Sad truth about Archie’s royal life

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On December 31 last year, Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a photo of the Duke cradling their baby son Archie. Within hours of the image being shared on social media, the $62 jacket the tiny tot was wearing had sold out.

Such is the vast, global sartorial power of one Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor, the seventh-in-line to the throne and the little boy who turns one today.

Archie’s jacket almost immediately sold out. Picture: Instagram
Archie’s jacket almost immediately sold out. Picture: Instagram

At some stage in the next 24 hours or so, his doting and equally photogenic parents will release another image or series of images of the bub and it is a given that whatever they have chosen to dress him for this particular moment will likely sell out within minutes, turning the particular brand or brands into overnight superstars.

This is the way of things when it comes to royal kids. When Prince George wore Petit Bateau overalls for his first birthday shoot, the wee denim onesie sold out pronto. When Princess Charlotte was photographed in a pink cardigan by a Spanish brand called m+h in 2015, they were immediately inundated with orders.

It is a peculiar facet of life for those little ones who are born to parents who are HRHs, that each birthday requires a series of official portraits being offered up to a slavering, adoring public.

However, this might be the only way that little Archie's life bears much resemblance to that of his Cambridge cousins. Because while he and Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis might all have a great-grandmother who is Queen and a grandfather who will be King, already in their young lives, the cousins face markedly different futures.

 

George, Charlotte and Louis will grow up cosseted by the machinery of Kensington Palace and adhering to the canonical regulations of royalty: Summers in Balmoral, Christmas at Sandringham and always, always getting together with the family to shoot defenceless birds on the Glorious 12th (or the first day of the grouse shooting season, to you and I).

Archie, by comparison, will have a much, much freer childhood and adolescence, one governed by his parents rather than the demands of a 1000-year-old institution. And yet, despite this comparative independence from tweedy rectitude, the sad thing is that Archie potentially faces a much, much harder time in the coming years and decades.

To start with, there will be an incessant, lurking presence of the paparazzi day and day out.

Currently, the Sussex family are living in Los Angeles and they seem intent on putting down roots in his mother Meghan's home city. While LA might be excellent given its ready access to avocados, vitamin D and Oprah, it is also home to some of the most voracious, tenacious photographers in the world.

While the Camrbidge kids ride their bikes in the vast public park attached to Kensington Palace, free in the knowledge that no UK newspaper or magazine will ever run images of them enjoying this simple pleasure, per the arrangement between the Palace and Fleet Street, Archie is not that lucky.

Sadly, he has yet to blow out his single, first candle and he is already a target.

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Archie, along with his mother and father, now call LA home. Picture: Toby Melville/Getty Images
Archie, along with his mother and father, now call LA home. Picture: Toby Melville/Getty Images

Having been in LA for less than six weeks, Harry and Meghan have already been caught by the paparazzi three times (as many times as they were caught in two years in London). Giles Harrison, celebrity photographer and owner of London Entertainment Group, says that now the Sussex family is in California, they will have to contend with these freelance snappers as "a daily occurrence".

This situation will only intensify as Archie gets older, meaning the family will have to run the media gauntlet to an even greater extent. "I imagine when he goes to school, there will be paps trying to get him on the school run. It'll be madness," Harrison tells news.com.au.

Already, there is a huge sum on the Sussex family's heads. Harrison believes that a good shot of the trio, once it was sold across newspapers, magazines, TV and the web, could be worth $750,000 over six months.

Then, let's talk cold, hard cash and the potential for there to be a vast chasm in the Sussex and Cambridge fortunes in the years to come. As of now, Prince Charles dolls out about the same amount of money (about $4 million each) to Princes William and Harry to pay for their families, dosh that comes from the vast Duchy of Cornwall.

When he ascends to the throne, William will become the Prince of Wales and thus the Duchy will be his. Overnight, William will be in charge of a $2 billion behemoth while Harry will have to rely on his father's continued largesse, aside from whatever private income he and Meghan are earning.

The far bigger challenge that little Archie will face, I think, is the existential crisis he will face in the years to come.

To put it bluntly, he will forever be defined by what he is not.

While he will always be a part of the royal family, he will not be royal. While he might, while Charles is on the throne, officially be a prince he will grow up without a title.

He might face hordes of fans and people trying to take his photo wherever he goes, every day of his life, but he will not be entitled to official protection.

The next three kings of the United Kingdom might be close relatives of his, but he will not get to enjoy the trappings of gilt-edged privilege.

 

Nor will he ever just be the child of an extremely famous couple like, say, Blue Ivy Carter. Instead he will be left to occupy a lonely, strange no man's land between royalty and "normal" life, never truly fitting into either.

Harry and Megan, in eschewing a title for their son, said they wanted him to have a "normal" life. While it's a completely understandable desire, it does seem woefully (and perhaps wilfully) naive on their part.

His proximity to the British throne will lend his life a certain reflected lustre and will perpetually set him apart from the hoi polloi - but that will also perpetually shadow whatever life he tries to build for himself.

No matter his achievements or talents, he will most likely be judged and defined by his name and his familial connections but will be expected to go out and find something worthwhile to do with his life.

Archie is clearly a little boy surrounded by a lot of love - and a lot of cameras and a lot of pressure in the years to come. Good luck little guy, sadly, I think you might need it.

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

Originally published as Sad truth about Archie's royal life



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