Drama erupts after Harry and Meghan get free bike for Archie’s birthday

A bike shop in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s hometown of Montecito has unexpectedly stirred up a kerfuffle because it publicized the fact that it received a thank you note from the royal couple, after their owner hand-delivered a free child’s bicycle to them as a 4th birthday gift for their son, Prince Archie.

The bike shop, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, shared an image of the thank-you note on its Instagram Thursday. The note, dated Tuesday, wasn’t handwritten by either Harry or Meghan but was typed by an assistant, writing “on behalf” of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The note expressed gratitude for the “thoughtful gift” and “lovely surprise,” which has brought “much joy and is most appreciated by the family.”

While many people were moved by the Instagram post, replying “so cool,” “fantastic,” “heartwarming” and “such a lovely gift,” others asked why the shop publicized their gift to the Sussexes. People also expressed puzzlement that the wealthy couple needed a freebie. “That’s too bad your bike could not have been donated to a child who was in need,” someone wrote. “Now that would be fantastic!”

The owners of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which also has locations in Mill Valley and Carmel, have been left dismayed that their gift sparked controversy, describing the gift as a “fun” and “impromptu” gesture. But the thing is, controversy follows pretty much everything that the Sussexes do or are involved in nowadays. The renegade royals also been have been at the center of previous reports that they like — or even except — to receive free stuff.

News about Archie’s bicycle gift also comes in the same week that Harry made history and ignited international debate over his testimony in a London court in his phone-hacking case against the U.K. tabloid the Daily Mirror.

Shop owner Jennifer Blevins told People that Martin, her British partner and shop co-owner, got the idea spontaneously on May 6 — Archie’s birthday — of delivering a special birthday gift to him. That’s the same day the world was watching the coronation of Archie’s grandfather, King Charles.

“He went and he got one of our little specialized kids’ bikes — they’re really nice little bikes — and he’s like, ‘This one’s perfect, it’s got training wheels,’” Blevins told People. “And so he went and got some birthday balloons, and he got some flowers for Meghan and a birthday card, and he said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna bike over and take it to their house.’”

That’s what Martin did, according to Blevins. He drove up to the Sussexes’ estate, telling the security guard at the gate: “I’m just a British business in town that wanted to give Archie a gift.” After the guard ran a background check on Martin, the bike shop co-owner was allowed to leave the gift, along with the balloons, flowers and card.

The shop first hinted that it sent a gift to a “special birthday boy” on its Instagram account on May 7 — without naming the boy. It shared a photo of the child’s red bike, with training wheels, next to a British flag and one of the popular sidecars it sells. The caption said: “Martin gifted him a new kids bike out of our Montecito shop! We really hope he enjoys it. His little sis can ride as well when she gets a bit bigger.”

The shop’s owners were delighted to receive the thank-you note from Harry and Meghan a month later, with Blevins telling People that celebrities who live in Montecito regularly buy bicycles from them but “none of them sent a thank you letter.”

As much as Blevins said the gift to Archie was “sincere,” it also underscores an economic reality that benefits rich and famous people, especially in today’s influencer-driven popular culture.

The rich and famous often are showered with lavish gifts of designer clothing and other goods and services — usually out of the hope that it will become known that these stars are wearing or using those freebies. The owners of Mad Dogs & Englishmen also had to expect that they would garner publicity — or, at least, some local good will — by making it known that they had remembered Archie’s birthday.

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘁

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