In the space of one hour and 40 minutes, the king’s second son is moving, charming – and absolutely lays waste to the royals and all they stand for
If she had lived to see this, it wouldn’t have killed the Queen. But it might have made her a republican.
Harry: The Interview (ITV1) lasted an hour and 40 minutes (including ad breaks) and left no royal turn unstoned. Via excerpts from his memoir, Spare, and answers to questions from ITV journalist Tom Bradby, the king’s second son, Prince Harry, laid waste to the monarchy – or at least to the myths on which it so greatly depends.
We were softened up first by the memory of his childhood and the shattering death of his mother when he was 12 – a psychic wound that rarely fully heals even for children brought up in the most functioning families, which few would claim the Windsors to be. A very moving segment of the audiobook is played – beautifully read by Harry himself – about how he demanded and got to see the secret government file about Diana’s death. His press secretary removed the most awful photos but let him see as much as he thought Harry could bear, because he knew he had to.
As we go on, however, the interview becomes sadder and sadder. He is there, Harry tells us, and he has written his memoir because the accumulated “briefings, leakings and plantings” by the palace over the years, against him and Meghan, amount to the equivalent of “countless” volumes against them and make a mockery of the royal family’s motto: “Never complain, never explain.” The accommodation the institution has come to with the tabloid press, and the hypocrisy around it clearly – to use a phrase we lower echelons find handy in times of strife – boils his piss, and probably rightly so.
There are tales of William and Kate taking against Meghan from the start because, he says, they allowed stereotypes (American, actor, divorced, biracial) to put up a barrier between them. Camilla is depicted as a calculating woman who began “to play the long game – a campaign aimed at marriage and eventually the crown” after William and Harry asked their father not to marry her; and Camilla and Charles as using Kate and William’s relationship to bolster their own PR, the younger couple going on to do the same with Harry and Meghan’s.
Harry and Bradby talk about the three phone-hacking claims the former has outstanding against News Group, the Mirror and the Daily Mail, and the possibility that the opprobrium and harassment he and Meghan attract from the press is partly an effort to intimidate him into settling.
In response to questions about how all that he has done, and is now doing, squares with his wish for privacy, Harry says he has tried all other available, private avenues to get his family and/or the institution (he doesn’t, as Diana did, call it The Firm, but the intimation is the same) to protect and support him but they have declined – or rather, denied the need to do so.
He is charming, articulate, and – unless the Windsor clan has reared a world-class actor – telling us the truth as he sees it. In PR terms, it will surely serve its purpose. The book will sell in its millions, his story will appeal to the younger demographic, bolster his celebrity and maybe allow him a more manageable kind of fame than the one he was born into – which is probably his best hope at this point.
Speaking as a member of an older demographic who remembers Harry and William being born, Diana’s death, the funeral and all the rest of it, it left me only with a great sorrowful weariness: for all that has been done wrong, all that has been lost and how, in the end, how sad and ordinary every little life, however gilded, can be.