You have got to feel for Prince Harry. This time last year, he was literally the golden haired boy. He was a royal among royals: the quintessential upper crust.
He was fawned upon, if not loved, by friends, family and a fascinated public. He had a beautiful wife who draped his arm and a son who was soon to be born into a privileged world.
In short, the Duke of Sussex had the world at his feet and his head in the rarefied clouds. Many around the world would kill to be in his shoes. But they came to him simply by virtue of his birth.
He was born to rule and trained to rule. His entire being from birth was shaped to serve the interests of the Monarchy, and by extension, the British people. That was the world he knew and he was not supposed to have a choice.
He came from the loins of the direct line to the Monarchy and that came with expectations and responsibilities.But the fact that your life is mapped out and your interests defined can be limiting if not suffocating.
The fact that you have to live your entire life in the public glare can get to anyone.
However, the compensations are huge and more than balanced out. In any case, that world as he knew it; that world mixed with indulgences and an uncomfortable public scrutiny, crashed at the turn of the year. He was stripped of his medals, titles and the core duties of a senior royal.
He is today, just another Prince among a growing number of princes, left to find his way and fortune in an unforgiven world.
This was much more than what the erstwhile Duke of Sussex bargained for. All he wanted was some privacy for his family and time for his son to have a normal childhood.
All he wanted was to step back not step out. The unfriendliness of the Press towards his wife was taking its toll. The press, fearing the possibility however remote, of a black queen, had not taken to his wife. Her background, including her relationship with her father, hadn’t helped her cause with the ultra-conservative press. Harry could feel the tension and unhappiness around his wife. It probably gave him déjà vu moments.
That was how it started with his mother. It led to her break-up from his father. It led to his growing up in a broken home around a step mother he cared little for.
It led to his mother frantically trying to find love and a meaning to her life. It led to her death in questionable circumstances as she tried to escape the relentless glare of paparazzi.
On the face of it, no one would blame him for wanting to protect his wife and family. He suspected there would be financial consequences to his action but he probably thought it would be gradual; a sort of financial weaning off. What he got was a sudden severance without pay.
Not only would he have to fend for himself with immediate effect, he would have to pay for the renovation of Frogmore Cottage, his current abode and its subsequent rent.
But more importantly, his brand, the real tool he has for immediately fending for himself and his family, has been damaged. He could still find jobs— sponsorships and endorsements. He is after all, still a celebrity.
But the press would still be after him, scrutinising the background of his new paymasters; scrutinising how he is getting on in his new world. Only the future will tell if it has all been worth it.
If I wanted to be harsh, I’d say Harry asked for it although I don’t agree with the extreme nature of his ‘punishments.’ He understood the circumstances of his birth—the privileges and the restrictions. He went outside the boundaries when he followed his heart and went to bring a foreigner and a black American, with no trace of royalty to the Monarchy.
It was an indulgence his father was not allowed to have. Prince Charles was allowed to have his dalliances—and he did have them—but when it came to a future partner, his choices were limited. If there was any criticism against the petulance and subsequence rebellion of Princess Diana, it was that she ought to have known the score being a blue blood.
Even then, the enormity of the demands of Monarchy proved too much for the young lass. You can now imagine how a foreigner, who was not prepped for such demands,was expected to cope. No one can blame Meghan for feeling uncomfortable and unloved. No one can blame her for wanting some part of her old life back. Harry brought her in the name of love to such an intense and regimented family.
It was up to him to give her some of her old freedom and spontaneity back. In trying to do that, he virtually got disowned.
Harry would certainly have gotten away with it if he was a Nigerian Prince. It would have been ‘no big deal’ to give in to his request for more privacy and independence.
In fact, he would not have felt obligated to seek permission before ‘getting on with his life.’ He would believe it was his God-given birth right to live off the State for life. Many who are not even royalty do. That is the Nigerian way.We are so emotive and sentimental that we forget the future consequences of our actions—every action has intended and unintended consequences.
We forget that a gradual lowering of standards will eventually lead to having no standards at all. Even something as basic as ‘tough love’ which serves to keep a child on the straight and narrow is becoming alien to our way of life. We think more of the accoutrements of office than the demands
. A King in the name of modernity or religion, wants to choose which parts of the kingly rites he should obey. Those rites should go with the territory.
He is to take them if he wants to be King or let someone else be King. He would for example, want his mother around him even if his tradition forbids it.He would want to go out visiting friends and attending functions even when his position forbids such high mobility.
He would engage in financial transactions that demean his position. In the end, the stool is desecrated and the potency of his office compromised. In the end, the stool slides into irrelevance. And then everybody begins to moan.
We have to realise that power without responsibilities leads to its abuse. Every office has its limitations, demands and downsides. For our institutions—cultural or political—to retain respect and relevance, the operators must be disciplined in conforming to their demands.
Otherwise these institutions will continue to slide into irrelevance. The demands of office ought to shape the incumbents; not the other way.