Queen’s masterful Meghan power move


Sun Tzu wrote, "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting," and I'm starting to wonder if the Queen might be a fan of the 6th century BC Chinese military tactician.

She might look like a diminutive grandmother who keeps boiled sweets in her handbag; a benign pastel-coloured presence; innocuous, powdered and a living, adored regal relic.

Think. Again.

There have been two royal stories which have dominated all Windsor-related coverage for the last two years: Prince Andrew's self-immolation thanks to his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and the Sussexes' increasingly strained, gloomy existence inside the royal family.

The first issue is one that remains a festering thorn in the side of the royal family with their usual bulwark of stern denials and blunt refusal to comment doing nothing to dull the global anger and focus on Andrew.

The second issue is one that on some level came to a nearly universally lamentable denouement when Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their plans to step down as senior working members of the royal family. Fast forward several months and they are ensconced in a $27 million faux-Tuscan mansion that has 12 bathrooms and dearth of privacy.

Except, the Sussexes' flight to the American west coast does not necessarily spell the cessation of hostilities with team Windsor back in Old Blighty. Earlier this month it was announced that two journalists who are close and sympathetic to Harry and Meghan have penned a biography of the couple called Finding Freedom: Harry And Meghan And The Making Of A Modern Royal Family.


The title of this new book – due out later this year – got royal backs up. Picture: Supplied
The title of this new book – due out later this year – got royal backs up. Picture: Supplied

Since news of the book's existence emerged earlier this month, there has been speculation about whether Harry and Meghan themselves were involved. While early reports alleged they had given the authors an interview, a spokesman for the couple subsequently denied to The Times they had participated with the book however were "relaxed" about the writers' "access to people 'close to them'".

News of the book's title immediately raised tweedy hackles, with its seeming insinuation that the couple had been trapped in some sort of wretched existence. Comparisons were also inevitably drawn between this book and Andrew Morton's 1992 Diana: Her True Story.

When Morton's book hit shelves, after several juicy titbits had been excerpted in the Sunday Times, it had a seismic impact. While the Princess of Wales' misery in her marriage was blatantly obvious (the famous photo of her forlornly posing in front of the Taj Mahal had only come out five months earlier) this was the equivalent of a nuclear bomb landing on the Buckingham Palace lawn. Diana's suicide attempts, bulimia and Charles' infidelity were all laid out in gobsmacking, excruciating detail.

While Diana vociferously denied her involvement (she was only officially "outed" as having been Morton's source after her death) the unvarnished, brutal picture she painted of life behind palace gates ricocheted from Fleet Street to Kensington Palace to Westminster.

The book's publication was a throwing down of the gauntlet so provocative that within months Prime Minister John Major would stand up in parliament and announce Charles and Diana's historic separation.

This is the precedent that Scobie and Durand's book will now be judged against when it comes to "bombshell" status.


Anticipation and interest in the book has been building and a recent Daily Mail report quotes a friend saying: "(Meghan) said the book will finally set the record straight and show the world why they were left with no other choice than to leave the royal life."

The underlying message that was getting louder and louder was clear - royal courtiers should be starting to get hot under their Savile Row collars.

Not so fast.

This week the UK's Sunday Times ran a story which was tantamount to pouring cold water over the rising heat surrounding the title.

A senior palace source told the newspaper: "The rest of the royal family will not be telling their side of the story. They feel that in this new world, people are more interested in seeing the family support frontline workers than reading about their internal politics," the senior palace source said.

"It was a soap opera. Everyone knows the narrative that's coming. The feeling is that drama and everything that comes with it has left. Let the rest of the royal family get on with it.

"It's just not a hot topic of conversation in the family. They have had so many books written about them that have lobbed some hefty bombs over the sides. They're used to it."

Translation: Buckingham Palace is cool as a cucumber.

The thing to keep in mind here is that palace insiders don't go around whispering sweet nothings to journalists whenever they are bored with figuring out the Beefeaters' work roster and feeding the dorgis. Titbits fed to the media are done so strategically.

It's hard not to wonder if this is the so-called Grey Men of the palace getting out in front of Finding Freedom, the message being, "Nothing to see here, let's all move and please do visit the gift shop on the way out."


Rather than engage in any tit-for-tat media volleys, this is the royal family cleverly positioning themselves above the plebeian, tabloid fray.

Factor in too the canny lowering of expectations and implication that Finding Freedom might be something of a damp squib and you have some impressive publicity jiu jitsu right here.

Because while the Queen might be inching ever closer to hitting a century and still uses a rotary phone to chat to the Prime Minister of the day (What?), do not mistake her Luddite status with the palace's familiarity with the very modern art of PR.

Finding Freedom will not hit shelves until August 11 but luckily Sun Tzu's The Art Of War is readily available on both sides of the Atlantic already.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.

Harry and Meghan left the royal family in March. Picture: Paul Edwards – Pool/Getty Images
Harry and Meghan left the royal family in March. Picture: Paul Edwards – Pool/Getty Images