Prince Harry and Meghan Markle secretly jetted into the Bay Area Tuesday to attend “a brainstorming session” with professors at Stanford University, apparently as part of their efforts to launch their new Sussex Royal charitable organization after stepping away from royal life.
Of course, their visit wasn’t so secret because the “Today” show on Thursday got the scoop and shared the viral news about their visit to the prestigious Palo Alto campus.
In a story co-bylined by “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie, the story began, “Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have gone back to college.” The story revealed that the couple were personally greeted to Stanford by its president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne.
A report from The Daily Mail said the meeting lasted a few hours and was designed for Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, to get help on the concept of their organization. A representative for Stanford declined to comment on the couple’s visit or to say which academics they met; he referred inquiries to Buckingham Palace and to the couple’s Sussex Royal foundation.
Of course, Harry and Meghan’s visit to the Bay Area raises a ton of questions, including whether a potential partnership with Stanford means that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will relocate to the West Coast permanently, even including to Meghan’s home state of California.
When the couple announced in January that they were stepping back from being senior members of the royal family, they also said they were shifting their home from the U.K. to North America. That’s also when they also launched their expanded Sussex Royal website.
Among other things, the “Today” post made of point of saying that Harry and his former TV actress wife traveled by commercial jet — not private jet — to the Bay Area from Canada, where they are temporarily staying as someone’s guest in a mansion on Vancouver Island.
The couple have faced backlash in the past week for taking a private jet, provided by JPMorgan Chase, to Palm Beach, Florida, and for receiving up to a reported $1 million for Harry to speak at the global banking giant’s private summit for wealthy investors.
This week, news also emerged that Harry had been in talks with another major U.S. investment bank, Goldman Sachs. The theory, put forward by a top U.K. public relations expert, is that the duke would line himself up to be a speaker for the bank’s “Talks at GS” series, videotaped conversations with celebrities who are considered to be “leading thinkers” who can “share insights and ideas shaping the world.” The talks are not paid but the exposure can lead to other corporate deals and work as “brand ambassadors,” the public relations expert said.
But it’s potentially problematic for Harry and Meghan to associate themselves too closely with big American banks like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, given the banks’ role in the 2007-08 financial crisis and their record for being major investors in the fossil fuel industry.
Harry and Meghan have promoted themselves as eco-warriors, who encourage people to make lifestyle changes to slow climate change. Their environmental advocacy is the main reason their past use of environmentally inefficient private jets to go on vacation in France and Spain become controversial.
On their Sussex Royal website, Harry and Meghan have said that stopping climate change is one of the cornerstones of their foundation’s mission to support efforts to promote “healthy natural environments, strong social support systems, access to basic human needs, and a spirit of tolerance and resilience.”
But given their stated interests in the environment, as well as in women’s empowerment and social justice, Vanity Fair questioned what Stanford offers to the couple in terms of scholarly expertise. Vanity Fair thought they might not be that interested in Stanford’s ties to the Silicon Valley and to the tech industry. However, the tech industry is populated by famous and not-so-famous tech billionaires who could potentially fund their endeavors.
Meanwhile, Stanford has its Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, whose mission is to work “toward a future in which societies meet people’s needs for water, food, health and other vital services while sustaining the planet.”
As for Meghan’s well-known support of feminism and women’s empowerment, Stanford also is home to the well-regarded Clayman Institute for Gender Research.
The Daily Mail also raised questions about why “Today’s’” co-host Guthrie’s name was included in the byline of the scoop about Harry and Meghan’s Stanford visit. The tabloid wondered whether NBC’s “Today” show enjoyed such insider information because it has scored the first exclusive, post-“Megxit” interview with the couple.
Time will tell. Meanwhile, observers pointed out that the “going back to college” line at the start of the “Today” story isn’t entirely accurate and really only applies to Meghan.
Harry never attended university, having received middling grades at the elite Eton College prep school before going to officer’s training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The Los Angeles-reared Meghan, on the other hand, was academically motivated enough in high school that she won admission to Northwestern University, another top U.S. college. She graduated from Northwestern in 2003 with a double major in international studies and theater.
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