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It’s possible to sympathise with Prince Harry yet despair at how he’s handled the situation

It’s possible to sympathise with Prince Harry yet despair at how he’s handled the situation
It’s possible to sympathise with Prince Harry yet despair at how he’s handled the situation

The Prince Harry debate is like Brexit: you’re either for him or against him. He’s either bravely raising awareness of mental-health problems, or he’s a snivelling, spoiled brat who doesn’t know he’s born.

I’m in a lonely position in the middle. When I watched, with embarrassing fascination, that 90-minute interview with Oprah a couple of months back, my immediate reaction was of sympathy. Anyone who’s seen the debilitating impact of depression on a close friend or loved one won’t lightly dismiss its potency, nor lazily assume that royals must somehow be immune.

In any case, wouldn’t anyone suffer mental-health problems having been through what Harry has – losing his mother when he was a boy, being paraded in front of the world’s media while grieving, having every youthful indiscretion photographed and condemned? I’d have turned to drink and run away to America too, with or without Meghan.

Yet, I despair at Harry’s approach, now he’s escaped. And the root of it all appears to be ego. Each individual member of the royal family is pretty unremarkable, with the normal range of human weaknesses, amid, for most, an admirable sense of duty. For example, with the exception of Prince Charles, they are atrocious public speakers – yet that’s the very thing they often have to do. They’re in the public eye for no other reason than by accident of birth or marriage. It’s purely the institution that makes them noteworthy.

Yet some of them struggle to accept this. Edward VIII craved a role after his abdication, and was apparently shocked to discover that nobody thought he should have one. In the 1980s, his great nephew Prince Edward came up with the wheeze It’s a Royal Knockout, which was so awful I break out into hives just thinking about it. Sarah Ferguson landed herself in all sorts of scrapes after her divorce. And, most damagingly, Prince Andrew dismissed the advice of his officials, chose his own PR strategy (because, of course, as a royal, he must be brilliant at it) and merrily chatted away to the BBC’s Emily Maitlis, creating the world’s most damaging crisis interview, ever.

And now we have Harry. Notwithstanding our sympathy for him, we can acknowledge that he was an unremarkable student at Eton, who then went into the army. He has no standout talent, as far as I can see. Yet he seems to think that he has a duty to lead the fight for people suffering mental health problems – and raise awareness of an awful affliction about which the world is increasingly aware and sympathetic anyway. And he thinks that because Oprah is taking an interest, he must have something important to say.

Well, Oprah is interested not because of his insight, but because he is, for a short time, a big news story – the errant Prince who’s telling all. For the media, there’s nothing better than a mixture of celebrity and conflict, especially if there’s a whiff of casual racism mixed in (“How dark will the baby’s skin be?”). And it’s even better if Harry can be placed on a flimsy American pedestal and then smacked down as soon as he makes the inevitable slip, by trashing the First Amendment. Smart move, Harry.

Meanwhile, Oprah, I’m sure, doesn’t give two hoots about the impact of his revelations on the rest of his family, not least his grieving grandmother. I doubt she gives two figs about Harry or Meghan at all. Why should she? She’s paid to make compelling TV, and she’s doing it tremendously well.

Harry must learn the hard way, as Edward VIII did, that he’s going to be less and less relevant. Okay, he’s big news now. But the foundations of that stardom are built on sand. He’d be wise to go off quietly and use his vast wealth to get the mental health support he needs away from the glare of the cameras.

Then, I’m afraid, he needs to ready himself for living a life about which the rest of us have very little interest. Welcome to the real world.

Source : http://telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/05/21/possible-sympathise-prince-harry-also-despair-handled-situation/


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