The Duke of Sussex launched a stunning attack on his family in his latest interview, but one line is particularly problematic for the Queen.
Prince Harry, California resident, nascent content creator, compassion-spruiker, Chief Impact Officer, disinformation inquiry commissioner, father and co-owner of a 16-bathroom compound, has just been offered a new job: Head of the Republican movement back in Blighty.
In the UK, the antimonarchy group Republic has called for the 36-year-old royal to take over their campaign to abolish the whole crown and sceptre game after Harry’s latest gobsmacking whack-a-royal media outing.
Overnight in an episode of Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast (he is of course married to Kristen Bell thus making him Mr Anna from Frozen), Harry joined the actor and co-host Monica Padman for a 90-minute conversation about mental health and the royal renegade delivered – another – devastating and extraordinary broadside against his family.
Harry told the hosts about his “genetic pain,” saying “when it comes to parenting, if I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure that I break that cycle so that I don’t pass it on”.
He also said that royal life was “a mix between The Truman Show and living in a zoo” and that even from his early 20s “I was thinking I don’t want this job, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be doing this. Look what it did to my mum.
“I’ve seen behind the curtain, I’ve seen the business model and seen how this whole thing works and I don’t want to be part of this.”
Why, I hear you ask, did Harry decide the world needed to hear him take – another – deep dive into his far-from-perfect childhood? Well, he does have a new TV series to spruik, his new mental health series co-produced with Oprah Winfrey that is out this month.
It also so happens that Shephard has just inked an exclusive deal with Spotify, the same deep-pocketed paymaster who also signed up Harry and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, late last year.
However, one of the most interesting lines Harry offered up was this one: “My wife had the most amazing sort of explanation to that, which is … ‘You don’t need to be a princess. You can create the life that will be better than any princess.’”
Gad, where’s an inspiring Instagram account when a duchess needs one? Such insights are social media manna.
Still, the sentiment in the princess line is totally sound. It’s the 21st century and it’s long past time we retired the whole Cinderella fantasy. Who wants a ridiculous glass slipper anyway?
But if Meghan – and by extension Harry – don’t need to be princesses or princes to ‘create a better life’ why are they still using their royal titles?
And, if one doesn’t need to be a princess, why would someone need to be a duke or duchess?
In the past few months, Harry has not been shy about telling the world just how miserable life was in the tweedy bosom of the world’s most famous dysfunctional family.
In March, he told TV audiences and Oprah that he felt “really let down” by his father and that “there’s a lot of hurt.”
He also claimed that “my father and my brother are trapped. They don’t get to leave and I have compassion for that.”
So if the royal family is such a toxic institution how can he and Meghan keep using their titles in good conscience?
A clear pattern has emerged this year: Harry and Meghan very vocally criticise the royal house, the world is a bit shocked, royal reporters chunter, pearls are clutched, palace critics’ cite the Sussexes’ criticisms as even more proof of how broken the whole concept is, and then the couple goes back to announcing spiffy new business deals and using their Duke and Duchess titles.
The million dollar question, or should that be the $180 million question, here is – would Harry and Meghan be snagging such stratospherically lucrative contracts if they were just Mr and Mrs Mountbatten-Windsor?
Harry might have told the crowd during an appearance for his eco-travel initiative Travelyst last year “Just call me Harry” but in the commercial world the duo seem more than happy to be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex when Hollywood or Silicon Valley come calling with their capped teeth and big cheque books.
This disconnect between the Sussexes’ continued, bruising criticism of the palace and their continued willingness to deploy their titles during money-making ventures or brand-building public appearances is just becoming even more and more blatantly obvious.
The house of Windsor probably was a hug-free, cold place to grow up. Charles is probably a bit screwed up thanks to his own cold-fish father and being forced to go to a Scottish boarding school where he was mercilessly, and daily, bullied for years on end.
That whole disaster of a marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, hardly helped things either.
But to point out the many, many faults of his upbringing and to keep using the titles said at- fault family bestowed on him just seems hypocritical.
Harry and Meghan can’t have it both ways, taking a contra-monarchy standpoint whenever anyone with a microphone wanders into their midst but then still claiming membership of the institution when it comes time to earn a crust.
However, how can they ever truly achieve autonomy when they are still readily utilising their very bankable titles?
What I can’t quite understand in all of this is, if the royal family is the source of such hurt and anguish for Harry, if he needed to move literally across the world to get some respite from the very real toll being a part of the institution was taking on him, how can he want to keep using an appellation that represents the very organisation that has pained him so much?
Also, now he’s in a new country with a new fortune, why not devote himself completely to building a new, independent identity entirely based on his leadership and activism?
Why not wipe the slate clean, lose the ‘duke’ part from his email address and just get on with knocking the world’s socks off with his hard work and big heart?
More broadly, this situation seems increasingly untenable with Harry lashing out and the palace responding with their standard purse-lipped ‘they are private citizens’ line.
The Queen’s options here are limited though. While Harry’s Sussex title was a gift from Her Majesty, to take it away from the couple would involve the UK parliament getting involved, which is simply never going to come to pass.
For the palace, that scenario would be simply abhorrent, a tawdry airing of dirty laundry along with the fact it would just be seen as a horribly punitive thing to do.
One option might be for the palace to take a similar tack as they did when it came to addressing the couple’s styling as His/Her Royal Highness.
As part of their Megxit ‘divorce’ deal, Harry and Meghan agreed to the bargain that they would retain, but crucially not use, their HRHs.
For the time being though, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are open for business.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.