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Many GB News viewers will have been deeply disappointed that Mark Steyn has left GB News over the channel’s alleged attempts to make him liable for any Ofcom fines resulting from his show for talking about coronavirus vaccines.

Yesterday’s post discusses that and has a variety of Mark’s output for the channel, with plenty on people who suffered adverse effects from said vaccines.

Today’s post continues with more content from his excellent show.

Don’t mention the vaccines (continued)

I covered a lot of Steyn’s segments on the coronavirus vaccines yesterday.

Here are others I had bookmarked.

On June 16, 2022, Steyn rightly took issue with a Scottish Parliament member who sent a derisory tweet about people posing questions about the vaccines. Apparently, John Mason MSP has form:

Steyn was committed to covering the coronavirus vaccine issue because no other channel was. He discussed this with Dan Wootton on July 4:

In this clip from the same interview, he says that he isn’t going anywhere because he enjoys the editorial freedom that GB News allows its presenters:

It’s a shame that the channel seems to be changing tack. It would be disappointing indeed if its other presenters were muzzled accordingly. That said, Dan Wootton was the only other presenter to talk about the pandemic on a regular basis, and I haven’t heard him do that for several months now.

On July 13, Steyn had a remarkable show about Britons who were either victims of the vaccine or whose relatives died from it. It was one of the best programmes I’ve seen in some time:

Here is the full hour-long video:

Highlights follow.

At the time, the British government was only just starting to pay out to vaccine victims. The Government only give £120,000 lump sum if the vaccine is the cause of death on the coroner’s report or if a living person has been 60% disabled as a result. A Conservative MP, Sir Christopher Chope, was given an adjournment debate on the matter, because payouts were painfully slow.

It was a shame that the House of Commons benches were nearly empty when he spoke. Then again, nearly all MPs think the vaccines have been a godsend. This is why the Government have been suppressing any opposing views and monitoring prominent social media accounts, as Big Brother Watch uncovered last week. Accordingly, Ofcom are all over this on the airwaves, hence GB News’s skittishness over broadcasting such stories, as Mark Steyn had been doing so fearlessly.

Mark began by celebrating the first person to receive Government compensation:

That person is Vikki Spit, whose fiancé died from the vaccine. They were a rock’n’roll duo who loved each other deeply:

The mother and wife of NHS doctor Stephen Wright mourned on air:

GB News presenter Neil ‘the Coast guy’ Oliver joined Mark. He’s sitting on the right in the video:

Michelle Dewberry, whose weeknight show is on at 6 p.m., also joined Mark:

Dan Wootton, who was also interested in every aspect of the pandemic debacle at the time, thanked him on his show, which followed at 9 p.m.:

As the response to this tweet indicates, only GB News was covering this topic:

Now they have pretty much stopped, falling into line with every other news outlet.

As you can see in the following video, the victims were young — thirty-somethings:

On July 27, Professor Richard Ennos joined Mark to discuss the excess deaths from the beginning of the pandemic to the present. He said that the early deaths were comprised of elderly people. Increasingly, the age cohort has been decreasing to include much younger Britons:

On August 8, Steyn interviewed Alex Antic, Senator for South Australia, about the commonality of Western countries to link politics with science. So many nations did the same thing at the same time. No one is allowed to ask questions about pandemic policies:

On Tuesday, August 16, Mark welcomed Dr Aseem Malhotra to the show. Dr Malhotra, a cardiologist, was a big supporter of coronavirus vaccines in the beginning but changed his mind. Later in the year, his healthy father, a physician in his 70s, took the vaccine and died.

You can find the video at this GB News link. The accompanying article says, in part (emphases mine):

A leading consultant cardiologist who was one of the first people in the UK to take two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and promote them on television has called for an end to all remaining vaccine mandates.

Dr Aseem Malhotra has written an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden calling for the immediate release of the raw data from Pfizer’s original Covid-19 vaccine trial.

Speaking exclusively to GB News’ Mark Steyn show, Dr Malhotra said: “When the vaccines were first released we were told they were 95% effective against infection.

“This is not true. This is based on relative risk reduction. In absolute terms, they provided 0.84 percent protection which means only one in 119 people would be protected from infection.

“This statistic was the pretence under which vaccine mandates were implemented.

“The latest data reveals that once infected there is no significant difference in transmission rates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, which makes any scientific case for mandates illegitimate.

“As newer and thankfully, less lethal, mutated strains became dominant, any protection against infection at the very least became less effective and likely completely ineffective, even if there is some significant (as yet to be fully determined in absolute individual terms) protection against serious illness and death” …

Dr Malhotra also wrote: “Rather than encourage transparent debate about the true benefits and potential harms of the Covid vaccine as new evidence emerges, those that encourage more critical thinking and adding to the database of relevant knowledge are smeared.”

This comes in light of investigative journalist Paul Thacker’s investigation into Pfizer’s trial data published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) last year being branded “false information” by independent fact-checkers …

Dr Malhotra argues “global vaccine mandates for Covid-19 must stop until we have the full data on efficacy of all available vaccines.”

Writing in praise of Dr Malhotra’s findings, Dr Amir Hannan said “[Dr Malhotra] raises some important questions about the validity of the assertions made, asking for all data to be made available so that an in depth analysis can be developed and proper conclusions identified to help restore trust in doctors, the pharmaceutical industry, the research community, the regulatory bodies, the press and governments.”

Dr Malhotra’s letter has been published in the European Scientist.

Pfizer/BioNTech have been contacted for comment.

On September 2, Dr Matthew Sweet, who appears on the BBC, took issue with Steyn and proved to be a thorn in his side. Steyn mentioned him frequently in the autumn:

On October 4, feminist author Naomi Wolf, who received her doctorate from Oxford University, appeared on Steyn’s show to say that she had been pointing out menstrual abnormalities from the vaccine since 2020:

On October 11, Mark interviewed Robert Roos MEP, Vice-Chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, one of the MEPs who questioned Pfizer directors about their vaccine. One of the directors intimated that they had no real data to say that the vaccines would stop transmission of the virus. Roos wants to know more, because in some EU countries, unvaccinated people could not go to the supermarket and people lost their jobs because the vaccine was mandated. Overall, the social cost was too great for an ineffective jab:

On Monday, February 6, 2023, Robert Roos voiced his concerns in the European Parliament, stating that, for the most part, parliamentary questions about the effect of pandemic measures on EU citizens were not posed, either in Brussels or in individual member countries’ parliaments:

On October 29, 2022, The Conservative Woman‘s Kathy Gyngell, who was no stranger to the Steyn show, called our attention to his October 27 show, beginning at the 35-minute mark:

She went so far as to include a transcript, which can be found here.

The segment Kathy Gyngell points to is an interview with Mark Sharman, who, during his career, headed the News and Sport division at ITV as well as being the Director of News at Sky.

Sharman made a documentary about the vaccines, Safe and Effective: A Second Opinion. He posted it on YouTube.

Steyn said:

And so Mr Sharman’s documentary has just been taken down at YouTube for the following reasons. Big exclamation – ‘Medical Misinformation. YouTube doesn’t allow claims about Covid-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organisation.’ Ooh! No contradicting the World Health Organisation. Mark Sharman joins me now. Mark, as I said, you’ve been in British broadcasting for a very long time. Have you ever just had a piece of work, such as your documentary, just – boom! – vaporise in the way that YouTube just did it to you?

Sharman replied:

MARK SHARMAN: No, not at all. Mark, I’m not surprised that it’s been cut, but as an old-school journalist who believes in reporting both sides of a story, I’m dismayed about what’s happening. You know, we are being controlled. The narrative on many, many things is being controlled, and the evidence is growing. I mean, the governments, the Big Pharma companies, Big Tech media companies, they’ve all decided what the line is and they’re sticking to that line come what may. And as you showed earlier in the programme, there are more and more pieces of research from around the world which proves there is something seriously wrong with these vaccines, they’re clearly not totally safe and effective. They’re clearly not safe, and that don’t appear to be effective. And all we’re asking for, Mark, is some proper open scientific debate. You know, if there’s something wrong, it should be looked at and stopped before more people are hurt

Sharman echoed other findings exposed on Steyn’s show:

You know, there have been 25,000 excess deaths in this country since April. Across Europe, the death rates, excess death rates, are running at 16 per cent higher than usual. And strangely, they’re higher in the countries that have been most vaccinated. The authorities come up with all kinds of reasons, including lockdown and the heatwave and changing your bed or whatever. But they won’t put the vaccine injury on the list. Now, any investigator worth his salt is going to look at every suspect, if only to rule them out. And there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever to not put vaccine injury on that list. And as I said before, I’m not on one side or the other, I would just love to see a proper open debate where somebody can look at what is happening to these vaccine-injured and deaths around the world. You know, there are other questions as well about the whole reproductive system, but that’s another matter. But again, reports are coming in that should be causing concern to the authorities, but they resolutely won’t listen, and won’t debate it, and cut scientists off and have cut our film off. By the way, it was just about to hit a million views on YouTube alone. And it’s interesting that it’s been three weeks and not been touched.

More at the link.

On February 6, 2023, The Conservative Woman posted a brief notice about the demise of the Mark Steyn Show. They, too, found the news on Guido Fawkes, as had I:

This is more than ‘a shame because he beat Piers Morgan’, as Guido puts it. It is a terrible loss for us all and not just all at TCW, but for the country. It is a tragedy for free speech that his style of fearless, moral and uncompromising broadcasting has been brought to an abrupt end. For a year he threw light on dark, he ridiculed the shameless, for a year he raised our hopes that sanity, reason and truth might prevail. Now he is gone and it is shocking and sad. That is how we feel at TCW.

Hundreds of comments followed their post, nearly all of which lamented Steyn’s departure.

Professor Norman Fenton was also very sorry to learn that one of GB News’s best hosts had left:

However, there might be hope. Bev Turner, who hosts the channel’s weekday mid-morning show, is also concerned about coronavirus vaccine safety.

On Monday, February 6, she interviewed a lady from UsForThem, which campaigns for the right of children not to have a vaccine mandate. Molly Kingsley says that the group has won a claim against Pfizer on marketing the vaccine without presenting the risks involved:

Grooming gangs

Another no-go area where only Steyn ventured in depth involved grooming gangs, which have been operating around England for decades.

Samantha Smith, a grooming gang victim who blossomed into an articulate young woman, lives in Telford, Shropshire. She appeared often on Steyn during the summer, then she got a visit from the police on July 6:

Although other channels might say that grooming gangs are in the past — e.g. Oldham, Rotherham — they are still taking advantage of young girls:

On July 11, she returned to London to speak with Mark about her ordeal with the police. The first tweet has an accompanying article:

Here is the full video:

Would that the police had been so interested when she was undergoing sexual abuse from local predators.

In July, the Conservative Party race to replace Boris as leader was in full flow. On July 13, Samantha tweeted that over 1,000 girls have been sexually abused and exploited in Telford alone — a more urgent matter:

On August 10, The Mail+ gave her a voice in a first-person article about her years of abuse:

An excerpt follows:

For years, between the ages of five and 14, I was abused by successive men who left a devastating legacy.

As my life fell apart, I found myself homeless by the age of 16, and there were many nights when I would lie there — racked by visceral self-loathing — wishing I would simply disappear.

How could I not hate myself?

Of course, I had tried to seek help. I eventually reported my abuse and was interviewed by a police child sexual exploitation team. But they did absolutely nothing to bring my abusers to justice.

In fact, I was made to feel unworthy of help or support, as though the abuse I experienced was my fault. My social workers even spelled it out. ‘Your behaviour and actions have led you to where you are today,’ they told me.

Isolated as I was, I had no idea that I was not alone, but one of more than a thousand children in Telford who had been sexually exploited over decades while the police and youth workers whose job it is to protect us not only failed to act but all too often blamed us as the architects of our own trauma.

Indeed, that’s not just my opinion, but the conclusive judgment of a devastating independent report issued last month following an extensive three-year inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuse in my home town stretching back to the seventies.

The authors’ verdict could not have been more damning, concluding that generations of children had been subjected to unnecessary suffering because of the abject failures of West Mercia Police, their wilful neglect damning children to years of unnecessary suffering and cruelty.

In some cases, like that of 16-year-old Lucy Lowe, victims were murdered by their abusers.

Echoing conclusions drawn by investigations into similar scandals in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford, the report laid bare the scale of systemic failures, highlighting how many perpetrators — predominantly Asian men — were not investigated because of nervousness about appearing racist.

Meanwhile the largely working-class white victims were treated as no-hope cases who were destined to fall into a life of crime, branded ‘troublemakers’ or even ‘child prostitutes’ by police. Teachers and social workers were found to have been actively dissuaded from reporting abuse, while offenders were ‘emboldened’ as police efforts to stop them were scaled down ‘to virtual zero’.

It is little wonder the report has been greeted with widespread fury and disgust. My reaction was one of bittersweet vindication — and an anger that reduced me to tears.

Much of the inquiry focused on gang-related cases but many — as I experienced — were perpetrated by individual men.

And while my case was not one of those featured in the report, I am one of hundreds of victims of child sexual abuse and grooming in Telford whose suffering was brushed under the carpet as part of a deeply engrained cover-up culture.

Even now, it is hard to confront the scale of abuse in the leafy Shropshire town I once called home which — on the outside at least — is a world away from the former mining communities that have more commonly been associated with child sexual abuse scandals.

Statistics do not lie, however: while incidents of child sexual abuse number 7.9 per 10,000 nationwide, in Telford that figure jumps to 16.4.

Samantha also appeared on Steyn’s October 27 show, just before the aforementioned documentary maker Mark Sharman appeared.

Sharman praised her eloquence when talking to Steyn:

You know, if there’s something wrong, it should be looked at and stopped before more people are hurt. And interesting listening to Samantha talk previously – and by the way, what a wonderful spokesperson she is for victims of sexual abuse – but there are real parallels there. You know, the vaccine injured and the public in general don’t seem to be as important as the authorities. They’d rather protect their own line and their own story than look at what’s going on. You know, it just isn’t right.

No, it isn’t right.

Kudos to Mark Steyn for discussing this regularly. Until I saw Samantha, I had no idea that this had even been going on in Telford!

More to come

Steyn also had regular segments on other topics, which I shall cover on Friday.

Stay tuned …

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In December 2022, the then-GB News presenter Mark Steyn suffered two heart attacks within days of each other.

The first one he ignored, because he had never suffered a heart attack and didn’t recognise the symptoms.

The second occurred when he and a female friend were in France. Fortunately, he got to the hospital just in time. Fifteen minutes more and he would have died.

While he recuperated in France — there was no chance of his returning to Canada, doctors said — some of GB News’s sharpest hosts stepped in to sub for him between 8 and 9 p.m. They told viewers that Mark was on the mend, until the end of January, at which point they mentioned him no more.

Don’t mention the vaccines

Then, late on Monday, February 6, 2023, Guido Fawkes posted that Mark would not be returning to GB News. The news channel’s CEO wanted to make Steyn liable for any Ofcom fines they received over his segments that criticised the coronavirus vaccine:

Guido tells us, complete with the relevant video clip (emphases in red his):

Mark Steyn has quit GB News on fairly bad terms after a protracted leave of absence owing to his health. A few weeks ago Guido picked up that the channel had been trying to formalise Steyn’s contract, having operated on a fairly ad hoc basis since starting his show. Part of trying to get him on board as a properly contracted presenter was also an attempt to rein in his output, given that in a rather short space of time he’d managed to spark two separate Ofcom investigations into claims made on his show.

GBN offered him a new contract to sign, otherwise he’d face termination. It now looks like Steyn is declining to sign the new contract, so he’s out.

In a video put out on his website today, Mark doesn’t hold back on his opinion of the channel’s CEO Angelos Frangopoulos, ranting about the terms of the new contract that would have made him financially liable for any fines imposed on GB News by Ofcom because of his show’s output. He also calls Frangopoulos an “habitual liar”. Shame – Steyn managed to consistently beat Piers’s view count…

After a few months, Mark Steyn Show regularly trounced Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show Monday through Thursday in the same time slot.

GB News has been scrupulous about offering both sides of any story on their shows in order to avoid censure from Ofcom. This entails having a left-wing guest oppose the host’s centrist or conservative perspective.

In 2022, Press Gazette reported on the channel’s potential Ofcom violations. I’ll start with the story from August 8, with the communications regulator’s examination of two segments, one on Nigel Farage’s evening show and one from a morning show with Patrick Christys, who now hosts a three-hour afternoon slot Monday through Friday:

The first two investigations by broadcast regulator Ofcom into GB News have ended with no rebukes, keeping the TV channel’s record clean as it enters its 15th month.

Critics feared the opinion-led news channel would rub up poorly against the UK’s strict impartiality rules, a problem not faced by broadcasters in the US such as Fox News.

But by balancing views from presenters and guests across its schedule, GB News has avoid any Ofcom rebukes despite airing some strident views on Covid-19 lockdowns and vaccines. Two Ofcom investigations into GB News TV and radio broadcasts remain ongoing.

In October 2022, complaints about Mark Steyn’s show were still ongoing:

Ofcom has opened an investigation into an episode of Mark Steyn’s 4 October programme on GB News after it received 411 complaints from viewers about comments made by author and journalist Dr Naomi Wolf in relation to Covid-19 vaccines.

Ofcom said: “Specifically, our investigation will consider whether this programme broke our rules designed to protect viewers from harmful material.”

Wolf was banned from Twitter last year for spreading unfounded theories about vaccines.

Ofcom is already investigating Steyn’s show for a potential breach of standards on 21 April when he claimed people who had a Covid-19 booster vaccine were three times more likely to die than those who had two doses or fewer.

Press Gazette says that the April 21 episode was removed from YouTube:

In a monologue that day, Steyn said: “Why aren’t we talking about this? It seems, if the booster shot is making it thrice as likely that you’re going to be deadsville, that they’re going to carrying you out by the handles, why aren’t we talking about that?”

Fact-checking charity Full Fact said the figures used by Steyn were “broadly accurate” but that he was “wrong to claim the booster ‘increases your chances of hospitalisation and death’”.

Interestingly:

No Ofcom investigations have yet been started into rival TalkTV, which Rupert Murdoch’s News UK launched in April.

The Guardian had more, especially about Dr Matthew Sweet, who was interviewed on the BBC and had been monitoring Steyn’s show for soundbites that criticised the vaccines. Steyn often mentioned Sweet:

The latest investigation relates to an interview with the author Naomi Wolf in which she claimed women were being harmed by Covid-19 vaccines as part of an effort to “to destroy British civil society”.

Ofcom said it would investigate whether the programme broke “rules designed to protect viewers from harmful material” after receiving more than 400 complaints from members of the public.

In the interview, which was originally broadcast on 4 October, Wolf also compared doctors’ support for the vaccine rollout to the behaviour of the medical profession in Nazi Germany and described herself as the “last remaining independent journalist” willing to question this.

She was being interviewed on the Mark Steyn Show, which has repeatedly raised doubts over the safety of vaccines. Steyn’s claims that the jabs cause “every conceivable kind of damage” have been disputed by factchecking websites. He is already the subject of a separate Ofcom investigation over previous comments about vaccination.

Wolf began as a prominent feminist writer but in recent years her career has taken a hit after she wrote a book partly based on a misunderstanding of English court records. Since then she has veered into the world of conspiracy theories about the impact of 5G telephone masts and the coronavirus vaccine.

Presenter Matthew Sweet, whose BBC interview exposed the flaw in Wolf’s book, has since kept tabs on her work and GB News’s coverage of the pandemic and accused the channel of repeatedly “broadcasting misinformation about vaccines and presenting conspiracy theorists as legitimate experts on medical matters”.

In a letter to Sweet tweeted last month, GB News insisted that at no point had Steyn’s programme adopted an “anti-vax” approach. Instead it said he was conducting probing journalism in the face of people who want GB News to be “more supportive of government policy”.

As I wrote in my post last week on Big Brother Watch’s exposé of Government departments’ surveillance of politicians’ and journalists’ Twitter accounts during the pandemic, the one thing one cannot do is criticise the vaccines.

The best of Mark Steyn’s GB News output

Having watched nearly every Mark Steyn show once he began broadcasting weeknights in January 2022, I bookmarked the most notable ones.

