Prince Harry: the Tragedy and the Test
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." - William Shakespeare, Henry IV
It is impossible not to feel sorry for Prince Harry and Prince William this week. The revelation that their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was tricked by an irresponsible charlatan, acting with the backing of the BBC, into believing that the Queen and Prince Charles had bugged her house and bribed her servants, must have been devastating. Bashir faked actual bank statements. Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, ever her champion and protector, was also tricked by the same imposter. He wants a prosecution, for fraud, and I cannot say I blame him. His own relations with the Royal Family were damaged in an unwarranted way by Martin Bashir convincing him of the same false facts.
Prince William gave a devastating statement to the press. Prince Harry, meanwhile, was swept up not only in this appalling revelation but also in a wave of podcasts, broadcasts and other media that made him and his wife, to the British ear, look absolutely terrible. Videos of the former warrior prince, the Captain General of the Royal Marines no less, “tapping” his way to emotional safety while at the same time seeming utterly miserable, were received in Britain with a mixture of horror and contempt, with some sympathy thrown in.
There are plenty of thoughtful pieces out there on why we can feel sorry for Harry but still want him to stop attacking his family - here is a good one by Robert Taylor - so I won’t rehearse the arguments. The more important thing is what to do about it.
For the Prince of Wales, and Prince William, this must be inexpressibly painful. But Harry’s latest self-indulgent attacks on his elderly father and the 95 year old recent widow that is his grandmother have come at a cost for him. Once a favorite grandson of the Queen, he has reportedly infuriated her by falsely attacking Prince Charles, who is still sunk in mourning for his beloved father. His disingenuous quote on the new Oprah series was received with quiet anger in the UK as it is so obviously twisting Charles’s loving words:
“My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well, it was like that for me so it’s going to be like that for you. That doesn’t make sense. Just because you suffered, that doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer. Actually quite the opposite. If you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences you had, you can make it right for your kids.”
Whatever Americans may think, it’s perfectly obvious to the British ear that Prince Charles was lovingly trying to warn his sons, and stiffen their resolve, about growing up as princes, with the spotlight never off them. He wasn’t saying “I suffered so up yours, boys, I want you to suffer as well.” He was saying “Our privileged destiny comes with a degree of suffering from a lifelong spotlight.” The Queen is reportedly incensed that Harry, the publicity-seeking California celeb, is attacking Charles. She may be 95 and Charles may be 72, but he is still her baby. Harry is obviously still very deeply loved by his birth family, but one can love a relative while considering them a selfish brat.
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What the podcast and “Me You Can’t Stop Seeing Even If You Want To Because I Won’t Stop Going on TV” are showing the Royal Family is that Harry won’t stop, or perhaps cannot stop, his abusive, bullying behavior. Yes, the man who accuses others of bullying is in fact being the bully. He said the Oprah interview was “compassionate” - in fact, the Royal Family asked him not to do it when Philip was dying in hospital, or just to delay it, and he refused. He lied about his Dad when his Dad is mourning his own father. He went to Philip’s funeral and instead of honoring his grandfather, Meghan - and only Meghan - leaked details of her wreath and the name of the florist, a friend, to pump up the florist’s business, while Harry gave his father a letter “about why we had to leave” - making Prince Philip’s funeral about him and Meghan. The narcissism and abuse is off the scale. Then, upon return from the UK - not staying for the Queen’s birthday, dining in LA with a funder instead, even though it was only one extra day - Harry launches into broadcasts where he attacks his dad and the grief-stricken 95 year old that just lost her husband. Who among us picks such a moment to snarl at an old woman? Just as the Queen believes Charles was a good dad, and so do all the rest of Britain, as we perforce watched the Princes of Wales grow up, Charles believes the Queen was a good mother. He complained about Gordonstoun, his boarding school, sure, but Charles has been fiercely loyal to his mother. He too is reported to be spitting mad and ready to “cut Harry off” if he attacks the Queen again.
What does “cut Harry off” mean? There is no more UK taxpayer funding for the Sussexes. Is Charles still paying them out of his personal funds? That would be ridiculous given the massive netflix deals. And, if he is, those monies are meaningless to the Sussexes now, it’s a case of ka-ching all over Montecino. It can only mean the titles.
It used to be, in Britain, that Meghan Markle was the more disliked of the two Sussexes. That’s rapidly changing, however. Markle has no titles in her own right. To remove hers, you’d have to “go through Harry”. This morning, however, Harry seems like more of a problem than Meghan, who, prior to Podcastgate, was being excoriated for exploiting a Royal title that belongs to British taxpayers in order to make herself some cash. “Duchess of Sussex” to promote a $706,000 advance is a real problem.
There are three things that Charles and the Queen can do with the titles of the Sussexes.
1) Nothing. Leave them. Let Archie and his sister grow up as Americans estranged from, and contemptuous of, the King of Britain, but still be called Prince and Princess of Sussex, where the little girl has never set foot.
2) Issue letters patent and abolish the titles for the children, pass an act of Parliament and deprive Henry of the princely dignity. The mechanics for this aren’t as complicated as it sounds and gives the Royal Family a chance at wider reform, so I will save it for tomorrow’s (subscriber only) piece.
3) “Put the titles into abeyance”. This ugly halfway house is being suggested by courtiers, meaning that Harry and Meghan could use neither the HRH nor the titles at all while they live in America, a similar situation to Americans who are knighted, like Caspar Weinberger was. They are knights of the realm but cannot call themselves “Sir Caspar”; only a Commonwealth citizen can do so, ie can “use” the title. Harry would thus be His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex and Meghan would be Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex but they would be “known as” Mr. and Mrs. Harry Mountbatten-Windsor.
Read “Rudy Giuliani’s World of Hurt” - for subscribers
If the final step is chosen, you can certainly expect to see letters patent removing the right of Archie and his sister to become a Prince and Princess of the United Kingdom. Americans - some few Americans - will say it’s about race. It isn’t. It’s about the British not having to suffer a Prince and Princess of their own nation who are raised to be hostile to it and and to the Royal Family. It is endlessly unacceptable than in his “all about me” PTSD Prince Harry said he “didn’t want to go back to the UK” because it was “the site of my trauma.” Your Grace, your title exists only because you are supposed to serve the UK. It’s not a plaything. It comes from the British people, the vast majority of whom lead lives that are far worse and less privileged than yours. When you express dislike of Britain, you are betraying your country and your values, sir. The word “Duke” comes from the Latin word for “to lead” (dux, ducere, a commander, to lead). You are not leading, and you are not even a competent follower. For your own sake, and your wife’s, and even your children, Charles and the Queen should call time on the toxic circus you have gathered around yourself, when it is quite obvious that you will never voluntarily do so.
Have your say in the comments!