Have you heard of Frank Baker, Brian Moynihan or Michael Polsky?
Nope, neither have I, but if looking at montages of middle-aged blokes with zero recognition is your thing, have a I got a video for you.
Earlier this month, the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Awards put a short clip on YouTube to highlight the great and good who are set to be honoured at this year’s gala.
In order, we get Ukrainian president and hoodie-wearing badass Volodymyr Zelensky, Frank Baker, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of a private equity firm called Siris, Bank of America’s CEO and board chairman Brian Moynihan, and then Michael Polsky, the founder and then CEO of a clean energy company called Invenergy.
It takes until the 29-second mark, and the second-to-last slot, to get to this year’s only Ripple of Hope laureates to have ever attended a Soho House opening: Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Harry and Meghan might be about to pick up the same gong that has previously been won by Barack Obama, Bono and Desmond Tutu but in this video they only get a look in after three CEOs have been slapped on the screen.
So much for star billing.
The evening is being emceed by Alec Baldwin with Michael Bolton as a special guest – at this stage, it has all the star wattage of two used double AA-batteries. It is still two weeks out from the big night but there is an unmistakeable ‘hmmm’ factor to the whole event.
For one thing, there is the timing. Harry and Meghan will be getting all kitted up in their best bib and tuck only four days after William and Kate, Prince and Princess of Wales will be in Boston for the second Earthshot Prize awards, an invite-only black tie do that is being hosted by the JFK Foundation Library.
Then there is the fact that, while the duke and duchess might be the biggest celebrities of the night, based on this video, they do not get pole position as honorees.
Last but not least, this particularly thorny question: What they have done to have made it onto the recipient list?
Over the weekend, an interview with RFK Foundation’s President and Robert’s daughter Kerry Kennedy appeared in the Spanish El Confidential.
The Telegraph reports that Kennedy said she thought the couple was “heroic” for going up against the royal family’s “power structure.”
“They went to the oldest institution in UK history and told them what they were doing wrong, that they couldn’t have structural racism within the institution; that they could not maintain a misunderstanding about mental health,” Kennedy is quoted as saying.
“They knew that if they did this there would be consequences, that they would be ostracised, they would lose their family, their position within this structure, and that people would blame them for it.
“They have done it anyway because they believed they couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t question this authority.”
But … there is a huge ‘but’ here.
Harry and Meghan might have left the House of Windsor and walked away from palace life to chance it in the big wide world but they have done so while maintaining a vice-like grip on their royal credentials and titles.
These days, the couple are not known as Harry and Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor, two proudly untitled content creators from Montecito getting by on their wits and creative ability.
Rather, nearly three years on from their melodramatic exit, they still use their titles day in and day out. There has never been a single murmur suggesting they might consider otherwise.
It would have been to their eternal credit and only bolstered their moral and intellectual position if, in the days after their 2020 Megxit bombshell, they had also announced they would no longer be deploying their titles.
Imagine if they had proudly told the world that they wanted to be known for their achievements and philanthropic work and they would stand on their own two feet – and own two names – to let their actions and work speak for themselves.
Obviously that did not happen.
The duke and duchess seem to have no problem lobbing brickbats at Buckingham Palace when they fancy (or when the recording lights are on) but have shown zero intention of letting go of their royal status.
This of course extends to their young son and daughter, Archie 3, and Lilibet, 1, who are technically now entitled to be known as prince and princess given that their grandfather is king.
In September, the Times reported that the Sussexes “are understood to fear the King may strip Archie and Lilibet of their titles” and that they were “dismayed” that the situation had been left “unresolved.”
So, in summation: The Sussexes are about to trot along to an event to be lauded for standing up, as Kerry Kennedy has argued, to “the oldest institution in UK history” and “[telling] them what they were doing wrong” but are still using the titles given to them by said institution? Including in the shiny video for this event? Righto.
In an interview with the Independent last week, Professor David Nasaw, author of The Patriarch, about family sire Joseph Kennedy, said of the Sussexes’ being awarded a Ripple of Hope gong: “I find it somewhere between sublimely ridiculous and blatantly ludicrous. It’s
“What in God’s name have they done to merit this? What percentage of Harry and Meghan’s wealth is going to worthy causes?”
Elsewhere, veteran royal biographer Robert Jobson has told Newsweek: “I personally can’t see how they can be honouring them for their work when, if you look at the accounts for Archewell, it’s hardly got going.
“To me, it’s about getting people at the event and that’s clearly what’s happened … Without being too cynical, they look around for who’s going to sell tickets, who’s going to give them publicity. It doesn’t necessarily go on lifetime achievement, as it should.”
Interestingly, the Sussexes will not be the first royal renegades to be honoured with a charity award in New York. The Ripple event will take place nearly 27 years to the day that Diana, Princess of Wales was named as Humanitarian of the Year at the annual United Cerebral Palsy dinner, appearing alongside such heavyweights as Henry Kissinger and General Colin Powell.
For the event she wore a slinky black evening gown that was redolent of her new identity and brand as an independent woman and a huge pair of diamond and pearl earrings.
In early December there is every chance those earrings will be back on US soil but it won’t be in the Big Apple but Boston. These days they belong to Kate.
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.