Subhuti reflects on current – and past – affairs.
I have a soft spot for Harry because he never signed the contract. The contract was written, signed and sealed before he was born. Five minutes after his birth it was glued onto him: his family name, his royal title, his future role and social function.
Growing up in the Windsor clan, Harry was uneasy in his role as the “spare” who might be needed if anything happened to his elder brother, William, in the line of succession to the British throne. Now, as an adult, the junior prince is tackling the task of “being royal” differently.
His angry outburst against The Daily Mail’s publication of a personal letter from his wife, Meghan Markle, to her father, caught everyone by surprise. And while Meghan took the Mail to court, Harry began a lawsuit of his own against the Daily Mirror and the Sun, claiming he’d been a victim of phone hacking.
For British Royals, this is a new ballgame. Up to now, the policy adopted by the Queen and other Windsors has been to try and ignore the daily drivel served up by the newspapers.
They know that to react, to show emotion and to take it seriously only gives more credibility to the rumours and gossip. So, according to the Windsor code:
- Rule One: You never fly off the handle.
- Rule Two: You always keep your cool.
Not anymore. Pointing to a “ruthless campaign” of negative stories, Harry has compared the mistreatment of Meghan to that of his mother, Princess Diana, and the way she was persecuted by the press.
“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” Harry complained.
“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
The comparison isn’t quite fair. Diana was an innocent 20-year-old when she married Prince Charles and stepped into the global spotlight. Meghan, on the other hand, was a 37-year-old American actress who knew all about the fame game when she agreed to marry a high-profile British prince.
But one thing is for sure: even if the court battles go in favour of Harry and Meghan, the newspaper stories aren’t going to stop. The British public has an insatiable appetite for Royal gossip. But it’s a double-edged sword, because, while ordinary people like to look up to the Royals, they also enjoy trying to pull them down.
And that’s a game the newspapers certainly know how to play.
Harry’s been caught being drunk, smoking weed and was once photographed naked during an unruly party game in a Las Vegas hotel room. As a bachelor, it was all good fun. But now he’s got a wife and baby to protect and the game isn’t so funny.
The public is hungry for any kind of news about Meghan and so, inevitably, there’s a continuous stream of media stories about her:
The cost of her designer clothes, use of private jets, rumours of conflict with William and Kate, helicopters photographing her bedroom, an alleged tantrum because she wasn’t allowed to wear her favourite tiara at her own wedding….
Lawsuits or no lawsuits, the endless stream of rumours, which global icon Jackie Kennedy once referred to as “the river of sludge,” will continue and there’s no way out.
To understand it, the prince might do well to look back to November 1980, when his father, Charles, embarked on a visit to India.
Arriving in Mumbai, Charles got the shock of his life when, having arranged to meet his cousin, Prince Welf of Hanover, he saw his German relative walking into the room dressed in a blazing orange robe, with a string of wooden beads around his neck, sporting a locket with a photo of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
Accompanying Welf, similarly robed, were his wife, Wibke, Princess of Hanover, and their daughter, Tania, also a princess. Welf announced he was now to be called Vimalkirti and explained he was the disciple of an enlightened Indian mystic.
“What a stroke of luck to have the advice of such a man!” Charles is reported to have said.
Whereupon Vimalkirti invited Charles to return to Pune with him and meet Bhagwan in person.
That’s when Charles hit the brakes. He refused the invitation, for one very good reason – or so it seemed to him at the time. “I want to be king,” he told Vimalkirti.
Already regarded by the British media as odd and even eccentric, Charles knew that visiting the ashram of the notorious “sex guru” would destroy his dream of succeeding his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Still, one cannot help wondering: If Charles had known that his mother would stay on the throne for another forty years, would he have thrown caution to the winds and made the trip to Pune?
He could have told the journalists, “Look guys, mom’s gonna be on the throne for ever, so I’m taking time out to explore meditation.”
An intriguing idea, but for Charles, this would have meant breaking the sacred rules of royal behaviour, fed into his mind since childhood:
- Rule Three: You cannot afford to be spontaneous.
- Rule Four: You cannot afford to be real.
- Rule Five: You are a symbol of national greatness and this must take precedence over any personal feelings and desires.
Such is the price the Windsors have been willing to pay for their royal status.
What’s this got to do with Harry?
Well, the red-headed prince isn’t going to India any time soon, but the story of Charles and Vimalkirti is a wonderful illustration of how the Windsor contract operates and the power of its grip.
For Harry, it offers a fresh opportunity to read the contract’s small print and understand the price he must pay if he continues to be a Royal. He must endure the newspaper jibes and suppress his personal feelings. He can’t afford to be a natural, vulnerable, emotional human being.
But there are other options:
- He could learn meditation and get some inner distance from the outer circus.
- He could throw his princely crown in the River Thames and take his family to the South of France and live in exile.
- Or he can hope that the lawsuits started by himself and Meghan will curb the excesses of the gossip-ridden British newspapers.
Good luck with that one, Harry, because, whether you win or lose, it ain’t gonna happen.