“We then come to what is, for me, the most astonishing passage in the whole book. Harry says he has no problem with the concept of monarchy, despite his treatment, despite the ill-gotten gains on which its wealth is based, despite the lies, the treachery, the backbiting, the planted stories, the concept that the human happiness of every family member must be sacrificed to the institution, The Firm, the grift-champions of all time. It is the press that is to blame, not the damaged individuals the monarchy produces.”—Michael House
By Michael House
“I’m not the important one. It doesn’t matter what I do.”―Prince Harry
KING’S SUTTON, Northants, England—(Hubris)—December 2023—We left our hero retraining as a helicopter pilot. An imbecile journalist had told the world (and the Taliban) where in Afghanistan Harry was stationed during his army service. So, he and those around him were in great danger and he had to be withdrawn.
Life goes on. Harry gets his wings. He celebrates by going off to Botswana with his chums. With his brother William, he visits Lesotho on a charity visit, carrying on the AIDS work of his mother.
A dilemma. Brother William announces he is about to get married. But a group of disabled veterans invite Harry to accompany them on their trek to the North Pole. Can he get back in time for the wedding? He goes on the trek, the last 200 miles to the Pole on foot. His penis gets frostbite, and we are told far more about this than we need to know. (This fan of personal privacy also tells us that he has been circumcised.)
Harry gets back in time for the wedding. He is banned from being best man for fear of what he might say in his speech at the reception. William is commanded by the queen to wear a uniform he doesn’t want to wear: this man apparently belongs to several regiments. As a wedding present, the queen makes William a duke. (One wonders what proper dukes, the ones who worked their way up the ladder after their female ancestors failed to say No to King Charles II in the 17th century—feel about suddenly being outranked.) The invitees at Westminster Abbey have to be in place two hours before the ceremony begins. Harry wonders how many of them now need a piss. He feels that William’s new wife is to be the sister he never had—that feeling doesn’t last long after Meghan Markle appears on the scene.
Harry finds a new girlfriend. They get on very well. This could be The Real Thing. Then, the press find out. The lady rings Harry in tears: there are eight paparazzi outside her door. They are chasing her round London. The papers call her an underwear model, which she is not. She pulls out of the relationship. The reptiles of the press have done it again.
Deployment orders arrive. To celebrate, Harry and his mates go off to Las Vegas. One night, he gets drunk. He suggests playing strip pool. He loses. Someone takes photos. Naked pictures of him appear in the press. The ‘Prince Thicko, The Playboy Prince’ theme is regurgitated in the papers. His father is sympathetic—he himself has had to put up with similar all his life. It goes with the territory.
Returning from Afghanistan after flying Apache helicopters out of Camp Bastian, Harry tells a journalist that he has killed 25 people—not a boast, he says, just a fact. One newspaper calls him a war criminal. There is a tirade against Rupert Murdoch. Increasingly isolated and depressed, he finally realizes that he has post-traumatic stress disorder. He raises his spirits by organizing a Games after the Olympics for disabled service personnel. William doesn’t like it, and Harry concludes that sibling rivalry is raising its ugly head. But the Invictus Games (named after a poem by W.E. Henley: “I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul,” etc.) are a great success.
More infighting in the family. Brother William is being slagged off in the press for being lazy, not doing enough events. But he was restricted by his father, who wanted the media to focus on him and Camilla rather than William and his glamorous and photogenic wife. Charles needed to be on the front page. William and Kate produce a second child. So, Harry is one step farther away from the throne, not even The Spare anymore. He doesn’t care but the press want him to care. They won’t believe he isn’t upset.
William continues his dog-in-the-manger attitude about Africa—it is his “thing” and Harry is not welcome (as if there weren’t enough problems in Africa to engage two people.) Harry goes on a tour of Southern Africa. He spends time with anti-poaching squads and gives horrible descriptions of what poachers do to get rhino horn—financed by Chinese criminals.
To the US, where Harry is invited to stay at the home of an actor from “Friends” (which, I believe, is some form of televisual entertainment). He samples some mushrooms and finds that lavatory bowls and rubbish bins start speaking to him. He watches on his phone a video on Instagram, in which a friend of his is horsing around with another young woman. Harry is poleaxed. The other woman appears to be a synthesis of Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, and Marilyn Monroe. They meet. The next few pages are frankly embarrassing to an old cynic like me. This is sort of stuff you write in your diary or in a letter to the beloved. You don’t put it in a book. But reticence seems not to be a word in Harry’s vocabulary.
As I write this, the gutter press is still gunning for Harry. Today’s (as of this writing) headline in The Sun below:
Meghan Markle starts to meet the family. Before meeting the queen, she is given curtsying lessons and told, her first time up, to say Your Majesty, then, after, to say Ma’am, to rhyme with jam. Uptight William recoils from a hug.
