Michelle Obama is on tour. She’s promoting her new book and has gathered a crew of friends, including Oprah Winfrey, news anchor Gayle King and performer Tyler Perry, to support her on a month-long programme of speaking events.
Perry was with her on stage last week. All concerned have been happily tweeting about their friendship and about the merits of the book.
‘What an amazing crowd and conversation last night at our first The Light We Carry show in Atlanta with my friend Tyler Perry,’ wrote the former U.S. First Lady.
‘Thank you for reminding us all that we have a light and we should use it to make each other better,’ he replied.
Michelle Obama has been on tour to promote her new book, The Light We Carry. The tour has not featured Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and the Obamas have not commented on the Netflix documentary series released this week
Amal and George Clooney have been close friends of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for several years and attended their wedding in Windsor in 2018
It is exactly the exclusive A-list philanthropic milieu where you might expect to find the Duchess of Sussex.
After all, Meghan has been a house-guest of Perry’s (he provided her and Prince Harry with a home when they first moved to California); Gayle King went to her baby shower and was even invited to stay with the royal couple in Frogmore when Archie was a newborn; and her adoration of the former first lady Michelle Obama is in no doubt.
And, of course, we know how devoted Meghan is to good causes.
Yet not only is she not on the tour — which started in November and finishes next week — but those on it have been curiously silent on the subject of her bombshell Netflix documentary, Harry & Meghan.
Indeed, their silence is one of the most peculiar facets of the current media situation.
For many of those whom you might expect to be lending the couple their public support at this crucial juncture are instead choosing to say nothing.
None of them is on the show — spokesmen for the Obamas and Oprah declined this week to say why not — and none of them has wanted to say anything in favour of the exercise, either.
Instead we’ve heard supportive words from obscure figures such as Mandana Dayani, billed as ‘a friend’ who was until recently a senior executive at their Archewell production company.
Even Sir Elton John and Vogue’s Edward Enninful — two old and influential friends — have steered clear of making any reference to the project.
Of the number above, only Tyler Perry sent good wishes on social media on the occasion of Meghan’s 41st birthday this summer.
There was no sign of Meghan at Oprah’s massive birthday blow-out in Hawaii this year.
Meghan did not attend Oprah’s large birthday bash earlier this year and when the presenter was asked about the Duchess in an interview she said she wouldn’t interfere in people’s ‘family matters’
None of Harry and Meghan’s friends are in the show — spokesmen for the Obamas and Oprah declined this week to say why not — and none of them has wanted to say anything in favour of the exercise, either
Indeed, Oprah, who lives near Harry and Meghan in Montecito and interviewed them for that TV special in March 2021, hasn’t even offered so much as a tiny plug for Meghan’s Spotify podcast series.
It would appear that she has cooled towards the couple dramatically. On September 14, the impression of distance was certainly given during an interview between Oprah and her friend, Gayle King.
King asked her to reflect on the prospect of reconciliation for Princes William and Harry following the death of the Queen.
Oprah said, firmly: ‘I do not get into people’s family matters.’
She added: ‘I know everybody who has experienced some challenges in their family with in-laws or brothers or sisters knows how difficult some of these situations can be. I am sure that, for the Royal Family, it is no different.’
Meanwhile, what of Jessica Mulroney, Meghan’s one-time best friend who was matron of honour at her wedding and, we now know thanks to the Netflix series, was on the phone with her in the moments before Harry proposed?
When Meghan turned 41 in August, there was no public birthday greeting from Jessica, and she wasn’t at her 40th birthday party the previous year either.
Since stylist Jessica fell from grace in 2020, after an Instagram melt-down with a black influencer who had accused her of racism, their relationship appears to have completely evaporated.
Toronto columnist Shinan Govani says: ‘You cannot entirely blame her — she has Oprah and Amal in her life. Why does she need Jessica?’
But does she? For, despite the Ripple of Hope gala, the Netflix documentary and the Spotify podcasts, there is a sense that Harry and Meghan are rather slipping off the philanthropic A-list.
Only a year ago they were the cover stars of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World issue.
Harry and Meghan on the front cover of TIME magazine. They were named some of the most influential people in the world for 2021
This year, far from being the cover stars, they aren’t even included in the influential list.
In the ‘leaders’ section where they once starred, space is instead found for presidents Biden and Zelensky, as well as Florida governor Ron de Santis. Even controversial Right-wing commentator Joe Rogan, whom the couple deplore, is cited.
