Two Cheers for Prince Harry

Photograph Source: Northern Ireland Office – CC BY 2.0

Apparently, he doesn’t merit any cheers at all and is now less popular in the US than Prince Andrew. What is surprising about this is that Prince Andrew actually has any popularity to be less than. Apparently, according to a commentator (whose name escapes me) speaking to Piers Morgan, what has caused this latest decline in Harry’s fortunes is the South Park episode featuring cartoon facsimiles of him and Meghan Markel.

That observation probably says more about the whole ongoing debacle than anything else. A popularity decline because of a cartoon? Are we now living in a cartoon reality? The cartoon, representing the popularity-declined couple as Canadians, portrayed them going on a worldwide privacy tour to ask the world to give them privacy. The couple have missed an opportunity here. The obvious thing for them to do is to actually promote and embark on a Worldwide Privacy Tour. It would be hard to make the situation more absurd and surreal than it already is, and it would be a marvellous display of insouciant panache.

I guess the reason they are less popular than Prince Andrew is nothing to do with reality but simply the way the media works. Andrew has become boring. No new events to excite headlines and column inches. “Prince Andrew Does Nothing” is not likely to attract many readers.

In contrast, the Suffixes (as I like to call them out of respect for Harry being “spare”) are media geniuses, surpassing even Charles Saatchi and Damien Hirst, in their ability to shock and generate millions of pounds worth of publicity via TV, radio, broadband and print. They must be providing employment to thousands of workers in those fields and making sure current affairs programmes have a secure place. The Suffixes have become a laughing stock – all the way to the bank. Who’s the loser now?

I am sure the Suffixes did not want – and did not expect – the negative reaction. A Newsweek poll of Americans towards the end of February said Harry was liked by 32 and disliked by 42 per cent, while Meghan’s figures were 27 and 44. Is your glass 42 percent empty or 32 percent full? An extrapolation of the figures means that 66,920,990 adult American approve of Harry and 56,464,585 of Meghan. That’s not a bad fan base – certainly sufficient to shift enough books to remunerate all concerned handsomely.

As the Suffixes are now so less popular than Andrew, what exactly have they done wrong? It’s easy to say what Andrew has done wrong, and, even worse, it’s easy to say what he is generally (in my observation) perceived to have done wrong. His intimate association with a convicted paedophile (ephebophile would be more accurate although less inflammatory) is quite enough for what a royal personage should not do. They should also not pay twelve million pounds settlement when someone accuses them of sexual misconduct, which they say they are entirely innocent of.  All that is terrible, yet  Andrew is still safely ensconced in the royal family, at least in private, albeit stripped of public duties.

What are the sins of the Suffixes in contrast? Unlike Andrew, their crime is not outside the royal establishment, but an attack on it. In ordinary terms, they’ve embarked on a family  squabble and told other people about it. Normally when this happens, the other people tend to be close friends, relatives, the postman and the local shopkeeper. But here we are dealing with worldwide figures so the other people are the world.

I can perfectly understand why the rest of the family are not best pleased. That’s normal when the postman and the local shopkeeper suddenly know all about your private life, especially when it’s somewhat dubious stuff and even more so when you don’t even think it’s true (but of course worst of all when it is true).

This creates problems for all families and even more so for King Charles, who is caught between parenthood and kingship. Harry should certainly expect to get rapped over the knuckles and the loss of use of a convenient crash pad (Frogmore Cottage as it’s known) in the UK, is the least he can expect.  A friend of his was quoted as calling this “a cruel punishment”. No. A cruel punishment is a poverty-stricken family living in a damp flat without enough money for proper food.

Harry’s sin is to tell the truth. Now Sophocles could give you the hint that this is not a good idea, or at least if you do it, then you have to be prepared for the consequences, which in his case was the loss of his dotage, not just the loss of a cottage.

That’s not the whole story, as the Suffixes have also incurred disfavour because of their arrogant egotism, but you’d be hard pressed to find many people in the public eye to whom this doesn’t apply. It’s just that most people are canny enough to cover it up with mock, but convincing, humility. And good for them. The Suffixes are naive and that always causes trouble. Almost as bad as honesty.

It’s easy to catch them out and that is a speciality of the media. There are some inconsistencies in their accounts. There are some witnesses who say otherwise. Let’s assume that 10 percent of what they say falls into that category, though it wouldn’t matter if the figure was higher. What about the other 90 percent (or whatever figure applies)?

They have shone a spotlight into the hidden recesses of the notoriously reclusive, arcane and entitled establishment of the royal family. They have smashed the facade and exposed at least some things that need to be exposed. Prince Harry is a revolutionary who sees a rotten institution and wants the world to see it and do something about it.

I don’t necessarily agree with him. I don’t know enough to agree or disagree, nor, for that matter, do I have sufficient time or interest to look properly into it all. But I do know that what is occurring is a phenomenon that has a purpose, a reckoning whose time has come. The royal family can no longer carry on as it has done for decades.

Change is often difficult and painful on both a personal and institutional level. It usually needs the pressure of some outside force to make it happen. If the outside force happens to be a person, they may well end up rather unpopular as a result, at least in the short term. In the long term they are regarded as an unjustly maligned hero and reformer.

So two cheers for Prince Harry.

The reference, in case you missed it in your education, is to E.M. Forster’s 1951 collection of essays, Two Cheers for Democracy, which articulates a liberal individualism in the face of social and political extremism. Churchill observed, “[I]t has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms”.

We might adapt this to say the only world worse than one with Harry and Meghan is a world without them.