In fairytales, princes have such an easy time of it. All they have to do it is charge about on steeds, save an occasional maiden and look heroic in tights. Not once in a children’s book has there been a tale involving a dashing titled chap contending with council rates, the indignity of losing their ability to brand themselves as ‘royal’ and fixing the occasional bung sprinkler for a neighbour. (We have Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s controversial The Cut interview to thank for that last revelation.)
Spare a thought then for Prince Harry who has been having a pretty rubbish time of it this week. I know, I know – he’s wealthy, will never have to spend a working day in Leeds and his spare time is devoted to galloping about the place on a done-up polo pony – but really, the bloke has taken hit after hit in recent days.
In quick succession and no particular order, he’s been sidelined from his final royal gig by his father King Charles; had to watch on from afar while his family took part in an event that used to be one of the most meaningful days on his calendar, by all accounts; and has been unceremoniously reminded that Brits prefer his sister-in-law Kate, Princess of Wales than he and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
And all of that is before you even factor in only two weeks ago it was announced the King would replace him as the Captain General of the Royal Marines, a “cherished” role whose loss left him “upset”, The Times reported last year.
Even the most robust of egos would be in dire need of a hug and warm matcha latte right about now.
The biggie here though is Tuesday’s news that King Charles has asked parliament to amend the Regency Act to include his siblings Princess Anne and Prince Edward as Counsellors of State.
And while Harry and his disgraced uncle Prince Andrew weren’t removed from the list as some had expected, widening the pool essentially sidelines the pair from the job. (Counsellors can be deputised to undertake many of the duties of the sovereign if they are overseas or incapacitated.)
Under the current Regency Act, the counsellors are the monarch’s spouse (oh, hey there Queen Camilla!) and the four most senior members in the line of succession who are over the age of majority (21 years), thus meaning William, Prince of Wales, Harry, Andrew and hat connoisseur extraordinaire Princess Beatrice.
However, this was clearly an untenable situation, especially given that 2023 has reportedly been slated as a year that will see the King as well as William and Kate shipped off around the world to wave the flag for the UK, the monarchy and the Commonwealth in a host of coronation tours. (Should they just get matching T-shirts now that say, ‘Please stay in’?)
Even the remotest of possibilities that two ousted members of the royal family who have no official standing could be left in charge of the shop was never going to fly.
Sure, even once parliament approves the changes to the Regency Act, Harry and Andrew will still be Counsellors of State, but the likelihood of them ever being called upon to act in this capacity is about equal to Camilla giving up her first-edition collection of Jilly Cooper novels and membership of the Waitrose wine club.
For the Duke of Sussex, this development represents, essentially, him being axed from his last royal role and leaving him with his only honorary position being ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ as per a mug his son Archie brought home from preschool for Father’s Day. (OK, I’m guessing.)
This comes after the weekend, with Saturday seeing the remaining clutch of working members of the royal family trooping along to Royal Albert Hall for the Festival of Remembrance. There in the front row sat Harry’s father and brother, looking as chummy as two P’s (princes) in a pod. For the Duke of Sussex, who is famously out of favour with his brother William and went on global TV to accuse his father of cutting him off financially, how could seeing these two on such good terms not carry with it something of a sting in the tail?
(Similarly when Kate and Queen Camilla were photographed the following day chatting amiably as they shared the primo spot for the Remembrance Day event at the Cenotaph.)
Then came Sunday. As a veteran, and having logged two tours on the frontline in Afghanistan, Harry’s time in the military has not only shaped who he is as a man but his career, with him launching the Invictus Games for wounded and serving armed services personnel in 2014.
In 2020, his first year on the royal periphery, his request to have a wreath laid on his behalf was kiboshed by Queen Elizabeth.
When Harry and Meghan then staged their own ham-fisted, quasi-official outing to Commonwealth war graves in Los Angeles and took along a photographer, they faced quite the backlash for what looked like a pretty blatant PR stunt.
This year, his and Meghan’s Archewell Foundation marked Remembrance Day and the US equivalent Veterans’ Day with a touching post on their website, an offering that has garnered, as far as I have seen, zero press pick-up.
My, how things have changed. Not that long ago, Harry and Meghan sharing something along these lines would not have gone essentially ignored.
Next, there is the issue of Hello magazine’s Kind List, out this week. Both the Sussexes have contributed, nominating a charity head honcho-a-piece as those who inspire them, speaking to the magazine. (Keep in mind here these are two people who have thus far only given interviews to or participated in events with the biggest names in media including Oprah Winfrey, The New York Times, Fast Company and Variety among others.) But no, here they are in the pages of the same magazine that is also this week covering the engagement of a former Strictly Come Dancing star.
And yet despite the Sussexes giving the mag short interviews, a major get for Hello, was the duo in return featured on the cover? I think you know where I’m going here.
Again, while only several years ago their participation may well have seen them bask in the spotlight and slapped on the front, instead it was a shot of Kate all done up in red who got the star placement.
And thus we come to the Tale of the Two Galas. In early December, William and Kate will jet into Boston for the second Earthshot Prize, the Prince’s big, flashy, $90 million-plus eco awards, with the event being held in conjunction with the JFK Library Foundation.
And, wouldn’t you know it! Only four days later Harry and Meghan will be honoured by the RFK Human Rights Foundation in New York at their Ripple of Hope Awards Gala.
However, the contrast between the two events ends where the red carpet begins. While the Waleses’ Boston outing is invitation only, getting into the Sussexes’ Hope fete only requires deep-enough pockets with $US1 million ($A1.49 million) getting you four spots on the Duke and Duchess’ table.
As a “wealthy Los Angeles heiress” told the Mail on Sunday: “You can buy a ticket to the Meghan event, so that’s no problem, but the William and Kate event is strictly invitation only, which is making it much harder to get into.”
Meanwhile, a person with knowledge of the Earthshot event said: “This is quiet wealth and power. Think Rockefellers and people like former Vice President Al Gore.”
And while the Boston outing is being done in association with JFK’s daughter Caroline Kennedy (who just happens to be the US Ambassador to Australia), the New York one is being hosted by Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy.
The bottom line here being, one event is unimpeachably A-list and the other … just that bit less grand, less important and less prestigious. And that in a way is the Sussex story in a nutshell – always the bridesmaid, never the bride; always the spare and never the heir.
On this note, it’s hard not to feel for a smidgen sorry for Harry, a man who, it could be argued, is (to a degree) a victim of circumstance. But then, there is also the fact that it is very tempting to say that Harry is reaping what he sowed when he and Meghan decided to quit without a ‘divorce’ deal having been fully hammered with the late Queen.
Nearly three years on from the rupture of Megxit, has Harry found his ‘happily ever after’? I’m not so sure, but at least he still has his horses and no one is making him wear tights.
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
Story Credit: news.com.au