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Sussex, Inc: How Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Could Become For-Profit

Photo: Instagram/@sussexroyal

On June 21, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex filed the trademark for “Sussex Royal the Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” with the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office. They secured rights to printed matters like books, magazines, and newspapers. They secured rights to charities and fundraising. They secured rights to clothing. So much clothing—footwear, headgear, dresses, pajamas, suits, sweatshirts, hooded tops, hats, bandanas, headbands, socks, scarves, gloves, sportswear, and anoraks (that’s a jacket without a full zipper).

When the filing became public in December, it didn’t attract much attention. News had already broken back in March that Harry and Meghan were splitting their household from William and Kate, after previously operating as a joint enterprise. And on June 20, the couple announced they were starting their own foundation. So trademarking “Sussex Royal” was an essential business move. Not, necessarily, because they wanted to sell Sussex Royal anoraks—but so no one else could.

But on January 8 came the bombshell: “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent,” the Sussexes announced to the world. The royals would resign as full-time public servants, meaning the sale of those anoraks would suddenly be on the table. (Although perhaps only in the U.K.—four days after the announcement, a Quebec-based company filed a trademark for “Sussex Royal” clothing items as well as alcoholic and alcoholic-free beverages in Canada.)

Which, fine. Anoraks are likely low on their money-making list, anyhow. But the question remains: how, exactly, do the Sussexes plan to earn a living. It’s a point of much contention, confusion, and speculation because no one else in House Windsor has really figured it out. King Edward VIII—the last person to “quit” the royal family—eked out an income by writing books and receiving payments from his brother. He tried to get a public-sector job back in England, but failed (because (a) having a former king and a current king in the same country could likely cause disorder, the government figured, and (b) his Nazi ties were said to be problematic). Meanwhile, a private-industry gig was at odds with the monarchy’s image.

The queen’s son, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, have struggled to balance their professional and royal roles: Edward’s production company shuttered after being plagued with conflict-of-interest accusations. Sophie’s public relations firm received similar criticism, especially after a News of the World sting exposed such a scandal and got the countess on tape making critical comments about Tony Blair, Gordon Blair, and Prince Charles. The queen’s grandchildren, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie have full-time jobs, but they’re non-working royals.

So what jobs can the Sussexes pursue in order to earn money while still keeping the royal family’s respect?

One frequently touted idea is the paid-speaker circuit. It’s a natural path for the high-profile, do-gooder couple, who routinely give speeches during official appearances. And a lucrative one too: Former public figure turned private citizen Barack Obama, for example, made USD 400,000 at a 2017 event, while Bill and Hillary Clinton made a combined USD 153 million in speaking fees between 2001 and 2015. Theresa Beenken, CEO of Global Speakers Agency, says the royals’ orator expertise is in high demand: “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would certainly have speaking-engagement appeal as they built a compelling platform with a popular following, and a reputation for speaking passionately about inclusion, mental health, gender equity, education, and more,” she tells Vogue.

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