I watched the whole of Tom Bradby’s interview with Prince Harry on ITV on Sunday night.
Published: 10 January 2023
I had also spent a lot of time at the weekend and yesterday morning reading snippets from his ghosted autobiography, Spare, accidentally on sale under the title En La Sombra (In the Shadows).
By the end of my overdose on Harry’s woes, my reaction can best be described in the words of King Charles, when visited yet again by the doomed Prime Minister Liz Truss: “Dear, oh dear.”
Although I’m a supporter of the British monarchy because I believe that, as the Queen’s funeral demonstrated, it has a vital role in keeping the United Kingdom in touch with its core — a history, good and bad, that goes back over 1,000 years — I have a limited appetite for the kind of tittle tattle that is dominating the headlines so far.
However, for the last few years I’ve been working on a book about English royal consorts from Boudicca to Camilla, so I’m steeped in stories that recur in a new form throughout the centuries.
If you’ve read innumerable gory accounts of fraternal strife over land, wealth and the kingdom itself, an argument over William’s concern over Harry’s reaction to bullying allegations from Meghan’s staff that culminated in a push that landed Harry sprawled on a broken dog bowl does not horrify.
The Duchess of Sussex feeling disrespected over issues to do with tiaras, lip-gloss or a bridesmaid’s dress does not seize my attention in the way that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, did as she expressed her frustration at the king’s failure to have his first wife — who had resisted being divorced — executed.
But past events serve to remind us that while people can be taught to moderate their primaeval instincts, human nature does not change.
Like millions of others, I liked Harry, sympathised with him and William deeply for the terrible trauma they went through over their mother’s death, thought him amiable, unpretentious and amusing, and respected his Army service and his work for injured veterans.
But although I wanted him to have the happy marriage and family life he craved, I was nervous about Meghan Markle, a Hollywood celebrity I doubted would stay the course.
I remembered too well how the infatuated Edward VIII chose the divorced Wallace Simpson over the throne and spent the rest of his life abroad living a bitter life of pointless extravagance.
Like many other Hollywood celebrities, Meghan was fine in the limelight, but it soon became clear she had no taste for the mundane drudgery of dutiful, normal royal life.
She wanted a life for the Sussexes based in California, doing just the fun stuff as a working royal while making a fortune peddling their status and was vengeful when that proved impossible. Quick to part from family, friends and colleagues she feels are no longer useful to her, she seemingly has controlled her weak husband, a cash cow, who has ended up isolated and lonely in Montecito where they magnify their grievances.
The brutal truth is that neither Harry or Meghan have much talent (her children’s book and podcasts were hilariously bad; he needed a ghostwriter): the only way they could earn the money for the style of life they feel entitled to is to trash the Windsors.
My conclusions from my Harryfest are that he is a sad and deeply damaged man ruined by expensive therapists who have nurtured his victim complex and a vast array of commercial parasites.
No one who cared about him could have encouraged him to tell some of the embarrassing stories in the book.
Still, although self-obsession makes him an unreliable witness, he doesn’t lie.
He had the decency to kill off the allegation that his family were racist, even though he followed this up with contemporary race-obsessed drivel about unconscious bias.
Being in the royal goldfish bowl is not for everyone. When the king and his intimates have ridden through this latest storm, I hope key questions will be resolved like how George, Charlotte and Louis should have a sensible choice about their futures.
And, of course, how soon parliament can remove both Harry and Andrew from the line of succession.