Then the news breaks. The Daily Mail, possibly the vilest of Britain’s gutter rags, goes with the headline: “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton”; Subhead: “Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed—so will he be dropping in for tea?”
The Mail helpfully informs its readers that Compton had been the scene of 47 crimes in the previous week. A rival filth-sheet eclipses The Mail with “Harry to marry into gangster royalty?” The Sun (see above) goes with the front-page lead: “Harry’s girl on Pornhub.” Harry wants to sue, but the lawyers say that’s what they want you to do. That would feed the beast. The reptiles delve into every aspect of Meghan’s past. Her mother wears dreadlocks! She is a divorcee, shock, horror. Unlike Charles Windsor, “Queen” Camilla and Princess Ann!
This isn’t dog-whistle racism. This is overt. And since the royals never sue, the reptilian press can make up anything they like, without fear of repercussions.
Meghan is hounded mercilessly, not only by the press, but by ordinary folk wanting to make a few quid with phone photos. She gets death-threats. But unlike previous girlfriends, she sticks to Harry. He decides to propose, but then is told that the first six heirs to the throne have to ask the queen’s permission to marry. He will obey Grannie if she says No. But she gives a reluctant Yes. Meanwhile, the press has discovered the whereabouts of Meghan’s father, and are subjecting him to relentless persecution.
Meghan says yes. A date is fixed for the wedding. Harry has to ask the queen for permission to keep his beard for the ceremony (I’m not making this up.) She agrees. But brother William is very upset. He wasn’t allowed to keep his beard. But he’s The Heir, and so is kept to a higher standard (what’s wrong with beards, for heaven’s sake?).
Problems. Meghan’s father Thomas agreed to some “candid” photographs being taken, for money. The queen’s dresser is being nasty over Meghan’s tiara. A spat with Kate over bridesmaid’s dresses. Worst of all, when the wedding is announced, the internet trolls fire up the laptops in their lairs to issue threats and racist insults.
Grannie gives Harry a dukedom as a wedding present. Meghan accompanies the queen on a royal visit. They get on well, but the press is all over Meghan: breaches of protocol over hats and who gets into a car first. Meghan is common, vulgar, disrespectful. The armistice in the run-up to the wedding is over. The queen had advised Meghan to write to her father, asking him to cease his embarrassing behavior. Thomas Markle sells the letter to The Mail on Sunday, which edits it to make her sound bad.
The underlying message is that Meghan is trailer trash. Handwriting experts are hired to opine that her writing shows she is a bad person. Meghan is seen eating avocado toast, so she is responsible for the destruction of the rain forest. There is war between the duchesses, with Meghan in the role of the aggressor. The Daily Mail tells its readers that Meghan is “upwardly mobile,” having gone from “slave to royalty” in 150 years. The Guardian, our only half-decent newspaper, headlines an article “Tormenting Meghan Markle has become a national sport that shames us.”
Harry and William meet. William demands that Harry control his termagant wife. Harry defends her, but William demands obedience from his younger brother. Harsh words are exchanged, and William knocks Harry to the ground. Harry doesn’t fight back. William seems to be an insecure and unpleasant young man.
Harry worries that the palace never defends him and Meghan from attacks. Is it because it condones them? “Was it all fake? Was it just a show?” (Spoiler: yes.) Even William is incensed by stories planted by the palace about him and Kate. Father Charles is wholly unsympathetic. Then, Meghan’s baby is born. This is described in far more detail than I would expect from anyone concerned about family privacy.
This next bit is hard to believe. A BBC radio presenter posts on social media a picture of a man and a woman with a chimpanzee. The caption is: “Royal baby leaves hospital.”
The couple decide to sue the tabloids for phone hacking, after Elton John introduces them to a barrister with expertise on the subject. The tabloids don’t take it lying down. The Daily Express, the preferred organ of geriatric knuckle-draggers, prints a story: “How Megan Markle’s flowers may have put Princess Charlotte’s life at risk.” Apparently, there were potentially poisonous lilies of the valley in the bridesmaids’ flower crowns.
They decide they can’t take it anymore. They want to step back from royal duties and live abroad.
The press is full of stories about insult and betrayal. False statements about the decision are issued by the palace. Par for the course.
We then come to what is, for me, the most astonishing passage in the whole book. Harry says he has no problem with the concept of monarchy, despite his treatment, despite the ill-gotten gains on which its wealth is based, despite the lies, the treachery, the backbiting, the planted stories, the concept that the human happiness of every family member must be sacrificed to the institution, the “Firm,” the grift-champions of all time. It is the press that is to blame, not the damaged individuals the monarchy produces. Harry registers so many shrewd insights into life in the gilded cage, but the childhood brainwashing must have gone very deep indeed.
Still, we must be grateful that Harry has provided a plethora of material for British republicans. It is an extraordinary book, well worth reading.