Meghan Markle’s 2021 visit to a New York school came with extensive planning and a request to sign detailed consent forms.
The Duchess of Sussex read her book, The Bench, to under privileged pupils at P.S. 123, in Harlem, where 95 percent of pupils qualify for free or reduced lunches, on September 24, 2021.
In the days before her arrival, accompanied by Prince Harry, there was a flurry of emails between her staff and Danielle Filson, the press secretary of NYC schools.
Harry and Meghan wanted a film crew to capture video footage of the visit for unspecified future use, with an aide hinting that it might appear in a documentary.
Among the requests, staff at the Sussexes’ Archewell Foundation sent over a release form seemingly gagging participants at the school from speaking publicly about the event without permission.
Emails and documents sent between Archewell staff and Filson have been made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Sun and the The Daily Mail.
The release form read: “I agree that without the prior written approval of (the) Producer, I shall not discuss this Appearance Release, the Material, the Project itself, or my participation therein with any third party prior to the initial exhibition of the episode of the Project in which I appear.”
“For the sake of clarity,” it continued, “I may not make disclosures prohibited hereunder via any social platform, website, or service, whether existing now or in the future.
“All aspects of publicity and promotion for the Project shall be at Producer’s sole discretion. Neither I nor my representatives shall directly, or through any publicity representative or otherwise, circulate, publish, or otherwise disseminate any new story, article, book, or other publicity relating to Producer, the Project, my participation in the Project, or the subject matter of this appearance release.
“I agree to not make negative, derogatory, or otherwise unfavorable statements about, or otherwise denigrate or disparage, any of the Released Parties.”
It would appear they were simply told that the children would not be able to participate in any filming. It isn’t clear whether any adult teachers or dignitaries signed the form.
Filson asked: “Would the content be used for promotional purposes of any kind?” adding that: “Unfortunately the kids can’t be featured in that kind” of material.
Chanel Pysnik, head of non-fiction at Archewell Productions, replied: “While the content could be used in a future documentary it is not intended to be promotional in nature. Hope that helps clarify.”
Ultimately, it appears they agreed that instead the video team would record a meeting with teachers and staff from Penguin Random House, who published The Bench.
There were also email conversations about removing references to Meghan’s book from a press release to make it sound “less promotion-ey.”
William Brown is chief royal correspondent for Regalrumination.com, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @TheCrownUp and read his stories on Regalrumination.com‘s The Royals Facebook page.
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