The neo-medieval revenge mission continues, for now
Prince Harry says his family “has been briefing the press for over a decade”.
He means briefing against him, his wife and his family. For their own selfish even jealous purposes, according to Harry, Charles, Camilla, William and Kate and their respective staffs have all
variously been “complicit” with the British tabloid press in creating a damaging family divide.
He proclaims, often, how much he loves his family, and how much he wants them back, but the “dysfunctional” family doesn’t seem to want him, or Meghan and the kids. Quotes, leaks and planted stories attributed to Buckingham Place “sources”, say Harry, came and still come from his own family members. They “spoon feed” these “heinous” and “horrible” fictions to client journalists, and the poison then spreads through social media, and induces hatred, threats and racism towards Meghan.
It forced the Sussexes to leave the country. “When I needed them they weren’t there for me,” Harry said.
This is a soldier who may have knocked off 25 Taliban over in Helmand province, but he’s still at war with the King, Queen consort, Prince and Princess of Wales and most of the press. Indeed, he’s also indirectly in conflict with the trolling and abuse by the hateful lunatics of social media.
The book, Spare, the latest round of media interviews, the Oprah Winfrey session, the legal actions against Rupert Murdoch’s company, the Mail and the Mirror titles – all are weapons in this campaign, like the guns and missiles on the combat helicopter he used to pilot, precision-aimed and lethal. We all know there’s more in the armoury – especially the material about who made racist remarks about their son Archie an as-yet undetonated nuclear bomb.
In what seems to have been a rare piece of wise counsel from his father, Charles advised his second son that in doing all this he was going on a “suicide mission”. Harry doesn’t seem to mind, and it’s also a scrap he’s undertaking on behalf of his mother. Revenge, if you like, though he’d not use that term, for the media’s role in her death. Like his uncle Charles Spencer, who spoke so distressingly about Diana at the service in Westminster Abbey in 1997, he thinks the tabloid media – the paps, the royal reporters, the editors – have blood on their hands.
It’s unkind to say it, but watching Prince Harry’s candid interview with his old friend Tom Bradby was both deeply moving and deeply frustrating. Moving, that is, because, in different ways, Harry has lost his mum, his father, his brother, his granny, and eventually his country by having to go into exile for fear of the harm being done to his family.
As a journalist, the interview with Tom Bradby was also somewhat shaming, because of the nonsense, the infusions and the cruelty that Harry and Meghan have been subjected to – albeit apparently with the full connivance of other members of the family.
But… to borrow a cliche, it’s like trying to nail jelly to the wall. There’s not much conclusive proof, either way, about who was leaking or planting stories to damage Harry. Were they directly leaked and planted by Camilla, say? By some flunkey on her behalf, with or without her authority? Were staff in the various households simply gossiping, passing on rumour or first had knowledge? Were people who claimed to be “insiders” – hangers on, not staff or close family – offering morsels to the journalists?
It’s impossible to say, and, to many observers back home in Britain, the actual arguments seem rather other-worldly. They’re about bridesmaids at grand multi-million pound royal weddings; they’re about titles and honours; they’re about armed police protection; they’re about who gets which rooms in which palaces; they’re about wearing beards or not; they’re about sibling rivalry at the very top of “society”; and about how to treat servants. Servants!
It’s a remarkably toxic form of sibling rivalry, “Heir versus Spare”, with William accused of being the hyper-competitive control freak, but for almost everyone else in the UK this is abstruse, bewildering stuff to say the least, as remote as any episode of Downton Abbey. Aside from the genuine traumas Harry and Meghan have been through, you have to shrug and say “so what?” about the tiaras and the titles. The Windsors, after all, haven't been arguing and literally fighting about how to pay the gas bill, let’s say, or who’s going to go to the food bank.
Meanwhile, 500 poor sods are dying every week because they can't get to A&E in time.
For what it's worth, I suspect Harry and Meghan want to renegotiate Megxit. They want vindication, and they still want to be royals on their own terms, in their own way just as they always have – which includes co-opting the palace into protecting them against the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Dan Wooton.
Because their allegations have been so personal and explosive, yet often vague, and can be neither proven or admitted, it makes it more difficult for he and Meghan to get what they want. That, ultimately, will be to unpick the Megxit agreement and return to some official duties and restoration of their status, as well as secure “accountability” and an apology for wrongs done.
Therefore, it seems the latest war of the Windsors will drag on and on in its neo-medieval way, but sooner or later, for the sake of the institution and the sanity of all concerned, there will just have to be a “reconciliation”.
With the Queen gone, and with it the affection and respect she commanded, within months the Windsors, collectively, are starting to look as out of touch and incompetent as the Bourbons and the Romanovs. They can’t go on like this, can they?
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