‘Extraordinary’: Meghan Markle hits new low

Welcome to the Year of Jam.

King Charles’ Highgrove Estate strawberry preserve, at more than $13 a jar, recently sold out. One baronet, the owner of an English Palladian mansion, told the Daily Beast’s Tom Sykes:

“We sold seven pots on Wednesday. That’s six more than a usual weekday. It was quite extraordinary. A rising tide lifts all boats, I suppose.”

The person we have to thank for this mini-boom in the sweet stuff is post-palacer truther Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex who recently sent out numbered jars of her own homemade strawberry jam, the first product from her incipient lifestyle brand, American Riviera Orchard (ARO).

But more than 10 days on from the great jam unveiling, and with the Sussex-sympathising segments of the US press having thoroughly drained their exclamation mark budget, what has become clear is that this ARO launch has been a bit of a fizzer.

Do some counting, add a few things up and remember how to work out percentages (carry the one, multiply everything to the power of Pi) and what the numbers show is that the ARO rollout has failed to make much of an impact.

(The urge to use the phrase “sticky situation” here is nearly overwhelming.)

So, earlier this month, the former Suits star-turned temporary royal bridge opener-turned budding magnate sent out 50 numbered jars of homemade jam with grateful recipients soon taking to Instagram to show their thanks. (Side note, the jam was nestled in terracotta pots full of lemons that I would wager are now mouldering on marble bench tops the length and breadth of southern California.)

And of the celebrities who posted about jam that attempted to break the internet, well they have a combined 71.6 million Instagram followers.

Yet, this social media push and the debut of Meghan’s very first product has only translated to ARO Instagram adding about 23,000 followers.

That’s all.

And that’s despite the ARO gloopy stuff garnering global press coverage and having major names including The Office’s Mindy Kaling (6.3 million), Blackish star Tracee Eliss Ross (11.3 million), Suits alum Abigail Spencer (822,000) and Ralph Lauren model and polo player Nacho Figueras (652,000) having shared awkward, slightly cringey posts of them over-enthusing about Meghan’s jam or photos of contrived slices of carefully staged bread.

(A real test of true friendship is, are your mates willing to roll around on the grass or to pretend to actually ingest sugar to help you get your business off the ground?)

Two days before the jam launch, ARO had 588,000 Instagram followers and at the time of writing, 611,000 followers. This is not exactly rocket-ship stuff.

Would anyone really categorise a major social media and publicity push a bang-up, whiz-bang triumph if it only garners a comparatively tiddly, for the influencer game, 23,000 new followers?

There is another number to take note of here: 16 per cent.

The ARO jars of strawberry jam came with numbered labels might have made the duchess’ drop look deliciously exclusive. But those numbers also mean we can work out how many ARO recipients did not go public with having been on the receiving end of Meghan’s munificence.

Eight people posted their very supportive photos of Meghan’s jam, moving them up the Sussex Christmas card list no doubt. So what of the other 42 other names?

Only eight out of 50 people willing to promote ARO means that 84 per cent of recipients of the Duchess’s handiwork did not want or were not to publicly support Meghan or to help her get Jam Inc off the ground.

The strangest omission here is that of Oprah Winfrey, who I know we all agree, would surely have to have gotten jar numero uno.

In late 2020, Winfrey took to Instagram to enthuse about a vegan latte company, Clevr, that the Duchess had invested in, posting “My neighbour Meghan (yes, that one) introduced me to this woman-led wellness brand”.

We have not seen the same thing play out this time around.

Does anyone really imagine that the duchess would not have sent the billionaire TV impresario and entertainment titan with one of her limited edition jars? Exactement. Yet, no peppy cheerleading post has appeared from Winfrey.

There are other names who are MIA from having gotten on the ARO bandwagon.

What about longtime Meghan pal Serena Williams? Or Cameron Diaz with whom the Sussexes travelled to Las Vegas for a Katy Perry concert late last year? Or Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kris Jenner who celebrated alongside Harry and Meghan at Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi’s vow renewal last year?

Either they didn’t make the jammy cut or they declined to lend their celebrity and honking social media followings to Meghan’s cause.

If the jam-adjacent news is not exactly sweet close to the Sussexes’ Montecito home, three years after they were first made the allegation that Meghan bullied palace staffers and aides has resurfaced with the couple’s former private secretary Samantha “the Panther” Cohen having given her first interview. (That feline nickname came courtesy of Her late Majesty for whom Cohen worked for 17 years.)

Cohen, was a highly trusted longtime lieutenant of the late Queen, who joined the Sussexes’ team ahead of their wedding, late becoming one of the members of the “Sussex Survivors’ Club”, according to longtime Times’ royal correspondent Valentine Low’s Courtiers, who labelled Meghan a “narcissistic sociopath”.

In 2021 it was Low who, days before the Sussexes’ Winfrey interview, broke the news that Meghan had been the subject of an official palace bullying complaint made by the couple’s own communications secretary Jason Knauf. (A spokesman for the Sussexes called that report “a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation”.)

It was at this time that Her late Majesty called in the lawyers to do a wholly unprecedented outside review, the findings of which remain “buried” and a closely guarded secret.

Now, this week, Cohen has spoken for the very first time about that highly controversial period of time, confirming to the Herald Sun that she was in fact one of the 10 royal staffers interviewed for the independent enquiry into the Meghan bullying allegations.

Moreover, in the same Herald Sun piece Cohen also revealed that whomever was hired to replace her lasted only briefly in the role before bailing on the good ship Sussex.

“I was only supposed to stay for six months but stayed for 18 — we couldn’t find a replacement for me, and when we did, we took them on tour to Africa with Prince Harry and Meghan to show them the ropes, but they left as well while in Africa.”

Yikes.

No Oprah. No massive ARO Instagram bump. And one of the people who knows exactly what transpired during one of the most contested periods in modern royal history has broken her silence, resuscitating the bullying allegations made about the Duchess of Sussex.

If Meghan’s ARO trademark application does not include some home-distilled booze then now would be the moment to rethink the product line-up.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Meghan Markle

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