And Meghan was missing in action when their one-time friends — and wedding guests — George and Amal Clooney recently launched a new humanitarian award in New York.
The Clooneys invited showbiz pals including British actress Phoebe Dynevor of Bridgerton fame to attend the launch of their Albie awards in September, named after South African Justice Albie Sachs, in honour of his commitment to end apartheid.
Meghan was missing in action when their one-time friends — and wedding guests — George and Amal Clooney recently launched a new humanitarian award in New York
Michelle Obama attending the Albie Awards afterparty in New York. Harry and Meghan were not guests at Barack’s star-studded 60th birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 2021
Human rights lawyer Amal was joined by guests including Donatella Versace, Meryl Streep, Dua Lipa, Julia Roberts, Gayle King, Cindy Crawford, Jodi Turner-Smith, Charlotte Tilbury and Gemma Chan.
Afterwards there was a party in the penthouse suite of the Mark Hotel. It was famously the place where Meghan held her lavish baby shower for Archie in February 2019 — attended by Amal, who gave her a lift back to the UK on the Clooney private jet.
And yet, although it fell well outside the mourning period for the Queen, Meghan and Harry were not among the guests.
Representatives for the Clooneys did not respond to requests for comment as to whether the Sussexes were invited or not.
Yet beyond question the two couples were close at one time. George Clooney said in 2019: ‘We live not too far from one another and we have dinners and stuff, and we’re friends with them for all the reasons that you’re friends with anybody.’
The friendship extended to a public defence of Meghan.
Later that year, he told an Australian magazine: ‘They’re just chasing Meghan Markle everywhere. She’s a woman who is seven months pregnant and she has been pursued and vilified and chased in the same way that Diana was and it’s history repeating itself.’
The Duchess of Sussex held a babyshower in New York while pregnant with son Archie. Attendees included Serena Williams and Amal Clooney
A month after Meghan’s baby shower in New York, he again said that the Duchess was being treated in ways which felt ‘unkind’.
He told Good Morning Britain: ‘I think it’s a little unfair at times. I’ve seen it when the Press can turn on you for sort of ridiculous reasons and for almost nothing, and it seemed to me to be a little unjust since [Meghan] hadn’t done anything except just happen to live her life.’
However, since that point, the Clooneys have been silent on the topic of their Montecito friends. If they have seen each other, neither side has mentioned it.
Since the baby shower, Harry and Meghan have, of course, relocated to California, having fallen out with the Royal Family.
They have also drawn criticism, particularly for going ahead with their ‘tell-all’ interview with Oprah when Prince Phillip was gravely ill, and pressing on with the Netflix series and Harry’s book, Spare, so soon after the death of the Queen.
Might this have gone down badly with the Clooneys? George Clooney is involved to some extent with the Prince’s Trust and has attended an event at Buckingham Palace with the King.
Another prominent global figure whose relationship with Harry and Meghan appears to have ebbed and flowed is former First Lady Michelle Obama. With their philanthropic foundation and huge money Netflix deal, the Obamas have proved influential role models for Harry and Meghan’s post-UK lives.
The Sussexes were reportedly hugely disappointed not to be able to invite them to their wedding, but it would have been seen as a snub to the then-president Donald Trump.
The Obamas and the Prince were first brought together by the Invictus Games, which Michelle supported.
Barack Obama spoke movingly about his relationship with the Queen and his admiration for her after her death earlier this year. The couple also paid affectionate tribute to Prince Philip after his death
Prince Harry has supported Michelle Obama’s ‘Full Effect’ education programme for under-privileged teenagers.
Meghan made a surprise visit to meet Michelle backstage when she was on a speaking tour of the UK.
But Harry and Meghan were not guests at Barack’s star-studded 60th birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 2021.
And Barack Obama spoke movingly about his relationship with the Queen and his admiration for her after her death. The couple also paid affectionate tribute to Prince Philip after his death.
Michelle Obama indicated her feelings on the Sussexes’ campaign of grievance and complaint shortly after the Oprah interview, issuing an elegantly worded rebuke.
She said: ‘My hope is that, when I think about what they’re going through, I think about the importance of family, and I just pray that there is forgiveness and there is clarity and love and resolve at some point in time, because there’s nothing more important than family.’
Could the repeated attacks on Prince Harry’s family be keeping them away from the friends they were so desperate to cultivate? That really would be a crowning irony.