Any interested readers should view the videos sooner rather than later. YouTube have already removed some of Steyn’s GB News output.

Ratings

It took a while for people to tune into Steyn, which was no fault of his. He did a memorable series in March 2022 in Ukraine and told us that he was partly of Ukranian descent. He hoped to return when the war was over. You can read more about those programmes here.

At the end of that month, he had a special edition on the second anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown, March 23, 2020. It’s a good thing I described the content, because YouTube removed the video for the usual reasons.

Then on Monday, May 16, Mark hit the jackpot, beating TalkTV’s Piers Morgan for the first time in the 8 to 9 p.m. slot. Mark wasn’t the only ratings star that night — all the GB News evening shows beat TalkTV’s:

The following day, Guido wrote:

The slow motion collapse in ratings of Talk TV is astounding. Until now, Piers Morgan has always held his lead in his slot against Mark Steyn on GB News. Last night Steyn beat Morgan for the first time…

And it would not be the last time, either. In fact, it became a regular occurrence.

Coronavirus

On Wednesday, January 12, 2022, Steyn interviewed Lord Ridley — Matt Ridley — about the coronavirus lab leak (30:00 – 40:00):

In February, he covered the Canadian truckers’ protest in Ottawa against mandated vaccines:

He also interviewed a Canadian policewoman about the protests:

On April 21, he cited UK government data which said that people over 50 who had three jabs were five times more likely to get the virus:

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On Monday, May 9, he interviewed vaccine victims:

On May 11, he interviewed people who became seriously ill after taking the Astra Zeneca vaccine. No wonder it’s no longer on the Government’s vaccine list.

This man got a blood clot on the brain:

This lady suffered blood clots on her liver and lungs:

That day, Laura Perrins from The Conservative Woman waxed lyrical about Steyn’s show. I, too, was a bit ambivalent about him many years ago, but as she pointed out:

It is true that a few decades ago he was considered an Establishment journalist; he has written for all your mainstream Right-wing publications. But he had long left that scene by the time I had my political awakening.

Anyway, somehow I stumbled across him, Praise be the Lord. The more I started listening, the more I read, I thought: ‘Goodness gracious, hold the phone, shut the front door, this guy is the Real Deal.’ This guy knows that we are being had by the political and media establishment and he is not afraid to say it …

Not only is Steyn the best-dressed, most-polished, most-sophisticated of all the presenters on TV, he says what you are thinking. For the last week or two he has been giving a voice to those the MSM have shamefully ignored – families who have lost loved ones through the ‘safe and effective’ non-vaccine vaccine.

… While Piers ‘Lock Me Down Harder, Daddy’ Morgan is interviewing Bruce Jenner, Steyn is pointing out that the lockdown has caused economic damage and inflation that the MPs like to ignore.  

He also points out that when the Conservatives tell you they are getting a hold on illegal immigration, they are lying to you, they are lying to your face, dear reader.  

So, do yourself a favour and watch Mark Steyn, Monday-Thursday, 8pm on GB News

You can also catch up on YouTube when they haven’t censored him for ‘disinformation’. This is not a man who could ever be bought or sold for any price. I say again, Mark Steyn is the Real Deal.  

The following day, news emerged that the WHO wanted nations to sign up to their pandemic treaty which would supercede national sovereignty. Unbelievable. Steyn said, ‘The permanent abnormal staggers on’:

On Tuesday, May 17, he talked about the WHO’s involvement in the pandemic:

One week later, he interviewed a fellow broadcaster, Andrew Griffiths, who experienced serious side effects after getting the vaccine:

The Powers That Be tried to stir up fear over what is now called MPOX. On May 25, Steyn discussed Natalie Winters’ findings for the National Pulse about an alleged link to the Wuhan lab:

Steyn had more on that and other topics on June 1, calling it ‘the controlled demolition of the free world’:

That was an exceptional show. Former ONS statistician Jamie Jenkins, one of Mark’s regulars, alleged that the UK government had not collected any official statistics on vaccine injuries:

Claire Hibbs returned to discuss her injuries and the lack of compensation from the Government:

On June 16, he discussed the disastrous economic results of lockdown with Leilani Dowding:

Other Steyn broadcasts of note

In May 2022, he tapped into Canada’s Rebel News output on Davos: excellent and entertaining.

On July 12, he was the only broadcaster to cover the July 12 celebrations in Northern Ireland in a non-confrontational way.

He interviewed Baroness Hoey — former Labour MP Kate Hoey — on her love for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom:

He also spoke at length with the former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, now-Baroness, Dame Arlene Foster:

These are just tasters. More to follow tomorrow.

No stranger to controversy

Mark Steyn has never been a stranger to controversy. Thank goodness.

Going way back in my Mark Steyn bookmarks, in 2004, he reviewed Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, an incredible but much-criticised film, for The Spectator (full text here):

Those who believe in Christ the Redeemer are booming, and Mel Gibson has made a movie for them. If Hollywood was as savvy as it thinks it is, it would have beaten him to it. But it isn’t so it didn’t. And as most studio execs have never seen an evangelical Christian except in films where they turn out to be paedophiles or serial killers, it’s no wonder they’re baffled by The Passion’s success …

… Mel Gibson was driven by his own passion to make a movie that speaks to millions of people. As I said a couple of weeks back, if it’s not the Jesus movie you’d have made, then go make your own. I saw it on a Monday night full house – a rare event in itself – and the crowd was rapt and eerily hushed, except for the occasional sob. It’s true that if you don’t believe that Christ’s death on the cross is the central event in His time on earth then Mel’s telling won’t convince you and the film will look, as it does to Christopher Hitchens, like an S&M flayfest. One can regard this as a criticism of Gibson. On the other hand, all manner of movies – Star Wars, X-Men – leave you cold if you’re not already a devotee. For millions of people, Mel Gibson shows them their Jesus and their salvation.

In 2009, Steyn wrote an article for Canada’s Macleans about the danger that political correctness and censorship (i.e. ‘hate speech’) pose to human lives — the Fort Hood massacre (full text here):

… the old refrain echoes through the corridors of power: vigorous honest free speech will lead to mass murder unless we subject it to “reasonable limits.”

Actually, the opposite is true: a constrained and regulated culture policed by politically correct enforcers leads to slaughter. I’m not being speculative here, as Commissar Lynch [Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Canada’s censor at the time] is about my murderous prose style. It’s already happened, just a couple of weeks back. Thirteen men and women plus an unborn baby were gunned down at Fort Hood by a major in the U.S. Army. Nidal Hasan was the perpetrator, but political correctness was his enabler, every step of the way. In the days that followed, the near parodically absurd revelations piled up like an overripe satire

Instead, asked “Who ya gonna believe—The Celebrate Diversity Handbook or your lyin’ eyes?”, more and more of us plump for the former, if only for a quiet life. Commissar Lynch has it exactly backwards: it’s the craven submission to political correctness, the willingness to leave your marbles with the Diversity Café hat-check girl, that leads to death—real death, with real corpses, from Texas to Ontario.

It’s amazing that the hot topics really have not changed since the Millennium. It’s been the same-old, same-old for over 20 years now.

To be continued tomorrow

This week, Big Brother Watch’s Ministry of Truth exposé states how UK Government agencies tracked social media accounts of certain well-known Britons during the coronavirus pandemic to monitor opinions.

One of the Twitter accounts involved belongs to a publican who had not yet begun appearing on television.

2020: online dissent, abuses of power

Before going into that story, here are bookmarks I had filed under ‘Ministry of Truth’. It would seem that the name relates to a Twitter account which has since been renamed. This person has nothing to do with the aforementioned exposé, but the tweets reflect what was already on people’s minds.

Interestingly, all of these relate to the pandemic.

Looking back to April 2020, three weeks after the UK locked down, people were already discussing the egregious nature of lockdown and suspicion about any vaccine.

This is an informal poll asking what percentage of global deaths justifies a lockdown:

Nearly 80% of people did not wish to take a coronavirus vaccine, should one be developed:

By April 13, police were already entering people’s properties. In this case, there was no party going on, but the abuse of power was shocking:

The video went viral:

On April 24, 2020, Tony Blair’s Institute for Global Change suggested that state surveillance was ‘a price worth paying’ to stop coronavirus. Shocking:

By the end of April, we discovered that the WHO had coined the expression ‘New Normal’ on June 7, 2019:

In June 2020, despite lockdown in force, protests took place. In London, Metropolitan Police officers ran away from protesters after being pelted with objects:

2023: Ministry of Truth

On Saturday, January 28, 2023, Big Brother Watch sent an advance copy of their report to the Mail, which reported (emphases mine):

A shadowy Army unit secretly spied on British citizens who criticised the Government’s Covid lockdown policies, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Military operatives in the UK’s ‘information warfare’ brigade were part of a sinister operation that targeted politicians and high-profile journalists who raised doubts about the official pandemic response.

They compiled dossiers on public figures such as ex-Minister David Davis, who questioned the modelling behind alarming death toll predictions, as well as journalists such as Peter Hitchens and Toby Young. Their dissenting views were then reported back to No 10.

Documents obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, and shared exclusively with this newspaper, exposed the work of Government cells such as the Counter Disinformation Unit, based in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Rapid Response Unit in the Cabinet Office.

But the most secretive is the MoD’s 77th Brigade, which deploys ‘non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of adversaries’.

According to a whistleblower who worked for the brigade during the lockdowns, the unit strayed far beyond its remit of targeting foreign powers. 

They said that British citizens’ social media accounts were scrutinised – a sinister activity that the Ministry of Defence, in public, repeatedly denied doing.

Papers show the outfits were tasked with countering ‘disinformation’ and ‘harmful narratives… from purported experts’, with civil servants and artificial intelligence deployed to ‘scrape’ social media for keywords such as ‘ventilators’ that would have been of interest.

The information was then used to orchestrate Government responses to criticisms of policies such as the stay-at-home order, when police were given power to issue fines and break up gatherings. 

It also allowed Ministers to push social media platforms to remove posts and promote Government-approved lines.

The Army whistleblower said: ‘It is quite obvious that our activities resulted in the monitoring of the UK population… monitoring the social media posts of ordinary, scared people. These posts did not contain information that was untrue or co-ordinated – it was simply fear.’

Last night, former Cabinet Minister Mr Davis, a member of the Privy Council, said: ‘It’s outrageous that people questioning the Government’s policies were subject to covert surveillance’ – and questioned the waste of public money.

Mail on Sunday journalist Mr Hitchens was monitored after sharing an article, based on leaked NHS papers, which claimed data used to publicly justify lockdown was incomplete. An internal Rapid Response Unit email said Mr Hitchens wanted to ‘further [an] anti-lockdown agenda and influence the Commons vote’. 

Writing today, Mr Hitchens questions if he was ‘shadow-banned’ over his criticisms, with his views effectively censored by being downgraded in search results. 

He says: ‘The most astonishing thing about the great Covid panic was how many attacks the state managed to make on basic freedoms without anyone much even caring, let alone protesting. 

Now is the time to demand a full and powerful investigation into the dark material Big Brother Watch has bravely uncovered.’

The whistleblower from 77 Brigade, which uses both regular and reserve troops, said: ‘I developed the impression the Government were more interested in protecting the success of their policies than uncovering any potential foreign interference, and I regret that I was a part of it. Frankly, the work I was doing should never have happened.’

The source also suggested that the Government was so focused on monitoring critics it may have missed genuine Chinese-led prolockdown campaigns.

Silkie Carlo, of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This is an alarming case of mission creep, where public money and military power have been misused to monitor academics, journalists, campaigners and MPs who criticised the Government, particularly during the pandemic.

‘The fact that this political monitoring happened under the guise of ‘countering misinformation’ highlights how, without serious safeguards, the concept of ‘wrong information’ is open to abuse and has become a blank cheque the Government uses in an attempt to control narratives online.

‘Contrary to their stated aims, these Government truth units are secretive and harmful to our democracy. The Counter Disinformation Unit should be suspended immediately and subject to a full investigation.’

A Downing Street source last night said the units had scaled back their work significantly since the end of the lockdowns.

The Mail‘s article also has the 77th Brigade member’s full disclosure as well as Peter Hitchens’s first-hand experience from that time.

It is ironic that a Conservative MP, Tobias Ellwood, is part of the 77th Brigade, which monitored another Conservative MP, David Davis:

Toby Young, also monitored, featured the Mail‘s articles on his website in ‘The 77th Brigade Spied on Lockdown Sceptics, Including Me’.

He pointed us to a Twitter thread from Dr Jay Bhattacharya, one of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration, which the Establishment panned worldwide:

On Sunday, January 29, Spiked had a tongue-in-cheek title to their article on the exposé, ‘Warning: sharing a spiked article could get you in trouble with the government’:

Today, a report by Big Brother Watch has revealed the alarming lengths the UK government went to in order to hush up its critics. We now know that three government bodies, including a shady Ministry of Defence unit tasked with fighting ‘information warfare’, surveilled and monitored UK citizens, public figures and media outlets who criticised the lockdown – and spiked was caught up in that net.

This mini Ministry of Truth was composed of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) in the Cabinet Office, the Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the army’s 77th Brigade. The 77th Brigade exists to monitor and counter so-called disinformation being spread by adversarial foreign powers. But, as a whistleblower from the unit told Big Brother Watch, ‘the banner of disinformation was a guise under which the British military was being deployed to monitor and flag our own concerned citizens’. The other bodies worked together to monitor ‘harmful narratives online’ and to push back on them, by promoting government lines in the press and by flagging posts to social-media companies in order to have them removed.

The public figures targeted by these shadowy units included Conservative MP David Davis, Lockdown Sceptics founder Toby Young, talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. All of whom had warned about the consequences of lockdown and had raised questions about the UK government’s alarmist modelling of the virus.

Documents obtained by Big Brother Watch, using subject-access requests, reveal that Peter Hitchens was flagged for, among other things, sharing a spiked article. A cross-Whitehall disinformation report from the RRU in June 2020 notes that, ‘The spiked article was shared on Twitter by Peter Hitchens, which led to renewed engagement on that specific platform’. The RRU also monitored the level of public agreement, noting that ‘some highly engaged comments’ agreed with the article, while others were critical …

We desperately need a reckoning with lockdown, and with the lockdown on dissent that accompanied it.

Big Brother Watch announced their report with a summary of highlights, ‘Inside Whitehall’s Ministry of Truth — How secretive “anti-information” teams conducted mass political monitoring’.

Read that if you do not have time to peruse their full report.

Guido Fawkes also summarised the report on Monday, January 30:

Millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money went into this egregious surveillance. Imagine inadvertently paying to have yourself monitored by the state:

Unbelievable.

Will anything come of this? I certainly hope so, but I doubt it.

On Thursday, February 2, David Davis asked about Peter Hitchens during Cabinet Office questions:

David Davis: In 2020 we have evidence that the Cabinet Office monitored the journalist Peter Hitchens’ social media posts in relation to the pandemic. In an internal email the Cabinet Office accused him of pursuing an anti-lockdown agenda. He then appears to have been shadow- banned on social media. Will the Minister confirm that his Department did nothing to interfere with Hitchens’ communications, either through discussion with social media platforms or by any other mechanism? If he cannot confirm that today, will he write to me immediately in the future to do so? (903428)

Mr Speaker: Who wants that one?

Jeremy Quin (Cabinet Office Minister): It is a pleasure to take it, Mr Speaker. I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He referred to the rapid response unit; what it was doing during the course of the pandemic was entirely sensible—trawling the whole of what is available publicly on social media to make certain we as the Government could identify areas of concern particularly regarding disinformation so that correct information could be placed into the public domain to reassure the public. I think that was an entirely reasonable and appropriate thing to do. I do not know about the specifics that my right hon. Friend asks about; I would rather not answer at the Dispatch Box, but my right hon. Friend has asked me to write to him and I certainly will.

They have an answer for everything.

Let no one think that Labour would have done anything differently. Labour fully supported the Government on everything coronavirus-related and said they would have gone further.

On Monday, I wrote about the UK’s third anniversary on becoming free of the European Union.

Admittedly, Northern Ireland is still half-in and half-out, a problematic situation that is being negotiated.

I pointed out the sclerotic pace at which MPs are legislating to take full advantage of Brexit.

On February 1, UnHerd featured an article by Richard Johnson, a Labour Party member, and Lecturer in US Politics and Policy at Queen Mary University of London: ‘Labour’s lost love for Leave’.

Richard Johnson voted to Leave in 2016 and has no regrets.

Before going into Parliament’s slow pace at reclaiming our sovereignty, he explains Labour’s changing viewpoint on belonging to the EU (emphases mine):

Back in 2016, one in three people who voted Labour at the previous year’s general election voted for Brexit. Today, polling for UnHerd shows that just 15% of Labour voters think the UK was right to leave. Of course, in those intervening years, there has been enormous churn in the Labour electorate, with sizeable defections by Labour Leavers at the last election to the Brexit Party and the Conservatives. Nonetheless, UnHerd’s polling shows that support for Brexit has dropped significantly in Labour’s historic heartlands in the North and Midlands.

In historical terms, this is a striking shift. For four decades, the Labour Party was the chief Eurosceptic party in British politics — far more so than the Conservative Party. Every Labour leader between Clement Attlee and Neil Kinnock had expressed opposition to joining (or support for leaving) the European Economic Community (EEC) at some point as a frontbench Labour MP. The first truly pro-European Labour leader was John Smith, who defied a three-line whip in 1972 to vote for the Conservatives’ European Communities Act. Pro-Europeanism was viewed as a Right-wing project — an attempt to constitutionalise capitalist principles in ways that would curtail the power of socialist governments to plan their national economies as they saw fit.

Labour’s perspective on the EU began to change in the 1980s:

In the late Eighties, Labour finally abandoned its opposition to EEC membership, though the change was driven more by a response to repeated domestic defeats than a principled embrace of the European project. The promise of a “social Europe” was regarded by many Labour MPs as a chimera, but it at least offered some alternative to Thatcherism. So the party came to accept supranational legal limits on British governments, hoping the EU could mitigate the excesses of Conservative rule.

Belonging to the EU meant that EU law applied, restricting the ability of both Conservatives and Labour to raise legislation that benefits the UK’s interests. This also affected civil servants’ work:

… this Mephistophelian deal meant placing limits on future Labour governments, too. Policy tools which had once been fundamental to previous governments’ socialist programmes — trade policy, currency management, state aid and nationalisation, and capital and labour controls — were all sacrificed in exchange for the promise of minimum labour standards and regional development funds delivered through European institutions, rather than Whitehall.

Once we were in, we were in fully. Although Johnson is writing from a Labour perspective, the following attitudes also pertain to Conservative Remainer MPs, of which there are many:

Few outwardly advocated leaving the bloc, believing it to be too difficult or simply not politically feasible

This is where we find ourselves today, six-and-a-half years after voting to leave in the 2016 referendum.

Parliamentarians have not had to legislate much since the 1970s. Civil servants haven’t had to think about that, either. Hence the slow pace. It might require work, not only in the House of Commons but also in Whitehall:

Joining the EEC in 1972, for instance, took a variety of national powers out of the hands of the UK Government and, by extension, parliament. EU countries are constitutionally transformed from nation-states to member-states, as the Cambridge academic Chris Bickerton has explained. This means that a variety of policy instruments are removed from national governments altogether, or their implementation becomes contingent on the wishes of the European Commission or interpretations of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Perhaps more obviously, EU membership is simply not compatible with a belief in socialist planning. At its core, the Single Market is designed to limit the power of national electorates to plan their own economies. Of course, a certain degree of national economic planning is permitted within EU membership, but it is conditional. Any time a national government takes a decision that is viewed as distorting the hallowed Single Market — which must be prioritised above all else — those policies are blocked

European judges have struck down labour practices that they claim impose onerous restrictions on business, as in the infamous cases Laval and Viking. The former limited Swedish trade unions insisting on higher working conditions for construction workers from Latvia who operated in Sweden. The latter prevented a Finnish transport union from taking action against Viking Line for reclassifying their workers under the flag of a lower-wage EU country to ignore Finnish collective bargaining. Because these judgements are based on judicial interpretation of fundamental EU treaty rights, no legislation, either at a national level or from MEPs, can overturn them.

As such, for 50 years, the UK government has had to rely on Brussels for legislation. It is no wonder that the nanny state has grown so much, particularly over the past 25 years. What else is there to legislate upon but personal behaviours?

