A tale of two tours: the princes walk­ing their own paths

Their re­cent trips have high­lighted Wil­liam and Harry’s dif­fer­ing ap­proaches to pub­lic emo­tion and Diana’s legacy, says Pa­trick Jeph­son

The Daily Telegraph - - News Review and Features - Pa­trick Jeph­son was equerry and pri­vate sec­re­tary to Diana, Princess of Wales be­tween 1988 and 1996. His book, The Meghan Fac­tor, is avail­able from Ama­zon

Two princes, two con­ti­nents, two very dif­fer­ent tour­ing styles… and count­less opin­ions on whether Team Cam­bridge or Team Sus­sex cov­ered them­selves (and us) in the greater glory. Per­haps hon­ours are even – which would be nice. Even then, there’s no con­ceal­ing the grow­ing gap in how Wil­liam and Harry in­ter­pret their duty to rep­re­sent the Queen on such high-level diplo­matic mis­sions.

In­evitably, there has been an un­seen ex­tra mem­ber of both squads. Diana, Princess of Wales has been brought into play not just by the me­dia (for whom sen­ti­men­tal par­al­lels and great pic­tures are al­ways dif­fi­cult to re­sist), but by the princes them­selves, most di­rectly in to­mor­row’s ITV spe­cial (9pm) with Tom Bradby, who ac­com­pa­nied Harry and Meghan on their Africa tour.

Diana’s sons and their wives have lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively fol­lowed in her foot­steps; even Wil­liam’s en­counter with bad fly­ing weather in Pak­istan was fore­shad­owed by his mother’s ex­pe­ri­ence in 1991, when her Queen’s Flight air­craft was grounded by a vi­o­lent thun­der­storm.

Me­te­o­rol­ogy aside, per­haps the most re­veal­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences lie in how each prince has echoed their mother in re­veal­ing his feel­ings. These tours are hard work, in­tended to achieve tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits for Bri­tish in­ter­ests. But the in­vis­i­ble re­wards can be price­less, too – win­ning hearts and minds is a key ob­jec­tive, and that re­quires suc­cess­ful de­ploy­ment of those most un­sta­ble royal weapons: pub­lic dis­plays of emo­tion.

It would be a stony heart that doesn’t go out to Prince Harry this week as he is seen, wa­tery-eyed, telling Bradby that ev­ery­thing he does re­minds him of his mother, or strug­gling, close to tears, to com­plete his speech at the Wellchild Awards. I at­tended many such events with Princess Diana, and los­ing con­trol of your own emo­tions can be a se­ri­ous oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard, made no eas­ier by of­fice stress, new dad anx­i­ety and the sleep de­pri­va­tion that goes with both.

This is the same new fa­ther who re­cently shared with us the dif­fi­culty he some­times feels get­ting out of bed be­cause of the bur­den he car­ries wor­ry­ing about the world’s prob­lems.

Pre­dictably, such gloom earned a rasp­berry from com­men­ta­tors who sug­gested that a fit and wealthy young man, with – ac­cord­ing, bizarrely, to Hil­lary Clin­ton – a “gutsy” woman for a wife and a bounc­ing new baby might lighten up a bit. It might be seen as a lux­ury, es­pe­cially since his bed is in a house that tax­pay­ers have just spent sev­eral mil­lion pounds to re­fur­bish.

Bet­ter a prince who thinks too much than too lit­tle, you might ar­gue. And many wel­come our en­light­ened times in which a prince (a prince!) can re­veal such vul­ner­a­bil­ity. What some con­demn as a sign of weak­ness or self-in­dul­gence, oth­ers see as proof of en­light­ened in­ner strength and sen­si­tiv­ity.

But, as we’ve re­cently seen, when royal thought is stoked by raw emo­tion, the re­sults can veer un­pre­dictably from en­dear­ing to mock­able and fi­nally to down­right wor­ry­ing. How else to de­scribe the spasm of anger that soured the sweet suc­cess of Harry’s Africa tour and now con­demns him and his fam­ily to long-term le­gal con­flict with half of Fleet Street? Hard-fought lit­i­ga­tion could quickly put global warm­ing in the shade as a cause of bad Frog­more morn­ings.

