Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

It’s axiomatic in geopolitics, in astrophysics, and even in celebrity restaurant table-hopping that when two powerful bodies are in proximity to one another, they will exercise deep gravitational pull upon each other, no matter what else is going on. So it is this Friday, as the Prince and Princess of Wales, who have engineered an intense noble-cause-based itinerary clustered around a glittering awards gala for the Earthshot prizes at which the prince will deliver the keynote, and President Joe Biden have painstakingly made room in their torrential schedules to meet in Boston.

It won’t be lost on the next king of England nor on our proudly Irish-American president that Boston was the flashpoint whose mischievous Tea Party kicked off our contentious separation from the Crown a quarter of a millennium ago. But the moment finds Biden breathing a more than a bit easier, sort of, that a predicted mid-term red tsunami did not materialize to swallow the entirety of his legislative agenda earlier in the month — while nevertheless ceding the House to the opposition.

Similarly, this slice of time finds the Prince of Wales working through an equally fraught, gravitas-laden crossroads as he and the Princess of Wales heave on more official royal duties in service to Charles and Britain in the teeth of the very moment that Prince Harry and his partners at Netflix drop his much-bruited backstage/reality-show/docu-/streaming thing about life with, and as, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Difficult as it may be to classify as an entertainment vehicle, its drop will occur in a matter of days and, from the outside anyway, it seems like Netflix is actually pinning some financial hope on it.

However that works, or doesn’t, just about four short weeks down the road from that drop will arrive the more detailed knockout punch in the form of Harry’s long-awaited as-told-to autobiography, Spare.

The reason for the December Netflix release is that Prince Harry’s main partner, Netflix boss Ted Sarandos, is under considerable pressure because the streaming giant’s numbers have, famously, been dropping. Gone are the helter-skelter days of the latter-day streaming Gold Rush, when productions were stuffed with cash and ballooned within seconds of release to become full-blown series. That entertainment landscape is no longer with us, as Meghan Markle will be shortly discovering now that her podcast series’ first season is up, and discussions of renewal, if any, will at a minimum be highly scrutinized by her Spotify bosses. At a maximum, it can suffer a litmus test of its popularity and be put under the axe.

Coming within a few weeks’ proximity, aka now, the Harry-and-Meghan streaming event effectively serves as an appetizer for the more in-depth, historically-focused memoir, and the book’s gravitas will, it’s assumed, somehow retroactively buttress the backstage “events” of the reality show. At least, out in California and in the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue — aka, Publishers’ Row — that serves as synergy.

For their part, the King of England and his close cohort Camilla, William, Kate, Edward, Sophie, Anne and Vice-Admiral Laurence are all keenly aware of that. Buckingham and Kensington Palace damage-control courtiers are braced for the double impact. Not a thing that any of them can do about it. The shells are already whistling in the air.

Thus the famous British stiff-upper-lip comes to be deployed in and around the royal palaces: Tell-alls — even tell-alls lobbing incendiaries from as hard inside as Harry was — are like the weather. There just is so much staff around the royals that tell-alls simply mass up like tropical cyclones gathering strength out over the Atlantic, whether they’re then delivered by Diana’s butler, the cook, the head bottlewasher, the dog-walker is actually immaterial. The books become part of the lore and then, oddly enough, they sort of disappear in the face of the work that the royals doggedly keep doing.

King Charles III still has his job, William has his, and when it’s his turn, George will have his. Charles, William and their spouses form the Harry-less core royals now, and theirs is to go about their business. For a couple of years now, Charles and the Queen have taken William ever more surely into the very close orbit of the monarchy’s central actions. Rather than simply being regarded as a major actor, he has become one, and he bears the role with grace and, since he is now the father of three that really keep him and his spouse running, he is not without wit. William put in his dues as a chopper pilot, flew some tough search-and-rescue in East Anglia, and now has his hands on the tiller of the real job, which is to maintain the staggeringly heavy machinery of the thousand-year-old monarchy.

This is what William is about in Boston, where he’ll take center stage in support of one of the Royal Family’s overarching philanthropic efforts, namely, climate change and the environment. Charles was early on as the royal head of literally hundreds of environmental patronages over the decades, and William has both amplified and focused that with his and the Princess of Wales’ participation in the high-bucks, star-studded Earthshot awards. Annie Lennox, Billie Eilish and her brother Fineas, Ellie Goulding, erstwhile and excellent Bond villain Rami Malek — it’s about as hot a list of philanthropic cameos as a group of Londoners could put together.

Obviously, this week’s show in America, on the East (read: more celebrated as seriously academic) Coast, as opposed to the gossamer precincts of Southern California inhabited by the future king’s younger brother. Which is not to suggest that Netflix and Spotify aren’t chock full of really smart folk, but they are very much in the entertainment business and just don’t have the medical, philosophical, social, or academic oomph of Harvard’s Center for Child Development, for instance, to name just one ivy-blanketed institution that Kate will visit later this week.

Much has been subjectively theorized in Britain, and specifically, by the coursing hounds of the royal-beat press on Fleet Street, of the supposed “feud” between the two brothers. To his credit, as he gets about his business of explaining himself, Prince Harry has attempted more recently to downplay that. The two remain brothers. However awkwardly, they have soldiered through the burials of both of their paternal grandparents. As William and Harry have both pointed out, they’re on vastly different paths. One will be king of England. The other, more commercial one, won’t. Sometimes, the difference between the two may seem complex. It is, certainly, fraught as a result of the style and tenor of Harry’s tumultous exit from the role.

But it may just be as simple as that.

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