Johnson points out that Labour have been as negligent as the Conservatives over embracing our new freedoms:

Indeed, there are so many areas of policy where Labour ought to have spent the last few years seriously thinking about the post-Brexit opportunities. How can we use procurement better now that we are out of the Single Market? … What would a socialist trade policy look like, once protection of continental European industries and agriculture is removed from the equation?

Instead, Labour has wasted the years since Brexit almost as much as the Tories have. Labour had stood on a manifesto in the 2017 election which promised to take the UK out of the EU, Single Market, and Customs Union. That election saw the biggest increase in its vote since the 1945 General Election and the only net gain in Labour seats since 1997. A majority of the seats Labour won in England were Leave-voting seats off the Tories

Today, though … the reality is that Labour is still not making the case for Brexit on Labour terms. Virtually every time a Labour politician speaks about Brexit, it is framed as an attempt to mitigate the damage. Labour’s underlying assumption is that Brexit has failed because the UK has diverged too much from the EU. A better Brexit is one closer to the EU. But, the reality is that the UK has not diverged enough from the limitations which EU membership placed on national economic planning.

The reason why?

For both main parties, it’s too much like work, for MPs and civil servants alike: a parlous state of affairs.

Did you ever wonder how the people featured in social media memes got there?

The answer is: purely by chance.

Below are profiles of three people who have gone viral, one of whom you will instantly recognise.

Australian lady

On January 31, 2023, The Guardian featured an article about an Australian woman who went viral on TikTok — ‘”They filmed me without my consent”: the ugly side of #kindness videos’.

Moral of the story: do not allow yourself to be filmed or photographed by a random stranger.

Maree, the Australian, went shoe shopping one day on a winter’s day in June 2022 and, afterwards, relaxed with a cup of coffee in a Melbourne shopping centre (emphases mine):

A young man approached her holding a posy of flowers. He asked Maree to hold them for him as he put on his jacket. “I wish I’d trusted my instincts and said no,” she says. “It was all so quick.” Maree took the flowers – then the man walked away, wishing her “a lovely day”. She held them out after him, bemused.

Then Maree noticed two men operating a camera on a tripod, a few feet away. “I said: ‘Did you film that?’ and they denied it,” says Maree. “I even said to them: ‘Do you want these flowers? I don’t want them.’ They just looked stunned.”

Maree went home with her new shoes and the flowers. That evening, her partner received a text from a friend with teenage children: Maree was in a video going viral on TikTok. Not active on social media, Maree “didn’t think anything of it. I thought: ‘Who watches these TikToks anyway? Oh well.’ I didn’t even know what viral meant.” She paid the video no mind until she saw an article about the interaction in the Daily Mail.

The content creator stepped forward:

The man who had handed the flowers to Maree was Harrison Pawluk, a 22-year-old TikToker with a following of millions for his “random acts of kindness”. Among videos showing him offering hugs to strangers and paying for people’s groceries, Pawluk had posted the clip of Maree with the caption “I hope this made her day better”, with a red heart emoji and the hashtag “#wholesome”. In a little over a week, it had garnered 52m views and 10m likes. “I’m not crying, you are” was one representative comment.

Such “feelgood” content has long been a feature of the social web, dating back to the first days of BuzzFeed and Upworthy – but, since the switch to video, these stories of the kindness of strangers have taken on the form of stunts and social “experiments”. On TikTok, the hashtag #randomactsofkindness has 416m views, while #helpingothers has nearly 850m; although not exclusively stunts, #kindness, #wholesome and #positivity are well into the billions.

Maree is only in her 60s. She did not appreciate that Pawluk thought she was elderly and lonely. Can’t say I blame her:

Maree did not recognise herself as the “elderly woman” depicted – and she took umbrage with the assumption that Pawluk’s intrusion on her day had been welcome. “That was just cruel, I thought, to do that to a person – the whole ‘pathetic’ scenario … I am in my 60s, I have got grey hair, but it kind of upset my sense of how I’m perceived – I’d never really thought of myself as looking old,” she says.

She felt obliged to get her side of the story out to the city of Melbourne:

She had to act, for her own sense of self. In mid-July, she shared her experience on air with ABC Radio Melbourne’s Virginia Trioli, saying she felt “dehumanised” by the interaction with Pawluk. “He interrupted my quiet time, filmed and uploaded a video without my consent, turning it into something it wasn’t; and I feel like he is making quite a lot of money through it … I feel like clickbait.” Maree had come forward because she wanted to warn others, she said. “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”

Pawluk admits he does not always seek permission of the people he films beforehand because it might ruin the spontaneity of the moment:

Typically, Pawluk says, he asks people if they would be willing to appear in a video he is shooting for social media – “and if not, no worries, have a great day.” The “kindness” stunts, however, Pawluk films without seeking prior permission, so as to capture the desired “wholesome” reaction. Afterwards, he says, “I will try my best in situations like that to be: ‘I’ve just filmed this video, I was wondering if we could use something like this to inspire others.’” Most people agree, he says – although he will delete footage on request.

Although the notional idea behind these videos is to encourage a caring ‘pass it on’ gesture, the truth is that someone like Pawluk can make a reasonable income from them:

Such blandly “uplifting” content can reach huge audiences, allowing the most successful creators to claim big sums in brand partnerships and sponsorship deals.

Pawluk has more than 3 million followers, earning him a reported monthly income of between A$10,000 and A$15,000 (£5,500 and £8,300). He is studying for a double degree in design and business – but only to please his mum, he says over a video call from his bedroom in Melbourne. “Being a video creator is my ultimate purpose.”

Pawluk rightly got flak after Maree’s radio interview:

In the case of Maree, Pawluk says there was a “miscommunication” by his cameraman. He was surprised to hear, on the ABC, how Maree had felt about his video. “It definitely makes me want to make sure that, in the future, consent is given.” Pawluk denies having targeted Maree deliberately as an older woman. After her interview went viral, he was abused online, he says – mostly by older generations.

Good.

There is a larger ethical issue here: the power over one’s privacy. Someone called Anna Derrig is looking closely at these videos and says there are:

power dynamics at play – not least, who has the privilege of the final cut. Derrig has been researching consent and ethics in memoir and other life-writing for 10 years; she sees parallels between the misappropriation of people’s private stories in print and the “personal damage” increasingly being wrought online.

“It’s a form of theft,” she says. “The person who’s telling the story, the influencer in these cases, is the one in control of the narrative – when that’s on the internet, that’s out there for good.”

Seeking permission is not a magic bullet, says Derrig; what matters is “not just consent but informed consent”, meaning the subject understands all the risks and possible outcomes. In the case of online attention, these are hard to predict – and virtually impossible to control.

People should be aware that some of these videos involve set-ups that look real but are fake:

In the name of spreading kindness, some content creators even pose as homeless to shame passersby for not giving.

In November, an elderly couple were publicly chastised by an Australian TikToker for ignoring his request for help with opening a bottle of water while he was wearing a prop sling. “They didn’t even notice the sling,” says the couple’s daughter, Amal Awad. “They saw a very tall man walking towards them with a friend. My mum’s instincts kicked in and she kept walking, and frankly I don’t blame her.”

The premise of the video is stupid. Why wouldn’t the chap ask his friend to open his water bottle instead?

The couple’s daughter was unable to get the video taken down. Its creator was apparently enthralled by the number of views it was getting:

Many of the comments beneath the video were hateful and racist, Awad says. She asked the TikToker to take it down, but he refused, telling her that it was “still pushing” – meaning it was still getting views.

Awad wrote a column describing her family’s distress at being landed in a stranger’s “social experiment” and calling for society to reckon with what we risk losing in the race for likes. “It’s not harmless: every time we click on these videos, we’re enabling these content creators to not think bigger and better,” she tells me.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to get these videos taken down:

There is little incentive for platforms to remove material on request or act in accordance with the standards expected of traditional publishers, says Persephone Bridgman Baker, a partner at the law firm Carter-Ruck, who specialises in media, privacy and reputation management.

The merits of any legal action could take into account the motive of the user; any financial gain; the size and nature of the audience reached; the reputational damage done to the subject; any reasonable expectation of privacy; and any public interest in publication. “And what is in the public interest is certainly not the same as what the public finds interesting,” adds Bridgman Baker. There is also the danger of “the Streisand effect”, she says: that, by trying to tackle compromising material, you risk it circulating more widely.

TikTok appears to be the platform that has the most videos of this sort — along with a lot of underage users:

The boundary between online and “IRL” (in real life) has been particularly permeable since the pandemic, while gen Z – for whom the distinction has always been less clear – is now the dominant force on social media. It is no coincidence that most clickbait casualties now come via TikTok, where very young people post without the oversight and etiquette of more established platforms. (TikTok declined to comment for this story.)

It is also worth remembering that TikTok is Chinese. Goodness knows what sort of data they are gathering from these videos.

Six months on, Maree is coming to terms with Pawluk’s video:

“I just think it’s pretty shabby, really. Maybe I’m old-fashioned … but a lot of people don’t seem to get that it’s about making money, not being kind.”

She is glad that she spoke out to challenge the attempt to “other” her. “I changed the narrative, and I had to do that … It was so ugly and misogynist and ageist. I don’t suppose those kids even thought about that – but even that’s disturbing,” she adds.

Maree worries about the erosion of the expectation of privacy: younger generations may not grasp the extent of what they are exposing themselves to, she suggests. “Now, the ordinary person in the street is fair game.”

However, it isn’t just young people taking snaps and filming others. Cher — yes, that Cher — also does it. Two of her subjects did not seem to mind, especially as one of them is also a content creator:

To some, the online spotlight may seem fortuitous. Syndie Germain and her boyfriend went viral in December 2021 not for being the recipients of an act of kindness as such, but for a kind-hearted post. A masked stranger had offered to take their photo while they were out to dinner and it turned out to be Cher, who shared the shot with her 4 million followers. “When we were coming out of movie I saw beautiful Couple,” the singer tweeted in her trademark chaotic style. “…. Had my mask on so they didn’t Know Who I was. MAYBE Just a crazy woman.. THAT ME.”

As a lifestyle-content creator herself, Germain is more comfortable than many sharing herself online. Even so, she found the attention overwhelming. She was glad when it passed; now her run-in with Cher is just a “fun fact about me”.

‘The worst person you know’ from Spain

Beware of old photos going viral online.

A 2014 photo of Josep Maria García went viral during lockdown in 2020.

Last year, The Guardian told the story of how García became ‘the worst person you know’:

Soon after the pandemic plunged Spain into confinement, Josep Maria García received a panicked call from his brother-in-law.

“He told me not to worry, but that I should google the phrase ‘the worst person you know’,” said García. “I put it in and there I was, everywhere. I scrolled down and it was my face, my face, my face. I thought what is going on?”

Paranoia washed over him as he scrambled to piece together what had happened. He had posed for the photo in 2014 as he accompanied his brother-in-law, a professional photographer, on a work trip to Barcelona. As his brother-in-law, who García asked not to be named, prepared for a photo session with an American writer, he asked García to stand in so that he could adjust for the light.

The photo of García, then 34, turned out well – so well that the pair decided to upload it to the Getty Images catalogue.

García vaguely recalled that in 2018 his brother had told him that the image had been used to illustrate an article for a US satirical magazine. At the time he had paid little heed; now as he sifted through the internet he realised he had unwittingly become a global meme. The picture had been used to illustrate a light-hearted piece about an obnoxious colleague who normally talks rubbish for once coming out with a killer observation about politics that no one can top.

Fortunately, at first, the language barrier prevented people from tracking down García. Then a journalist circulated his whereabouts, so his brother-in-law removed the original photo:

His day-to-day life rarely intersected with his online infamy, until a journalist dropped clues on how to find him in a series of social media posts. Messages came pouring in from across the English-speaking world, prompting his brother-in-law to remove the photo.

But it had already come to define García online. “I’ve read comments that say ‘he has the face of a Nazi supremacist’ or that ‘there is no empathy in my look’,” he said. He shrugged off the comments, adding with a laugh: “I’ve got a lot of photos with that look – that’s my look.”

Speaking to The Guardian in 2022, García spoke about his fame in Spain, which hasn’t been easy:

More than two years after stumbling upon the ubiquity of his meme, García – who described himself as reserved – has come to accept his singular status. “It’s not easy. It’s surprising how many millions of hits there are,” he said. “But it’s true that with the passing of time, you start to see it differently.”

For years he rebuffed interview requests, choosing to instead to stay out of the spotlight. But in recent months, as he mulls launching T-shirts that feature his meme, he has opened up to a handful of media. He has steadfastly refused to be photographed – “lest it go viral again”, he told one newspaper – hinting at the scars that continue to linger.

He brushed off suggestions that his meme may have been harder to accept than others. Instead he pointed to swirling debate online as to whether the photo depicts him as the worst person or whether he is captured looking at such a person.

Even so, the adverse association was hammered home during a recent appearance on Spanish TV, when he was greeted with the line: “You don’t have the face of a bad person.”

The TV hosts proceeded to playfully quiz him on whether he might be the worst person they knew, asking him what kind of commission he would charge if supplying face masks during the pandemic or if he would tidy up after throwing a party at a hotel. “Thank you for your sense of humour,” one host said as García proved himself a charming guest.

He has learned to lean on his sense of humour. “I find it quite funny, it’s a good article. It doesn’t disturb me or anything,” he said. “But that surprises people. There are some who ask me ‘are you seriously okay with all this?’”

The Hungarian everyone knows: ‘Hide the Pain Harold’

We’ve all seen the photo of the smiling, grey-haired man sitting with his laptop and a mug of coffee.

His image has spawned countless memes all over the world.

His is another story that happened by chance from an event that took place years ago.

In 2019, a retired Hungarian electrical engineer, András Arató, wrote about his online fame for The Guardian: ‘Experience: my face became a meme’:

Nine years ago, I did a reverse image search on a photograph of me and was shocked to discover it had become a meme. People online thought my smile, combined with the look in my eyes, seemed terribly sad. They were calling me “Hide the Pain Harold”.

The photo came from a shoot I’d done a year earlier, when I was still working as an electrical engineer. A professional photographer had got in touch after seeing my holiday photographs on Facebook. He said he was seeking someone like me to be in some stock images. Everyone is a little vain inside, myself included, so I was happy that he wanted me. He invited me to a photoshoot near my home in Budapest and we took shots in different locations and settings. Over the course of two years he took hundreds of pictures of me for photo libraries.

I thought the pictures would just be used by businesses and websites, but I wasn’t expecting the memes. People overlaid text on my pictures, talking about their wives leaving them, or saying their identity had been stolen and their bank account emptied. They used my image because it looked as if I was smiling through the pain.

Once the memes were out in the world, journalists began to contact me, and wanted to come to my home to interview me. My wife hated it: she thought it interfered in our private life and didn’t like the way I was portrayed. People thought I wasn’t a real person, that I was a Photoshop creation – someone even got in contact asking for proof that I existed.

The meme-making continued, so Arató created a Facebook fan page for himself:

I knew that it was impossible to stop people making memes, but it still annoyed me that Facebook pages, some with hundreds of thousands of followers, were using my photograph as their profile picture, and pretending to be me. Some kind of brand had been made out of me and I would have been a fool not to make use of it. So, in 2017, I created my own Facebook fan page and updated it with videos and stories from my travels.

It turned out to be the right move. Work has been pouring in for the pensioner ever since:

That started everything going. People noticed that I had taken ownership of the meme and got in contact to offer me work. I was given a role in a television commercial for a Hungarian car dealer. In one of the adverts, I travelled to Germany to buy a used car and it broke down halfway home; if I had bought the same car through their company, the brand claimed, it wouldn’t have happened. The fee for that commercial changed my wife’s mind about the meme.

Now my life has changed dramatically. People ask me to talk about my story, to demonstrate the power of memes. A football website flew me to England to make a video about Manchester City; I got to tour the ground and watch them play a Champions League game. The German mail-order giant Otto flew me out to make commercials for them. The Hungarian hard rock band Cloud 9+ have a song called Hide The Pain, with me in the video. I’m the face of Totum, the British discount card run by the National Union of Students – they got me to wear a bucket hat. I’ve even given a TED talk.

Last year, I took 20 flights from Budapest to destinations all over the world: Europe, Russia and, increasingly, South America. Last month, I travelled to Chile and Colombia for some TV appearances; that was the first time I felt like a real celebrity. Every time I walked down the street a crowd would gather, so they gave me bodyguards. I’ve never enjoyed a fame like that before; sometimes it was frightening.

We’re also using the meme for good. We want it to be more than just a sad smile. I am the face of a campaign for a mental health service in Hungary, similar to the Samaritans in the UK. I’m proud that something more has come out of the last 10 years than just an idiotic smile.

Oddly, I never found his smile sad. I just wondered where he was from, because he didn’t look like a North American or a Western European.

Arató doesn’t think he looks sad, either:

I’m 74 now. I spent 40 years as an engineer. I did a bit of public speaking then, at conferences and lectures, but that was very different from appearing on television talkshows and YouTube videos. As an engineer, it was really me. Now, it’s role play: I’m Hide the Pain Harold. But I’m not actually a sad guy – I think I’m rather a happy one.

So many years on and new Arató memes are showing up all the time.

I’m happy he’s capitalised on his fame and has seen the world.

January 31, 2023 marks the third anniversary of Brexit:

As I have written before, those parliamentary debates early in 2020 were splendid. Newly and re-elected Conservative MPs, giving the Government a majority of 80 thanks to Boris Johnson’s 2019 ‘Get Brexit Done’ campaign slogan, were full of optimism about how Britain could — and would — be transformed.

Unfortunately, the pandemic put paid to those dreams in mid-March. We couldn’t move past it. Even now, we are still suffering financially from the decisions the Government made, forced to do so by Opposition MPs. If Boris had just not given into SAGE, we probably could have stuck to the Swedish policy of no lockdown and minimal restrictions, which would have saved us hundreds of billions of pounds. Then again, Boris got coronavirus and had to be hospitalised for a week in early April. He came back a different man. SAGE were able to exercise power over him.

Even in 2022, once England finally returned to normal, the Government seemed to be treading water. We had three Prime Ministers and four Chancellors of the Exchequer last year. Very little of the optimistic legislation from the 2019 manifesto got started. Instead, Net Zero seemed to take over. It was in the manifesto, but as the final point, not the main one. The Online Safety Bill is a piece of intrusive legislation. The Conservatives are only getting started on pushing legislation through to get rid of thousands of EU laws on our books. Taxes are at a 70-year high. We have tens of thousands of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. The possibility of any real progress for the Brexit agenda between now and the end of 2024 or January 2025 looks dim.

That said, Guido Fawkes reminds us (emphases his):

… we’ve signed about 71 new trade deals, led the European response to Putin’s war in Ukraine and saved countless British lives with an independent vaccine rollout. And that’s without any politicians actually making a concerted effort to capitalise on independence…

Of course, there is always a dismal economic forecast with which to deal. We must remember that Brexit was never about the economy but taking back control of our own national destiny.

Still, here is the latest dismal economic forecast and the danger ahead for Brexit in late 2024 or early 2025:

… even today’s IMF report on growth forecasts couldn’t bring itself to attribute any faults in the UK economy to our decision to leave the bloc. Now preparations must be made to save Brexit from a Starmer-led Labour government…

Because the IMF is the IMF, its forecasts receive undue attention. It is important to look back on the IMF’s track record. They did a terrible job in predicting 2022:

Guido points out:

The ‘good’ news is the IMF has upped its forecast for 2024, now predicting 0.9% growth from 0.6%. It is also worth bearing in mind the IMF’s analysis isn’t gospel; it underestimated 2021’s growth by 2 points. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is doing his best to remind everyone of that:

Short-term challenges should not obscure our long-term prospects — the U.K. outperformed many forecasts last year.

A number of these forecasts are shaped to comply with political narratives. One of Guido‘s readers commented (purple emphases mine):

Rather a lot of years ago, I worked with a fellow who had, in previous employment, worked at the Board of Trade. He told me that every month, their top guy would get together with some other top guy from the Treasury and they would concoct the monthly trade figures to broadcast to the media. T’was all mainly fiction, of course, depending on what political message was required. I doubt if anything much has changed in the intervening years.