Pub­lic tears are a rar­ity in Wind­sor world. Many will re­mem­ber the Queen dis­creetly dab­bing her eye as the Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia was de­com­mis­sioned (and who can blame her?). Some may even re­call the day Princess Diana vis­i­bly welled up when be­ing ad­dressed in fond and sym­pa­thetic words dur­ing an of­fi­cial en­gage­ment in Mersey­side on the eve of her sep­a­ra­tion from Prince Charles. These ex­am­ples show both women in a good light: the first, ac­knowl­edg­ing the pass­ing of a faith­ful ser­vant – the sec­ond, an in­stinc­tive re­sponse to kind­ness at a time of great per­sonal un­hap­pi­ness.

Prince Harry’s Wellchild dis­play of emo­tion falls into a dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory. Crit­ics have sug­gested it was an over­wrought at­tempt to steal air time, while sup­port­ers con­tend it was a wel­come dis­play of com­mon hu­man­ity. Ei­ther way, it made as many head­lines as what should have been Wil­liam’s star turn in a jewel-toned sher­wani the same day.

As­sum­ing, as we should, that the emo­tion was gen­uine and sur­prised the Prince as much as the rest of us, it re­sem­bles an­other oc­ca­sion on which his mother wept. Sig­nif­i­cantly, though, that was in pri­vate. We were on tour in Africa; the last visit of the day – to a ru­ral Aids hospice for young chil­dren – was over. The of­fi­cials and me­dia had left, leav­ing Diana and a small en­tourage to watch the tod­dlers be­ing tucked in for the night.

Diana, char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, wanted to help. I’ll never for­get the im­age of her kneel­ing by each bed, ac­com­pa­nied only by a nun with a lantern, com­fort­ing each lit­tle oc­cu­pant. As she straight­ened af­ter the last bed, I saw tears shin­ing on her cheeks. By the time she re­joined us, they had been wiped away by the pro­fes­sional princess al­ready back on pa­rade.

There were no tears in Pak­istan this week when Prince Wil­liam agreed with a young well-wisher that he, too, was “a big fan” of his mother. But who could doubt the in­fin­ity of sad­ness con­cealed by such brief, good-na­tured and mod­est words. It seems Wil­liam has adopted that most Bri­tish of at­ti­tudes: that emo­tion makes a good ser­vant but a poor mas­ter.

He and his brother are des­tined by birth for a weird pub­lic ex­is­tence in which strangers can pick over their most pri­vate emo­tions. How they cope has been on world­wide dis­play these past few weeks and it’s fair to say their meth­ods are dif­fer­ent – per­haps dif­fer­ent enough to pre­vent them and their wives ever liv­ing up to Meghan’s early de­scrip­tion of the four­some’s work as “unity at its best”.

When Princess Diana made her own first visit to Pak­istan in 1991, she was in­tro­duced to the work of the revered Pak­istani poet Sir Muhammad Iqbal. Much of it struck a chord with her. She painstak­ingly copied a verse and gave it to me af­ter the tour, and an­other might have been es­pe­cially writ­ten for princes nav­i­gat­ing a life like no other: “Des­tiny is the prison and chain of the ig­no­rant.”

Our sys­tem has put Wil­liam, the fu­ture king, in that prison. To his in­fi­nite credit, he is turn­ing it in to a place in which to do his duty, while still be­ing a com­mit­ted fa­ther and fam­ily man. As he said in La­hore, when told how he and Kate had “ra­di­ated joy” wher­ever they had been: “We are very happy peo­ple.” It shows.

Harry’s prison has an open door, and no gaoler but of his own mak­ing. His un­doubted gifts of em­pa­thy, com­pas­sion and charm flour­ish in sun­light and wide hori­zons. They are a far bet­ter – and hap­pier – ri­poste to an un­fair world than any­thing his lawyers can muster.

There were no tears in Pak­istan, when Prince Wil­liam agreed he was ‘a big fan’ of his mother

A son’s trib­ute: Prince Harry, right, walks through the mine­field in An­gola, where his mother fa­mously trod in 1997, above

Fam­ily re­sem­blance: in the Chi­tral district of Pak­istan, Prince Wil­liam wears a Chi­trali hat like the one his mother wore there in 1991

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.