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Friday, February 3, 2023

RICHARD KAY: How will William feel about this blatantly public grab for Diana’s legacy? 

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Of all the bitter and wretched words uttered by Prince Harry yesterday, the saddest, surely, were those directed at the Royal Family.

From the perceived coldness of Kate to airbrushing his father, he set about their reputations with the same icy disdain he accuses the royals of directing towards him.

But perhaps the most telling moments of this self-serving exercise were those in which he monopolised the memory of his late mother as some sort of justification for his actions. Meghan and Princess Diana were ‘so similar’, he declared, and like his mother his wife had suffered at the hands of the paparazzi.

What haunted him was history repeating itself. And in case the point had been missed, he explained: ‘My mum made most of her decisions from her heart,’ before adding: ‘I am my mother’s son.’

Of all the bitter and wretched words uttered by Prince Harry yesterday, the saddest, surely, were those directed at the Royal Family

Of all the bitter and wretched words uttered by Prince Harry yesterday, the saddest, surely, were those directed at the Royal Family

The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive for the second annual Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony on Friday

The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive for the second annual Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony on Friday

Quite how Prince William will feel at this blatantly public grab for Diana’s legacy remains to be seen.

The days when their fraternal bond of affection was the most reassuring feature of royal life are long gone. As are the days when Harry was the essence of a popular 21st-century prince: not only good-looking and a brave soldier, but someone who could laugh easily at himself.

There was precious little laughter in the three hour-long episodes released by Netflix. Instead we were presented with a toe-curling account of their romance and a partial and one-sided diatribe of their perceived treatment at the hands of the media and the monarchy.

No opportunity to include references to the late Princess of Wales were missed.

The first episode featured footage of a young William and Harry playing at a piano, accompanied by their parents alongside a soundtrack of Diana talking about her two sons.

William appears to tell Harry not to stand on his toe, and Diana says: ‘William: he’s a typical three-year-old. Very enthusiastic. Whereas perhaps Harry is more quiet and just watches. He’s certainly a different character altogether.’

For Harry, the similarities with his mother are striking. ‘So much of what Meghan is and how she is, is so similar to my mum,’ he says in the documentary.

‘She has the same compassion. She has the same empathy. She has the same confidence. She has this warmth about her.’

How sad, then, that he does not remember one of Diana’s most attractive qualities — that even in the depths of her despair over her marriage to Prince Charles, she never sought to favour one son above another.

Indeed, whenever she felt that family attention was being directed too much at William the future king, she would make a point of including Harry. Even the late Queen Mother was reprimanded on one occasion by the princess, who was angered by the way the matriarch always wanted her oldest grandson at her side for family events, rather than Harry.

Profoundly affected by his mother’s death in 1997 when he was only 12, Harry claims that he had to deal with his loss without much support. But this implication of family indifference, especially in those first months, is far from the truth.

Diana’s sisters — Harry’s Spencer aunts — were invaluable, regularly visiting him at his Berkshire prep school, Ludgrove, to watch his sports fixtures. One aunt even ensured that the prince received the 13th birthday present Diana had chosen for him before her death.

He also had the reassuring presence of Tiggy Legge-Bourke, the royal nanny who remained a feature in his life until his schooldays were complete.

At the same time Prince Charles, concerned at the lack of maternal company in his son’s life, arranged for one of his communications team — a mother herself — to be available as much as possible to Harry.

Quite how Prince William will feel at this blatantly public grab for Diana¿s legacy remains to be seen

Quite how Prince William will feel at this blatantly public grab for Diana’s legacy remains to be seen

Harry compared Meghan to Diana, saying they shared the same 'compassion'

Harry compared Meghan to Diana, saying they shared the same 'compassion'

Harry compared Meghan to Diana, saying they shared the same ‘compassion’ 

There was precious little laughter in the three hour-long episodes released by Netflix earlier today

There was precious little laughter in the three hour-long episodes released by Netflix earlier today

The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive for the second annual Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony on Friday

The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive for the second annual Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony on Friday

If this doesn¿t wound the King then Harry¿s bizarre claim that he had a second ¿family¿ to bring him up almost certainly will

If this doesn’t wound the King then Harry’s bizarre claim that he had a second ‘family’ to bring him up almost certainly will

Harry and Meghan's Netflix documentary began with this statement - Buckingham Palace today disputed this in a blow to the credibility of the series

Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary began with this statement – Buckingham Palace today disputed this in a blow to the credibility of the series

And how does Harry acknowledge this fatherly concern? He tells viewers that as a father himself, he doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes his parents made.

