Christa Ackroyd: Prince Harry is a man on the edge who deserves our sympathy not our judgement

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One word should stop the debate about Prince Harry and Meghan ‘s Africa documentary this week and it wasn’t uttered by either of them.

If Prince William is “worried” about his younger brother then anyone with an ounce of compassion should think before they open their mouths to comment and realise this is a man on the edge, a man struggling to cope. And that has nothing to do with a life of privilege, or duty, or even money.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie in Cape Town, South Africa.Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie in Cape Town, South Africa.Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

If every time he hears the “click” of a camera it takes him straight back to the “bad stuff “ then this is a man in trouble. All his life since the moment he was born he has been surrounded by cameras and always will be. And he hates it.

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For that reason alone Harry is a man who deserves our sympathy not our judgement. Because whatever he says, whatever he does, it will always be this way. And sadly the more he talks about it the more attention he will receive. His mother found that out as we know when at the inquest into her death her best friend said she deeply regretted the famous Panorama interview this week’s documentary was so reminiscent of. We like our Royals to be Royal. We don’t like it when they show they are simply people. In fact we don’t really like it when anyone talks about their feelings. It’s not our way. But it should be.

Prince Harry is a man who so obviously wants to walk away from it all. But a man who can’t. He is trapped. And he knows it.

No matter whether he and his wife withdraw from public life for six weeks or forever, the more Prince Harry tries to explain, then the more he stokes the fire, the more he inflames the debate and the more others feel they own the right to have their say. Because they believe they own him and his family. They don’t.

That one word ‘worried’ from the big brother whom Harry says he will always love, but admits he doesn’t see very often any more when once they were inseparable, should tell us all we need to know. Harry needs help. And in speaking out he is acknowledging that. And it takes a big man to do so.

Here is a son who wants his mother, who needed her then and needs her now, so much so everything he does is driven by the ghost of a woman whose death he still hasn’t come to terms with. And probably never will. He walks the same path, literally among the land mines. A perfect metaphor for a life he didn’t chose but was born into.

He mentions her at every opportunity. His whole life revolves around continuing her legacy. Above all Prince Harry wants to make his mother proud without realising he always would do. She is and always will be his “mummy” as the card said on the top of her coffin they were cruelly forced to walk behind. Well Diana would weep that he still doesn’t know where to run or who to turn to. One thing she would say is that he can’t hide.

There was a time Diana also announced she was stepping away from the limelight, reducing her charities, concentrating on those that matter the most, her boys. And look what happened to her. She was chased to her death. There was no respite then and there is no hiding place for Harry now. No wonder he feels bullied into “playing a game that killed my mum.”

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Supposing you were his friend. Would you tell him to get a grip, to carry out the role he was born to ? To just get on with it? I would hope not. The one thing we have learned or should have these past few years is that men struggle, and it doesn’t matter what their station is in life.

William has also recently said he has struggled with the death of his mother to the point where it took him 20 years to even talk about her. He admits he still finds it difficult. His grief is still ‘raw’ because ‘it is a different situation for most people who lose someone they love. It can be hidden away or they can chose if they want to share it.’ And that is the crux of the problem, for him and especially for Harry.

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Together they intended to ‘smash the taboo’ about mental health. And they should both be applauded for doing so. But then it is not our grief. We cannot understand what it is like to walk in their well heeled but very different shoes.

I will finish this week by talking about Meghan. What I saw in the documentary was not a woman saying poor me. I saw a new mum who is worried about the man she loves. Diana would like her. Prince Harry is lucky to have her. She will be his salvation. I hope eventually the sun will shine for them once again. Until then let us leave them alone.