We have all thought at one time or another of dashing off a note to the boss, telling him what to do with his lousy job and then flouncing out of the room to begin life anew on our own terms. But unlike Prince Harry, reality has kicked in just in time, and we have bitten our tongues.
This week’s events have demonstrated just how different his reality is from ours.
Let’s cut him some slack. It can’t be easy to remain grounded when your life has been played out against a backdrop of entitlement on a scale unimaginable to most of us, and when your wife has been steeped in a fairytale world of premieres, lights and costumes.
But the almost universal reaction to Harry and Meghan’s announcement must have signalled to them that privilege only extends so far.
The couple, couching their resignation letter in the language of a public relations intern, proclaimed that they had “chosen to make a transition” and would “carve out a progressive new role”. In other words, they would keep the parts of the job they liked and discard the rest. That again is something we would all like to do – but common sense tells us that we have to take the rough with the smooth.
The couple would “work to become financially independent”, they went on, by splitting their lives between North America and Britain – where we taxpayers have conveniently just spent £2.4m renovating their home. It was a slap in the face so ill-judged that it was hard to make sense of.
Given what happened to his mother, Harry’s desire to protect his family from the world’s gaze is understandable.
But the bottom line is this: a job is a job. Some are better rewarded than others but with such reward comes greater responsibility. This is true in royalty and in showbusiness as much as anywhere else, and no-one is sufficiently privileged to be able to abandon their duties without suffering the consequences.
How far would Harry have got if he’d tried to do that with his Army commission?
The ramifications of Wednesday’s fit of petulance will be complex and manifold, both to the charities Meghan and Harry had supported, and, more significantly to the Royal family.
A month and a half ago, in the aftermath of Prince Andrew’s disastrous attempt to explain his friendship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, I alluded to the sibling rivalry that has caused a schism through every generation of the House of Windsor: Edward VIII and George VI; the Queen and Princess Margaret; Andrew and Charles. For every builder, there has been a wrecker.
I wondered at the time whether it was a family characteristic that would also extend to Harry and his brother, our future King. But unlike Harry, I bit my lip; it seemed boorish to descend to rumour-mongering. We did not have to wait long to see the truth of it.
It is less than two years since the brothers and their partners were being called the Fab Four, the new generation of young Royals who cared passionately about working for the disadvantaged and who would give the monarchy new relevance in the modern age. The abandonment of that ideal after so short a time is the real tragedy here. Harry and Meghan’s unwillingness to commit to their relationship – not with each other but with the rest of us – makes a mockery of the Queen’s lifetime of service doing just that.
Their failure to even tell her in advance about what was afoot smacks of not just bad manners but of cowardice. The terse response from the Palace told its own story: these were complicated issues that would “take time to work through”, it said. Impatience with those who break ranks has been another Royal trait, as Edward VIII – the previous Windsor to have married an American divorcee – would no doubt attest.
The supreme irony is that Harry and Meghan had already been allowed to write their own job description. They were free, within the constraints of protocol and the requirement to perform a public duty, to say what they wanted and to champion their own causes. That they persevered for so short a time before concluding that the conditions were too onerous is not a little selfish.
Seldom has so much cake been had and eaten so soon after the wedding.