Here is another forecast gone wrong: Germany’s. Keep in mind that Germany is at the heart of the EU, so we cannot blame Brexit for their woes:

Going back to August 2022, Germany and France joined the UK in having either flat or negative GDP:

Opposition MPs of all flavours, except for Northern Ireland’s DUP, tell us that if we were still an EU member country, we wouldn’t have inflation.

Yet, on January 26, 2023, Euronews informed us that food prices continue to rise across the EU:

Food prices have continued to rise across Europe despite inflation dropping for a second consecutive month in December, according to data shared on Wednesday by Eurostat, the European statistics agency.

The inflation of food prices in the EU was 18.2 per cent, and 16.2 per cent in the eurozone in December, which is a slight decrease compared to November on average. But some basic food items like sugar, milk cheese and eggs, oils, and fats prices are still going up.

One month earlier, Euronews reported on the plight of French university students who were forced to use food banks:

20% of students in France live below the poverty line. Rising food prices and energy bills soaring are exacerbating their situation. And yet, France gives more financial aid to students than many other European countries …

The government has recently allocated 10 millions euros to support the associations that organise food distributions for students. A consultation between the governement and student unions on the reform of the student grant system is ongoing, but concrete change is not expected anytime soon.

Our Opposition MPs also tell us that if we were still part of the EU, we would not be experiencing the multi-sector strikes that have been plaguing us.

However, let us look at France. Today, January 31, Euronews reported:

A new wave of strikes on Tuesday to protest French government plans to raise the retirement age to 64 has already impacted transport links and electricity production. 

TotalEnegies says between 75% and 100% of workers at its refineries and fuel depots are on strike, while electricity supplier EDF said they’re monitoring a drop in power to the national grid equivalent to three nuclear power plants. 

“Following the call for a strike, shipments of products from TotalEnergies sites are interrupted today but TotalEnergies will continue to ensure supplies to its service station network and its customers,” the group’s management said.

In EDF power stations, strikers reduced loads by “nearly 3,000 MW” on Monday night, but without causing any cuts, the company said.

Hundreds of thousands of workers are expected to take to the streets across France on Tuesday, for a second day of industrial action that unions hope will be even more massive than the first, earlier this month … 

The government had warned in advance of Tuesday’s strike about likely disruption to France’s transport network. 

In the Paris region the metro and local rail services are “very disrupted” say officials. Long distance TGV train services are also impacted, as are regional trains with intercity services almost at a standstill. 

Rail operator SNCF said only one in three high-speed TGV trains will operate on Tuesday while disruptions are also expected at French airports and on transnational rail services

French doctors were on an extended strike on January 2:

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Then there is Ukraine. Nearly a year ago, Remainers told Leavers that Vladimir Putin would use Brexit to his advantage — an entirely erroneous talking point, as Boris was the first Western leader to champion Ukraine. If we had been part of the EU, he would not have been able to do so. By contrast, Germany was buying Russian gas and Italy was sending handbags to Russia:

Then there was the pandemic. In May 2022, the WHO published excess death statistics for 2020 and 2021. The UK had lower excess deaths than Spain, Italy and Germany, although France had fewer excess deaths than we did:

As for migration, France still has as much of a problem as we do, yet our Opposition MPs tell us that if we were still part of the EU, we would not have a Channel crossing issue.

On December 26, 2022, The Times reported that the French government opened the Château de Grignon to house them, which isn’t too different to our policy, egregious as it is, of opening hotels to those coming nearly daily across the Channel:

A row has broken out in France over a government decision to shelter homeless families, notably migrants, on the estate of a Renaissance château …

Under a plan to provide shelter for the homeless during the winter, up to 200 people are to be housed in the château estate until March. The first 62, including 37 children, arrived this week.

Officially, they are classified as people of no fixed abode who have been sleeping rough. In practice, most are migrants unable to find shelter upon their arrival in France and often forced to live in squalid, makeshift camps around the Paris ring road.

In conclusion, EU nations share many of the major problems that the UK has.

Brexit has nothing to do with it. In fact, Brexit will probably help us get out of these issues more quickly than EU nations will.

Therefore, Happy Brexit Day! May many more follow!

Previous instalments in my series on Harry and Meghan can be found here, here, here and here.

I left off at the end of 2019, with The Sun publishing a story on the Sussexes imminent extended visit to Canada, which enraged the Duke and Duchess:

On December 21 that year, Sky News reported:

Harry and Meghan’s spokeswoman ended speculation over their whereabouts by confirming the couple and their seven-month-old son Archie are spending their six-week Christmas break in the country Meghan called home for seven years.

“The decision to base themselves in Canada reflects the importance of this Commonwealth country to them both,” she said.

“The Duke of Sussex has been a frequent visitor to Canada over many years, and it was also home to The Duchess for seven years before she became a member of the Royal Family.

“They are enjoying sharing the warmth of the Canadian people and the beauty of the landscape with their young son.”

The duchess lived in Toronto before joining the Royal Family as the popular US drama Suits, in which she starred in, was filmed in the Canadian city.

Harry and Meghan were famously pictured in Toronto in 2017 at the Invictus Games.

The Sussexes are likely to have spent the US Thanksgiving celebrations on 28 November with the duchess’ mother Doria Ragland.

Prince Harry’s grandmother, the Queen, is said to be supportive of the Sussexes’ plan to take a long break and not join the rest of the Royal Family at Sandringham on Christmas Day.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have previously spent Christmas with Kate’s parents in Berkshire instead of with the Queen.

Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, 98, was taken to hospital in London on Friday from Sandringham for treatment for a pre-existing condition, Buckingham Palace said.

The Queen had just arrived at the Norfolk estate for her Christmas break after the State Opening of Parliament on Thursday …

By Christmas Eve, the Mail reported that the Royal Family wanted the couple to return home in light of Prince Philip’s stay in hospital:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been urged by Royal family members to return from abroad to spend Christmas in the UK, as Prince Philip spends a fourth night in hospital …

It comes after a family Christmas card of the royal couple smiling in front of a Christmas tree, with Archie’s adorable face staring down the camera lens, was revealed.

On December 28, news emerged in the UK that:

THE Duke and Duchess of Sussex have registered the trademarks for hundreds of products with their Sussex Royal brand.

That same day, Blind Gossip posted ‘The Big Plan’:

Think back to a few months ago when we talked about the baby.

Our married couple was oddly reluctant to let the public see the baby, citing concerns over safety and a desire to bond privately.

We told you that wasn’t true. Plenty of their family members have managed to keep their children safe and secure over many generations while meeting their obligations as public figures.

We told you that the couple was actually trying to keep sightings of the baby rare while they figured out how to monetize the situation… without the rest of the family finding out.

They bungled that scenario.

However, it’s now full steam ahead with The Big Plan!

What is The Big Plan?

To brand and monetize everything.

You are now seeing that plan being put into motion. And if you question what they are doing, you will be met with anger, misdirection, and insistence that their motives are pure.

We hid the baby because… Privacy! Motherhood!

We take private planes and stay in posh private digs because… Environment! Wellness!

We isolate ourselves from 99% of our family and surround ourselves with celebrities because… Family! Safety!

We are engaging our own outside lawyers and PR team because… Protection! Charity!

How dare you question our motives!

See how that works?

Fortunately, the Queen put paid to Sussex Royal on February 18, 2020, as the Mail reported:

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex must drop their ‘Sussex Royal’ label after deciding to step down as working royals.

Following lengthy and complex talks, the Queen and senior officials are believed to have agreed it is no longer tenable for the couple to keep the word ‘royal’ in their ‘branding’.

Harry and Meghan have spent tens of thousands of pounds on a new Sussex Royal website to complement their hugely popular Instagram feed.

They have also sought to register Sussex Royal as a global trademark for a range of items and activities, including clothing, stationery, books and teaching materials. 

In addition, they have taken steps to set up a new charitable organisation: Sussex Royal, The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

It has now been made clear that they will need to ‘re-brand’.

Returning to December 2019 and January 2020, Harry was eager to work out some sort of arrangement for his and Meghan’s future with the then-Prince Charles. Charles told his son that such things had to be done in person, not via email. Prior to that, Harry had contacted the Queen, who said she would be happy to meet with him until it turned out her diary was full.

Various excerpts in this post come from investigative-turned-royal reporter Valentine Low and his 2022 best-seller, Courtiers. Royal insider Lady Colin Campbell said on GB News a few weeks ago that Low’s book must be the definitive one he had so much access to the people who run the Palace.

On a personal note, I read all of Valentine Low’s work when he wrote for the London Evening Standard around the Millennium. Low left no stone unturned in his lengthy exposés, and it is good to see that he continues to doggedly investigate his subject matter.

Another book I would recommend is Tom Bower’s 2022 best-seller Revenge, which concerns the Sussexes lives. It, too, is packed with detail. Again on a personal note, I read his biography of the late Robert ‘Bob’ Maxwell in the 1990s. Maxwell died an unresolved mysterious death on his yacht. Maxwell was larger than life, both physically and figuratively. Bower’s biography was a page-turner, from start to finish.

I sent both Courtiers and Revenge as Christmas gifts in 2022. I commend them to my readers.

‘Cornered, misunderstood, deeply unhappy

Valentine Low’s excerpt, which The Times published on September 25, 2022, explains what happened between December 2019 and January 2020 (emphases mine):

The current set-up was not working for them, and they wanted to go and live in North America. Harry seemed to be under the impression that they could just sort it out by email before he and Meghan got back to London on January 6. The reply they got, however, was that this would require a proper family conversation. They were also told that the first date that the family would be available was January 29. It is not clear if this inflexibility was on the part of Charles, who was due to be in Davos, or that this was the response of his long-time private secretary Clive Alderton, pulling the strings. Either way, from the Sussex point of view, this went down incredibly badly. It fed into the narrative that they were not being taken seriously by the palace machinery, or by the rest of the family.

Harry had tried to speed up matters by arranging to see his grandmother alone before he left Canada. However, the message was conveyed to him that the Queen had been confused about her diary, and was no longer available. Harry was incensed, because it was not true: the courtiers had got in the way, it seemed, because they saw the meeting with the Queen as an attempt to pick the Queen off before Harry started talks with the rest of the family. As one source put it, “There was a danger that a private conversation could be interpreted very differently by two people.”

And so it turned out with other conversations concerning the Sussexes, leaving the Queen to state that ‘some recollections may vary’.

Harry considered travelling directly to Sandringham to see his grandmother:

He eventually dropped the idea, but it was a sign of his frustration that he even contemplated such a move.

Royal diaries opened up early in January 2020:

Given that the couple announced their plans to stand down on January 8, and the royal family met to discuss it all five days later on January 13 — the so-called Sandringham summit — it seems that the family diary was rather more flexible than originally appeared.

Harry and Meghan could be maddening, of course; they had already infuriated the royal family by pushing out their Megxit announcement on January 8 with the minimum of notice when all the talks had been about issuing a joint statement. But the palace also showed the sort of initial inflexibility that was always guaranteed to infuriate them. Harry and Meghan felt cornered, misunderstood and deeply unhappy. If the rest of the institution failed to appreciate that, even if their demands were unreasonable, the departure negotiations were never going to end happily. It is uncontroversial to suggest that the Sussexes would regard the talks as a failure. They wanted to find a compromise whereby they could live part of the year abroad but carry out some royal duties at home. No such compromise was found. Instead, they lost their royal duties, their patronages, Harry’s military affiliations, their security, their income from the Prince of Wales and, for official purposes anyway, their HRH titles. They pretty much lost everything, except for the freedom to do exactly what they want.

This is what I meant yesterday by the mess of pottage.

The courtiers were busy:

In the immediate aftermath of the Sussex bombshell on January 8, when the Queen said she wanted all four households to “work together at pace” to find a workable solution, Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, was with the Queen at Sandringham. The first negotiations took place in Clarence House — Charles’s home ground — over the following four days, with the private secretaries and communications secretaries from the four households all trying to find a way to make the Sussexes’ dreams a reality. They gathered in Alderton’s office, a sunny first-floor room where paintings from the Royal Collection sit alongside photographs of Alderton’s own family. Young would join the talks on the phone from Norfolk, but for the first few days it was Alderton who was leading the discussions. (Later, they would all have talks at Buckingham Palace.) Simon Case, Prince William’s private secretary, who is now cabinet secretary, also played a pivotal role. “He was talking to both sides,” said a source.

The people sitting around the table went through five different scenarios, which ranged from Harry and Meghan spending most of their time being working members of the royal family, but having a month a year to do their own thing, to them spending most of their time privately, but doing a select number of royal activities. There was, according to more than one source, a positive atmosphere in the room: they wanted to find a solution. At one stage, Alderton made the point that if they could get this right, they would be solving a problem for future generations of the royal family who were not in the direct line of succession.

Ultimately, the Queen decided that the couple could not be both in and out of the Royal Family:

By the end of the week, the five scenarios had been worked through. The view from the palace establishment was that, however much time Harry and Meghan spent away from royal duties, anything they did would reflect on the institution. That meant that the normal rules about royal behaviour would apply. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

But the Sussexes wanted their freedom: freedom to make money, freedom to dip their toes into American politics. There was no way for the two sides to reach an agreement on that point. Crucially, it was the Queen who took the view that unless the couple were prepared to abide by the restrictions that applied to working members of the royal family, they could not be allowed to carry out official duties. One source said: “There was a very clear view: you can’t be in and out. And if you’ve got such clarity of view, it’s very difficult to say, ‘Why don’t we go 10 per cent this way instead of 20 per cent?’ ” Compromise was off the table, removed by the Queen.

Low wonders whether the courtiers could have handled the situation ‘differently’, but it seems the previous paragraph would say that they could not have done so. The Queen took the final decision — and the right one, in the estimation of most Britons.

Mismatched expectations

It would appear that Meghan thought she would be the star of the Royal Family, whereas the Palace, rightly, expected her to slot into her role as the Duchess of Sussex.

Low found empathisers with both sides then adds his view:

One former palace insider believes the way the developing crisis was handled was “incompetent beyond belief”. They said: “I think Meghan thought she was going to be the Beyoncé of the UK. Being part of the royal family would give her that kudos. Whereas what she discovered was that there were so many rules that were so ridiculous that she couldn’t even do the things that she could do as a private individual, which is tough . . . It just required the decision-makers to sit around a table and say, ‘OK, what are we going to do about this? What do you need to feel better? And what can we give?’ ”

There is, however, another view: that nothing could have ever saved the situation. The two sides were just too far apart. Another palace source, who has been critical of the Queen’s private secretary Edward Young in the past, said: “I think that it was an impossible task. I think in Meghan and the household, you had two worlds that had no experience of each other, had no way to relate to each other, had no way to comprehend each other. And Meghan was never going to fit in that model and that model was never going to tolerate the Meghan who Meghan wanted to be. So I think that it was inevitable that they would not be able to work together. I don’t think there’s anything Edward could have done about that that other members of the royal family would have accepted.”

Both things are probably true. There was a collective failure on the part of those who work for the royal family to recognise that there was a serious problem, to flag it up, and to try to do something about it. There were no high-level discussions any time in the first eight months of 2019 — when Meghan was later to say that she had suicidal thoughts and the first clues were emerging that the Sussexes were plotting an escape — about the nature of their unhappiness and what could be done about it.

But even if that had happened, I do not believe that it would have solved the problem. Their grievances were too deep-rooted, and the distance between what the Sussexes wanted and what the royal family felt able to give was just too great. Perhaps the best that could have happened is that the divorce could have been handled without all the acrimony that followed the events of January 2020. One thing is definitely true, however. If there were any failings, they were during the first year or so of Harry and Meghan’s marriage.

There is one final thought on this, and it comes from a surprising source, someone who knows Harry well but remains upset about what Harry and Meghan did. Their view is that perhaps the Sussexes’ departure was not the untrammelled disaster that so many think it was. “There is a part of me that thinks Meghan did Harry the greatest kindness anyone could do to him, which was to take him out of the royal family, because he was just desperately unhappy in the last couple of years in his working life. We knew he was unhappy, but we didn’t really know what the solution would be. She came along and found the solution.”

Dear, oh dear.

The Sussexes ignored staff advice

In an article from January 10, 2020 for The Times, written as the formal separation took place, Low tells us what was going on between the Sussexes and their staff before the couple sent out their statement:

This reveals how Harry has his own sense of the truth:

There was talk of putting out a statement — not the one that was eventually released but a blander version merely confirming that talks were taking place, and giving none of the detail about their plans to become financially independent and to split their time between Britain and North America.

Once more, Harry spoke to the Queen. Versions of how the conversation went differ. According to one narrative she made it clear that he should not go public with his plans. However, a source close to Harry told The Times: “He certainly thinks she said it was fine.”

His closest advisers did not think it was fine. Both Sara Latham, the couple’s communications secretary, and Fiona Mcilwham, their private secretary, argued strongly against putting out a bombshell statement without consulting the other members of the family. Harry and Meghan, however, were determined to press ahead.

The other royal households were given the statement shortly after 6pm on Wednesday. Ten minutes later it was sent out to the world.

It seems that the Duke and Duchess hadn’t listened to their staff on other occasions:

Harry and Meghan’s closest advisers are a devoted team who believe in the values, aims and ambitions espoused by the duke and duchess. But that does not mean that their advice is always listened to: and it also does not mean that some of them are not anxious about their future as the couple carve out their new role.

It also does not mean all of them have been involved in the plans. The Sussexes’ website, sussexroyal.com, was created by Made by Article, a Canadian company, without input from their Buckingham Palace press team. Instead much of the content, criticised for inaccuracies, was created by the couple with Sunshine Sachs, a PR company in New York.

The Sussexes’ most senior advisers are Sara Latham, their communications secretary, and Fiona Mcilwham, their private secretary, both appointed in the past year. Until last year the couple’s household was part of Kensington Palace, home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and they were a closely knit team and funded by the Prince of Wales.

Then came the falling out and the decision for the Sussexes to set up on their own. In theory they are answerable to the Buckingham Palace team, but in reality they operate as a separate fiefdom. Most staff costs are paid for by the Duchy of Cornwall, but communications staff under Ms Latham are paid for by the sovereign grant.

Public unhappy

Low then explores the view of the general public in January 2020, which was quite negative, especially as their money went towards the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, where the Sussexes lived for only a short while:

… the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex aimed to be financially independent has raised questions about their future income. The duke has personal wealth — the money left to him by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales — but is supported by money from his father and public cash.

In the narrow streets that surround Windsor Castle, locals grumbled at the cost of a recent renovation to the couple’s residence, Frogmore Cottage, which sits in the castle grounds. Taxpayers paid £2.4 million to renovate the grade II listed building, into which the pair moved nine months ago. Jess Hunter, 28, manager of the Queen Charlotte pub, said: “It seems a bit rich to then turn around and walk away from it all. I like Meghan but she knew what she was getting into when she married Harry. If you don’t want to be a princess, don’t marry a prince.”

About 32 per cent of people thought the decision would “damage” the royal family, while 49 per cent did not. “He’s a normal human being and he’s wanting to carve out a little bit of space for his new family to grow in,” added Michael Smith, 52, a prison officer. “It’s what his mother would have wanted.”

The Sussex Survivors’ Club

The Times featured another excerpt from Low’s book on September 24, 2023.

It gives examples of how unaccustomed courtiers are to incivility — and so should they be. It is hard to imagine what they went through from 2018 to early 2020.

Low takes us back to 2018, when he was part of the press pack on the couple’s South Pacific tour:

It is normally a standard part of a royal tour, the moment when the royals venture to the back of the plane, where the media sit, to say hello and have a chat. But the tour of the South Pacific by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 was different …

Harry had looked out of sorts. His relations with the media pack had been prickly and strained. Where Meghan smiled, always putting on her best face whenever she was on show, Harry glowered. On the five-hour flight back from Tonga to Sydney, his press handlers promised that he would come and thank the media for being there. It was only after the plane had landed that the couple finally appeared.

I remember the scene well. Harry looked like a sulky teenager, Meghan stood behind him, smiling benignly. Her only contribution was a comment about how much everyone must be looking forward to Sunday lunch at home. Harry sounded rushed, as if he couldn’t wait to get back into the first-class cabin. “Thanks for coming,” he said, “even though you weren’t invited.”