If this doesn’t wound the King then Harry’s bizarre claim that he had a second ‘family’ to bring him up almost certainly will. Unfortunately Harry cannot decide who this second family is.

Is it the group of friends he says he spent time with during his teenage trips to Lesotho in southern Africa or is it, as he later puts it, the comrades he met during his ten years in the Army?

Never mind: the drum beat of these complaints is what counts. It is about neglect and lack of guidance.

But while Charles may be hurt, Prince William will have every reason to resent the way both he, and particularly Kate, are treated.

‘It is a classic example of seeking to wound but fearing to strike,’ says one of William’s friends.

At several points in the documentary, Harry appears to take aim at his brother. When news of his relationship with Meghan emerged in 2016, he said he wanted to fight back at the media attention she was receiving. In the documentary, he claims the attitude of other royals was: ‘My wife went through this, why should yours get special attention?’

DAN WOOTTON: Meghan's conclusion is, as we all expected, it's everyone else's fault but mine

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s controversial Netflix documentary was released this morning

It was business as usual for King Charles today, who appeared in great spirits as he attended a community hub in King's Cross, London

It was business as usual for King Charles today, who appeared in great spirits as he attended a community hub in King’s Cross, London

An incredibly intimate snap of Meghan and Harry's engagement was shared in the docuseries, showing the royal on one knee with his now wife's dog and white roses as he proposed

An incredibly intimate snap of Meghan and Harry’s engagement was shared in the docuseries, showing the royal on one knee with his now wife’s dog and white roses as he proposed

A pregnant Meghan Markle with her son Archie resting on her bump in the new Netflix series released today

A pregnant Meghan Markle with her son Archie resting on her bump in the new Netflix series released today

Harry and Meghan kiss in the behind closed doors Netflix series. Harry says he made decision to marry Meghan 'with his heart' because he is 'his mother's son' and claims his wife being an American actress 'clouded' his family's view of her

Harry and Meghan kiss in the behind closed doors Netflix series. Harry says he made decision to marry Meghan ‘with his heart’ because he is ‘his mother’s son’ and claims his wife being an American actress ‘clouded’ his family’s view of her

There can be little doubt that this must be a reference to the former Kate Middleton, who actually suffered far more intrusion from paparazzi than Meghan did.

It is of course no secret that the two couples, once dubbed the ‘Fab Four’, have long since fallen out. Judging by Meghan’s comments, they never really fell in.

Recalling when she first met the Cambridges, Meghan says: ‘They came for dinner. I remember I was in ripped jeans and I was barefoot.’

Her next recollection is clearly designed as a dig. ‘I was a hugger,’ she says, ‘always been a hugger. I didn’t realise that is jarring for a lot of Brits. I guess I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside . . . and that was surprising to me.’

Was this the icy coolness that later saw both women accused of making the other one cry?

Even when Harry says the royals were ‘incredibly impressed’ when they first met Meghan, he cannot avoid a sly complaint.

Meghan said she was shocked at the formality of the Royal Family and showed how she bowed for the first time when she met the Queen

Meghan said she was shocked at the formality of the Royal Family and showed how she bowed for the first time when she met the Queen

The late Queen and the Duchess of Sussex stand together during a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in June 2018

The late Queen and the Duchess of Sussex stand together during a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in June 2018

‘They were surprised that “the Ginger” could land such a beautiful woman,’ he says. ‘And such an intelligent woman. But the fact that I was dating an American actress was probably what clouded their judgement more than anything else in the beginning.’

Meghan agrees. ‘The actress thing was the biggest problem, funnily enough . . . It was just very easy for them, to typecast that.’

For a man who was once the Royal Family’s greatest asset, one remarkable feature about Harry emerges: his extraordinary lack of self-awareness. He complains endlessly about the attention the couple receive from the hated media, but lacks the ­emotional depth to recognise that he also has one of the most privileged existences.

Indeed, as he watches Meghan disrespectfully demonstrating the curtsy she made to the Queen when she met her for the first time, it is tempting to wonder if he was ever truly cut out for royal life in the first place  

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