Shot that proves Harry and Meghan wrong
Meet Kevin James. He's 49 and is an avid Norwich City football fan. Over the weekend he, along with his friend Phil, went along to cheer on his beloved team and unwittingly waded into the royal orbit.
It just so happens that the other sports fans sitting behind him, though there to barrack for Aston Villa, were none other than the Cambridges, aka the second, third and fourth-in-line to the throne plus the beaming, effervescent Duchess of Cambridge.
Imagine Kevin's surprise to see the family cheerfully take in the match in a shockingly low-key fashion, simply slipping in and out of their seats just before the crowds did at halftime and the final whistle.
So unobtrusive was their presence that Kevin told his local paper that it was hard to tell which of their extended group were simply mates and which were protection officers.
Hey .. Self Care Saturday..Out at Carrow Road .. Not The Best game of Football I've Seen @ Carrow Road as Norwich loose To villa 5-1 .. Who's That behind me though ?? pic.twitter.com/ECtXrjDUbs— Co•Production Norfolk (@CoProNorfolk) October 5, 2019
It was all very easygoing and publicity catnip: Senior members of the royal family out and about, surrounded by the Queen's subjects AND with zero fanfare? Could you possibly conjure a more beguiling image of modern day royalty?
All of which stands in direct contrast to Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's approach to their public life. In the last week, the couple has essentially declared war on the British press, launching two legal broadsides targeting Fleet Street behemoths, with Harry penning an extraordinary and emotional statement about what he perceived as the bullying behaviour of the media.
(There was also the drama that happened in Angola when a Sky News reporter had the temerity to ask the Duke a question about his work in the former war-torn country. His dismissive reply made headlines around the world.)
Let's not forget Meghan's controversial Wimbledon outing in July with her bodyguard telling fans that she was there in a private capacity and insisting they not take selfies (which no one was even trying to do, as it turns out).
The fact that 40-odd seats were left empty around Meghan, whether at the organisers' behest or the Duchess' is unknown, only made her approach to the being out surrounded by Her Majesty's citizens even more antagonistic. (As opposed to Kevin's shots - Kate and Wills barely seem to care a jot that a bushy-bearded stranger is taking their photo.)
The wariness with which the couple has approached their time in public perhaps reached its zenith when they refused to reveal any of baby Archie's godparents. (Tell me this: Have the press ever relentlessly pursued George, Charlotte or Louis' godparents? In fact, most people would be hard-pressed to even name any of the aristocratic chums corralled to take responsibility for the wee royals' spiritual wellbeing.)
Essentially, the dynamic between the Sussexes' and outside world has largely been an antagonistic and suspicious one. It is not hard to take the view that they seem to perceive every jaunt beyond their front gates as if they are entering hostile, foreign territory.
The question that they and we have struggled to answer is, just how much of their lives should they be expected to share? On one hand, they enjoy wildly privileged lives, essentially funded by the British population. On the other, they are quite a few rungs down the royal ladder meaning that aside from some terrible disaster, there is no chance that Harry will ever assume the throne, therefore they are entitled to live lives without too much nosy intrusion.
However, what Kevin James and his selfies have proven is that it is not a binary decision. They don't have to either hole up in Frogmore Cottage and conduct their family life under the sort of security blackout normally associated with the witness protection program. Nor do they have to demeaningly bare every facet of their life to a fascinated nation.
Instead what Wills and Kate (and Kevin) have astutely demonstrated this weekend is that there is a middle path. That is of acceptance and the underlying notion of respect. They acknowledge the intense interest in their family by sharing snippets and the public in turn is largely respectful.
Consider this: Kate goes to the supermarket and does the shop regularly. Both parents do the school run. George and Kate have tennis lessons and play dates with school friends. They must also do things like go to the dentist, buy new shoes and in Kate's case, enjoy an occasional manicure slash intensive stress-busting facial. Yet, has anyone ever sold a surreptitious iPhone shot to a tabloid of Kate waiting to get a Brazilian? Has a tennis devotee ever dished on how bored Kate looks (I'm guessing) while her kids butcher their backhand?
That's because Kate and Wills' approach seems to be that they place trust in the public to do the right thing and mostly leave them alone when they are not 'on duty'.
This approach has thus far proven to be wildly successful, allowing the Cambridges' the maximum amount of privacy and normalcy they could hope for given the exceptional position they hold.
Harry and Meghan, their beef with the media aside, should try being even a small bit less mistrustful and hostile towards the (non-press) world beyond the Frogmore Cottage hedge. There is every chance it will allow them to enjoy a far more normal life with Archie and who knows? I reckon he would love to go to a football match in a few years.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and freelance writer with 15 years' experience who has written for some of Australia's best print and digital media brands.