This was spectacularly rude — and incorrect. The media had been invited to cover the tour. Later, Harry’s staff told him how badly his remarks had gone down. He replied: “Well, you shouldn’t have made me do it.” Harry’s petulant behaviour revealed much about the couple’s deteriorating relationship with their own staff.

So bad did things eventually become that Harry and Meghan’s team would later refer to themselves as the Sussex Survivors’ Club. The core members were Sam Cohen, whom the Queen had personally asked to step in as private secretary and who worked for the couple from after their wedding until the end of their South Africa tour in September 2019; Sara Latham, the former Freuds PR managing partner, hired in 2019 to be in charge of communications; and assistant press secretary Marnie Gaffney. Sources say the team came up with a damning epithet for Meghan: a “narcissistic sociopath”. They also reportedly said on repeated occasions: “We were played.”

Fast forward to the Oprah interview in March 2021, and all close advisers’ support was forgotten:

Meghan takes pains to highlight the difference between the Queen and those who surrounded her. In Meghan’s account, they were the people who refused to help when she was in her hour of greatest need. They were the ones who “perpetuate falsehoods” about her.

Watching Meghan describe how she considered ending her life in the year after her marriage was an uncomfortable experience. And yet a succession of perfectly decent people, all of whom believed in Meghan and wanted to make it work, came to be so disillusioned that they began to suspect that even her most heartfelt pleas for help were part of a deliberate strategy that had one end in sight: her departure from the royal family. They believe she wanted to be able to say ‘Look how they failed to support me’.

Sam Cohen, who had 17 years’ experience of working at the Palace, would frequently say to Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, and Clive Alderton, Charles’s private secretary, that if it all went wrong, the Palace needed evidence of the duty of care it had shown to Harry and Meghan. The duty of care was crucial. “[Sam] was a broken record with them on that,” said a source.

But by the time of the Oprah interview, everything the Palace had done to support the couple — including giving them a team that would have done anything to help them succeed — was forgotten.

Instead, Meghan was able to point out all the times the institution had failed her. One of them was when she says she went to the head of HR, where she was given a sympathetic hearing but sent on her way. This was inevitable: HR is there to deal with employee issues, not members of the royal family. Meghan would presumably have known that, so what was she doing there? Laying a trail of evidence, would be the cynical answer.

Another former staff member goes even further. “Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness,” they say. The mistake they made was thinking that she wanted to be happy. She wanted to be rejected, because she was obsessed with that narrative from day one.”

Courtiers are unaccustomed to untoward behaviour:

Part of the problem, according to one source, was that everyone in the Palace was too genteel and civil: “When someone decides not to be civil, they have no idea what to do. They were run over by her, and then run over by Harry.”

The situation was not helped by Harry and Meghan’s deteriorating relationship with Alderton and Young. “As things started to go wrong,” a source told royal biographer Robert Lacey, “Meghan came to perceive Young as the inflexible, bureaucratic figure who summed up what was with the BP [Buckingham Palace] mentality, and the feeling was mutual. Young really came to dislike Meghan’s style.” Harry was just as dismissive of the two senior courtiers as Meghan. An insider said: “He used to send them horrible emails. So rude.”

Meghan’s secrecy

If Meghan criticised the courtiers, she was not exactly above criticism herself.

She used secrecy to her advantage:

When Harry and Meghan went to Canada for their six-week break in November 2019, their escape plans were already laid, amid the greatest secrecy. Meghan would not even tell their nanny, Lorren, where they were going. According to one source, she did not know where they were going until the plane — a private jet — was in the air.

Shortly before the end of the year, Meghan confided in a member of her staff that the couple were not coming back. The rest of the team did not find out until they held a meeting at Buckingham Palace at the beginning of January 2020. They found it hard to accept they were being dumped just like that. Some of them were in tears. “It was a very loyal team,” said one.

Money, money, money

By the end of March 2020, Meghan was allegedly panicking about money:

On March 31, The Express reported:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry agreed to pay back the money spent for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage into the Royal Purse as part of their deal with the Queen. As part of their bid for independence from the Royal Family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they want to become financially separate from the Queen and will be looking for new sources of income. Meghan last week was confirmed to have struck up a deal with Disney to narrate their latest documentary Elephant but the Duchess donated the money as the project was filmed before she and Harry announced their departure from the Royal Family.

A royal insider claimed Meghan is terrified because of the financial pressure they are now under and suggested the Duchess has ordered Prince Harry to find a job.

Speaking to US tabloid National Enquirer, the anonymous source said:This debt is a blow to their ambitious plan to become freewheeling billionaires in the world.

“Meghan is terrified that her dreams of being a Hollywood queen will be destroyed by this financial nightmare and she is insisting that Harry make a move and resolve the crisis.”

The insider however noted the lack of previous working experience could make the search for a new job difficult for the Duke of Sussex.

That is too funny. On a serious note, we see again the mess of pottage looming large.

Harry’s lack of work experience led him to dish the dirt on the world’s most famous royals. I hope he’s happy.

Ending on the present day — January 2023 — it is rumoured that Harry might be offered a contract to be a television commentator in the US on his father’s May 6 coronation.

On January 25, The Express reported:

Prince Harry has been tipped to skip King Charles III’s coronation after two US broadcasters allegedly approached the Duke of Sussex to commentate on the ceremony. The Duke’s potential coronation role was first tipped in this weekend’s Sunday Express where TV companies were suggested to be attempting to lure him to join their media teams. Harry’s relationship with his father and the Royal Family has been frosty after a series of digs levelled at the institution in recent months. Royal correspondent Charles Rae said the couple may still be invited to attend the ceremony but suggested Prince Harry may instead opt to strike a deal with US TV channels to act as a commentator and stay in the US …

Speaking on behalf of Spin Genie, Rae added: “There are also rumours that Harry has been offered a lot of money by two broadcasters to commentate on the Coronation …

Networks CBS and NBC are believed to have approached the Duke to get him joining their reporting team in the lead-up to the coronation.

The Venn diagram: Diana

The intersection of the Venn diagram linking Harry and Meghan is clearly Princess Diana.

On August 4, 2021, at the time the Duchess turned 40, her half-sister Samantha told GB News’s Dan Wootton how obsessed Meghan was with the princess:

Here’s the full video, just under 20 minutes long. In it, Samantha discusses how difficult it is to love someone who has caused so much hurt, her disappointment that Meghan has not contacted their ailing father and her book about the Duchess:

As for Harry, Prince Charles’s and Princess Diana’s chef at Kensington Palace, Darren McGrady, says that William and Harry had very different personalities (see at the 1:25 mark).

He says that one day Diana entered the kitchen after the boys had just been in — a favourite place for them to go — and said:

You know, the boys are so different. William’s deep, like his father, and Harry is just an airhead like me.

What more can I say? Nothing.

Cottage pie

In closing, Darren McGrady prepares cottage pie the authentic way. The recipe dates from the 1700s.

There is a note early on in the video that says shepherd’s pie is made with lamb and cottage pie is made with beef, something non-Brits do not realise.

It is also called cottage pie because it was for peasants. Peasants lived in cottages.

But I digress.

Cottage pie was a favourite of Wills and Harry. Perhaps one day, in the years to come, they might enjoy it again together.

End of series

Anyone who missed previous entries in this series can find them here, here and here.

Every time I read about Prince Harry, I cannot help but think of the story of Jacob and Esau.

Mess of pottage

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage (Genesis 25:29-34). Harry, too, sold his place in the Royal Family for ephemeral media coverage. Who knows what will happen to him in future years?

Like Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:41), Princes William and Harry are embroiled in a feud, one which the current Prince of Wales is handling with dignity. All being well, in time, perhaps they will mend fences, as Jacob and Esau did (Genesis 33).

The expression ‘mess of pottage‘ is still used today (emphases in purple mine):

A mess of pottage is something immediately attractive but of little value taken foolishly and carelessly in exchange for something more distant and perhaps less tangible but immensely more valuable. The phrase alludes to Esau‘s sale of his birthright for a meal (“mess“) of lentil stew (“pottage“) in Genesis 25:29–34 and connotes shortsightedness and misplaced priorities.

It seems pertinent because on January 20, 2023, The Telegraph featured an article, ‘Meghan stays in the shadows as Prince Harry flies solo on Spare publicity blitz’:

“We’re like salt and pepper,” Meghan opined in an interview. “We always move together” …

But, since Christmas, Prince Harry has been left to soak up the limelight alone.

As he embarked on an unprecedented publicity blitz to promote his memoir, Spare, this month, Meghan has remained below the radar – and sent a clear message: This is Harry’s project, not mine

While the Duchess has backed her husband to the hilt over this deeply personal outpouring, she was not quite the driving force behind the project that many have assumed.

Sources suggest that media-savvy Meghan was slightly more circumspect about the concept of a memoir and may have raised gentle concerns about whether it was the right move.

A January 23 article in the New York Post reported on the article:

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle had previously expressed worries that his recent bombshell memoir “Spare” could ruffle the wrong feathers.

The former actress, 41, had raised “gentle concerns” about the book, wondering if it was the “right move,” sources recently told the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, January 21, The Express reported ‘Royal Family news: Palace have “pulled a blinder” as Harry and Meghan “plan” destroyed’:

The Royal Family have “pulled a blinder” by not publicly responding to the recent bombshell claims from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, with an expert destroying the Sussex’s “ill-conceived game plan” …

More than a week after Harry’s book was released, both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace have yet to make any comment on the claimes made by the prince.

Edward Coram-James, a PR, reputation and crisis management expert and CEO of Go Up, claimed this shows the Royal Family had a strong “game plan” in place and were prepared for any such accusations, while blasting Harry and Meghan’s strategy as “ill-conceived”.

He told Express.co.uk: “What should the Royal Family do in response to these claims? In a word: nothing. They have pulled a blinder.

“The biggest mistake that they could make would be to respond to any of the allegations. They are simply not serious enough allegations to warrant them breaching their long held code of silence.

“Breaching that silence will imply guilt. Remaining silent gives an air of maturity and remaining above the fray.

“The Royal family have had a game plan and, unlike the Sussexes, whose game plan has appeared ill-conceived and often strayed from, the royals have toed the line throughout.”

Mr Coram-James poured cold water over the accusations made by Harry in his book, adding the Royal Family have only taken a “mild bruising” and “never came close to being on the receiving end of any knock out blows”.

He continued: “The Royal Family know that it will all blow over soon enough, as the news cycle moves on and today’s news becomes old hat.

A scathing, painfully accurate Spare review

My reader Katherine sent in two articles from Dominic Green about Spare. Thank you, Katherine!

These are the best yet.

‘The Tragedy of Prince Harry’ is Dominic Green’s scathing, painfully accurate review of the book for The Washington Free Beacon. I cannot commend it more highly to my readers. It’s long and captivating from the start.

As such, I will excerpt it as briefly as possible:

This is not Prince Harry’s autobiography. It is a biography of a character called “Prince Harry,” assembled from conversations with the real Harry by a ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer. It is to autobiography as one of those Philip Roth novels where the main character is called “Philip Roth” are to fiction, only less tedious. It is fascinating in its way, though not in the way the real Harry intends. It is a collaboration between two unequal partners, one an accomplished ventriloquist, the other believing that he has finally found his voice.

Harry recorded the audiobook, so he knows exactly what is in Spare. He wants us to know that animals give him spirit messages from the beyond. These are usually sent by his late mother Diana, Princess of Wales, who died violently in 1996, when Harry was 12 and his older brother William was 15. The messages begin when Harry is 14. He and William are on safari in Botswana, eating dinner in their tent, when a leopard appears. “Everyone froze,” Harry says. “Except me.”

“I took a step towards it. … I was thinking about Mummy. That leopard was clearly a sign from her, a messenger she’d sent to say, ‘All is well. And all will be well.'”

The leopard lied. Harry is not well. He and William are traumatized by Diana’s death. Their father, now Charles III, struggles to comfort them, and sends them to boarding school. Harry refuses to believe that Diana is dead. He tells himself that she is hiding in a Swiss chalet, and she comes to him in his dreams. Soon, Harry is binge-drinking and smoking weed. Smoking a fat one with his mates in a bathroom at Eton, perhaps Britain’s top boarding school, Harry looks out on the moonlit grounds and meets his spirit animal …

Green provides the passage from Spare, which involves a fox. Harry sees it as a portent some years later:

In 2008, more than a decade later, Captain Harry Wales, now serving as a gunner on an Apache helicopter in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, is camped for the night, drinking hot chocolate and watching the radio. Around one in the morning, a flurry of messages about “Red Fox” come through …

Green gives us the relevant paragraphs then continues:

An Australian magazine had got hold of the story that Harry was in Helmand. He was a target for the Taliban, so his superiors decided to extract him, for his own safety and that of his fellow soldiers. At 24, his active military career was over. The Army made the “spare” a leader, and valued his talents. It gave him a purpose for the first time, and kept him busy enough to forget his sorrows.

The ensuing years see Harry floundering:

Nearly a decade will pass until he meets Meghan Markle in 2016. These are the lost years. The spirit animals fall silent, and Harry self-medicates. He drinks and smokes weed every day. He does coke, magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, and LSD in an effort to lift the veil of reality and stroke the lost leopard. He falls out of night clubs, too drunk to walk. He picks fights with photographers and his own bodyguard. He has panic attacks whenever he meets the public. He stays in Courteney Cox’s house when she is away, drinks loads of tequila, takes loads of mushrooms, and hallucinates that her toilet is speaking to him.

Harry does not explain why Courteney Cox’s talking toilet was a hallucination, but the spirit animals are real. At this point in his life, he cannot explain anything to himself. He is so overwhelmed with loss and grief that he cannot recall his mother. He is trapped in a “red mist,” a rage that he directs at his feeble father Charles, his scheming stepmother Camilla, his cold, conformist brother William, and above all at the British press, which he blames for his mother’s death.

Diana is a leopard, Harry is a fox. Charles is a cowardly lion. William has surrendered his “autonomy,” so he doesn’t get an animal at all. Kate is the bitch who takes William away from Harry. Alone, he unravels further. By 2013, he cannot control his panic attacks and agoraphobia.

Harry is tormented by the death of his mother, which seems to dictate his reality.

Green tells us the truth about Diana, a name that means ‘huntress’, yet the huntress turned into the hunted:

After divorcing Charles and leaving the royal security envelope, Diana fell in love with an Egyptian playboy, Dodi al-Fayed. It was a Fayed chauffeur who crashed that car in Paris, by speeding downhill into the underpass so fast that the Mercedes limo took off, hit one side of the underpass, then ricocheted across into a concrete pillar. Three of the four passengers died. The survivor was the bodyguard who, being a mere mortal, had worn his seatbelt.

Harry cannot name al-Fayed; he calls him “Mummy’s friend.” He does not mention that Diana dumped William and Harry in Scotland with the grandparents, so she could pursue her summer romance with Dodi. Nor does he mention Mummy’s earlier lover, Dr. Hasnat Khan, whom she smuggled into the Kensington Palace apartment she shared with William and Harry. Like Oedipus, Harry is blind to Mummy’s true nature. Diana manipulated the press, too. Before she was taken from Harry, she abandoned him.

Princess Diana was hunted by the jackals, but the Diana she was named for, the Greek goddess, was the huntress. She pursued fame in revenge for Charles’s faithlessness, staging teary confessionals for the cameras and driving the pack of paps at him and his family. Charles retaliated with his own staged confessions. Harry now retaliates with his. The Windsors survived Edward VIII’s dalliances with Wallis Simpson and Hitler. They survived Charles and Diana’s war for public sympathy. They will survive Harry’s assault, too. But will he?

Harry is sure that Meghan never ‘googled’ him and that it was just a sublime coincidence that she wore his mother’s favourite perfume, but Green reminds us of the facts:

Meghan’s childhood friend insists that Meghan was an avid reader of royal biographies, especially about Diana. Meghan was photographed outside Buckingham Palace when she visited London as a teenager. When William married Kate, Meghan blogged about the “pomp and circumstance surrounding the Royal Wedding,” and the “endless conversations about Princess Kate.”

A 2014 photo shows Meghan, sitting in an airport with her laptop, reading about Elizabeth II. In Tom Bower’s recent book Revenge, Meghan’s former business adviser Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne attests that Meghan told her, “I’ve googled Harry. I’ve gone deeply into his life.” Harry tells us that he googles Meghan as he falls in love, but he insists that she, like Diana, is entering the royal circus as a naif. His first “marathon” Instagram session with her happens to fall on what would have been Diana’s 55th birthday. Who is the naif here?

Harry has followed in his mother’s sad footsteps:

Harry and Meghan flee from Britain because they believe that his family is colluding with the press against them

For the first time, Harry must fend for himself. Like Diana, he has left the royals’ state-funded and highly professional security envelope

When their children are born, Diana is in the room too. At night, when Meghan and the kids are asleep, Harry slips out and gets high on his own. The clear night sky over Montecito reminds him of the stars over Africa. The Red Fox communes with the spirit of the leopard, but he is never safe. There is no clarity in this freedom. There is no real guidance, either. Meghan, his savior, is pushing him back into the limelight.

Harry must fund his family’s security or risk bringing Diana’s fate upon Meghan and his children. The only way to save them is to sacrifice himself: to sell his story, to seek out the hated camera, to sit with the hated journalists, to dissolve himself in the flashbulbs, to be lost forever in their refractions, and join his mother. “Keeping people tuned to the show, that was the thing.”

Like Hamlet, Harry has now hoist himself on his own petard, the hot wind of his rage and resentment. Like Hamlet, he will fall on his own poisoned sword. Harry, his father’s dim, damaged, delusional, doomed “darling boy,” has sold his family and his soul. Meghan and Moehringer have served him on a platter, like a roast swan at a royal banquet. There is no return after this, only the final act of the tragedy.

On January 19, the Wall Street Journal published Green’s article about Harry’s personal beliefs and how they tie in with those of his contemporaries with regard to Christianity: ‘Prince Harry’s Pagan Progress’.

This, too, is excellent. Excerpts follow:

Harry’s father, King Charles III, may be supreme governor of the Church of England, but when it comes to the inner life, Harry, who was born in 1984, is a typical millennial. Pew Research reported in 2010 that Americans 18 to 29 were “considerably less religious than older Americans.” Twenty-six percent of millennials said they had no religious affiliation, and they were also less likely to pray every day than members of Generation X (41% vs. 54%). Yet the percentage of millennials claiming “absolute certainty” in God’s existence (53%) wasn’t far off the figures for baby boomers (59%) and Generation X (55%) when they were young.

For Harry’s grandmother Elizabeth II, personal faith was indistinguishable from her constitutional duty. King Charles describes himself as a “committed Anglican Christian,” and Harry says he set a “deeply religious” example and “prayed every night.” Harry attended church regularly as a child, obligatory given the Windsor family’s alliance with the church.

Harry was 12 when his mother died in a car crash in Paris. The Christian rites at her funeral in Westminster Abbey couldn’t console him. His only regular contact with the Bible came when a teacher, punishing teenage misdemeanors, delivered “a tremendous clout, always with a copy of the New English Bible.” This, Harry writes, “made me feel bad about myself, bad about the teacher, and bad about the Bible.”

Instead, Harry turned to the animal world:

At around 15, Harry experienced a ritual induction into manhood. Guided by Sandy, a family retainer, he shot a stag. Sandy slit the dying animal’s throat and belly and told Harry to kneel. “I thought we were going to pray,” the prince writes. Instead, Sandy pushed Harry’s head inside the carcass and held it there. “After a minute I couldn’t smell anything, because I couldn’t breathe. My nose and mouth were full of blood, guts, and a deep, upsetting warmth.”

“So this,” Harry tells himself, “is death.” Yet he’s ecstatic. “I wasn’t religious,” Harry writes, “but this ‘blood facial’ was, to me, baptismal.” Finally, he has lived the “virtues” that had been “preached” to him since childhood. Culling the herd is being “good to Nature” and “good to the community.” Managing nature is “a form of worship,” and environmentalism is “a kind of religion” for his father. For the first time Harry feels “close to God.”

