The Prince Harry story will end soon, and it will end badly
The Duke of Sussex has no options that will leave him or those close to him unharmed
WE ARE now at that moment when your eyes glaze over when somebody has been telling you at great length about their dysfunctional family. You must know that moment, often reached in an evening after more than a few glasses, when you become simultaneously aware that not only are other people’s families immensely dull, but that it is in fact your interlocutor who is the source of much of the strife with their relations.
The tragedy of Prince Harry is not only his estrangement from his family, but also his lack of self-knowledge. It is this lack of genuine introspection that makes him fail to realise that the eyes of much of his audience are glazing over, or indeed that many have long since gone to bed, leaving him sitting alone by a dying fire muttering angrily into his whisky.
Harsher critics of his actions will say that he is motivated by a cynical milking of the bounteous teats of publishing and broadcasting, but I suspect that ultimately he is a victim of his own naivety and manipulation by those close to him. What he does not see is that the repeated expression of familial rancour is simply not a sustainable business model, and that most of us have realised that Harry’s grievances with his family – whether genuine or not – are no more interesting than our own. Furthermore, there are other, more important, things in the world that we need to care about.
So far Harry is getting away with it, as there is still a sizeable residue of demand for his story, not least because the Royal Family is the world’s biggest soap opera. But when this plot line surely wears thin, those around him who are scripting his narrative will insist that Harry makes things more dramatic in a bid to win back the audience. Doubtless there will be allegations of even more grotesque nastiness levelled at his family members, which will in turn make reconciliation more unlikely. But even this approach has a limited shelf life, because interest in the whole story of the bleating multi-millionaire prince just can’t be sustained indefinitely.
Harry will realise this one day, as surely he must, and he will then face only two options. The first will be to choose a path broadly similar to that of his great-great-uncle, the Duke of Windsor, and to live a quiet expatriate life with his American wife, and perhaps do some good works. The second is to seek privately to make amends with his family, with a view to ultimately returning to the fold, and perhaps once more to take part in active Royal duties.
I cannot see either of these options being palatable for those closest to him, with the second almost certainly seeing him having to choose a life largely apart from his wife and his children. The first option is almost equally unlikely, as the expression of grievance is the bedrock of the Sussexes’ revenue stream – but that is a stream that will ultimately become a trickle.
Harry is not far-sighted enough to see this fork in his road, let alone to realise that he is approaching it extremely quickly. He has no options that will leave him or those around him unharmed. Furthermore, there is nothing to be gained in trying to establish how he got to such a parlous position, because all that matters now is that he is where he is.
What Harry and the Royal Family need to do – if they are not doing so already – is to start talking via back channels and intermediaries, just as the IRA and the British Government did during the 1970s and 1980s. Perhaps through such discussions, a third option can be found that can be accommodated by all, albeit through gritted teeth.
If that doesn’t happen, I fear that this is one handsome Prince and his beautiful Princess who will live unhappily ever after – while the rest of us will have long grown bored of this whole sorry tale.
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This is really well done, Guy - and I agree with what you say. There are no winners in this situation, but thank you for charting the course of Harry's career (or lack of it) to date. I hope he's able to find peace at some point; I really do.
Best summary of this sorry saga I’ve seen.