In Depth

What has Meghan Markle done since moving to California?

Duchess strikes mega TV deal plus book and mentoring projects in past 18 months

Meghan Markle has certainly had her hands full since moving to the US in March 2020. 

After stints in Canada and Beverly Hills, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex settled in Santa Barbara and found a “permanent home” for themselves and their two young children, said Vogue. The couple reportedly paid $14.9m (£11m) for their home, which is “surrounded by megastar neighbours” including Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow, said Hello! magazine.

Now “beholden to no one but each other”, said Vogue, the couple have undertaken new financial ventures while Markle has continued to advocate for charitable causes. Most recently she’s dipped her toe into the political arena, with Politico reporting last week that senators had received “unexpected” calls from the duchess ahead of a vote that saw the reintroduction of paid medical and parental leave for US workers. 

From public speaking to writing, here’s what Markle has been up to since laying down her new roots. 

‘Non-profit empire’

“The era of Archewell is upon us,” announced Harper’s Bazaar in March. Plans for the “non-profit empire” were first shared in April 2020, and were “far more extensive” than those originally drawn up for Prince Harry and his wife under their philanthropic brand Sussex Royal, said The Telegraph. Ambitiously, Archewell aims to “unleash the power of compassion to drive systemic cultural change”, according to its website.

The charitable prong of the endeavour is the Archewell Foundation, while “creative activations” are taken care of under Archewell Audio and Productions. For months there’s been “silence” from the audio department, said Marie Claire, but there are signs it is “revving up for its grand debut” in the coming months, with a spokesperson telling the magazine that content will launch “later in 2021”. 

While his father and brother “could not have done more” to help “set the tone” at Cop26, said Sky News’ royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills, Harry and his wife have also made their own environmental commitments in the past week. The couple have announced that Archewell will reach net zero carbon emissions by the end of the decade.

Streaming stars

The Sussexes “unveiled new Hollywood careers” in September 2020 with a “megawatt Netflix deal”, said The New York Times. The “multiyear” agreement gives the couple a “global platform” through the mediums of “documentaries, docu-series, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming”. Harry took on the role of executive producer on Heart of Invictus, a behind-the-scenes docu-series of the 2020 Invictus Games, while Markle has been working on an animated series titled Pearl. 

The deal was reportedly worth between $100m (£75m) and $150m (£133m), and could see the couple “appear on camera”, though Markle herself has “no plans to return to acting”, the newspaper continued. 

But some are now calling on Harry to “tear up” the deal and “make a stand” against the portrayal of his mother in the streaming platform’s hit series The Crown, said the Daily Mail. Jemima Khan, a friend of the late Princess Diana, stepped back from her role on the programme which, she said, hadn’t handled the story “as respectfully or compassionately as she had hoped”. 

Literary undertakings

In June, Markle published her first children's book, The Bench. “Inspired by Meghan’s own family experience,” said Harper’s Bazaar, Markle explained that the story began as a poem written for her husband for Father’s Day.

The book, which has earned a middling 3.5 stars on Good Reads, consists of “a series of vignettes” featuring a father and son whose relationship “is sketched out in a series of banalities and badly constructed rhymes”, said The Critic. The story “clearly comes from the heart” and is “likely to pull at the heart strings of parents, grandparents and carers”, said The Independent. But it is “unlikely to win any literary awards”.

Christian Robinson’s “pleasant and accomplished” illustrations show a “strong and obvious resemblance to Prince Harry” in the father character, said The Critic, and The Independent described the book as “full of personal references to the Sussexes”. Even so, Markle said she hoped to depict the father-son bond “through an inclusive lens” that would resonate “with every family, no matter the makeup”.

“It’s mind-boggling how bad this book is,” said The New Statesman. But “no doubt The Bench will be a bestseller,” The Critic continued. “It is bad, of course” but “it is too inconsequential and ephemeral to merit the vitriol of a proper disembowelling”, and should instead be “regarded as a curiosity”. 

Birthday plans

As part of her 40th birthday celebrations in August, Markle “offered a gift to the world”, said Glamour magazine. Via a video starring Markle and Melissa McCarthy, the duchess announced she would be asking 40 friends to donate 40 minutes of their time to mentoring women re-entering the workforce. 

Concerned that “tens of millions” of women had left work during the pandemic, Markle wrote on the Archewell website that she believes “mentorship is one way to help women regain confidence and rebuild their economic strength”. 

Though Glamour described the campaign as a “powerful initiative”, “it was attacked from the start”, said the Mirror. Some critics said “that little could be achieved during a 40 minute session”, and that 40x40 “is more about [Markle] trying to look good”. 

Tell-all interview

“I think we will be talking about the interview for 20 years,” journalist Tina Brown told CBS News in March this year. Her comments followed the Sussexes’ “bombshell” two-hour long interview with Oprah Winfrey, which included claims that comments had been made by an unnamed member of the royal family about the colour of their son’s skin, as well as details of Markle’s treatment by the British press and lack of support from the Windsors which contributed to her having suicidal thoughts, said Sky News.

The couple drew both “praise and vitriol”, said The Guardian, and “differences of opinion were not merely transatlantic”. Piers Morgan described the interview as “an orgy of pious, self-indulgent, score-settling twaddle”, and former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore told the BBC’s Today programme the couple were “self-absorbed and irrelevant”, while Keir Starmer said the allegations made ought to be taken “very, very seriously”.

Voices of support came particularly from women of colour, who saw “the decision to raise allegations of racism and mistreatment as necessary and even heroic”, the newspaper continued. 

“Whatever you think of the couple’s revelations, in purely journalistic terms, Oprah delivered a masterpiece,” film and TV critic Caryn James said on the BBC. And “one erstwhile member of the Royal Family came out of the interview looking extraordinarily well”, said the New Yorker, referring to Princess Diana. Harry explained to Winfrey that the inheritance from his mother had helped his family after they were cut off financially from the Windsors. “Americans always liked her best,” said the magazine.

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