Oh, those crazy British Royal millennial kids are at it again. Prince Harry stated emphatically this week that no one wants the throne. Well, there are exceptions to every rule and in this case that might be Camilla. But that might not fly since we already know Prince Charles almost certainly dethroned himself when he divorced Diana in 1996. The prince claims that love of country, and the duties associated with being born Mountbatten-Windsor or Wales (Yes, surnames are a tricky business in the monarchy) is the only reason to covet the ultimate crown.
In a recent interview with Newsweek, the Prince expressed his desire to be ordinary in a world where he is by birth, anything but:
“My mother took a huge part in showing me an ordinary life, including taking me and my brother to see homeless people. Thank goodness I’m not completely cut off from reality. People would be amazed by the ordinary life William and I live. I do my own shopping…but I am determined to have a relatively normal life, and if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too.”
Their mother, Princess Diana, fiercely protected her boys under the glare of incessant tabloid news coverage and kept them grounded while growing up in a world where a silver spoon is an understatement. Her death in 1997 at age 36, left them to cope with life under a microscope without a guiding light or gentle hand. Princess Diana brought warmth and emotion to chilly palace life, yet stoic is the mantle that the Royals wear effortlessly, and it was draped on her young sons’ young shoulders early in life. Who could ever forget the scene of Prince William and Prince Harry, then aged 15 and 12, flanked by Prince Phillip, their uncle Earl Spencer, and Prince Charles, dressed in identical black mourning suits, keeping pace as they followed Diana’s casket through the streets of London to her funeral? Prince Harry, with fists clenched and a grim determination expressed on his face, was on center stage, remaining unemotional. The experience is never far from his mind, as he explained, “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances.”
Perhaps the loss of his mother, whom he still both grieves and celebrates, was the catalyst to becoming the royal pain of this generation’s Kensington kids, as he entered his twenties. From naked photos in Las Vegas with scantily clad young ladies (or strippers, tomato tomAHto), to wearing a Nazi uniform to a formal dinner party, and carousing with the jet set, the smoking and drinking party prince was heralded as the world’s most eligible bachelor. That was until his personal and professional life skidded out of control and into complete chaos:
Disclosing that he has spoken to a professional about his mental health, he describes how he only began to address his grief when he was 28 after feeling “on the verge of punching someone” and facing anxiety during royal engagements. Describing the “quite serious effect” that losing his mother had on his personal and professional life, he tells how living in the public eye left him feeling he could be “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.”
But the spare to the heir has emerged from the darkness in true monarch form, reclaiming his duties, spreading his celebratory wings to bring attention to the struggle of mental illness—one that Prince Harry shares willingly with the world. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined Harry and have organized the Heads Together campaign, a movement with the end-goal of eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health issues. As a family, they are active in over 3,000 charitable causes and have created the Royal Foundation.
Moreover, back on track, Prince Harry has settled down to a steady romance with actress Meghan Markle (Suits and Fringe fame), an American, divorcée with a vocal feminist agenda. If one consulted the Royal family playbook, the chapter on types of spouses acceptable to live with a Mountbatten-Windsor or Wales heir to the throne, Markle’s name would not be listed. But the prince is undaunted and protective of their relationship, and the two seem besotted with one another–gasp–even in public. A close friend of Harry has reported there is no rush to “get things done” (UK slang for a marriage proposal). But Prince Harry and his brother and sister-in-law have pledged to bring their buttoned-up, traditional family into the twenty-first century; whether by a gentle, socially accepted nudge, or a solid roundhouse hook. Ms. Merkle’s continued presence may determine which method we will see first.
Prince Harry, by all accounts, has come full circle from the abrupt end of his playful childhood at Diana’s tragic passing to a man on a mission to “make something of his life.” With his dogged determination to live life as an ordinary bloke, he still wants to protect the legacy of the crown, “It’s a tricky balancing act. We don’t want to dilute the magic…the British public and the whole world need institutions like it…but I would do my own shopping, even if I was King.”
Without a doubt, wherever Princess Diana is, she is likely one very proud Mum.