How Coronavirus Changed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Royal Exit

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex now have to delay their arrival on Hollywood's A-list indefinitely.

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Today marks the official end of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's days as senior members of the British royal family. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, Harry and Meghan's plan to rebrand themselves as international celebrities has been dramatically altered seeing as the virus has brought the world to a virtual standstill.

"The outbreak of the virus has prevented them from moving forward publicly, but they and their team continue to work on their charity and other projects behind the scenes," an insider told me. "Like other high-profile individuals, they are trying to find a way forward to help the greatest number of people during this crisis."

The source added: "The duke and duchess could be very successful, but one wrong move during this tenuous time could change everything."

It was only weeks ago that Harry and Meghan's "farewell tour" in the U.K. dazzled royal watchers. Meghan, literally glowing with happiness, shined in an array of telegenic designer dresses, while Harry recorded a video with singer Jon Bon Jovi for the Invictus Games (which have been rescheduled for 2021) and appeared in his military uniform for the last time at the Mountbatten Music Festival. (The terms of Megxit require that he give up all military affiliations.)

"Their 'farewell tour' did everything it was supposed to do," a friend of the couple told me. "They fulfilled their final obligations as royals while showcasing their undeniable star power. It set the stage for what would have been an incredibly successful launch of their personal brand, but they clearly know everything has changed in recent weeks and now is certainly not the time for that."

According to the official terms of their exit agreement, which goes into effect on April 1, Harry and Meghan cannot use "Sussex Royal" or the word "royal" as part of their new brand, charitable organization, or on social media. As such, they alerted their 11.3 million Instagram followers they would no longer be posting to @SussexRoyal but the account has not yet been taken down. The slick new website they introduced in January following the announcement that they were stepping back from royal life is still up, but has not been updated in some time.

Earlier this month, Harry and Meghan posted guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) on how to stay safe during the outbreak, and their last post on @SussexRoyal using their signature crest on a navy blue background addressed the virus. It reads, in part:

As we can all feel, the world at this moment seems extraordinarily fragile. Yet we are confident that every human being has the potential and opportunity to make a difference—as seen now across the globe, in our families, our communities and those on the front line—together we can lift each other up to realise the fullness of that promise.

They thanked their followers, adding, "While you may not see us here, the work continues." The comment section has been turned off.

"It was a tremendous blow to them that they had to cease using both platforms because they had invested a great deal of time building both, but they know their fans will follow them and they want to be strategic about what comes next," said my insider.

While the couple has agreed not to use their HRH designation, they will still be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Earlier this week, the public got its first glimpse of Meghan's initial post-royal project and a sign that the duchess may be planning to resurrect her acting career. Disney released the trailer for its new film, Elephants, which is narrated by Meghan, who's credited as Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Her fee for her work on the documentary—which begins streaming on Disney+ on April 3—was donated to the charity Elephants Without Borders.

"Whatever splashy premiere was planned for the release of the film certainly cannot go forward. There won't be any red carpet photo calls for some time now," said my source. "All of Hollywood is appropriately laying low, so there is no longer an opportunity for Harry and Meghan to promote themselves now as they could have done before this all happened."

The pandemic has also shelved the couple's plans to announce their newest yet-to-be-named charitable endeavor and any travel worldwide for new projects.

During a lengthy prank phone call with hoaxers who pretended to be Greta Thunberg and her father, Harry revealed that he and Meghan would not be launching their own foundation and were taking "a little bit more time to think about how we can use our platform and how we can use our voice to try and encourage real change and real difference as opposed to, you know, small incremental changes."

The outbreak did not, however, prevent the couple from leaving Canada for Los Angeles, where they are reportedly planning to live full-time. According to The Sun, Harry and Meghan left their borrowed compound in Vancouver and flew privately to the States after news broke that the borders were closing between the countries last week. They are reportedly in lockdown at an undisclosed location near Hollywood with their son, 10-month-old Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. The move to Meghan's hometown raised some eyebrows in the U.K. as it was announced at the same time the world learned that Prince Charles had contracted the virus and that Queen Elizabeth was self-isolating at Windsor Castle after a member of her staff tested positive for COVID-19.

"Public reaction in the U.K. was quite negative to the news that the duke and duchess had left Canada for Los Angeles after they had said they would be living in Canada for a quieter life and they did not bring Archie to visit the family earlier this month [due to] concerns over the virus," said the insider. "It's difficult to see how moving to Los Angeles helps with either of those."

My source continued: "There is no question that there is going to be a great deal of societal change due to the worldwide effects of the pandemic. A lot of things are going to look different on the other side of this. Celebrities are going to have to tread very carefully so as not to appear vacuous or insensitive. Between Harry's hoax phone call where he revealed far too much about his decision to leave royal life and the ill-advised timing of their move to California, they are off to a somewhat bumpy start. They are going to have to be very careful." And for more on how coronavirus has impacted the royals, check out Prince Charles' Coronavirus Diagnosis Has William and Harry Reconciling.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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