It’s time Prince Harry put a cork in it and listened to his gran
The queen is getting increasingly miffed by the way he is flouting the royal rule book and dabbling in politics
Every year, Buckingham Palace details the queen’s duties in its royal financial reports which, in 2019, outline her “important sense of continuity and stability at a time of rapid social, cultural and technological change”.
Citing examples such as the UK’s State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour and jubilees, it adds: “The regular rhythm of the Monarchy provides reassurance to many people,” concluding that “the Queen and the Monarchy are a stable fixture in many people’s lives”.
Few in the UK would disagree – particularly in these febrile political times, which in January prompted the 92-year-old to call for unity at a meeting of the Sandringham Women’s Institute.
In a thinly veiled reference to Brexit, she urged the British public to “respect different points of view” and to come “together to seek out the common ground”.
A month later, Prince William echoed the call for calm during a visit to Northern Ireland, again speaking of the importance of people working together “for the common good”.
The carefully worded intervention came after the queen, who closely monitors Irish politics, discussed Brexit and the Irish backstop issue at length with senior members of her family – including the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge.
According to royal insiders, the queen has suggested senior royalty promotes compromise and a less embittered debate on Brexit as part of its public agenda.
Yet following his outburst at an event to mark WE Day on Wednesday, courtiers may have started to wonder whether Prince Harry got the memo.
Criticising the media for “distorting the truth”, the prince, 34, suggested they were guilty of “trying to manipulate the power of positive thinking”, and praised youngsters for not listening to them.
Telling children they were “the most engaged generation in history”, he continued: “Every day you are inundated with an overexposure of advertising and mainstream media, social media and endless comparisons, distorting the truth, and trying to manipulate the power of positive thinking. But you don’t let them sway you because you don’t need to hide behind your device to share your voice. You confidently voice your opinions because you can embrace them proudly.
“As my wife often reminds me with one of her favourite quotes by Martin Luther King jnr: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that’.”
By putting mainstream publishers and broadcasters in with social media as a negative influence on young minds, Prince Harry has ruffled feathers in the press. But what does the queen make of it all?
While 2019 may not be the annus horribilis she described in 1992, the past few months have been far from exemplary.
If Brexit has not provided a difficult enough path for the royal family to navigate, the palace has had to endure the furore surrounding Prince Philip’s car crash in January and a series of negative headlines about the Duchess of Sussex’s relationship with her father, as well as five of the 37-year-old’s friends “breaking their silence“ to People, the US magazine, to “stand up against the global bullying we are seeing and speak the truth about our friend”.
Suffice to say this was not how Kensington Palace intended to mark the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth – a situation likely to have been worsened still by their press office appearing to be unaware of the article before it hit newsstands.
Along with the duchess flying solo at a much-publicised – and expensive – baby shower in New York, concerns have been raised that the royal couple are making a habit of “bypassing” their household staff.
The queen is understood to have been particularly put out by a leader column in a national newspaper suggesting the prudent option for royalty “is to not comment at all, either directly or by proxy”.
Responding to claims by George Clooney that Meghan was being “pursued and vilified and chased” like Diana, Princess of Wales, the opinion piece suggested “the remedy lies in the hands of the royal family”, pointing out that most of the ructions had come from within the duchess’s own family.
“There is great value in a constitutional monarchy that is above partisan politics and fulfills ceremonial duties,” the piece added.
“The generation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would do admirably to follow that example.”
So have the Sussexes become too political?
Having been an outspoken campaigner on women’s equality ever since she lobbied to have a sexist washing-up liquid advert changed as a child, it is understandable that the duchess wants to use her platform to promote the causes closest to her heart.
The queen has rewarded this, with the announcement on Friday that eight-months-pregnant Meghan is to become vice-president of her Commonwealth Trust, to “champion, fund and connect young leaders around the world who are driving positive social change, serving their communities and providing hope, work and self-employment opportunities for others”.
Prince Harry, who is president of the trust, has already endeared himself with initiatives such as the Invictus Games – not to mention his own refreshing candour on issues like mental health.
Yet despite all this admirable do-gooding, headlines such as “Meghan takes aim at male, pale, stale universities” and “Harry and Meghan to raise gender-fluid baby” (albeit denied by the palace), are what one royal insider described as “not a good look”.
On Friday, Prince Harry was described as “His Royal Hypocrite” by one tabloid, which pointed out he had hired a private helicopter to fly to Birmingham on Monday, just two days before he leaped on stage at Wembley Arena urging 12,000 screaming young fans to “wake up” and act “on the damaging impact our ways of living are having on the world”.
Coming after the duchess had taken a private jet to the Big Apple and back, any suggestion that the pair are not practising what they preach is “not a good look” either.
While comparisons with the Duke of York are best avoided, some “below stairs” have been at pains to point out that despite the Sussexes’ star status, and the demands that go with it, Prince Harry is only sixth in line to the throne.
As one palace source put it: “Harry has always been very popular with staff, but there is a sense he has been getting a little ahead of himself lately and unnecessarily rocking the boat.”
With the UK in the grip of an unprecedented political crisis, and Brexit still hanging in the balance, the monarch clearly wants to steer the steadiest of ships.
As she said in 2013: “We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.”
Perhaps Prince Harry would do well to heed his grandmother’s words.
– © The Sunday Telegraph