Attentive followers of the royal soap opera have got used to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sabotaging Prince William and Kate Middleton’s big set pieces in recent years.
When William had an event for his charity Earthshot in the diary in Boston last December, for example, up popped the trailer for their new show Harry & Meghan. Meghan’s famous “Are You OK?” interview was released the same day as Kate set off for a tour of Pakistan. And just this week, minutes before William and Kate were due to lay a wreath for Queen Elizabeth II on the first anniversary of her death, an emotional-looking Harry was spotted paying tribute to his grandmother on an oh-so casual visit to her burial place in Windsor.
Well, the message from the Prince and Princess of Wales’ office Saturday was “Two can play at that game,” as William and Kate torpedoed Harry’s launch of the Invictus Games with the release of a podcast featuring them and Princess Anne.
Saturday’s Invictus launch represented the culmination of two years of work for Harry, and he duly delivered a rousing speech at the opening ceremony in Germany. Harry said: “You, and your families, are once again part of a team, surrounded by people who know what it means to serve, who have a good idea of what it’s taken to get here, who see and know you, and who respect you through a shared experience.
“This year’s Games is a Home for Respect. Think about that word for a second. Respect. What does it mean to you? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Some people may act as if respect is something veterans are asking for; that people with injuries—whether visible or invisible—have to demonstrate they are worthy of it.”
He added: “These games are not solely about medals, PBs or finishing lines—they are about overcoming any and all perceptions that have held you back, especially those you’ve placed on yourselves. Because all of this, all of us—are here because of you.
“This isn’t a gift. This isn’t a handout. This is yours. Take it.”
It was a pivotal moment for Harry, widely seen as a last chance to detoxify and relaunch his brand. And yet, just hours earlier, William and Kate released their headline-grabbing podcast of themselves, together with Anne, chatting to her son-in-law, Mike Tindall, and two other hosts, for Mike’s sports podcast, The Good, The Bad and The Rugby.
William is the patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, Kate is patron of the English version and Anne is patron of the Scottish Rugby Union, and the podcast was recorded to support the beginning of the Rugby World Cup, which is taking place in France.
To cap the resultant flood of coverage overshadowing the launch of the Invictus Games, a glowing Kate showed up on Saturday evening in Marseille at England’s first game of the tournament, wearing a stunning white Alexander McQueen suit.Thisis likely to be a very, very sweet moment for William and Kate, after several years of deliberate and public humiliation at the hands of Harry in their bitter internecine war.
In his interview, William praised the 2012 Paralympics as a “huge moment for disability sport taking off. And it’s obviously got bigger and bigger since then.” In another world, where interviews hadn’t been given and books hadn’t been written, it would have been unimaginable for William not to add, “…and it is so brilliant what my brother is doing in Germany this weekend….” But of course, interviews have been given, books have been written, and instead of warm endorsement, a slightly awkward sense of unfinished business hung in the air, albeit briefly before the laughter and backslapping resumed.
The podcast, needless to say, elicited much media coverage, despite the fact that there was little said in the interviews that was newsworthy. In large part this was because the podcast was not just an audio affair: a full, hour-long video version, with immaculate lighting and perfect sound, of the conversation was posted on YouTube. It has the fingerprints of Kate and William’s young and savvy PR team all over it.
William, Kate and Anne bantered with Tindall in the grand Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, perched on their maximal, satin sofas before an ornate Georgian fireplace with unfashionable early 19th-century portraits of royal children looming above them.
While William and Kate were reliably jolly—we learned that Kate competed barefoot in the school parents’ race, loves cold water swimming, and “seeks out” cold water in which to bathe at all times of year—it was Anne who was the real revelation.
She was, for starters, an absolute expert on the subject of sport in general and rugby in particular, but what was truly astonishing was the sense of geniality that she exuded. The famous stern Anne was nowhere to be seen.
She had a neat line in self-deprecating humor as well. Asked, for example, I connection with her son Peter, “What were you like as a touchline mum?” she shot back: “I was brilliant.”
Meanwhile, 400 miles away, Harry strode on to the stage in Dusseldorf to open the latest edition of the games for wounded servicemen he founded in 2014. “Grasp every opportunity and revel in it. Because in your joy, in your happiness, in your achievements, we all win,” he said.
The stadium cheered him to the rafters.
But tonight, William, Kate, and Anne have stolen all the headlines from him.
Touché, some in royal circles might be saying.