Duchess Meghan of Sussex stepped out in public Tuesday, attending a summit of global youth leaders in London amid reports that she and Prince Harry might take a family-time break from royal duties by the end of the year.
These reports in CNN, the Sunday Times, the Sun, and other media suggest the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their baby, Archie, might take off six weeks and split their time between their Windsor home in the United Kingdom and somewhere in the U.S.
The Daily Mail and the Sunday Times also reported that the family hope to spend Thanksgiving in Los Angeles with Meghan’s mother, yoga instructor Doria Ragland.
The Sussex press office at Buckingham Palace did not respond to an email seeking comment from USA TODAY.
In the meantime, until about mid-November, the couple plan to carry out a full schedule of joint and solo official engagements.
On Tuesday, Meghan appeared solo at the Royal Albert Hall to attend the opening ceremony of the One Young World Summit, a global forum bringing together 2,000 young leaders from more than 190 countries around the world.
She wore a bold purple midi dress with a short slit up the side, paired with navy blue suede shoes by Manolo Blahnik. Her long hair around her shoulders in loose waves.
The sussexroyal Instagram account featured a picture of her sitting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose party was returned to power in Monday’s general elections but in a minority government.
The summit was Meghan’s first appearance in public for a royal engagement since ITV aired a film documentary, “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” on Sunday night in the U.K. (It airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. E.T. on ABC in the U.S.)
The film, about the couple’s recently concluded 10-day tour of southern Africa, was supposed to be a positive look at a successful tour, but it has instead exacerbated the already tense relationship between Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, and the British reporters who cover them.
The film featured interviews with the two young royals, who talked in piteous terms about their struggles coping with overwhelming and often critical media coverage; about Harry’s lingering resentment of how his mother, Princess Diana, was treated by paparazzi before her 1997 death; about how he wishes they could live in Africa (but realizes it’s impossible); and about the still-close bond between himself and brother Prince William despite the “different paths” they are on.
The interview with Meghan showed her becoming teary about the bad press the couple have endured in recent months. She said she had tried and failed to acquire a traditional British “stiff upper lip.” She also regrets discounting her British pals’ warnings and her own underestimation of tabloids.
“I never thought that this (media scrutiny) would be easy, but I thought it would be fair. And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile,” she said.
Even before the film aired in the U.K. or the Africa trip concluded Oct. 2, Harry and Meghan filed separate lawsuits against three British tabloids and their parent companies for alleged mistreatment, including copyright infringement, invasion of privacy and phone hacking.
Harry also issued another extraordinary public statement defending Meghan. His first, in November 2016, condemned what he considered sexist and racist abuse in the media of his then-girlfriend (the American former actress is biracial).
The second, which accompanied his announcement of her lawsuit earlier this month, condemned “relentless” and “malicious” coverage of his wife by the British tabloids.
The British media’s hostile reaction to the lawsuits was compounded by a similar reaction to the ITV film interviews. On Monday, for instance, the Daily Mail published a story in which anonymous palace courtiers fretted that the Sussex comments in the film showed Harry and Meghan to be in a fragile state. And longtime royal correspondents and biographers, speaking on the record, condemned their participation in the documentary.
Penny Junor, who’s written multiple books about the royals, including Harry, called the special a “huge mistake” and urged Harry to change his attitude.
“My advice would be to keep his head down, and I’m afraid to say, stop whingeing (Britpeak for whining),” Junor told The Mail. “It’s beginning to sound like a bit of a whinge. That’s not the Harry that we know and love.”
So it’s not surprising reports are appearing about the couple’s wish to get away from the withering public scrutiny they lament. It is not clear how they could entirely escape even if they moved full-time to the U.S., where media interest in them is at least as high if not as hostile.
Given their distance from the throne (Harry is sixth, Archie is seventh), Harry and Meghan believe they are entitled to a degree of privacy unclaimed by Prince William (second in line) and Duchess Kate of Cambridge.
They moved to a home on the Windsor Castle estate seeking more privacy from the paparazzi. They kept some details of Archie’s birth and christening secret. They switched their press operation from Kensington Palace to Buckingham Palace, and split off from the young royals’ charity foundation to start their own foundation.
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