There can be no doubt that losing your mother at the age of eleven is hard enough, without having to suffer through a million cameras at her funeral, every single one of them watching you for signs of grief and emotion. There can be no doubt that such an experience, coupled with learning more, as you grow older, about the treatment your mother faced, might make you angry. A young man who discovers that his father was unfaithful to his mother for years, and that this infidelity was conducted with the woman who is now his stepmother, might experience some alienation.
Prince Harry of the United Kingdom is not to be blamed for having emotional scars from a very difficult childhood, and growing up in a broken, and at times cruel, family. His desire to distance himself from all of that is understandable. But “understandable” is not the same thing as “wise”.
His decision to write a book – which will, undoubtedly, be a bestseller – detailing his life and perspective on it is a terrible one. For several reasons.
First, the nature of books is that although many hundreds of thousands of copies will be sold, the vast majority of people will never read it. The contents, however, will be widely reported on. Or, more accurately, some of the contents will be widely reported on. You can be sure, when the book is made available to journalists, that the reporting will focus exclusively on the negative: criticisms of his brother, father, and extended family. It will not matter a jot if he has written about them, on balance, mainly positively. The only thing that will sell newspapers and drive clicks will be the negative things he says.
This will, because his family are human, drive a major wedge between him and those he is tied to by blood. It is the sort of thing that most of us, if we are honest, find unforgiveable. Imagine if your own sibling published a newspaper article revealing all the things they liked least about you. It would, if you are honest, be hard to forgive.
Now, Harry may feel that this is a price worth paying, or he may be motivated by vengeance and a desire to wound, or he may be in the depths of a kind of new-age belief that baring the soul is healing. None of it makes attacking and alienating his family further a good idea.
The second point is this: However bad his family are, and how ever cruel they may have been to him at times, one thing is certain: They care a damn sight more for his welfare than the American media does, or his publishers do. Harry may feel like his is using his celebrity, but the truth is that he is being used. At the moment, he is money and dollar signs to publishers and broadcasters alike. Perhaps the only redeeming thing you can say for his present course is that at least he is striking for money while the iron is hot – for it will, assuredly, cool. His aunt, the former Duchess of York, was hot property at one point. These days, she’s cutting ads on 24 hour shopping channels for slimming drinks. The dignity and celebrity of royalty fades fast.
The third point is that Harry has consciously decided to exchange the love and respect in which he was held in his own country for the passing, and pornographic, interest of Americans. There is nothing wrong with Americans, of course, but they have no reason to bear him any long-term loyalty. In Britain, he could have lived a long and comfortable life, with his children. In America, to make ends meet, he will always have to be a performing seal.
This is a man who has chosen, by choice, to cut himself away from his family, to turn on the people who, for all their faults, likely love him the most in the world. And place his life in the hands of people who see him as a giant red-headed cash dispenser.
It will not end well. He is an example of what not to do, and it is quite sad to see.