Diana’s legacy: it’s not what you thought it was going to be

Prince Philip got right to the point in his usual style. The year was 1969, and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to unify Canada and move away from British influence. That meant that they might break from the monarchy, too. Philip characterized the situation thus:

I think it’s a complete misconception to imagine that the Monarchy exists in the interests of the Monarch—it doesn’t. It exists in the interests of the people: in a sense—we don’t come here for our health, so to speak … if, at any stage, people feel that it has no further part to play, then for goodness sake let’s end the thing on amicable terms without having a row about it.[1]

That’s pragmatism for you. The Duke made his answer plain. So if, as Harry claims, the monarchy isn’t working for the people immediately within it, can we take that same pragmatic approach? “If, at any stage (right now), people (Harry/Cambridges) feel that [they] ha[ve] no further part to play, then for goodness sake let’s end [their role] on amicable terms without having a row about it.”

There, much better. This is the style of straight-up talk Harry should’ve used rather than his “woe is me” statement to Newsweek. It doesn’t have anything to do with what the royals want – it’s down to the people. One referendum is all it takes, and Harry could be doing his own shopping for real. The public won’t just have a referendum to decide on the monarchy in general, they’ll call one specifically to get rid of whiny, privileged princes.

Harry and William are not cut from the same cloth as their grandparents. That much is obvious. They were taught to air grievances in public and hope that their public relations teams got them good press from it. I call this Diana’s Legacy ™.

The late Princess of Wales constantly pushed for her sons to be ‘normal’ because the monarchy is full of a bunch of old meanies that won’t let you do whatever you feel like. We give interviews about how we feel (all the feels!) and how tough it is to be royal – everyone needs a good pout on a yacht. Don’t you?

Yes, it was important for William and Harry to see that there are less fortunate people in the world. It was good for them to have a taste of average life. What isn’t good is that it all stemmed from Diana’s revenge-fueled media games aimed at their father and the monarchy. You know, all of that McDonald’s-and-water-parks normalcy that she gave them to reinforce how stinky and ‘stuffy’ royal life is. The two princes are obviously now conflicted by it. This “am I royal or am I normal”  is the result. Diana set William and Harry’s teeth on edge about their futures, and the public is starting to see it more and more.

On The Flip Side

Before I catch hell from “Di-hard” Diana supporters, let me add that I do understand that the royals had a part to play, too. Prince Charles kept the princes shielded, and both Harry and William have been given a lot of leeway in order to heal from Diana’s death. Ok, but shielding them for too long, like top-secret formula plans, didn’t help them. Letting them do whatever they wished didn’t help them.

I am also concerned with the Queen’s lack of put-your-foot-down finality. I can’t claim to know how the Queen thinks, but I fear that if she is anything like her mother, then she will shy away from confrontation. The Queen Mum could often be described as “sticking her head in the sand” in order to avoid anything unpleasant. So if Elizabeth II never set the princes straight, it’s no wonder that they seem spoiled and annoyed when they are expected to do their job.

So what now? Will they be “normal” as their mother made fashionable, or will they grow up and represent their country? I get the feeling it won’t be the latter. It’s too late. Combined with Diana’s drive to do what she wanted regardless of consequences, and the royal family letting it happen, these two men may be the end of the monarchy as we knew it. How sad. Harry was right about one thing – we do need the magic of monarchy, but not unless there’s a responsible adult to wear the crown.

Current mood:

Prince Harry talks to Newsweek

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

No, that wasn’t Prince William talking. This is a quote from Prince Harry in an exclusive interview with Newsweek.  Harry granted the news magazine access to observe his daily life over part of the past year.

What’s going on?

I don’t think Harry meant to sound apathetic, but there you have it.  This does not bode well in the wake of William and Kate moving to Kensington Palace only when their 96-year-old grandfather retired. Can you believe that? Prince Philip had to officially hang up his hat before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would stay permanently in London for more work. The term reluctant doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Then Harry continues: “It’s a tricky balancing act,” he says to Newsweek. “We don’t want to dilute the magic….The British public and the whole world need institutions like it.”

Now Harry’s making me wonder. After all of his great work with Invictus and wounded soldiers, Harry’s obviously no slouch for being fifth in line. So is he trying to tell us that he doesn’t want to be king, but might have to be and he will carry on because that’s what you do. The fact that his brother and his sister-in-law seem, at best, tense about their increasing duties, I can’t help but think there’s a lot in going on in private and these comments are popping out because of it.

Somebody better do something soon, because when Harry himself is talking reluctance, we’re looking at a harsh reality: if no royal is interested in that “top job”, then why should the rest of us be? If you really want to preserve that magic (thank you, Walter Bagehot), then don’t sound so dismayed. Call a royal family meeting and figure out who will step aside/step in and then get on with it. The public will thank you for making a damn decision already, instead of the constant off putting “at the right time” or we’re “keen” to eventually do things, etc.

If I sound unsympathetic, I am. For two reasons:

1.) Kate joined the monarchy after a ten-year courtship and was slowly eased into what it entails.  The Queen obviously allowed breathing room so Kate could find her footing and so William could live more quietly with his little family. However, given the ages of the Queen and Philip (not to mention Prince Charles),  Kate and William couldn’t possibly have expected their “quiet life” to last too long. If they fear or resent that, time to reconsider their options.

2.) Nowhere have I found references to King George VI going on public tirades on how his brother dropped him, unprepared, into kingship. Nor have we read about Elizabeth II complaining in interviews about her role as queen perhaps starting too early (age twenty-five, for the record) or how much of a burden it is on her children. They. Just. Got. On. With. It. That’s why the monarchy has been so successful so far, and the younger generation needs to realize that.

Let us look at a page from the excellent book The Monarchy: An Oral Biography of Elizabeth II.

[Click the image to enlarge]

Funny, I didn’t see one thing about hesitation or complaining in the media. If William, Kate, or Harry are so damn uncomfortable taking the lead in upholding that royal magic and doing as the Queen has done, then stand aside for someone else in the family to do it sooner rather than later. Nothing kills the magic like a great big yawn from the public, and that’s not how you show respect for your grandmother or her institution.

God Save the Queen.

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