Peter Phillips’ tacky and absurd milk advertisement, reported in yesterday’s Daily Mail, has provoked understandable laughter and contempt.
In a 30-second segment made for Chinese TV, the Queen’s eldest grandson is seen accepting a bottle of milk, carried on a silver salver by a butler.
We see one of the stately homes of England, Longleat House in Wiltshire, in front of which screen trickery has placed a replica of one of the Queen’s state coaches. The suggestion is that this is Windsor Castle.
Mr Phillips, 42 — who grew up at his mother Princess Anne’s house in Gloucestershire, not at Windsor Castle —informs viewers in a longer video accompanying the advert that ‘there was a herd of Jersey cattle at Windsor and we were brought up on it.
Monarchists like myself are concerned about the tawdry ‘cashing-in’ by men such as Mr Phillips, who behave nothing like royals and far more like low-rent celebrities chasing commercial endorsements, writes A.N Wilson
It was always much fuller of flavour [sic], much creamier than other milks we had growing up’.
The deeply embarrassing commercial concludes with Mr Phillips gulping from a glass of Jersey milk produced by the Chinese state-owned dairy farm Bright Dairies and declaring: ‘This is what I drink.’
Any sensible person’s reaction is to splutter with laughter. Far more important, however, is the damage this rubbish inflicts on the institution that Mr Phillips — despite the fact he has never held a royal title — is seeking to exploit, thanks to his connection to it.
I am talking, of course, of the monarchy.
As the Duke and Duchess of Sussex embark on their new life in Canada, intending, one assumes, to make millions from commercial endorsements, the speaking circuit, TV deals and more, the lessons of Peter Phillips and other commercially ambitious members of the Royal Family should be uppermost in their minds.
Monarchists like myself are concerned about the tawdry ‘cashing-in’ by men such as Mr Phillips, who behave nothing like royals and far more like low-rent celebrities chasing commercial endorsements.
Mr Phillips has form, having romantically sold the ‘rights’ to his wedding to Canadian events consultant Autumn Kelly to Hello! magazine for an estimated £500,000.
As the Duke and Duchess of Sussex embark on their new life in Canada, intending, one assumes, to make millions from commercial endorsements, the speaking circuit, TV deals and more, the lessons of Peter Phillips and other commercially ambitious members of the Royal Family should be uppermost in their minds, writes A.N. Wilson
His company SEL UK, meanwhile, was paid £750,000 to oversee a party in The Mall to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Mr Phillips claimed he had not won the contract because the Queen was his grandmother, but he nonetheless stepped down as a trustee of the Patron’s Fund charity set up to run the event, to avoid an apparent clash of interest.
That phrase about being prepared to sell your own granny leapt to mind.
Meanwhile, his sister, Zara — who for a reported £125,000 in 2001 let Hello! cameras into the Cotswold home she shared with her then-boyfriend — has secured roles as ‘brand ambassador’ for companies including Rolex watches, Musto clothing and even a pram company, having introduced her daughter Lena to the world of advertising at just three months old. (Pictures of daughter Mia were sold to Hello! magazine for a six-figure sum in 2014.)
Zara has also won an estimated £200,000-a-year position promoting Land Rover cars: such was her enthusiasm for the vehicles that she was recently banned from driving for six months, having clocked up 13 points on her licence after she was caught speeding at 91mph in a Land Rover.
The Phillips siblings are by no means the only royals to have embarked on commercial ventures that threaten to erode the treasured monarchy.
In a 30-second segment made for Chinese TV, the Queen’s eldest grandson is seen accepting a bottle of milk, carried on a silver salver by a butler, writes A.N. Wilson
Sarah Ferguson, ex-wife of Prince Andrew, accepted £500,000 from Waterford Wedgwood in exchange for, among other things, tips on how to lay a dinner table.
This was not as bad as the moment in 2010 that she offered an undercover reporter posing as an Arab sheik access to Prince Andrew in return for £500,000, promising: ‘I can open any door you want’.
Even the saintly Sophie Wessex, wife of Prince Edward and a favourite of the Queen, was forced to step down from her PR firm in 2001 after her business partner tried to cash in on her royal connections in pursuit of a contract.
That disgrace did not stop her from boasting later that she is ‘one of the few ladies in the British Royal Family’ to have ‘climbed the career ladder’.
There is no doubt that those who are not full-time working royals must tread a fine line in trying to make a living without being seen to exploit their royal connections.
The deeply embarrassing commercial concludes with Mr Phillips gulping from a glass of Jersey milk produced by the Chinese state-owned dairy farm Bright Dairies, writes A.N. Wilson
Let us trust that Harry and Meghan appreciate this as they settle into a new and, they hope, lucrative life in North America.
Thomas Woodcock, the ‘Garter King of Arms’ (who advises the Queen in ceremonial matters and heraldry), has warned them that they should not make commercial use of royal symbols, nor should they brand themselves ‘Sussex Royal’, as they had apparently intended.
The trouble is, even with Prince Charles’s ongoing support, they cannot finance the way of life that they have decided is their right without signing commercial contracts.
They may not lower themselves to Peter Phillips’ level, but somewhere along the line, I fear they will sign some contract that — against their judgment — will compromise them. Far more importantly, this could make the Royal Family appear ridiculous.
Only a generation ago, Malcolm Muggeridge, at the time one of the country’s wittiest and most respected broadcasters, was sacked from the BBC for using the phrase ‘the royal soap opera’.
Since then — with the vital exception of Her Majesty the Queen and her selfless career of duty — a soap opera is what royal life has been. Most of us recognise that the flesh is frail, and that in the matter of their love lives, the royals should be judged mercifully.
In the matter of greed, however, we are all — the media and the public — entitled to take a more exacting line.
Quite why so many junior royals should think they are entitled to vast dollops of cash, they alone know.
But it is beyond question that no one would ask Mr Phillips to advertise milk if he were not the Queen’s grandson, and that no one would pay Fergie half a million quid to lay out knives and forks around the dinner service if she had not been the Queen’s daughter-in-law.
Cynics will just laugh it all off. Why should we not chuckle at their eagerly grabbing hundreds of thousands of pounds thanks to their connection to the monarch?
Are they not simply behaving as grossly and as absurdly as the satirical depiction of the Royal Family in such joke programmes as The Windsors?
The answer is that such behaviour has a slowly damaging effect, not just on the Royal Family, but on the whole of public life.
Every time one of them makes some fresh sordid contract with an advertising company or similar, lining their own pockets, they lower the concept of royalty.
There they will be, at a Buckingham Palace garden party, or standing on the same balcony as the Queen at some celebratory fly-past or anniversary in the life of the nation.
And instead of our hearts swelling with pride and affection, we will be remembering Chinese milk advertisements or financial deals with unsavoury Kazakh billionaires.
Of course, there are those minor members of the Royal Family who behave responsibly.
One thinks of Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s cousin, who, as a working royal, is patron or president of more than 100 organisations and has devoted her life to public service.
One thinks, too, of the dignified way in which others keep out of the limelight while making a living — Viscount Linley (now Lord Snowdon), who set up a bespoke carpentry business, for instance; his sister, Lady Sarah Chatto, an accomplished artist; the late Patrick Lichfield, a cousin of the Queen and a world-renowned photographer.
They never seem to be ‘milking’ the family in the shameless way that Mr Phillips has. Yet they show that it is possible to be a member of the Royal Family and make an honest crust outside The Firm.
That is a skill that Harry and Meghan should learn fast — and one that is essential for the long-term survival of our monarchy.