This pagan rebirth carries strong symbolic overtones for Harry. Monarchy is a survival from the earliest times. So is the hunt, with its symbolic echoes of religion’s roots in animal sacrifice and seasonal rites. The Windsors live in urban captivity, but their spiritual home is the Scottish Highlands, where the stag is the monarch of the glen. Diana shared her name with the Greek goddess of the hunt—and Harry writes that she was “hunted” to her death, the cameras still “shooting, shooting, shooting” as she lay trapped in the wreckage.

Green concludes:

Harry’s narrative of resurrection bears formal resemblance to the Gospels, but its content owes more to Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and the Californian gospel of self-care. His neopagan progress is that of many millennials—especially those who, like Harry, are white men with no college education. By 2017, Pew found that 38% of Americans 30 to 49 were “spiritual but not religious.” Sixty-seven percent of the unchurched were “absolutely certain” of God’s existence, and 24% “fairly certain.” Fifty-seven percent prayed “at least daily,” but 76% “never” participated in group study or prayer. Like Harry, they are solitary and syncretic, inward travelers with no direction home.

‘Faustian bargain’

On January 9, UnHerd posted an article about Spare: ‘Prince Harry’s Faustian Bargain’.

Its author, Darran Anderson, says:

The most telling line, which reaches towards the heart of the matter, comes back to the Faustian nature of fame and particularly the media’s gaze and how that can distort, “After many, many years of lies being told about me and my family, there comes a point where, going back to the relationship between, certain members of the family and the tabloid press, those certain members have decided to get in the bed with the devil” … Again and again, in his recollections in interviews and writing, Prince Harry comes back to the media as a baleful destructive force in his life …

What is particularly illustrative and sympathetic about Prince Harry’s relationship with fame is that it was not chosen. In the traditional Faustian transaction, the would-be genius or celebrity sells their soul, knowing that the cost is damnation and believing that the gains will be worth it. With the royals, fame is hereditary, which is as much of a curse as a blessing. The transaction is one-sided. No deal is made and yet the individual assumes precisely the same debt. In a world, even a country, where children are born into horrendous poverty and deprivation, it’s difficult to have sympathy for someone born into immense privilege. Yet it is warranted, given that child we watched walking along forlorn at his mother’s funeral did not choose any of this.

The problem is that Prince Harry is now a man and no longer a lost boy. Though he has chosen an arguably noble route of walking away from an environment that had shunned him, and he has the right to speak his mind and tell his own story, he has not walked away from fame. Sympathy, like any resource, is finite

It is even more understandable to wish to escape the glare of the lens that played a part in the death of a beloved parent. Having chosen Meghan and America, Prince Harry had the chance to transcend fame and to effectively defeat the presence that has seemingly haunted his life. He could go semi-privately into any number of ventures. Harry was not, after all, a signatory to the Faustian pact. One of the most tragic aspects to what has been unfolding is not just the painful reality of a family schism, but rather that at the brink of escape, Harry decided to return to the table to sign the contract.

The point where sympathy dissipates is with this issue of fame, the courting of it rather than the walking away. This is where the public’s role in the Faustian bargain comes in. This is what differentiates celebrities from the rest of us, the point of departure, and the judgement can and may well be merciless. By aiming for the echo chamber of the terminally online and the patronage of the American establishment, the wider sympathy is lost. It is especially frustrating as the prince had a chance to get out.

Harry’s case is not helped by a mixed tone of grievance and sanctimony. One moment, he is referring to the killing of Afghan militants as a game of chess, the next he is engaging in flagellation about his previous lack of social consciousness. At its worst, it seems distasteful and condescending, the opposite of a spiritual confessional. It undoes the undoubtedly brave work of speaking about trauma, autonomy, or even his right to speak. As George Orwell put it, “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful”, but here even the disgrace feels performative. It feels grubby and out of touch, both too intimate and too remote. It feels, in other words, like fame

Summer of 2019: too much PDA

Returning to the summer of 2019, where I left off, articles were circulating about the inability of the couple to keep their hands off each other in public.

On August 11 that year, The Sun reported:

MEGHAN Markle and Prince Harry’s friends have “stopped inviting” the couple to dinner parties because they “frown upon their PDAs”, insiders have claimed.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex make a point of sitting together at events – even if their host has seated them separately.

Meghan’s excuse was that she finds dinner party etiquette:

too “exclusive” and “traditional”.

Tough. You sit where your hosts seat you. In Britain, it often means splitting up couples at table to enliven conversation. No one with any manners minds that.

Harry’s friends found his wife’s American attitudes tiresome:

Along with ignoring the seating plans, insiders have also claimed that the Duchess is openly affectionate with her husband on these occasions which causes Harry’s friends to “roll their eyes” at her “American ways”.

What’s more, Harry’s inner circle has “stopped inviting her to dinner” over the “frowned upon” PDAs (public displays of affection) at the dinner table.

The Sun lays out dinner party etiquette for the uninitated. This would be useful for the Duchess:

While it might not seem like THAT big a deal to sit next to your partner at a party, the high society occasions Meghan and Harry have been attending ask guests to follow the three rules of “placement”.

To avoid sounding too “common” or American, the first rule is that “placement” must be pronounced the French way which involves emphasising each of the three syllables.

The second rule dictates that couples should NOT sit together in case any affectionate behaviour puts others off their meal.

And in order to truly grasp the rules of “placement”, guests must always sit where they have been asked to achieve the perfect, balanced high society table.

‘Snubbing protocol’

And there was more.

Meghan wanted to hold Harry’s hand when it was clearly not the done thing:

Shortly after she married into the Royal Family last year, Prince Harry refused to hold Meghan’s hand at a royal event out of respect for The Queen.

Because she wore jeans to Wimbledon in 2019, she could not enter the Royal Box:

An insider claimed Meghan was a “nightmare” during the visit when her security guards infamously BANNED guests from taking photos of her and her casual attire meant she wasn’t allowed to watch the action from the Royal Box.

They told The Times: “They couldn’t invite her into the Royal Box because she was wearing jeans.”

On August 19, the Mail reported on what the editor of Majesty, Ingrid Seward, had to say about the Sussexes’ protocol breaches:

Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, suggested that the Sussexes’ attempts to move away from tradition might ‘bother’ the Duke of Cambridge, 35.

Appearing on Saturday’s Channel 5’s documentary William & Harry: Princes At War?, Ingrid suggested that Harry and Meghan had ‘snubbed protocol’ in a way that was unexpected from royals

She said: ‘I would think it might bother William a little bit, because he might see the way that Harry and Meghan do things as being detrimental to the business of the monarchy as a whole.’

The couple have faced a growing backlash over the summer over their privacy demands, including holding a top secret christening for son Archie and refusing to tell the public who his godparents are … 

Critics have hit out at Meghan recently for ‘considering herself more of an A-lister than a member of the royal family’, after she selected a handful of celebrity friends for the cover of Vogue. 

Speaking about Harry and Meghan ‘snubbing protocol’, Ingrid said: ‘It wasn’t done in a very royal way, or the way we’d come to expect.’ 

The ‘eco-lecturers’ and their private jet flights

Between August and September 2019, the Sussexes took several trips on private jets.

There is nothing wrong with that other than Prince Harry used one of those flights to deliver a lecture in Italy on how everyone had to cut back on air travel in order to save the environment.

On August 15, The Sun reported on Piers Morgan’s disgust at the couple’s hypocrisy. At the time, he was still co-presenting Good Morning Britain. The British public were also disgusted:

PIERS Morgan has criticised Meghan Markle and Prince Harry after they took a private jet to Ibiza for a six day break – despite the Duke warning of the “terrifying” effects of climate change.

The GMB presenter, who has previously criticised the couple, took to Twitter following the news where he made a dig at the Sussexes.

Sharing an article about their trip, he wrote: “Saving the planet, one private jet at a time.”

Many were in agreement with Piers, dubbing the “eco-warrior” couple hypocrites following the holiday.

One wrote: “You’re absolutely correct, virtue signalling and full hypocrisy!!”

Another agreed adding: “Utterly ludicrous! If you’re going to take private jets, fine but then don’t preach about climate change. Hopeless!”

According to local reports Harry and Meghan flew to Ibiza with their son Archie Harrison to celebrate her 38th birthday on August 4.

The jet created seven times more C02 per person than any one of nine daily scheduled flights from London to the Spanish holiday isle.

Harry and Meghan, who took baby son Archie, landed in Ibiza on Tuesday last weekalong with publicly-funded Met Police protection officers.

Five Spanish security officers then whisked them to their secluded luxury private villa.

The family returned to the UK on Monday.

It was the second time that the prince had used a private jet in two weeks after he flew to Sicily to attend the Google Camp to deliver a “barefoot speech” on saving the environment the week before.

But Harry has been accused of hypocrisy over his use of private jets following his speeches urging everyone to “take action” on climate change.

In a post on his SussexRoyal Instagram site in July, he wrote: “With nearly 7.7 billion people inhabiting this Earth, every choice, every footprint, every action makes a difference.”

… Buckingham Palace refused to comment on the Ibiza trip.

On August 19, the Mail reported on another private jet trip, to Nice:

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were embroiled in another hypocrisy row today after being pictured leaving the south of France over the weekend in a fourth trip by private jet in just 11 days.

Prince Harry and Meghan, who have been outspoken on environmental issues in recent months, generated an estimated seven times the emissions per person compared to a commercial flight when flying home from Nice.

Photographs of the royal couple and three-month-old Archie showed the family stepping on board the Cessna 680 Citation Sovereign jet on Saturday at about 3pm local time, having arrived in France three days earlier.

Royal experts said the British public do not want to be ‘lectured on climate change by those who don’t do follow their own advice’, while MPs said the trips do not ‘fit with their public image’ they project as eco-warriors. 

The couple are believed to have visited the £15million palatial home of Castel Mont-Alban owned by Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish overlooking the Promenade des Anglais during their holiday to the French Riviera. 

The trip to Nice came shortly after Harry and Meghan, who married in May last year, had returned by private jet to the UK from Ibiza after a six-night break on the Spanish island to mark the Duchess’s 38th birthday. 

Veteran royal watcher Phil Dampier gave his views about the anger of Britons about the flights and the Sussexes’ behaviour as a whole:

They are not unique – other royals have taken private jets, but they have been criticised over the years as well.

I certainly don’t believe they are getting a bad press because the British public are racist.

It is simply that people don’t like to be lectured on climate change by those who don’t do follow their own advice.

Some families slave away all year to afford one nice holiday and they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about harming the planet when Harry and Meghan are swanning about in luxury.

It’s really sad to see all the goodwill that people had towards this couple disappear in such a short space of time.

They really need to understand quickly the damage they are doing and take steps to turn it around.

They could start by taking on some of the 1500 patronages of the Queen and Prince Philip, and get out there and do some run-of-the-mill royal jobs and shake a few hands.

Meghan gives the impression she wants to live like a Hollywood star protected by publicists, agents and lawyers and that’s not how the royal family works.

It only survives because there is give and take and the public- who are paying for it – want it to succeed.

If they lose the public’s support they are in trouble.

Sir Elton John stepped in to stop the turbulence, as it were.

The Mail reported:

Sir Elton John today confirmed he had paid for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to fly to and from his £15million mansion in Nice by private jet for a holiday ‘inside the safety and tranquillity of our home’.

The 72-year-old singer claimed he had ensured Prince Harry and Meghan’s flights to and from the French Riviera last week were carbon neutral by making the ‘appropriate contribution’ to a carbon footprint fund.

That angered people all the more. Who among us can do that?

More flights followed until early September.

The Africa tour

That autumn, the Sussexes toured southern Africa, an official trip of goodwill towards the Commonwealth countries.

They left behind strained relations with their Palace staff.

Even Africa, a place the Queen thought the couple would enjoy, considering Harry’s Sentebale charity was there, could not bring them happiness or escape:

While there, they gave an interview to ITV’s Tom Bradby, who also interviewed Harry about Spare in January 2023. Where they are concerned, Bradby is more a friend than an objective reporter.

The interview with Bradby aired in October 2019, while the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were touring Pakistan, another initiative to show goodwill towards the Commonwealth.

Valentine Low, author of 2022’s Courtiers, wrote:

The first real intimation the public had that all was not well in Meghan’s world came in October 2019, when ITV released a trailer for its documentary, Harry & Meghan: an African Journey. As Meghan spoke to Tom Bradby in a garden in Johannesburg, she spoke about how she had struggled with life in the spotlight as a newlywed and as a new mother. Almost as if she were trying to hold back tears, she said she had found it hard and added, “And also, thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

The trailer came out while William and Kate were on a tour of Pakistan. The resulting coverage inevitably overshadowed reporting of the last day of the Cambridges’ tour. The Cambridge team was not happy and saw it as a deliberate attempt to knock the Cambridges out of the headlines. Relations between the two households became quite tense.

When the documentary came out, it also showed how far Harry and William had drifted apart. Asked by Bradby about the rift between him and William, Harry chose not to deny it, but said instead, “We are certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him, as I know he will always be there for me.”

William, back home after the Pakistan tour, appears to have been taken aback at such a stark portrayal of his brother and sister-in-law’s unhappiness. He realised they were in crisis. The day after the documentary aired, William whatsapped his brother to ask if he could come and see him. This put Harry and Meghan into a spin. What should they do? Initially, Harry was in favour. Then he spoke to his brother again and asked him who he would tell. William explained that he would have to clear his schedule, which would mean telling his private secretary. At that point, Harry said don’t come. He was so concerned that William’s team would leak the visit to the press that he would rather they did not come than risk it getting into the papers. It highlighted once again the dysfunction at the heart of so many royal relationships and that members of the royal family so rarely pick up the phone and speak to each other directly.

The final months

The Times featured several excerpts from Valentine Low’s Courtiers, one of which explained the time before the African tour through to the beginning of 2020:

As one senior source put it, when they gave an interview in the autumn to Tom Bradby of ITV News in South Africa “they had made it clear that they were finding it very difficult. They were anxious and excited to chart their own course, knowing that they had more flexibility as they were not in the line of succession.”

Moves were already afoot to create their own website with the help of the American PR company Sunshine Sachs. The site was originally intended to promote their charitable foundation, but later to explain — when the time came — how they planned to branch out on their own.

As they took an extended break with their son, Archie, now eight months, in Canada, the negotiations over their plans began to take shape. Harry originally contacted the Prince of Wales just before Christmas about spending more time in North America but was told he needed to come up with a thought-out plan, the London Evening Standard reported. When he sent a draft proposal to Prince Charles early in the new year he was told more time was needed to think through the complex implications, particularly over funding.

A source told The Times: “It reached an impasse where his father said, ‘We need to have these conversations in person. This is not something we can negotiate over email.’

That much was agreed, but Harry also wanted to talk to his grandmother.

“He wanted to go and see the Queen,” a source said. “He has been communicating with her on the phone throughout. He wanted to see her, not to negotiate with her but to talk to her grandson to granny, to say, ‘This is how we have come to this.’” It was intended to be a gesture of respect, rather than an attempt to open negotiations with her.

He called her suggesting that he visit her at Sandringham when he returned home. “She says, ‘Yes, love to see you, come and see me,’” the source said.

Then came what has been described as a “classic” move from the Palace.

“A message was conveyed: ‘Oh, sorry, misunderstanding, she might have said she was available, but actually she is not available.’” Harry, it seemed, had fallen victim to family politics. The source said this was, in part, because the family were worried that he would use anything she said in their meeting as a negotiating tactic. Nothing, apparently, could have been further from the truth. But the result was that Harry was angry and upset at the rebuff.

By the time he and Meghan were back home, their press team was aware that The Sun was on to a story about their plans to spend more time in Canada. It prompted anxious negotiations between the Sussexes and the rest of the family about how to proceed. Should they sweat it out and say nothing, in the knowledge that such delicate negotiations are best conducted out of the public eye? Or should they release a statement and thereby try to set the agenda? The matter was taken out of their hands when the story appeared in Wednesday’s paper under the headline “We’re orf again”.

Never fans of the tabloid press, Harry and Meghan were incandescent. “They were so angry,” said the source.

The final instalment will come tomorrow.

What a sad story. It seems to get more desperate by the day and will not end well.

Last Friday’s post was about the friction between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge but also Palace staff. (You can read my first post on them here.)

There were other signs that the Sussexes were a rather unusual Royal couple, which might have tainted the public’s opinion of them.

Political ambitions

Just days after their wedding in May 2018, Sebastian Shakespeare wrote an article for the Mail, ‘Why Meghan Markle for President isn’t crazy’ (emphases mine):

Meghan Markle is said to have told a former close associate that her ultimate ambition is to be president of the U.S. The conversation apparently took place after Meghan began her romance with Prince Harry.

‘Meghan was quite clear that she wanted to be president one day,’ the source claims.

It may sound fanciful, but the new Duchess of Sussex has held the ambition since she was a little girl. In 2015, she reportedly told the journalist Piers Morgan that she had not always sought showbusiness success.

‘As a kid, I wanted to be either the president or a news broadcaster like you,’ she told him …

And the claim appears to have caused consternation at Kensington Palace yesterday, with the Duchess giving her official spokesman permission to take the unusual step of issuing a public denial.

‘This conversation you describe with an associate is fictitious,’ the spokesman insisted.

I am, though, not the only one to hear rumours that Meghan still holds political ambitions.

Former Times editor Sir Simon Jenkins says: ‘Her friends and associates affirm that she is a political animal.

‘Such is her fame, she could perfectly well follow a route taken by a certain Ronald Reagan. She might lead for the Democrats against a Republican Ivanka Trump. All I can say is, why not?’

On November 17, 2018, the Duchess practised interfaith outreach in an official visit to a mosque near Kensington Palace:

PJ Media reported on the visit a week later, taking their source from The Telegraph:

In yet another shocking failure in a long line of interfaith outreach by Western governments since 9/11, The Daily Telegraph reports today that the American-born Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, has been recently promoting a program associated with the notorious Al-Manaar mosque not far from Kensington Palace. The mosque has produced as many as nineteen terrorists — including “Jihadi John” and his Islamic State “Beatles” who tortured and beheaded Western captives in Syria.

The duchess has helped raise more than $250,000 for the Hubb Community Kitchen operated out of the mosque by promoting a cookbook that royal press agents have billed as celebrating “the power of cooking to bring communities together” …

The Grenfell Tower fire had taken place in June 2017, one of the worst blazes in London in decades. It is still spoken of today. Much community rebuilding had to be done, so one can understand that, but, according to The Telegraph, the Duchess had made earlier, ‘secret visits’ to the mosque:

In February it emerged the 37-year-old royal had made secret visits to the mosque in Westbourne Grove, which has also hosted Princes William and Harry, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in recent months.

An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), the anti-extremism think tank, has linked the mosque, opened by Prince Charles in 2001, to 19 jihadists, including Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John.

Research by the HJS suggests the mosque was once attended by three of the four “Beatles”, the Isil terror cell charged with guarding, torturing and killing hostages in Syria and Iraq. As well as Emwazi, Choukri Ellekhlifi, Alexanda Kotey and Aine Davis, all from west London, also have links with Al Manaar.

PJ Media pointed out that ITV News had also picked up on the Duchess’s prior visits:

An ITV News report earlier this week reported that the duchess has made numerous unreported visits to the notorious mosque in recent months:

Also:

The Sun reported last night that Kensington Palace was trying to distance Markle from the mosque, claiming that the community kitchen housed in the mosque is an independent project.

But this does raise questions about how royal officials decided to promote an effort so closely tied to the Al-Mannar mosque when reports going back to 2014 chronicled the role that the mosque played in the radicalization of “Jihadi John” and the ISIS “Beatles.”

The move to Frogmore Cottage: strain with the Cambridges

As my post from Friday says, by the time the wedding took place, many Palace staff as well as the Cambridges saw too much tension and outbursts involving the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It could no longer be contained.

On November 23, 2018, The Sun reported that the Sussexes were leaving Kensington Palace for the 10-bedroom Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the Windsor estate:

The brothers have always been incredibly close, but Harry and Meghan are setting up their home in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The Queen has given them Frogmore Cottage, which is having a multi-million pound refit paid for by the taxpayer.

It will provide ten bedrooms and a nursery for their baby, due in April. The couple are expected to move in next year.

A royal source said: “The initial plan was for Harry and Meghan to move out of their cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace and into one of the main apartments.

“But there has been a bit of tension between the brothers.

“Now Harry and Meghan don’t want to live next to William and Kate and want to strike out on their own.”

