There have been suggestions in various parts of the media that for the time being at least, politics has returned to ‘normal’ in the UK. In charge of both major parties, we have sensible professionals, who, in comparison to their predecessors have moved towards the centre on a number of key political issues. This is surely good for the country. It could even be argued that there is a vacuum of political excitement right now. But the public’s thirst for drama has not gone away. If we tilt our head back slightly and fix our gaze at the highest point of constitutional power in the United Kingdom, we can observe a spectacle of Shakespearian proportions. Enter Prince Harry from stage left.
I’m sure many of you have noticed that a certain ginger prince has been rather busy recently. Far overshadowing anything that Rishi Sunak or Kier Starmer has said, Prince Harry has provided the British public with the shocking revelations, backstabbing, and the heroic, (or tragic, depending on your point of view) character arc that we have been missing in politics. A royal trilogy of Netflix documentaries, television interviews and a tell-all book have broken international viewing figures. The messianic Prince Harry has changed the script, re-writing the royal cast in his ‘truth.’ We have Camilla, who is in all but name the ‘wicked stepmother;’ Charles, the cold, inconsiderate father (who tells terrible Dad jokes); ‘Willy,’ the violent brother and Kate, who made Meghan cry. Are you not entertained?
Though I find the theatrics of the press tour embarrassing, I empathise with Harry
However, the Prince’s story has not been met with universal acclaim. In fact, the reaction has been the opposite. Accused of trying to bring down the royal family, Harry’s public support is at an all-time low, while nearly half of the British public think he should give up his titles. Perhaps our appetite for drama has been filled.
Yet, Harry’s book, Spare, has broken sales records. All over my social media feed I see clips of the audiobook, narrated by the Prince himself. Clearly, we are interested in what Harry has to say, even if we dislike what he is saying. Actually, maybe it is because we dislike what he is saying so much that we cannot get enough.
It is hard to argue against a lot of the criticism directed at Harry. How can you defend someone who has set out with the intention of destroying their family image? How can you support someone who despite claiming to hate the media, and apparently wants a private ‘reconciliation’ with his brother and father, simultaneously airs all their dirty laundry to the world? How can you refute the cynic who claims that an unemployed member of the monarchy is just in it for the money, when his global press tour will make him tens if not hundreds of million dollars?
I agree with all this criticism, but my own view though is more conflicted. Though I find the theatrics of the press tour embarrassing, I empathise with Harry. He has led an extraordinary life: extraordinarily good in some ways, but in others, extraordinarily bad. Yes, he is a man who will never have to work for money in his life, nor ever lack any material provision. But, when you really think about it, would you want the life of a major royal? I know I wouldn’t.
The overriding emotion I feel when I consider Harry’s situation is sadness
Unlike 99% of the population, Harry had no choice to live a ‘normal’ life. He never became famous; he was born into the public eye. It’s not his fault that he has been photographed, written about and judged since his childhood. No twelve-year-old in history has been forced to walk behind their mother’s coffin while billions across the world watch on – an undeniably traumatic experience. The course of Harry’s life is more akin to a child star, such as Michael Jackson, Drew Barrymore, and the late Lisa Marie Presley. Like Harry, these famous figures were so recognisable from a young age that they were unable to have a normal childhood. And they all suffered in adulthood as a result. With this in mind, are Harry’s actions really a surprise?
Though, the overriding emotion I feel when I consider Harry’s situation is sadness. Sadness that he feels the only way he can communicate with his family is through publicly humiliating himself and those closest to him. Sadness that he cannot see the harm he is causing to the king, who also just lost his mother. Sadness that he risks bringing his own children up in the same way he was raised, with constant media intrusion and where everyone has an opinion on their parents.
I would remind Harry not to squander the opportunity he has to improve the lives of those around him, rather than make them worse
I sincerely hope that one day the Windsors, especially the brothers, will be able to reconcile, though I doubt whether this is possible. I also think that when Harry is older and reflects on his actions over the last few years, he’ll regret deliberately attacking his family on live television. I want to support Harry, but he could, he should, do so much more with the platform he was given. Undoubtably, he has done a lot of good things: he’s a distinguished veteran who has devoted his time to admirable charitable work with the Invictus Games, but if he were really serious about taking on the negative aspects of the media like he claims, he could use his worldwide fame to support victims of online abuse and racism, while pushing for legislation that makes it easier to criminalise hate speech on social media. Such pursuits could give his life some much-needed focus and purpose. This is essential for everyone, not just a prince.
If I could give Harry one piece of advice, I would tell him to stop the public attacks on his family and speak to them privately. Then I would remind him not to squander the opportunity he has to improve the lives of those around him, rather than make them worse.