They are, as she famously recounted, like the conjoined palm trees on their Montecito lawn, profoundly ‘connected’.
Indeed, so much of the mythology and ‘branding’ of Harry and Meghan’s new philanthropic, post-royal life has been built on this one central image: H&M, an inseparable, intertwined unit, portraying their unique rock-solid bond as existing on a higher emotional plane than that occupied by most mere mortals.
Yet as Harry has embarked on his most significant project to date, the record-breaking, best-selling memoir Spare, he’s done it mostly solo. Meghan is nowhere to be seen. The former actress hasn’t once accompanied him on his exhaustive tour of TV studios and interviews to promote the book, despite undeniably excelling at life in the spotlight.
When one considers how nervous Harry is about public speaking — as he explains himself in Spare — and given the extraordinarily high stakes of what he had to say, on tricky subjects as wide-ranging as being physically attacked by his brother to his frost-bitten manhood, it seems unusual that his normally ever-present wife remains firmly behind the scenes.
As Harry has embarked on his most significant project to date, the record-breaking, best-selling memoir Spare, he’s done it mostly solo
Meghan is nowhere to be seen. The former actress hasn’t once accompanied him on his exhaustive tour of TV studios and interviews to promote the book
He even wrote a tribute to Meghan in Spare, saying: ‘This book would’ve been impossible, logistically, physically, emotionally, spiritually without you. Most things would be impossible without you.’ Surely, then, at this point of all points, he would need Meghan by his side?
So where is she? The couple have not been seen in public together since December 7, in New York, where they received the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award for their work on racial justice and mental health. Harry was grimacing and grinning in a lounge suit, while Meghan dazzled in white, wearing an aquamarine ring which once belonged to Princess Diana.
Some believe that Penguin Random House, Harry’s publishers, would have expected Meghan to be more visible of late, to help push the book’s sales. One senior media executive tells me: ‘What most people have concluded is that Penguin would have told her from the get go that Harry needed to be front and centre during his book tour — that it’s his journey — and that he needs to shine.
The couple have not been seen in public together since December 7, in New York
‘However, most people also know that the two of them together generates far more headlines — all famous couples do — and I cannot imagine Penguin would have wanted her to be quite this absent.’
Since they were last seen in public, of course, their six-hour long Netflix series has shown them on the small screen sitting side-by-side, linking hands, soupily and soppily inseparable.
But Meghan wasn’t present, on or off camera, during his interviews with ITV’s Tom Bradby and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. These two set-piece, sit-down chats were actually filmed in the week before Christmas in the £5,700-a-night Churchill Cottage at the San Ysidro Ranch, in Montecito, California.
We know that Meghan loves it there — it was the venue for her interview and photoshoot with Hollywood bible Variety in October. However, she wasn’t anywhere on the property when Harry poured his heart out in those two lengthy TV interviews, sources say.
Meghan wasn’t present, on or off camera, during his interviews with ITV’s Tom Bradby and CNN’s Anderson Cooper
Similarly, when Harry faced the quick wit of Stephen Colbert on The Late Show on the eve of Spare’s publication in New York, he was without his wife, who was neither there to pep him up beforehand, or to decant his experience afterwards.
Into this vacuum has emerged a wide variety of theories. The internet, as one would expect, is ablaze with unfounded, cruel and hysterical suggestions for the reasons for Meghan’s whereabouts.
Others in the mainstream media have posited ideas, too. The Daily Telegraph’s Victoria Ward suggested last weekend that ‘media-savvy Meghan was more circumspect about the concept of a memoir, and may have raised gentle concerns about whether it was the right move’.
Yet I can reveal that Meghan’s public absence is something more strategic, not borne out of vague ‘concerns’ — least of all any sort of schism in their relationship.
Indeed, they have been as together as ever in private, apparently spending the festive season — having immolated the reputations of the Royal Family — enjoying family time at Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas.
No, Meghan’s retreat from the public eye is, say well-placed sources, part of a carefully considered three-pronged PR approach to neutralise some critics — as well as to lay the ground for future lucrative projects.
Meghan’s public absence is something more strategic, not borne out of vague ‘concerns’ — least of all any sort of schism in their relationship
First and foremost, I’m told that Meghan’s absence was planned to escape the immediate problem of the poisonous narrative which surrounds them, suggesting that Harry is manipulated by his wife. The couple understandably deplore this thinking, seeing it as nothing short of unfounded misogynistic and racist trolling.
Perhaps the best way to sum up this school of thought, which is commonplace in some internet circles, is to talk about ‘The Claw’, the phrase critics of Meghan use to describe the hand she is in the habit of laying on his back, presumably to reassure him on public outings.
A friend of the couple tells me that the pair are keen to halt this toxic theorising, adding: ‘They usually leave each other to promote their own solo projects, so I don’t really see Spare as any different to, say, the podcast which Meghan did magazine covers for etc, but we didn’t really hear anything from Harry.
‘Plus, they did the Netflix series four weeks before the book came out, so that was her telling her part of the story already.’
He adds: ‘I know she’s always been supportive of Spare so I don’t believe there to be a bigger story there — certainly no “divide”.’
Another source, who knows the couple via broadcasting, suggests Meghan’s absence is part of a long-term approach to be a star in her own right. And her model for this?
Well, their theory is Harry and Meghan are following the ‘Obama playbook’ of former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. It requires them to conduct public-facing engagements separately, so the woman can burnish her own reputation and escape the shadow cast by the established male figure. This could explain why Meghan laid flowers after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on her own, while Harry laid a wreath at Pearl Harbor without her last year.
The source added: ‘Harry’s book deal does not involve Meghan. If she had been involved in promoting the book, it would have invited the usual misogynist pile-on, particularly on social media. In those circumstances, you can understand why she’s wanted to duck out.’
But will she stay silent for long?
That brings us to another part of the long-term PR plan. This one indicates that her absence on the Spare tour was in part to keep her powder dry for her own memoir. What an extraordinary — and profitable — story that promises to be.
Meghan also has projects in development with Spotify and Netflix — although the scale and finance of these remains moot.
In short: it’s worth her keeping quiet now, with an eye to her future plans. All of these will, inevitably, involve her having her say once again about how impossible she found life inside the Royal Family. It’s the story she has to tell, and the currency she has to sell.
There will, of course, be select public events which Harry and Meghan will attend together. The big focus for them as a couple this year is the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany, in September.
But the publication of Spare appears to mark a more nuanced phase for their public activities – one where they are not always seen as embodying those now notorious palm trees, and where that image of ‘The Claw’ is not available for online mockery.
Anyone who has made it to the end of Harry’s book, where he recounts what Meghan wrote in her journal after he helped at the birth of Lili, can be in no doubt of how significantly she has strengthened him. The climax of the memoir is when she tells him: ‘That was everything. That is a man. That is not a spare.’ This is the validation he says he spent a lifetime failing to get from his family.
And it’s this strength which is powering them on to win over the world — and, vitally, yet more well-paid deals — both as a powerful pair and as distinct solo personalities.