How CAN Prince Harry’s TV show go on while his grandfather is so sick? As Oprah’s explosive interview with Harry and Meghan nears – and with Prince Philip still receiving treatment in hospital – RICHARD KAY asks an urgent question
Timing is everything, especially bad timing.
And what could have been worse than for Prince Harry to be gazing out of television screens all over the world yesterday with another incendiary blast about the misery of his privileged life just as his grandfather Prince Philip was leaving one London hospital by ambulance for another?
Even allowing for the fact that Harry had no control over when the trailer for his and Meghan’s upcoming ‘no subject off-limits’ interview with Oprah Winfrey was to be aired — there is another question here: a question of taste.
His comments, recorded last month, that the couple’s decision to leave Britain for a new life in Los Angeles had been ‘unbelievably tough’ are not new, but the implied criticism of the Royal Family in the melodramatic trailer — at a time when the focus is on Philip — looks both insensitive and thoughtless.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their interview with Oprah Winfrey which will air on March 7
When someone of the Duke of Edinburgh’s great age — 99 — is in hospital there are always uncertainties.
Although for so long a man of robust health, his move from the King Edward VII Hospital to Bart’s suggests a concerning escalation in his welfare.
How much better it would have been to have ensured that no advance publicity for the interview was authorised until the news about Philip had been a little more positive.
That would, of course, have required an element of wisdom from Harry.
Just imagine if he had sought the views of his famously blunt-speaking grandfather and paused to compare the cossetted life he has enjoyed with that of Philip before giving full rein to his complaints on camera.
Might he have thought twice had he considered his loving upbringing with that of Philip?
For Harry the death of his mother when he was just 12 was profound and the loss has shaped him ever since.
But his grandfather too knew tragedy: the loss of a father, a gambling reprobate he barely knew, and an eccentric mother who had little involvement in how her son was raised or, indeed, who was responsible for it.
Uprooted from his family home, he was moved between uncles and aunts, and when war came was separated from those he loved most, his three surviving sisters (one sister died aged 26 in a plane crash) who had married into the Prussian aristocracy.
Instead of complaining about his lot, Philip seized the opportunities he was offered.
Like Harry he made a success of his military career, serving with distinction in the Navy throughout World War II.
But then came the crushing disappointment of having to give up a life at sea for one of duty on the death of King George VI when his wife, Princess Elizabeth, succeeded as Queen. Never once did Philip allow personal interests to overcome this sense of obligation.
Instead of complaining about his lot, Philip (pictured with the Queen) seized the opportunities he was offered
Staff use umbrellas to shield an individual outside the rear entrance of King Edward VII’s Hospital in London where Prince Philip was being treated
His unflinching dedication saw him become the architect of the modern Royal Family in which public service has been central to everything that he and the Queen have represented for more than seven decades.
Atruly curious Harry might also have wondered how Philip had handled speculation about his private life.
No royal has put up with more gossip than Prince Philip; rumours of affairs have followed him throughout his married life. How has he handled this gossip? By ignoring it.
But even if Harry chose to discount all that his grandfather might have to offer on so many aspects of being royal, there is surely one key facet he — or Meghan — should have solicited help on.
For like the Duchess of Sussex, Prince Philip was an outsider marrying into the Royal Family.
No one was better placed to guide the former American actress into the protocols and pitfalls of royalty, what was worth fighting for and what was not, how to fit in but also how to retain that spark of independence, so critical in Philip’s make up.
Even allowing for the fact that Harry had no control over when the trailer for his and Meghan’s upcoming ‘no subject off-limits’ interview with Oprah Winfrey was to be aired — there is another question here: a question of taste
Indeed, nearly 30 years ago Philip was using that experience in an exchange of letters with Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, as she struggled to save her marriage to Prince Charles.
In the carefully curated extract from next Sunday’s interview, trailed by the American television station CBS yesterday, Harry says he cannot imagine how his mother coped.
Drawing parallels between Diana’s situation and his own, he speaks of his mother ‘going through this process by herself all those years ago’.
But here he is wrong. Diana was sometimes lonely but she was never alone. She had her sons, she had her own family in the Spencers, she had a loyal staff and she had her friends.
Harry’s attempt at equating what he perceives as the ill-treatment he and Meghan claim to have received from the media with Princess Diana’s own battles over privacy and intrusion are hopelessly muddled and woefully ill‑thought out.
There really is no comparison with what Diana endured in terms of media interest over 17 years and what Meghan had to put up with for 20 months.
For the last four years of her life Diana, at her choice, had no police bodyguards to fend off the paparazzi. They swarmed around her — her every move was photographed and no aspect escaped scrutiny.
But as Harry well knows there was a paradox to his mother’s relationship with the Press.
She had friends who were journalists — I was one of them — and despite the provocation, she never once described the media as ‘toxic’ as Harry did, in another interview, with presenter James Corden last week.
For her brief spell as a working royal, Meghan was never without Scotland Yard protection. Her movements and Harry’s were shrouded in secrecy — as they should be. They took holidays with no one knowing where or when, and if they were seen in public it was because they chose to be seen.
When Oprah Winfrey came to see Diana at Kensington Palace, the Princess saw through her flattery. She gave her tea and sent her away empty-handed.
It’s too late for Harry now, the interview is in the can. But maybe there is still time for some nobility. Out of respect to his grandfather, might Harry see if Oprah will reschedule?
It surely can’t hurt to ask.
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