The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s provocative comments on the same topics will keep the contracts coming writes Robert Lacey in The Times
It was a timely moment yesterday for Prince Harry to talk about his bold and brave Invictus Games in the Netherlands for disabled servicemen and women — at a time when real war is happening just a thousand miles or so away. We watch it on our screens every night. Russia’s assault on Ukraine has, sadly, become a spectator sport in its own right.
Founded only eight years ago, the Invictus Games reminds us of war’s ghastly reality, and how the human spirit can sometimes do just a little to redeem its cruelty and waste. Every nation pays and trains young people to do this dirty work on our behalf, and Harry was one of those potential victims.
In 2014 the prince used his royal status creatively — as royal people are supposed to do — to seek to mend and make a difference. Harry proudly said as much yesterday, how he had learnt over the years to “find healing in helping others”.
But those were just about his only words of relevance. By question three of the NBC interview — “What’s a Wednesday like for you?” — the onetime helicopter pilot who risked his life in Afghanistan had moved on to Archie and how his young son (nearly three) loved to interrupt his telephone calls, with some further thoughts on the virtues of “cheekiness”. Back to the royal tittle-tattle, in other words.
Question five got to the heart of it — how’s the Queen these days? The tragic paradox of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is that they proclaim their wish to escape the royal circus, but that’s all they really want to talk about — while taking TV camera crews round the world to record them doing so.
As Harry dropped his predictable soundbites on the “great sense of humour” displayed by his grandmother (96 years old today!), and how “it was really nice to catch up with her”, one was reminded of Meghan’s revelations to Oprah Winfrey shortly before Prince Philip’s death a year ago.
The American duchess coyly described how she was so close to the Queen she was in the habit of picking up the phone to chat to Her Majesty about the invalid’s health — with no suggestion that calling off a certain interview might really have spared the feelings of the ailing prince.
So it has come to this — the defiantly ex-royal couple are actually trading in royal intimacies. Spotify doesn’t pay money for nothing — and Harry went a step further. “I’m just making sure she’s protected,” he told NBC’s Hoda Kotb, “and got the right people round her.”
The arrogance of this remark was not picked up by his docile interviewer — as even Oprah ventured to challenge the Sussexes when they sat down with her 12 months ago.
Protected? From whom? Is this some offshoot of the prince’s argument with the Home Office over royal security when he is in Britain, and his threat to sue Priti Patel?
And what does he mean by the “right” people? Is this a dig at his father and elder brother who, we know, are the Queen’s principal confidants these days? Or is he referring to the fact the Queen is now spending so much time at Windsor with his Uncle Andrew, whom she chose as her escort to the memorial service for Prince Philip last month — the service that Harry and Meghan found it impossible to attend?
It is no wonder the prince should fear he might suffer from “burnout”. Anyone would get burnt out at the prospect of having to conjure up provocative comments on the same half-dozen topics to keep the contracts coming for the rest of his life.
Robert Lacey is the author of A Brief Life of the Queen (Duckworth Overlook, £9.99)
Read the full article in The Times