The Daily Telegraph
Tragic Harry has the air of a tormented man
Among the many sorrows of yesterday’s epochal ceremony, came one not everyone was expecting: Prince Harry, red-faced, leaden-browed, stricken.
He had the air of a tormented man, surrounded by – yet profoundly alienated from – the family he marched alongside; the event’s tragic hero.
In Aristotelian terms, a tragic hero is defined as a by-and-large good person who brings misfortune upon themselves not through vice, but because of an error of judgment. They are flawed individuals who commit – without malign intent – great wrongs that result in their wretchedness, followed by a crippling realisation of the reality behind the events that led to it.
Whether the Duke of Sussex, who turned 38 last week, yet benefits from this perspective is not clear. However, his demeanour at his grandmother’s funeral suggested he had a sense of all that he has given up for his waning La La Land celebrity and some sketchily philanthropic future. While – as his final qualification for the tragic-hero epithet – those observing felt only pity.
How had Harry, our Prince Hal, once the people’s favourite, loved by his grandmother for his amiable mischief, become such a source of torment in her final years? If his role as family clown masked childhood misery, no one could have anticipated that it would erupt with a rage that would destroy his relationship with his father, brother, and the monarchy itself.
For Prince Harry, as for his brother, the Prince of Wales, marching behind his grandmother’s casket must have brought back traumatic memories of walking behind his mother’s coffin. Moreover, he was obliged to wear a morning suit, rather than a uniform
Yet throughout all this, we miss him. And we will miss him for as long as he chooses to remain estranged
reflecting his decade of military service, reduced to the status of that other non-working royal, the Duke of York.
Despite the logic of this decision, surrounded by fellow service men and women, the stricture must have stung.
There was talk of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex being “uninvited” to the state reception for world leaders held at Buckingham Palace the night before the service. But, how could they have imagined they might participate, their attack on Britain’s royal family only temporarily paused? Doubtless, it would have pleased Netflix executives to have their stars hobnobbing with world leaders.
However, the House of Windsor would have had to possess a strong masochistic streak to have handed those who bad-mouth them on their own turf a global mouthpiece.
Only last month, an interview appeared in The Cut magazine in which the Duchess claimed that “just by existing” she and her husband “were upsetting the dynamic of the hierarchy”. In the same piece she seemed to remark that her spouse had “lost” his father; the very father Harry was yesterday positioned behind in Westminster Abbey, apparently too overcome to give a convincing rendition of God Save the King. The Duchess’s self-pitying podcast and the Duke’s controversial memoir have not been cancelled, merely postponed.
Prince Harry has every right not to play a part in Britain’s Royal family.
What is problematic is his decision to continue to avail himself of the advantages of his upbringing, while abusing all concerned – including, by implication, the “Grannie” he professes to have adored.
And yet, throughout all this, we miss him. And we will miss him for as long as he chooses to remain estranged. As the King’s first address to the nation referenced his love for his son, so we love Harry, too. And it doesn’t feel too fanciful to say that it looks as if he misses us.