes a platform of 158 million paid subscribers and certainly be a coup for the streaming service, which won critical praise for its series, “The Crown,” chronicling the life of Queen Elizabeth. (Netflix was not immediately available for comment.) Oprah Winfrey is also a friend of the couple and attended their 2018 wedding. They also unveiled a sleek, new website.
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Ashley Pearson, an American-born writer based in London, said their powerful political and media connections will serve them well as they embark on their new life. She sees them taking lessons from their wide circle of boldfaced names: “Their kind of lifestyle costs a fortune. However, one of the reasons they broke off from the royals is, in part, because they want to build their own brand.”
The royal couple have cut their teeth in broadcast media. In 2017, Prince Harry interviewed Barack Obama when he was the guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today program and, last year, ITV in the U.K. broadcast “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” which aired in the U.S. on ABC DIS, -0.25% Another route: The Obamas reportedly inked a book deal for more than $65 million.
‘One of the reasons they broke off from the royals is, in part, because they want to build their own brand.’
While the couple will likely gain not a small degree of freedom from the drab ribbon-cutting, handshaking daily duties of royal life in the U.K., and better shield themselves from the jaundiced coverage the couple have received at the hands of the British tabloids, their bid for financial independence is somewhat more complicated and will not require them to take up full-time jobs.
For a start, they will keep their U.K. base, Frogmore Cottage, their historic Grade II-listed house in the grounds of Frogmore House in Windsor, which was renovated for 2.4 British pounds ($3 million), a cost shouldered by the U.K. taxpayer. They will also likely to have a paid security detail. They have built a strong royal/celebrity personal brand, breaking the traditional mold of the royal family.
Achieving financial independence is a status that Markle, 38, can more legitimately claim to have achieved on her own. She has a reported net worth of $6.5 million (5 million British pounds) from her work on the USA Network legal drama “Suits.” Like many former television and film stars, Markle will likely also receive residuals from her seven seasons on that show.
Prince Harry, 35, on the other hand, inherited a sizable fortune after the death of his mother. He inherited approximately 7 million British pounds ($9.2 million) from his mother’s estate, the BBC estimated. His father’s side of the family is far richer — worth more than $88 billion, according to Forbes — including investments, properties, castles and land.
‘Harry & Meghan: An African Journey’ aired in the U.S. on ABC and was sold to several networks around the world.
To be fair, Prince Harry also reportedly earned an annual salary of $45,000 when he served as an officer in the Army Air Corps and approximately $52,000 a year while working as a helicopter pilot for the Army Air Corps, according to separate estimates by Forbes and Fortune magazines based on publicly available figures for salaries in the U.K. army.
They have a gilded cushion to fall back on. Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles — first in line to the British throne — earns nearly $23 million from the Duchy of Cornwall, a private estate with more than $1.3 billion in assets. The Duchy’s financial accounts reveal a total income for the financial year ending March 31, 2017 of 37.2 million British pounds ($48.7 million), up 2.5% on the previous year.
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Pearson said Markle struggled to adapt to royal protocol. The Sussexes will no longer be part of the “royal rota,” giving media access to royal appearances. “Much like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, and as Markle previously did with TIG, their personal brand could be worth billions and they know it.” (Forbes recently named reality TV star Kylie Jenner, 22, the youngest self-made billionaire ever.)
Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997, had reportedly long dreamed of starting a new life in the U.S.
It had been rumored the couple were contemplating a move to Canada. Markle lived there while filming “Suits,” and the couple spent Christmas and New Year’s in Canada, reportedly at a waterfront mansion on Vancouver Island. As Canada is part of the U.K. Commonwealth, it may be required to pay for security for the couple and their son, Archie, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Prince Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana — who died at 36 in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by photographers — had long battled the relentless, prying eyes of the British red tops, which dissected her every move in the years following her 1981 marriage to Prince Charles, and 1996 divorce. She had reportedly long dreamed of starting a new life in the U.S.
Markle told their ITV documentary last year that she had a difficult time adapting to life with the often critical media attention in the U.K. “I’ve really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging,” she said. “The biggest thing that I know is that I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair.”