WHAT are we to do about Prince Harry? Not that it is really our business what a fit, healthy, handsome and young multi-millionaire gets up to. Still, we seem to have evolved a kind of collective responsibility for this particular member of the Royal Family. And now he has gone and opened his heart to a television reporter and informed the world that he would very much like to settle down and have children. Cue a huge sigh.
What is it about this 30-year-old that makes women want to mother him, and men sympathise? I always say that anyone who saw him as a small boy, following his mother’s coffin, will just want to reach out and give him a hug. However, before we allow sentiment to get in the way of being sensible, I’d say that there are sound constitutional reasons for wanting him to get his life in order. We pay taxes to support the Royal Family, and as a rule, we give them plenty of respect. You won’t find much support for a republic in the country right now. That, though, could change.
Harry is now fifth in line to the throne. He can’t stand about waiting to be King, but he is still close enough to the throne for it to matter. If he was the son of the some far-flung cousin of the Queen, he could simply get on with his life without any of us giving it a second thought. He can’t though. And he can’t get away from the fact that he will always be compared to his sober and dutiful elder brother. Such is the lot of little brothers everywhere, but in Harry’s case, how can he compete with William and Kate and George, and now Charlotte? The birth of the new princess has thrown his singleton status into even sharper relief.
And we do like to know that we’re getting value for money. We’re British after all. We can’t be doing with Prince Harry leaving the Army – as he plans to do – without a vocation, or a wife in view. And he can’t just nip down the Job Centre and find a tailor-made vacancy.
Why do we care so much? I think it’s because he has become a kind of totem for an age in which adult children refuse to fly the nest and hang about in the family home, kicking back their heels and blowing their disposable income on holidays. However, the usual excuse – lack of proper money – doesn’t apply in his case. He has no get-out clause. He needs to establish a direction in life. This might sound harsh, but with Royal rights come certain responsibilities.
His love of a good party is well-documented, but from the evidence we see he seems like a thoroughly decent young man in most respects. He’s no snob, happy to go incognito to McDonald’s. He’s brave and unstuffy, gaining the respect of the soldiers he led in Afghanistan, and doing a sterling job of presenting the Invictus Games last summer.
As he grows older, he appears to share the most positive qualities of his mother; a rapport with children and the disadvantaged, and an openness which makes him both attractive and vulnerable.
However, we are all too wary of those self-destructive Royal traits. We remember his great-aunt Margaret, the Queen’s sister, drifting through life on a sea of unsuitable lovers and exotic jaunts. We watch aghast as his uncle, Prince Andrew, embarrasses himself and his family yet again with some indiscretion or another. We remember his father too. Before he married Camilla, Charles made being a Royal-without-a-role a life’s work. His various passions – architecture, horticulture, dabbling in matters spiritual – hardly gave us confidence in our future King.
The Prince of Wales came across as introspective and self-obsessed. That was up to him, of course, but it took years for us to take him seriously as a potential monarch as a result. If Prince Harry wants to retain our good favour, he must step outside himself and see how it looks from the public’s point of view. His personal life is his own business, but saying things like “it would be great to have someone next to me to share the pressure” may not be the best way to sell himself as an attractive husband. Given his fractured family background, he can be forgiven for being self-protective. However, he must not allow this to be perceived as selfish.
Who knows what the next few years will bring for Harry? He will probably end up as some kind of roving ambassador for the Royals, taking on more duties as his grandmother steps back, leading charitable expeditions up mountains and down rivers, and all the time looking out for the woman who would be his wife.
I have a suggestion though. His recent trip to New Zealand, where he joked around with youngsters at Halfmoon School on Stewart Island proved yet again that it could work. His easy way with children, military discipline and clear leadership ability would qualify him for one job where there are certainly vacancies.
He’d make a marvellous teacher.