The Windsors are not like other families. Witness the awkward intimation from Kensington Palace that Prince William is worried for his brother and his wife, revealed "to be in a fragile place" during their emotional TV interview on Sunday night, and he "hopes they are all right". How about giving them a ring?
Diana's beloved boys, who sheltered each other through the hurricane of grief that followed their mother's awful death, were as close as two brothers could be. That bond endured after William married Kate Middleton, up until Meghan Markle came on the scene. The fact that the elder one now has to make his concern known through the very media the younger has declared war on speaks volumes about their painful estrangement.
Make no mistake, this is a major crisis for the Royal family. Within two days, Channel 4 broadcast a programme revealing the extent of Prince Andrew's reckless ties with the billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, while an ITV documentary, which was supposed to be about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's successful tour of southern Africa, turned into a public confession of the couple's unhappiness and possible plan to step out of the spotlight. Let's hope someone hid the Queen's Radio Times and switched Her Majesty's TV off after Countryfile.
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In Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, the Duke appeared agitated, even paranoid, fretting about "this family, this job". Clearly a tortured soul, he is taking legal action against newspapers he believes hounded his mother to her death. Every click from a shutter, every flash from a camera is "the worst reminder" of that tragedy. He loves his brother, he said, but they were now "on different paths".
For her part, Meghan was asked by presenter Tom Bradby whether she was able to cope with the endless scrutiny the newlyweds had been under. The Duchess said they were taking one day at a time, "existing, not living". British friends had warned her against marrying Harry because "the tabloids will destroy you", a worry she had "naively" dismissed because "we don't have those kind of [papers] in the US". (Has she really never heard of the National Enquirer?)
]Her eyes brimming with tears, she said: "I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair."
Like millions of Britons, I have always had huge affection for Harry – that harum-scaram scamp, the sensitive little ginger boy his mother worried most about, the jolly-japes soldier eager to be one of the lads. We were delighted (and a bit relieved, frankly) when he finally found a bright, beautiful woman to settle down with. Harry and Meghan's wedding in May 2018 generated joy in such surging abundance that, if you had been able to plug it into the National Grid, it would have kept us warm all winter.
Since then, though, and despite their clear intentions to do good and make a difference, the Sussexes have blundered from one unforced error to the next. This recent African tour, which should have been a triumph that reset their standing in the Royal family, ended on a note of such sour sadness, it almost effaced the wonderful work of the previous ten days.
What Harry and Meghan seem to lack is a good friend, a candid adviser – a mother, actually – to get cross and tell them not to be so idiotic. (Or maybe they have one and they just don't listen.) My own list of Dos and Don'ts would include the following.
DON'T do a tour of some of the most heartbreaking parts of Africa – including children with their limbs blown off – then end it with your own sob story, which sounds a lot like heaven to people in the townships. Oh, and don't claim you're "existing, not living"; they are, you're not. It comes across as shockingly ungrateful. Count your manifold blessings – a loving spouse, a gorgeous baby, millions in the bank. Yes, life in the public eye can be stressful, but at least you have no fear of being raped on the way home like that South African woman you met.
DO grow a thicker skin. Meghan said she "tried the stiff upper lip thing". Yes. For a year! That's not very long. It takes time to earn respect. Avoid baring your soul in public. It only makes you more vulnerable. You're feeding an appetite for intimate disclosure that can never be sated. You need to construct a human shield as the Queen has done, a royal persona to wheel out on formal occasions. When you get home, take off the mask and live the life you both want to.
fight a futile, self-destructive battle with the tabloid press. The papers which Harry hates with an irrational passion are read by the monarchy's most ardent supporters. They are the ones who put out the bunting and buy the souvenir tea-towels. Basically, they pay your wages. And they loved Harry's late mother and don't wish any harm to come to Diana's sons. Reporters can be horribly prurient, but, remember, unkind stories are on the floor of the gerbil cage the next day. Nobody will remember what they wrote; they'll remember how you responded. I saw a clip from South Africa of Harry ticking off Sky News's Royal reporter Rhiannon Mills for asking him a friendly question at an unscheduled moment. A week later, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at the back of their plane in Pakistan laughing and joking with the press pack. If you treat journalists as the enemy, chances are they will be.
DO take Archie to visit his great-grandmother at Balmoral when you're invited. Claiming he's too young to travel to Scotland, then managing to get him onto a rock star's private plane to the south of France was not a good look. There is only one Queen of England, and it's not Elton John.
DON'T give bombshell interviews if they might overshadow your brother and sister-in-law's superb tour of Pakistan. They won't like it. Obey the unwritten Windsor rule that you don't steal anyone's thunder while they're abroad representing the Queen. And don't damage your own marvellous publicity by announcing you're taking legal action just as you're ending your own tour. People will think you've totally lost the plot.
hunker down and enjoy your lovely baby, instead of flying across the Atlantic to see a tennis match. Watch it on the telly like everyone else. Stay at home quietly and take advantage of the help you can afford. Hormonal and sleep-deprived, we all go a bit nuts after having a baby, and trying to do too much will put a strain on you and your marriage. There's plenty of time to save the world; save yourselves first.
DON'T give lectures on the environment and then have your own Range Rovers flown to South Africa. If you do this, don't be upset if people accuse you of hypocrisy. They've got a point.
DO retain a sense of humour. The British dislike people who take themselves too seriously. That means not writing "You are loved" on bananas being sent to sex workers. Chances are, if they've fallen into prostitution, they didn't feel especially loved. People adored the Harry of old who enjoyed a laugh. Bring him back, we miss him.
DON'T say tearfully to Tom Bradby that "not many people have asked if I am OK". Welcome to motherhood, sweetie! People not asking if you are OK goes on for, ooh, at least another 20 years. Archie will give you a Mother's Day card every year; otherwise, it's your job to check that everyone else is OK. Bummer, I know. But self-sacrifice is the job description.
DO take a six-week "sabbatical", as you're rumoured to be doing, but ask yourselves if someone like Harry, who says he is triggered by the sound of camera shutters, should really be carrying out the packed schedule of a member of the royal family. Maybe life as a private citizen might suit better.
Oh, and it would be nice if his big brother could get in touch with Harry, as their mother would surely want him to: not via a tip to the media. I presume Prince William has his brother's phone number?