Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

How Meghan is helping Harry to shed image of the stiff upper lip

The Duke of Sussex has shown he's desperate to talk, but he also has to listen to voices outside his gilded cage, says Sarah Caden

Painful admissions: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spoke out on their tour of South Africa
Painful admissions: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spoke out on their tour of South Africa

By Sarah Caden

The day after the TV documentary that followed Harry and Meghan on their African tour aired, Prince William was said to be "worried" about his younger brother.

He hoped Harry "was all right", according to a royal source.

Even as an unofficial statement, this seemed an oddly formal reaction to what had appeared on TV the night before. Was this the stiff upper lip that Meghan had spoken about trying out, before deciding it was bad for one's health?

Of course, William may have felt by that point quite enough had been aired publicly. Harry hadn't only declared war on the Press the night before, he'd also confirmed the rift between him and William - and that can't have endeared him to his big brother, who's been playing a blinder of late in doing his duty with a smile on his face.

William, after all, has just as much reason to have the same grievances as Harry. Diana was his mother too. He took his role as her protector very seriously and then transferred that care to his bereaved brother.

He has had his knocks from the media but, rough with the smooth, he and Kate keep smiling. Who knows what goes on behind William's smiles. We don't know. We can't guess. William does not tell.

There is in Harry, now, a tremendous need to tell and to talk. He's like a stopped-up bottle out of which the cork has popped. It's all bubbling out.

Sign In

You could attribute that to Meghan's influence, and if her comments on last week's documentary are to be believed, she has influenced his new outspokenness, his decision to do things differently. She has told "H" - "that's what I call him" - to loosen the stiff upper lip.

She has characterised them as "existing, not living" and says that's just not good enough. She says they must "thrive", rather than merely survive.

When Meghan talks like this, it's easy to decide that she's driving the offensive charge upon which Harry has embarked.

However, it's more than that with Harry. It's more than just Meghan's influence. It's the fact that he has Meghan in his life that has really caused Harry to explode. At last, Harry has someone he loves and cherishes and, unfortunately, whose loss he deeply fears. Look at his eyes on that TV show last week. Pained, bottomless, darting around like he's about to be pounced on by a bear.

Out of Harry's mouth, as he spoke to interviewer Tom Bradby, came the assertion that he was not going to be "bullied" like his mother. He followed this strong-worded threat/promise with a hard, sharp laugh, the kind people tack on to soften something strident they've just said.

His mouth said, don't mess with me, his body language said something else. His swaying from side to side as he spoke was a self-soothing device, that signalled how deeply distressed Harry is.

It seems having someone to have and to hold in Meghan, and now their baby, Archie, has reminded Harry of what he lost with the death of his mother.

He never wants to revisit that, so he's coming out fighting for them, but let's be realistic here, Meghan and their family unit are not under real threat.

In fact, if you compare the reaction of Harry and Meghan to the actual treatment of the couple, their reaction could be perceived as out of proportion. Meghan enjoyed a marvellous honeymoon period, basking in the delight of her beauty, how she made the little-boy-lost happy at last, her breath-of-fresh-air, new-world openness.

All along, her own family have been a spanner in the works and, without a doubt, the publication of Meghan's private letter to her father must have been painful.

However, most of the criticism levelled at Meghan has been to do with a clumsiness that both she and Harry have demonstrated in blurring the lines between celebrity and royalty. Celebrities can fly in private jets, buy hyper-expensive clothes, enjoy extravagant baby showers and skip family holidays to see their friends play tennis in New York without anyone saying boo.

That's because they self-fund their lifestyle, and don't live off the taxpayers, who also paid to do up Harry and Meghan's "cottage", when the brotherly rift saw them leave Kensington Palace. Further, celebrities can decide to keep their children's births quiet and their christenings and godparents secret, without anyone caring, because they aren't princes. Their role comes with the burden of being owned by and answerable to millions of strangers.

At the moment, Harry clearly resents this and what we're seeing is his rebellion, a rejection of the duty he was born into, or, rather, the way that duty is defined. Meghan, by her own admission, is saying to Harry that perhaps everything he's ever learned about being a prince is wrong. Shed the stiff upper lip, rip up the rule book.

The problem is that this course of action doesn't seem to be making Harry very happy.

In fact, he looks more unhappy than ever before. Harry is laying the blame squarely at the feet of the Press, but these continued attacks aren't actually doing anything but make him enemy number one.

It's plain that Harry needs a break, and, guess what? Harry's getting one. He and Meghan are taking a six-week break, much-needed family time, apparently, and their respite will include taking Thanksgiving in the US with Meghan's mother.

That's good, that's nice and needed, but it's the kind of thing that makes people realise that, really, Harry doesn't have it bad. Not relatively speaking. Not like many of the African people they encountered through last week's ITV documentary, which ultimately became all about Meghan and Harry's hard times. And not like most of Harry's countrymen, who couldn't take that much time off work for fear of not having any work to return to.

Harry needs to talk, that much is clear. But Harry would be well advised to also listen. The problem is that Harry is currently a man who cannot hear, such is the roaring in his ears of outright fear.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph