You’d have to have been living under a rock to have not seen the news this week that Harry and Meghan are stepping back from their royal duties in search of becoming ‘financially independent’. It has been widely publicised that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not consult the Queen before going public with their announcement, and that they will now live a joint existence between North America and the UK.
Britain’s relationship with its royal family is pretty polarised. You are either totally apathetic, or really, really care. The Really, Really Carers are split into two even more polarised camps: of staunch royalists who love bunting, and the Queen’s speech, and stand for the national anthem; and then the republicans who think the monarchy is an archaic and undemocratic institution and revel in anything that may spell its demise. You rarely find people that are ‘so-so’ about the royal family.
The couple’s decision to step back from their royal duties has set the tabloid and the broadsheet press alight on both a national and global level, and has given the Really, Really Carers ample opportunity to give their two-pennies worth. From laudation to lambastation, the couple have been called all things positive and negative under the hashtag #HarryandMeghan. As part of the apathetic camp, it’s been fascinating to watch Twitter explode into a series of ‘Megxit’s and ‘God Save The Queen’s.
However, Rugby League has added to this drama that will surely feature as a two-parter in a future series of The Crown.
The Duke of Sussex (or The-royal-formerly-known-as-Prince Harry) is a patron of the Rugby Football League and, just hours before he and his wife’s announcement, was confirmed to host the draw for the 2021 World Cup.
As you’ll know, the 2021 World Cup is being hosted in England, and where better to have the draw for this major sporting event than Buckingham Palace itself? This means Harry will be returning to the royal palace for the first time since announcing his plans to step back from his family commitments.
This is the greatest marketing the Rugby League World Cup could possibly ask for. Royal pundits from across the globe will be tuning in to the draw to analyse Harry’s every move as he meets representatives from the 21 competing nations and watches some school children play rugby league in the palace’s gardens.
Royal enthusiasts across the globe will be exposed to Rugby League for probably the first time. This could be a turning point for the sport. In 50 years’ time, multimillionaire Rugby League players earning six-figure weekly salaries in a Japanese franchise league streamed to billions of people across the globe will look back on this week as the week that the sport was forced upon the global and thus into the stratosphere.
This is, obviously, childish pontification. But, joking aside, the draw at Buckingham Palace on the 16th January will have an added seriousness as it plays an unlikely role in what has been an enthralling and polarising family drama played out in the front pages of the national press.
By Will Sewell.