Harry’s ‘renegade’ clap back at Queen

Monday - 20/01/2020 12:43
Just when everyone thought the media fire was calming down, Prince Harry got up and poured petrol on the flames with an astonishing speech overnight. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/APSource:AP
Just when everyone thought the media fire was calming down, Prince Harry got up and poured petrol on the flames with an astonishing speech overnight. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/APSource:AP
It’s been a bruising week for Prince Harry, but if the Queen thought he was going to let her have the last word, she was sadly mistaken.

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In 1995 when Diana, Princess of Wales agreed to an interview with the BBC’s Panorama program only a tiny handful of people knew what she was planning.

Even her private secretary Patrick Jephson was kept in the dark. Such was the level of secrecy, when the TV crew arrived to set up their equipment Kensington Palace staffers were told instead that new hifi equipment was being installed.

This tell-all, her first solo interview since separating from Prince Charles, was one of the few remaining moves she could make as she waged war against the royal family. When the interview was broadcast, it shook the house of Windsor to its very foundations.

It was a PR masterstroke that brutally and immediately changed the narrative in Diana’s favour. Now, it looks like her son Prince Harry has inherited that shrewdness and willingness to open up to the British people in the most extraordinary – and unroyal – of ways.

Early this morning, Australian-time, the Prince appeared at a dinner at the Ivy restaurant in Chelsea for an event in support for Sentebale, the charity he co-founded in 2006 and which supports children living with HIV/AIDS in Lesotho, Botswana and Malawi.

Taking to the stage, the 35-year-old used the opportunity to deliver a truly astonishing speech, emotionally and candidly making the case for why he and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex were stepping away as working members of the royal family.

RELATED: Harry’s stunning speech in full

For an institution in which stoic silence is bred so thoroughly into their DNA, the royal who spoke last night bore more than a passing resemblance to his renegade mother.

This was Harry very deliberately setting out his side of the story after more than 10 days of largely critical British media coverage of the Sussexes’ revelation they had had enough of being full time working royals.
 

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His angst and hurt is writ large and will tug at the public’s heartstrings but it is unlikely this speech will truly quell the press frenzy or shut down the couple’s critics, nor would Buckingham Palace be amused that the headstrong Duke had only added fuel to the current raging media fire.

Here’s why.

THE CONTRARY HOMELAND ANGLE

Meghan is currently in Canada, along with the couple’s baby son Archie and Harry is expected to join them there this week. In coming months, they are expected to set up a base in North America with the Commonwealth country being a likely candidate where they will spend a lot of their time.

Last night, Harry said: “The UK is my home and a place that I love. That will never change.”

The rejoinder to that is, if you like Blighty so much, why are you leaving it?

Reading the UK broadsheets’ coverage of this royal crisis over the weekend, there is a clear sense that the Sussexes’ North American plans are tantamount to a wholesale rejection of British life. Whether Harry’s protestation to the contrary will change this perception remains to be seen.

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, arriving at The Ivy Chelsea Garden to deliver his landmark speech.
Picture: GORC/GC ImagesSource:Getty Images
 


THE BIZARRE DIANA REFERENCE

Looking back on his relationship with Meghan, Harry said: “I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurray!”

This is a very, very strange line. What is clear is that final sentence conveys so much about how he feels about his mother and his brother. To start with, that he feels his life has largely been defined by who his mother was and that he has grown up abundantly aware of having to prove himself worthy of her legacy.

Secondly, the use of “second son” is telling. It would seem he thinks his life has been defined by what he is not – not the firstborn child, not the heir and not the future King. In that simple sentence there is more than a whiff of bitterness.

TAKING THE BLAME

So much of the coverage of this latest Windsor stoush has lumped the responsibility for the couple’s drastic decision on Meghan’s shoulders. He was perfectly happy plodding along to royal engagements, this argument goes, and playing cheerful third wheel to William and Kate before he met the former Suits star. Rightly or wrongly Meghan has been made the scapegoat in this sad chapter in Windsor history.

Harry has now taken the opportunity to counter that: “The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”

The use of “I” here is crucial. The very clear message he is sending is that it was not the Los Angeles-born actress who was the driving force here and that it was his choice to make this drastic move.

THE BLAME GAME

On January 9, the Sussexes spectacularly revealed they wanted out of much of royal life and were aiming to formulate a “progressive new role” which would have seen them became flexi-royals.

The announcement that Buckingham Palace put out yesterday firmly knocked that goal on the head, with the Queen clearly having put her foot down and making the couple decide whether they were in or out of The Firm.

“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible,” Harry said in his speech.

Translation: We didn’t get what we want and the Palace forced our hand. This is Harry (and by extension Meghan) shifting responsibility for them walking away and shirking the blame for them wholesale walking away from royal working life.

The other interesting thing we can deduct from these lines is that Harry feels that his wife’s wellbeing trumps any other considerations. There are many criticisms that can be levelled at Prince Harry but not being a thoroughly, powerfully supportive and committed husband is not one of them.

One of the many sacrifices the Sussexes have made in quitting as working members of the royal family is that Harry will lose all of his military patronages. He is Captain General of the Royal Marines, Honorary Air Commandant of RAF Honington and Commodore- in-Chief, Small Ships and Diving.

For a soldier who served two tours on the frontline in Afghanistan and the fact he has made supporting veterans a central pillar of his post-army life, this must have been a devastating blow. Clearly, ultimately this came second to doing what he believes is the right thing for his family.

IT’S THE MEDIA WOT DONE IT

Harry’s loathing of the Fourth Estate is legend and he has long blamed the media for his mother’s death in 1997. While he might appear like an affable chap, his deep seated hatred of the press is firmly established.

Harry very clearly and deliberately took aim at Fleet Street, saying: “The media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us.”

The sense of victimhood in Harry’s comments is stark.

Unequivocally, Meghan has faced some very rough handling by the media in the UK since she was first “outed” as Harry’s girlfriend in late 2016 for example, headlines like the Daily Mail’s “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed”.

However, the couple has also garnered countless glowing headlines and coverage for their ability to connect with younger audiences and their extraordinary extent to which they have revived the royal brand.

The impression here is that Harry does not think that is enough.
 

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Prince Harry and baby Archie in Canada. Picture: InstagramSource:Instagram
 


ANGRY, HURT AND CORNERED

Photos from last night’s Sentebale dinner show the Prince laughing and smiling with fellow attendees and singer Lewis Capaldi and stand in stark contrast to the impression of Harry we are left with.

The sense of hurt, anger and the belief that his hand was forced are palpable.

This speech does not augur well for Buckingham Palace. Clearly Harry is happy to litigate this case in the court of public approval and the Sussexes seem to have no intention of adopting the Queen Mother’s enduring maxim “never complain, never explain”.

Diana, Princess of Wales, perceptively and adroitly knew that swaying public opinion was imperative to building her global brand and to establishing her version of events as gospel. Today, Prince Harry is very much showing he is her son, and that he has no qualms about adopting a power move right out of her playbook.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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