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110 days: Pressure mounts on Meghan Markle

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The Duchess of Sussex’s new TV show is done and dusted but now comes the $370 million question – can she pull off the massive rebrand?

I’m putting my money on it now: At some point in the next year or so Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex will join the likes of Boy George, John Wayne, Angela Lansbury, Morgan Freeman, Dolly Parton, Frank Sinatra, and even the late Queen, and get into the cookbook game.

Just imagine the possible titles; ‘Dicing with the Duchess’, ‘Out of The Frying Pan and Into the Palace Fire’, ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Eek King Charles Is On The Phone’.

While we will have to see if I am proved right, what is confirmed is that the duchess’ new chapter as an entertaining guru is officially upon us.
The Daily Beast has now confirmed that filming of the 42-year-old’s lifestyle series for Netflix is over, with a Hollywood source telling the publication that, “it all went well and it is in the can.”

And just like that, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex lost his daily delivery of

leftovers. Dommage.

While no release date has been set, or title revealed, what comes next for the Sussexes can be summed up in three, short words: Will. It. Work?

Will Meghan’s pie crust help her and the pepper to her salt Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex… earn a crust?

If the TV series is prong number one of the Martha Stewart-ing of Meghan, then her American Riviera Orchard (ARO) brand is prong number two.

This week also marked 110 days since ARO’s Instagram launch with a heavily stylised 15- second video of her in a perfectly rustic kitchen doing some photogenic baking and seemingly wearing a ball dress while tending to chickens. You know, every day, normal things.

Then in April, the Duchess of Sussex debuted her first ARO product in the form of jars of homemade strawberry jam delivered to 50 select individuals who did some dutiful social media rhapsodising.

Yet nearly three months on from that jam drop and the world is still none the wiser about what ARO might sell or where or how people can buy it.

The why though is painfully obvious. In 2020 Harry and Meghan joined the approximately 99.99 per cent of the world’s population in having to do ‘job’ (am I pronouncing that correctly?) because they need money.

Even now, the couple, having spoken their truth to the tune of tens of millions of dollars are still people with reported annual bills that would probably make any sane human’s eyes water.

The duke’s memoir Spare and their Harry & Meghan series did very brisk business, breaking all sorts of records and making various executives with corner offices’ days.

Unfortunately, not all of their efforts have met with quite such rosy-cheeked public enthusiasm with, most notably, their attempt to conquer the podcasting world ending up as an ignominious flop-a-roo.

Reports have suggested that Netflix is unlikely to renew their contract, which will reportedly expire next year, unless, you would have to assume, The Great Montecito Bake Off is a mega hit.

As far as consistent, dependable future income streams go, well, the duke and duchess kinda need one.

The Daily Mail has previously reported that of the much hyped, approximately $150 million figure attached to their Netflix deal, they only actually banked about $22 million for Harry & Meghan.

Given that Martha Stewart became the US’ first female self-made billionaire in 1999 and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop has been valued at north of $370 million, it would make perfect sense if the Sussexes wanted a piece of this highly lucrative action.

A massive point in Meghan’s favour, and this is a hill I am prepared to die on, is that she has taste up the wahzoo. The duchess is impossibly chic.

But style and being the subject of unerring global fascination do not necessarily translate into making the duchess an aspirational figure à la Stewart and Paltrow.

People want to emulate influencing powerhouse women like Martha and Gwyneth – so will women want to be like Meghan?

Will viewers tune in in droves to watch her make aïoli or spend their hard-earned cash on ARO-approved mason jars?

Or to put it bluntly, will anyone care about whether she recommends one yolk or two in her pâte brisée? If Meghan is not on camera giving us royal insights like that one time Princess Anne cut in line at the Christmas Day cold buffet because she wanted more sprouts or how Prince Edward sulks if no one will play charades with him, will she get serious viewer numbers?

While Harry is also making a new series, a show about polo that sounds like Dive to Survive meets a Jilly Cooper novel and they last year Netflix reportedly bought the rights for the novel Meet Me At The Lake to produce, a hell of a lot would seem to now rest on ARO and the remaking – and reselling – of Meghan-as-domestic-doyenne.

And I’ll say this here. When the Duchess of Sussex first arrived in the Windsor’s midst with her signature kale salad recipe and surfeit of hugs, Charles, impressed with his new daughter-in-law is reported to have nicknamed her ‘Tungsten’ such is her strength. I think we are about to see exactly why.

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