The cosy cottage the pair currently live in as previously home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge before the couple moved into a 20-room apartment inside the palace.

They need more room and hope Frogmore Cottage will be ready in time for when they have the baby.”

Frogmore Cottage needs major building work to turn it back into a luxury family home, boasting 10 bedrooms & a new nursery plus space for a gym & yoga studio.

Currently it’s been chopped up into 5 units where palace staff have been living.

News of Meghan and Harry’s decision to leave Kensington Palace comes weeks after it was first reported that Harry and William would have separate courts in the future instead of using Kensington Palace as a joint office for them.

Nearly a year later, on August 27, 2019, The Sun reported that the Sussexes actually wanted to live in Windsor Castle, but the Queen said no:

MEGHAN Markle and Prince Harry wanted to move in with his grandparents and set up home in Windsor Castle, reports say.

It’s claimed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex asked the Queen if living quarters in the historic castle could be made available for them after they were married but the answer was a firm ‘no’, so they went on to renovate Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the estate …

The original castle in Berkshire dates back to the 11th century when construction was started following the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror.

Since the time of Henry I it has been used by the reigning monarch.

Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the 13th century which were later expanded upon by Edward III.

Frogmore Cottage, in the grounds of Frogmore House on the royal estate, was built in 1801.

On Christmas Day 2018, The Sun reported that all seemed to be well between the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex at Sandringham:

MEGHAN Markle placed a hand on Kate Middleton’s back in a show of unity as they today brushed aside rumours of a rift for a Christmas Day church service.

The sisters-in-law were all smiles as they joined the royal family at Sandringham for the annual service this morning.

And Meghan and Kate brushed off feud rumours as the former actress placed a hand on the Duchess of Cambridge’s back as they appeared to share a joke.

The pregnant Duchess of Sussex looked radiant in a navy £2,250 Victoria Beckham coat with £1,350 black boots as she held tightly to Prince Harry’s arm.

The Duchess of Cambridge, who wore a £3,000 red Catherine Walker coat and £650 burgundy “Halo Band” made by milliner Jane Taylor, walked apart from Prince William.

Kate teamed the festive look with matching gloves and a clutch bag, while the Queen was vibrant in a grey feathered hat and jacket with a bright pink trim.

Three weeks later, in January 2019, royal reporters were none the wiser about whether a feud was actually taking place.

On January 17 that year, The Daily Caller reported:

According to new reports by royal insiders Katie Nicholl and Leslie Carroll, the Duchesses may not be as at odds as we were previously led to believe.

Contrary to mainstream narratives pushed over the past several weeks, Markle and Middleton may not be feuding as much as  just feeling each other out.

“When [Prince] Harry met Meghan [as] the relationship was progressing, he was really keen to get Kate’s stamp of approval,” Nicholl tells ETOnline. “He wanted them to be close as sisters-in-law. I think they’re still in an early stage of their relationship.”

And while there very well could be some jealousy, that doesn’t necessarily equate hard feelings.

“Possibly, Kate does feel a little eclipsed by Meghan, who’s just come along to such huge media interests, public interests and being so successful from the start,” Nicholl added.

Of course, Harry and Meghan’s decision to move out of Kensington Palace this year — a rare decision for the Royal Family, who usually resides together at the palace during most of the year — fanned the flames of a rumored feud. It didn’t help that a report that Middleton left a meeting with Markle in tears before her May wedding quickly dominated headlines for weeks …

For what it’s worth, Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, isn’t buying the candy-coated reporting.

“People forget Meghan is an LA girl,” Seward suggested. “It’s very different for her to suddenly come here and marry into the royal family…I think Meghan thought she had an ally in Kate…Kate was pregnant and unwell. And then she had a new baby. So she couldn’t give Meghan the attention she expected. And I think that’s when things started to sour.”

So is it a case of misunderstanding? Or did the two women get off on the wrong foot? We’ll have to wait and see…

On February 5, The Daily Caller told its readers that it was Princes Harry and William who were allegedly feuding, not their wives:

Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton’s alleged feud is reportedly really between Prince Harry and Prince William after the eldest offered some “brotherly advice.”

It reportedly happened when Prince William shared that he was “quite concerned that the relationship [with the Duchess of Sussex] has moved so quickly,” Katie Nicholl said in a clip from TLC’s “Kate v. Meghan: Princesses at War,” per E! News Monday. 

And that “‘You know, this seems to be moving quickly. Are you sure?’ And I think what was meant as well-intended brotherly advice, just riled Harry,” she added.

That advice reportedly translated to Harry that William wasn’t behind his decision to marry Meghan Markle.

Nicholl continued, “Harry is hugely protective of Meghan. He saw that as criticism. He interpreted that as his brother not really being behind this marriage. And I don’t think things have been quite right ever since.”

However, royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell explained that the alleged distance between the brothers is all about Markle’s influence on her husband.

“Everything I hear is that Harry is completely beguiled by Meghan, and completely enthralled to her and has changed considerably,” Lady Campbell shared.

Baby Archie

On March 4, 2019, Gateway Pundit‘s Niall McCrae didn’t sit on the fence when discussing the Duchess of Sussex’s baby shower:

Keep your seatbelts on, folks. According to Vanity Fair, Meghan revealed at her baby shower that her imminently expected will be raised as a gender-fluid child. Of course, this was denied by Buckingham Palace. But nobody would be surprised if this progressive princess, supported by her widely popular and slightly wild husband Harry, fully meant what she allegedly said.

It was predictable from the outset that Meghan would be a wrong ‘un (should anyone imply such inference, I attribute none of this to her ethnicity or American nationality, which freshen the Windsorhood). She is the epitome of the self-righteous, virtue-signalling, celebrity social justice warrior. Narcissistic Meghan wants to emulate and exceed Diana, and ensure that in future movies she will be not the actress but the actual heroine.

Never being a fan of Diana, my response to her untimely death in 1997 was coolly detached as I saw all those flowers, all those personal messages from people who never met her. However, Diana obviously fulfilled a need in society, and the outpouring of grief after the tragedy marked a turning point in British culture, from the traditional stiff upper lip to open emoting. As Tony Blair said when taking office earlier that year, ‘A new dawn has broken, has it not?’

We all wish Meghan and Harry a healthy and happy child. A boy is rumored, and perhaps that explains the gender fluidity. As a devout feminist, Meghan would probably be less keen on undermining the sex of a daughter: instead, she would be raised a strong female, preparing to right the wrongs of the patriarchal world.

On Monday, May 6, The Independent reported on ancient rules regarding royal custody of grandchildren. Keep in mind that this now pertains to King Charles:

… there is a fascinating law in place that means that Prince Harry and Meghan may not always have full legal custody of their child.

More than three centuries ago, a law was enacted that means the sovereign has full legal custody of their minor grandchildren, royal expert Marlene Koenig explains.

The law, called “The Grand Opinion for the Prerogative Concerning the Royal Family,” was introduced by King George I in 1717.

“George I did not get along with his son, the future George II,” Koenig tells The Independent.

“I believe it came about when the Prince of Wales [George II] did not want to have the godparent for his son that his father wanted – so George I got Parliament to come up with something.”

This means that when Charles, Prince of Wales becomes sovereign, he will have custody of his minor grandchildren.

According to Koenig, issues surrounding the law arose in 1994 when Diana, Princess of Wales separated from Prince Charles.

Diana expressed wishes to take their sons, Harry and William, to live with her in Australia, but couldn’t due to the regulations laid out by the custody law

Hmmm …

CNN tries to trap Trump on Markle

On June 1, CNN tried to trap President Trump into saying that the Duchess was ‘nasty’. Instead, he said (29-second point in the video):

No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.

Here’s the full exchange:

Another Twitter user, since deleted, observed — nearly correctly:

List of women Trump has used the word “nasty” to describe: -Hillary Clinton -Nancy Pelosi -Meghan Markle -Kamala Harris -San Juan mayor -Danish prime minister.

August 2019: the turning point

Valentine Low, the author of 2022’s best-seller Courtiers, tells us that, by August 2019, things were unravelling quickly for the Sussexes, who already had a US PR team lined up:

By August 2019, things were “awful and tense” within the Sussex household. There were also clues that Harry and Meghan did not see their long-term future as working members of the royal family. Their Africa tour was coming up, but there was nothing in the diary after that. Meanwhile, staff were increasingly aware of the presence in the background of Meghan’s business manager, Andrew Meyer, and her lawyer, Rick Genow, as well as her agent, Nick Collins, and Keleigh Thomas Morgan of Sunshine Sachs. The US team had been very busy, working on deals not only with Netflix but also a deal for Harry’s mental health series for Apple+ with Oprah Winfrey and Meghan’s voiceover for a Disney film about elephants.

The most the public knew at the time was that the Queen had arranged for the couple to go on a tour of Africa, as part of a goodwill sign towards the Commonwealth countries there:

While preparing for the Africa tour, the team was trying to persuade the couple that it would be appropriate to do an interview with the British media. Sam Cohen suggested Tom Bradby of ITV, who already had a relationship with Harry. Meghan was reluctant at first. Her attention was focused on the prospect of doing an interview with Oprah Winfrey. After thinking about it, however, Harry said they would agree. There was one proviso: he and Meghan could not do interviews together or be in the same shot. That would go against their deal with Oprah, which at that point was slated for the autumn of that year. (It eventually went ahead more than a year later, in March 2021.)

The Express was on to the Sussexes at that time.

On Saturday, July 28, the paper reported that the Sussexes’ job vacancies were no longer on the Clarence House recruitment site:

The American and the Duke of Sussex are no longer listed on the recruitment page of Prince Harry’s father Prince Charles’ website. Prince William and wife Kate however, remain there. One family friend said of Harry: “He wants to control everything and everyone he’s involved with. How he’s going to pay for it is another question.”

Under the recruitment tab of the Clarence House website vacancies are listed for staff keen to work for Charles and Camilla and the Cambridges.

Regardless of there being any vacancies available, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were listed at the top of the site, along with Charles, Camilla, William and Kate.

The couple are no longer there.

The suspicion the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have now split from Prince Charles on his website also raises questions about funding.

The costs of Harry’s office and his royal duties are met by a stipend from the Prince of Wales.

Between them Harry and William share about £4million a year, with the lion’s share going to the direct heir to the throne.

But without his father’s support, Harry would have to turn to the Queen for funding – and she already has a lengthy list of people to support.

Meghan and Kate seemed to have patched up their differences with a visit to Wimbledon this summer.

But Meghan and Harry aides sparked outrage when it emerged there were rules on how to approach them in Windsor.

The Sun reports neighbours are advised against initiating conversations with the couple.

However, if Meghan or Harry start a discussion they are welcome to exchange pleasantries with the young couple.

They are also asked not to play with the couples’ dogs or request to see their baby, the report claims.

On Thursday, August 1, The Express had a follow-up article:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made big changes in their lives during recent months as they simultaneously became parents for the first time. The royal couple split from their charity partnership with Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge in January. Three months later it was announced Prince Harry would team up with US talk show legend Oprah Winfrey on a new TV series about mental health.

This was followed by the birth of their first son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor on May 6, 2019.

Since then, Meghan and Harry have planned a forthcoming royal visit to South Africa in autumn.

They also raised eyebrows after citing their intention to raise Archie as a “private citizen” despite him being seventh-in-line to the throne.

The royal baby lives with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at their Windsor Estate home where they can maintain strict privacy …

Her mum, Doria Ragland, lives in Los Angeles where she is a yoga instructor.

Doria has crossed the pond to visit her daughter and grandson but a royal expert has now revealed Meghan may be looking to set up house over there.

Emily Andrews told Yahoo’s The Royal Box the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may well purchase a property in the USA for work and personal reasons

The royal expert did not suggest that any purchase would mean a permanent move to the United States

She and Harry are expected to travel to the Queen’s official Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle, along with other senior royals this summer.

The idyllic holiday home becomes the Queen’s two-month break from royal duties every July and August.

Vogue

On August 2, Meghan’s issue of Vogue that she had guest-edited appeared on the shelves.

The Spectator rightly objected to the Duchess’s perceptions of life. She appears to think that it’s not what you do that matters, it’s what you look like that counts. Look at Harry in the photo — a completely different person:

The issue featured the Duchess’s supposed heroines.

Author and journalist Douglas Murray wrote about it for UnHerd‘Meghan and Harry are playing a dangerous game’:

… Meghan Markle, otherwise known as the Duchess of Sussex, has guest-edited the September edition of Vogue. The contents of the issue are perhaps unsurprising. As well as inevitably celebrating prominent women, such as the teenaged school truant Greta Thunberg, the Duchess has also set out to prove that women don’t need men to give them status. Something she has done by including an interview with her husband, Prince Harry.

This in itself has drawn a certain amount of comment, and will not have calmed fears some people had that a highly political figure marrying into the nation’s most necessarily non-politically opinionated family might cause problems down the line. The fact that Meghan Markle’s pre-Harry politics might be best described as ‘woke’ is in some ways unimportant – a prominent Donald Trump-supporting Republican marrying into the Royal Family would raise similar concerns, to say the least.

The worry was that Prince Harry’s marriage to Ms Markle would end up tipping him towards her political path, fears that will not have been calmed by his appearance in the high-end fashion magazine. In the royally-guest-edited issue, Prince Harry talks about a number of things, the headline-grabber being his claim that he and his wife would not have more than two children because of its impact on the environment and climate change …

It is the Prince’s follow-up comments, however, that dish up the problem, less for his audience than for the Prince himself. Watching Prince Harry beginning to play the game of identifying ‘unconscious bias’ is like gazing at a hapless amateur juggling with loaded pistols; it is enough to make any well-disposed person want to scream “Stop” and seize the guns from his unsuspecting hands.

The comments appear in a conversation between the Prince and primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, on the subject of what humans can learn from chimpanzees. At one point Dr Goodall says that children do not notice skin colour, to which Harry adds: “But again, just as stigma is handed down from generation to generation, your perspective on the world and on life and on people is something that is taught to you. It’s learned from your family, learned from the older generation, or from advertising, from your environment.” Well perhaps …

One of the most extreme forms of – generally unconscious – bias that people demonstrate throughout their lives is towards attractive people, and not only in the selection of partners. Study after study shows that good-looking men and women stand a better chance of promotion in their chosen field of work than people who are average-looking or actively unattractive.

For instance, it may be carefully suggested that the editor of September’s issue of Vogue would not be editing September’s edition of Vogue if, rather than the acclaimed beauty she is, she looked rather more like a member of the Addams family. Or indeed an average-looking member of the general public. There may be many reasons why Prince Harry requested Meghan Markle’s hand in marriage, but her looks must have – consciously or otherwise – at least counted in her favour on the way to the altar.

Another form of bias that people express throughout their lives – again, consciously or otherwise – might be an inclination towards someone who is financially or socially secure. I should never want to accuse a Duchess – or any other member of the Royal Family – of any variety of bias. And yet it seems possible that in her search for a husband Ms Markle may have demonstrated some form of bias (unconscious or otherwise) towards thrones and their heirs. I will put the point no stronger. But in her search for love, Ms Markle must have met many people. Perhaps she met many princes and mingled with many a duke. But it is striking, at the very least, that of all the people who appeared across her path, the one she ended up marrying in a low-key ceremony at Windsor Castle happened to be the second son of the Prince of Wales.

Balmoral no-show — part 1

It was a given that the Royals joined the Queen during her summer holiday at Balmoral and participated in her favourite country pursuits.

However, the Duchess was fussy.

On August 11, The Sun reported:

MEGHAN Markle might fake a headache to avoid taking part in blood sports when she visits the Queen in Balmoral, a royal expert has claimed.

Sports like hunting and fly fishing are much-loved group activities at the Queen’s summer retreat in the Scottish highlands.

With a 50,000 acre estate comprising of grouse moors, forestry and farmland, animals to hunt are in no short supply in Balmoral.

But the Duchess of Sussex, 38, who follows a vegan diet during the week, isn’t a fan of hunting – despite her husband Prince Harry being taught from a young age.

Writing for the Mail on Sunday, royal editor Robert Jobson said: “Meghan, however, who rather disapproves of such blood sports, may choose to feign a headache.”

BBQs and picnics are thought to take place daily at Balmoral, regardless of the Scottish weather, as the royals are so fond of all things outdoorsy.

“It is hunting which is perhaps the biggest passion”, Robert added of the royal hobby, which includes shooting birds and deer.

“Her Majesty shot her last stag in 1983 near to the Spittal of Glenmuick, in a spot that is now called The Queen’s Corry.

“But she still attends shoots and drove Kate to a grouse shoot when the couple visited a couple of years ago.”

This I did not know. Wow:

The Queen was taught to stalk deer by her late cousin, and best friend, Margaret Rhodes.

Returning now to Meghan:

Earlier this week, a source told Fabulous pescatarian Meghan would try fly fishing to appease her father-in-law Prince Charles.

They added: “But there will no softening on Meghan’s stance against hunting, any stag or deer hunting fills her with horror.

“Venison will not be one of her menu choices for sure.”

However, the Queen was also fussy. And, after all, Balmoral was her estate.

Five days later, on August 16, The Sun told us that Her Majesty despised ripped jeans and wedge heels. Meghan loves both:

It has been reported that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will make their first trip to the Scottish castle this summer, but the Queen has her firm views on correct attire.

Speaking to Fabulous Digital, the source said: “The Queen is no favourite of jeans so the US boyfriend look and ripped jeans will be left in Frogmore Cottage along with any wedges which her Majesty hates with a passion.”

Meghan Markle has often demonstrated she is a fan of wearing denim, and recently caused a stir when she showed up at Wimbledon wearing jeans …

It is thought this year Meghan will visit the castle for the first time, where the Sussexes will be given their own wing, as well as enjoying a traditional afternoon tea with Her Maj.

A source told the Sun on Sunday: “The Queen and Prince Philip adore the couple and, of course, their new great-grandson Archie, and they have invited them to Balmoral for a few days.

“It is testament to Meghan that she has been given this invite. It’s a huge honour.”

However, they did not go, according to the Mail‘s September 6 report:

aides insisted the Sussexes were too busy working on charitable projects to join the Queen at Balmoral this weekend

There had been rumours that the Sussexes would be joining the monarch at Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands this week with their baby son Archie.

But while most of the Royal Family have made the long trek up to Aberdeenshire, Harry and Meghan actually have no plans to fly to Scotland at all.

Sources close to the couple insist that the decision should not be seen as a ‘snub’ – and Harry only rarely goes up to the Queen’s Deeside estate nowadays.

The US Open

Instead, the Duchess made plans to fly to New York to see her friend Serena Williams compete at the US Open.

Serena Williams was said to be hesitant as she lost at Wimbledon when the Duchess was in the stands:

Despite the long flight and a stressful delay for Meghan, sources have claimed that Williams’ coaches aren’t massively thrilled that the Duchess has come to support her friend, as she could distract her from the game in hand.

They are said to be concerned due to the fact that Williams lost when Meghan attended her last match at Wimbledon.

A source told Page Six: ‘Serena asked her coach about Meghan coming when she won last night and everyone is worried, as tennis players are very superstitious, and Serena lost when Meghan came to watch her at Wimbledon.’

The source added that Williams’ aides were concerned that the trip was a publicity stunt.

However Williams is said to ‘adore’ Meghan and ‘wouldn’t have a word of it’.  

It is not yet known where in New York Meghan will be staying and who she will be staying with, however she is thought to have flown first class for the two-day trip across the Atlantic.    

It comes just days after her husband spoke out about sustainable travel at an environmentally-friendly tourism event in Amsterdam. 

And last month he is understood to have given a passionate barefoot speech about saving the planet at Google’s £16million climate change summit in Sicily.

Meghan’s 7,000 mile journey to New York and back is expected to generate 986kg of carbon dioxide

The article has a helpful map showing all seven flights that the Sussexes took between August 6 and September 6 in Europe.

Harry excused his flights as follows:

He took a scheduled flight to Amsterdam this week to promote Travalyst, a scheme for environmentally-friendly tourism.

Speaking at the event, the prince refused to apologise for his recent private flights, saying: ‘I spend 99 per cent of my life travelling the world by commercial.

‘Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity [to fly privately] based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe – it’s as simple as that. 

‘For me it’s about balance. It’s not a decision I would want to take, but if I have to do that, I will ensure that I balance out the impact that I have.’ 

Harry dismissed concerns over his carbon footprint by insisting that he ‘offsets’ his emissions by donating to renewable energy incentives and planting trees. 

Returning to tennis, it seems that Serena Williams’s coaches were correct. Meghan’s presence and Williams’s loss coincided, as the Mail told us on September 8:

Tennis fans have accused Meghan Markle of jinxing Serena Williams last night as she watched the tennis star lose and fail to secure an historic 24th Grand Slam at the US Open, just months after she attended Williams’ defeat at Wimbledon.

The Duchess of Sussex, 38, was called a ‘bad luck charm,’ with fans citing the resounding loss at the Wimbledon final to Simona Halep and the year before at SW19 to Angelique Kerber.

The Royal was the centre of attention in New York as she watched with Williams’ mother Oracene Price but the pair were left disappointed as the former number one was beaten 6-3, 7-5, by Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Balmoral no-show — part 2

As for Balmoral, the Mail article continued:

Prince Harry and Meghan’s absence from the trip has left Her Majesty ‘hurt and disappointed,’ the Mail on Sunday understands, at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together at her favourite time of the year.

The Queen is already said to be ‘baffled’ by Meghan and Harry’s inability to steer clear of PR calamities, and is concerned that her beloved grandson and his new wife are failing to listen to their team of advisers.

On September 8, The Sun told us:

THE QUEEN was left “hurt and disappointed” when Meghan Markle skipped visiting Balmoral in favour of her last-minute trip to New York over the weekend.

In opting for the US Open instead:

she snubbed the Queen’s invite to attend the Highland Games – something that proved a disappointment according to royal insiders.

The Mail on Sunday described the move as an “outright snub” adding that Her Majesty “is ‘hurt and disappointed’ at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together.”

According to insiders the monarch had been looking forward to “a few days of merry chaos” with her great-grandchildren, including Archie who is still yet to visit the Queen’s summer home with Harry and Meghan claiming he is “too young.”

While Meghan was watching Serena Williams:

the Queen was joined by Prince Charles and Camilla at the Braemar Gathering Highland Games on Saturday …

The Queen is currently staying at her nearby summer residence Balmoral where she last night hosted Boris Johnson and girlfriend Carrie Symonds.

But the Prime Minister was forced to cut short the anticipated weekend-long visit after a turbulent week.

One week later on September 16, The Express reported:

The Queen “does not want to talk about the Sussexes” according to claims from a royal insider. People spending time with Her Majesty, 93, have reportedly been told not to mention Meghan Markle or Prince Harry. Leading royal expert Quentin Letts tweeted the bombshell remark this week, claiming it was the only subject that was strictly banned from discussion.

That is really bad.

As the King would say, ‘Dear, oh dear’.

The article continues:

Letts tweeted on Friday: “Friend of an acquaintance was about to go riding with HMQ.

Was given v firm advice ‘Talk about anything except one subject.’ Brexit? ‘No, The Sussexes.'”

This comes after claims of clashes within the royal family.

The Queen was reportedly left “deeply disappointed” by Meghan and Harry’s hostile behaviour.

Several royal sources claimed the monarch was not impressed with the way Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have acted since marrying last year.

She is reportedly “disappointed” with their behaviour as representatives of the British monarchy around the world.

There is plenty more to come about the Sussexes. Stay tuned.

John F MacArthurThis year’s Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Epiphany — January 22, 2023 — was Matthew 4:12-23.

It was about the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee and His calling of two sets of brothers to be among His Apostles, to be fishers of men: Andrew and Simon Peter as well as John and James.

Verse 23 says:

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Jesus, as did the Apostles after the first Pentecost, particularly Paul, taught in the synagogues regularly.

John MacArthur describes these houses of worship and their additional functions in ‘The Healing Work of Jesus’ which he preached in 1978.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

MacArthur begins by commenting on the verse itself and how it fits in with Matthew’s Gospel as a whole, with its theme of Jesus as the Messiah, the King of Kings:

Let’s look at verse 23: Jesus began on the right plan “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”  Now here we come right to those two dimensions of messianic credentials: His words and His works Let’s look at some specifics here.  “And Jesus went about,” that’s an interesting verb.  I want to stop for a minute; it’s an imperfect tense verb, and when you have the imperfect it doesn’t mean it’s less than perfect. It’s just a term used for something that’s continuous action in the past tense It means that He was constantly going about, the idea of a constant endeavor.  You might even translate it, “He was continually going around” – incessant effort is the idea And really what you have in verse 23 – hang on to this thought – is a one-verse summary of the whole Galilean ministry.

Now notice, Matthew will take this one-verse summary and expand it in chapter 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, so that those chapters to come – 5 through 9 – are an expansion of verse 23.  In fact, His words are the subject of chapter 5, 6, and 7.  His works are the subject of chapter 8 and 9.  So Matthew simply introduces those two elements here and then he begins to expand them in the next section, verses 5:1 through 9:38.  First, 5, 6, and 7 – His words – the great truth of the Sermon on the Mount that was absolutely shocking, devastating, and divine. And then His mighty works and miracles, chapters 8 and 9.

So He went all over the place incessantly and constantly, and you’ll notice it says, He “went about all Galilee.”  He was moving all the time.  Now “all Galilee” is a strong expression.  The term “all” is a very strong term, and when it says “all” in this sense it really does mean in a comprehensive sense

The point is this: that to cover 204 villages and to move around through all of that mass of humanity required much time and constant travel and Jesus was busy.  Somebody figured out just to touch every town, moving at a rate of one town a day, is gonna take a half a year, and that would be only if you stayed one day in each place

And so Jesus moved about.  He was going to touch as many as He could.  It was important that the whole of all those people – and remember they were Jew and Gentile mixed, and even the Jewish ones had been exposed to Gentile culture.

That is because Galilee was along the trade route to and from Africa.

The local synagogue was the heart of the community:

First of all it says, in verse 23, “Teaching in their synagogues.”  Within Galilee Jesus chose to kind of center His ministry in the synagogues.  Now the synagogue was the most important institution in the life of any Jew.  Keep that in mind.  It was the most important institution.  It is very like the church is to you, you that are Christians. You love the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re active at Grace Community Church, you’re involved here – this is the most important institution in your life.  Your family is here, your kids are here, your friendships are here, this is your life.  No different in those days.  The whole of Jewish life centered around the synagogue.  In fact, in some cases it would be even more intense because even the politics of life and the economics of life – you traded there, you learned to sort of match up your businesses with people of like trade because they sat according to trade It was everything to the Jewish people.  In fact, the worst thing that could ever happen to a Jew was to be unsynagogued Aposunaggos, “to be unsynagogued” was it.  And you see, that’s exactly what happened when a Jew became a Christian He was dis-fellowshiped from the synagogue.  It was vital.  That’s why the whole book of Hebrews is written.  It was written to Christians, but also there are warnings throughout that book to certain Jewish people who were so afraid of being unsynagogued that even though they believed the gospel, they wouldn’t receive Christ.  This synagogue was the key to their life.

He describes the physical location of the synagogue:

In most cases, the synagogue was built on a hill, using the most prominent hump in the city of the little town, and every town had one.  And there would be the synagogue, and it would be the highest place in the city and usually would be distinguished by a tall pole shooting up in the sky so that everybody could focus on that It was as familiar a sight to go into a Jewish town and see a synagogue spire as it is to go in the middle of New England and see a little church spire in the little villages.  It’s common.

Sometimes, if there weren’t any hills, they would build along the river and the bank of the river, and very often they built synagogues without a roof They just let their worship go up to God … the synagogue they’ve uncovered in Capernaum and have reconstructed really doesn’t have any roof We don’t know if it did or didn’t have one or what kind of one it had, but it was where they gathered.

This was the pattern of worship:

Divine worship was held in the synagogue every Sabbath, every Saturday.  Sabbath ran from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, and on the second and fifth day of every week they had special services, every Sabbath they had special services Of course, they had special services every festival day, all the feast days and all the special days.  Now basically when they came together on the Sabbath, if it wasn’t a special day, this is how the format went: first there was the reading of the Law and the reading of the Prophets by certain people who were called upon, and then there were prayers offered by the leader, and then there were responses by the people They would respond with amens and various praises to God.

Following that there would be an exposition of some text of the Scripture, and that went all the way back to the return under Ezra and Nehemiah.  When they read the Scripture – You remember in Nehemiah? – “and then Ezra the scribe stood up and gave the sense of it” expository preaching is not something new in this generation It is the kind of preaching in the restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah, and it is historically what the Jews have done in their synagogue, first the reading, then the prayer, and then the exposition And it was interesting, if there was a visiting dignitary or a visiting rabbi, he would be given the right to speak the exposition very often. And that’s where, of course, Paul moved right into the synagogue and used some Old Testament text and took off That was very common.

This is how the synagogue was organised and how it ruled over the community:

The affairs of the synagogue were administered by ten men; basically, ten elders of whom three were called the rulers of the synagogue.  They acted as judges.  They would admit proselytes or not admit them.  They settled issues.  There was a fourth ruler called the angel of the church who was sort of the chairman of the board.  There were others who were called servers who carried out the direction of the three and the one There was an eighth one, according to Jewish tradition, that was the Hebrew interpreter who took the ancient Hebrew and translated it into the vernacular.  There was a ninth one who headed up the theological school.  And by the way, every synagogue had a theological school in it And there was a tenth one who interpreted the theological school instructor stuff because it was usually over the heads of the people So they had this whole organization, this incredible structure.

Listen, the synagogue became the court of law, and any disputes or court problems or civil things, they came there; their judgment was made and execution was even pronounced Listen, you know the Roman government only took away from the Jews the right of execution at the time of Jesus They could do everything else.  They could run their own affairs.  The only thing they couldn’t do was take somebody’s life.  That’s why they had to take Jesus to the Romans to have Him crucified.

They ruled their own affairs.  And as we see, the small villages and towns in the time of Jesus, they would have their own court of law.  Also the synagogue was a public school for boys, and the little boys would go there, in their childhood, and learn the Talmud.  And further, the synagogue was a theological school for the men.  So this was the center of the whole concentration of Jewish life.  And when Jesus went there to that place, He would be stepping right into the midst of Israel.

The temple in Jerusalem differed from the synagogue, as it was only there where sacrifices and monetary offerings could be made:

Now there’s a vast difference, remember, between the synagogue and the temple There’s only one temple, and that is at Jerusalem.  That’s the only temple.  There isn’t one there now, as you know, not since 70 A.D. when Titus came in and wiped it out.  But there was only one temple, but wherever there was a small colony of Jews, wherever there was a handful of Jewish men, they could start a synagogue And so they were every place, and they were the platform for Jesus, and they were the platform for the apostle Paul.

By the way, the temple was not a place for teaching, and the temple was not a place for preaching, unless like Jesus you happened to stand up in there and take off The temple was a place for offering sacrifice and making offerings.  But the synagogue was a place of teaching and preaching.  It was essentially a preaching/teaching place.  In fact, the church today pretty well has modeled its patterns after the synagogue Now we still have Jewish synagogues with us There’s one right down the street, only now they call it a – What? a temple. But it isn’t, because there’s no blood sacrifice being offered there.  It’s simply a synagogue, a gathering place.

MacArthur describes how Jesus made use of the synagogues for His teaching:

Well, Jesus took advantage of the opportunity for any dignitary, any visiting rabbi or teacher, to have the opportunity to speak And so Jesus would go in the synagogue and He would teach – Why? because this would reach the heart of Israel Listen, the most zealous people for God were in the synagogue.  That’s where you’d find the true hearts, if there were any in Israel.  That’s where the remnant would be, wouldn’t they?  They’d be there worshiping the true God in the best way they knew how. So Jesus went where they would listen to Him, where they would hear Him – the synagogue.  And He would go in, and He would teach the Scripture That was His pattern – to open the Scripture, to give exposition This is exactly what He did throughout the pattern of His ministry.  Even when He was in Nazareth He broke open His whole ministry by doing an exposition on an Old Testament scripture that referred to Him Even in the Sermon on the Mount He kept referring, “You have heard it said, and the Scripture says, and I say,” and He’d take off from there, either from a scripture of God’s authorship or from some ancient tradition that they had held to. Jesus would move off from there to do the exposition and turn the whole thing to Himself.

And so Jesus was teaching in the synagogues.  By the way, the word didask has to do with didactic, instructive relating of truth The word concentrates on the passing of information.  The word emphasizes the content, the passing on of information.  That’s what Jesus did.  And by the way, His method, I’m quite confident, was expository, taking the text and out of it teaching the principles I really believe this is the greatest way to preach and teach the Word of God.

Proclaiming, MacArthur notes, is different to teaching:

Secondly, it says in verse 23, “Not only was He teaching in their synagogue, but He was also preaching the gospel of the kingdom.”  Now this is a different word – kruss – and it means “to proclaim,” and it concentrates not so much on the didactic method, the relating of truth, the content, as it does on the very voice, the very style of proclamation. And it simply means “He heralded it out,” “He cried out.”  Often about Jesus you see the word ekraxan, “he cried out.” That’s preaching.  Teaching is where there is the careful, instructive relating of content.  It’s kind of from the mind to the mind.  Preaching is the crying out, the impassioned cry of Jesus Christ to the people.  And there it wasn’t so much in the synagogues, although He did both there as well, and the two are mixed up in His ministry so you can’t separate ’em.  There was never teaching without preaching, and there was never preaching without teaching, but the preaching is the crying out.  It is the heralding of the gospel.

Some have said preaching is the heralding of the gospel and teaching is the explaining of the gospel that’s been heralded.  Jesus did both – preaching, making a public announcement.  William Hendrickson, who’s a great commentator, says this:  “Between preaching and teaching there is a difference.  Though it is true that good preaching is also teaching, the emphasis is nevertheless not the same.  Preaching means proclamation.  Teaching, on the other hand, indicates imparting more detailed information regarding the proclamation that was made,” end quote.  That’s the idea.

The proclamation is what is called the krugma, and the teaching is what is called the didach.  You may see those terms sometime in your reading, and there’s never any good krugma without didach It doesn’t do any good to proclaim something if you don’t explain what it is.

MacArthur points out that Jesus avoided teaching about the socio-political issues of the day. He focused only on the kingdom of God:

Look at it in verse 23, the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of the kingdom.  This is what He was always talking about, always.  He was always talking about this.  In fact in Acts chapter 1, after He had risen from the dead, until He ascended, He had 40 days with His disciples, and it says in verse 2 of Acts 1, “Until the day in which he was taken up after he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments unto the apostles whom he’d chosen: to whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs” – now watch this – “being seen by them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

From the time He began His ministry in Matthew right here, to the time that He was silenced in His ascension, He never spoke of anything other than the kingdom of God.  He never got dragged into social issues that were unrelated; He never got dragged into politics, into revolutions, into economics – He spoke of the kingdom of God.  And it’s a great pattern.  I feel in my heart I need to follow that kind of pattern.  Sometimes people ask me why I don’t say things about this and that and the other thing, and I guess maybe it’s because Jesus, until He was taken up, spoke to them the things concerning the kingdom of God. And if that was His priority, then that’s going to be my priority.

Jesus began His ministry gently by speaking of the good news of the Gospel: repent and be saved. As He neared the end of His ministry, however, He began to pass righteous judgement on wilful unbelief:

… first of all, the word “gospel” means something simple, good news, good news.  It’s good news and the world is full of bad news – Isn’t it? – all bad news.  This is the only good news, really good news.  The teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ was filled with good news.  You know something interesting?  Listen to this: John the Baptist’s preaching is never called good news, never.

Now maybe it was good news, and maybe it might have been called good news, but it never is.  I began to think about why.  Perhaps it is because the note of judgment is so strong, the ax is laid at the root, the winnowing fan is moving, the fire is consuming, and John fired out so much judgment and so much condemnation and cried for such repentance that maybe his message was too strong to win the gracious title “good news.”  But it really was good news, wasn’t it?  It’s kind of like the deal you’ve gotta have bad news before you get good news. But I think the reason John’s is never called good news is because there never really was good news until Jesus arrived.  There never really was any good news until Jesus came.  And it is Jesus who is said to preach the good news.  John was saying, “Get right, repent, get ready, and avoid judgment.”  And then Jesus came along and gave the other side of it, and come to Me and I’ll take you to heaven.  That was the good news.

After the Messiah had encountered more and more of the hypocrisy and more and more of the hostility of the hierarchy of Israel, His preaching became even more stern than John’s.  You know that?  But at the very beginning there was no strong word of condemnation.  Jesus didn’t come saying there’s going to be an ax, and there’s going to be a winnowing fan, and there’s going to be a fire consuming you.  You don’t hear that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  That comes later.  It was just the good news.  And what is the good news? – the kingdom, the kingdom.  That God is going to establish His rule.  That we can be a part of God’s dominion, that as Paul said we can be translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son, that our sins can be forgiven.  Listen, the gospel of the kingdom is the same gospel preached today It’s just the message of salvation.

The good news is this: God has a kingdom; He wants you to be a citizen; here’s how.  That’s the good news.  Oh, it has all kinds of ramifications, as we’ll see as we go through Matthew.  But it’s the good news of salvation because that’s the way you get in His kingdom.  Once you’re in it has all kinds of features.  There is the element of the kingdom now in us in the Holy Spirit.  There is the element of the millennial kingdom for a thousand years on earth.  There is the element of the eternal kingdom and glory in the new heaven and the new earth forever with God.  It has different facets and wondrous things that we’re gonna see, but for now all we need to know is that the good news is that God has a kingdom and you can be in it.  You can be a part of it.  That’s good news.

I’ll tell you the alternative is pretty sad, isn’t it?  These people had long had a weariness of being in the kingdom of Rome, before that the kingdom of the Greeks, before that the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians, before that the Babylonians.  And even when they tried to do it on their own with their own kings, it was nothing but debauchery and evil.  And the very fact that there could be a kingdom with God was what they had longed for.  This was good news.  Jesus was saying, there’s a way to escape.  There’s good news, there’s a kingdom, and the good news is you can be a part of that kingdom.  How?  What is that good news that gets you into the kingdom?  First Corinthians, chapter 15 and verse 1, tells us.  Here’s the gospel which I preach to you – listen – “For I delivered unto you, first of all, that which I also received” – here comes the good news – “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…that He was buried…that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”  That’s the gospel, folks.

The good news is this: Jesus died for you.  He rose for you.  Your sin is paid for.  Your eternal life is purchased, and you can be in God’s kingdom.  That’s good news, isn’t it?  And that’s what Jesus came preaching and teaching.  The plan of salvation is the good news.  Oh, He didn’t cover all the ground early on here.  He just simply announced, “I’ve got good news.  God has a kingdom for you.  God has a kingdom for you.”  In fact it would have been an earthly kingdom if they had believed, wouldn’t it?  If they had accepted Jesus as their Messiah, and they’d have been saved there, and the nation Israel had repented, and come to Christ, their kingdom would have been right then and there. 

It should be noted that everyone who heard Jesus understood the powerful accuracy of His teaching and preaching:

The words that He preached; “no man” – the officers had it right – “ever spoke like that man spoke.”  His words about the kingdom for three years went across the land of Israel.  They should have known.  It should have been obvious.  To some it was.  Listen to Luke 4, verse 22, “And all bore him witness.” This was when He was preaching in Nazareth.  And by the way, He did an exposition of an Isaiah passage; took Isaiah and just cracked it open for them.  Isaiah 61 – preached a sermon off of that text, and then they listened, and finally, in verse 22, they “bore him witness, and wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’”  I mean, “these words coming from this guy who grew up in our town, the son of a carpenter.”  Verse 31, “And he came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and he taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.”  And in verse 36, they said, “What a word is this!”

In Matthew chapter 24, I think it’s verse 35, He said this: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”  He spoke an eternal word, a powerful word, like no one ever spoke.  They could never confound Him in His words. They could never trap Him in His words. They could never stump Him in His words. They were literally devastated by His words.  They were so powerful that they were literally thrown down in their own tracks when they tried to encounter Him and catch Him in His words.

I pray that John MacArthur’s exposition on our Lord’s preaching and teaching bring His words to life for us, if they have not done so already.

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