King Charles' Coronation could be an opportunity for royal reconciliation, says Christa Ackroyd

Of all the questions the brilliant Tom Bradby asked his friend Prince Harry last Sunday there is one which has stuck with me throughout this week as news bulletins, TV programmes, newspapers and perhaps even our own conversations were dominated by what amounted to an endless barrage of accusations contained in THAT book.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
PA PicturesPrince Harry and Meghan Markle arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
PA Pictures
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk. PA Pictures

And it is this: “Is there a danger that you are looking back too much ?” Harry of course said not, that he had to look back in what had been both a painful and cathartic exercise I presume to understand how it had all come to this. I am not so sure he had to do so in quite so much detail, but that is his decision and his prerogative. Though one I fear he will live to regret. It’s going to be a long road back.

But if Harry feels it is important to look back in order to seek the reconciliation he seems to so desperately need (though as my late mother would say, he has a funny way of going about it) today I for one am going to look very firmly forwards. In fact, I can give you the date. Saturday May 6, 2023. And I suggest we all do the same and that includes Prince Harry. Of all the TV interviews given or comments made by members of the Royal family, which have so often spectacularly backfired, this latest outpouring threatens the monarchy like never before. Not because of what it contained, but because I genuinely believe it once again puts to the fore the question is there a future for it? Only now we don’t have our beloved Queen to calmly and stoically carry on with a sense of duty and service which even the anti Royalists could not fail to admire and lead us towards calmer waters. That unfortunately is the task of King Charles and I don’t envy him.

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The very existence of the monarchy is a question that has oft been debated and at times has appeared to hang by a thread. When Prince Charles thought he was doing the right thing by openly admitting his adultery on national television, the media and the country railed against him. His standings in the opinion polls hit rock bottom and some might say he has only just clawed his way back now. It was not a wise move. Then there was the infamous and now widely accepted ill gotten Diana interview which it must be said was perceived rather differently as she portrayed a life of unhappiness, of a failed marriage and of a young woman being led to the slaughter by those who thought her a suitable wife to secure the future of an institution which is at the heart of our country. But when all is said and done, shocking though it was to watch, what did it actually achieve other than more misery, ultimately divorce and a good deal of airing some very dirty linen in public? And then there was in more recent times the car crash of an interview by Prince Andrew which more worryingly he felt went rather well when it so clearly didn’t. Enough said about that the better.

And now this from Harry which, whether you sympathise or not, and I don’t think you can help but sympathise with a young man so clearly troubled and so estranged from those who know him best, I ask again what exactly has it achieved ? It has to be about more than just money. He could have written a coffee table book full of pretty pictures and achieved that. It has to be about more than staying relevant in a world where he so obviously fears he has become irrelevant, he could have done an at home with the Sussexes for Netflix rolling out good works and achieved that too. This is about the stubbornness of family when family fall out, about hurt and pain inflicted on both sides and about where the hell do you go from here to undo all that has been said and re-build bridges, especially when those bridges have been so publicly burned. And are still blazing.

And in a way it leaves all of us not to pick a side, or even to pick over the bones of an interview which ironically has provided manna from heaven for the very newspapers Harry has so openly declared war on, no it leaves us with one important question, do we still want a Royal family, flawed and dysfunctional though it may be ? And do we want the head of that family to be our head of state? And the answer from me is a resounding ‘yes’, because heaven help us, they are no more flawed than any transient politician, or any one of us for that matter. And they provide us not with a moral compass, that is up to each of us to provide for ourselves, but they do give us our USP as they say in marketing terms, our unique selling point. They make us different as a nation even if they are imperfect in an imperfect world. They also give us reason to show ourselves at our best when we come together under one banner to celebrate why we are proud to be British, whoever we are.

In less than five months time, whatever has been said that certainly should not have been said, we will join our friends, families and neighbours, or I hope we will, to celebrate the King’s coronation. Most of us have never witnessed such an event and those who have will have been young people at the time. And I want it to count and I want us to make memories together just as we as a nation need it to be memorable as an antidote to the difficulties so many are experiencing at present. I want to bake cakes and buy a coronation mug or a tin of biscuits and keep it safe for future generations, just as my parents did. I want to hang out the bunting and the union flags and wear red white and blue and celebrate who we are and where we live. Because in an uncertain world where many things must change there are some things that remind us that constancy, tradition, service and loyalty matter too. And King Charles will do so just as his mother did, I have no doubt. And at least we will have a bank holiday to celebrate.

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So will Harry come to his father’s coronation? He certainly will if he loves his father as much as he says he does. And why not ? If would be a joyful reminder that not all old scores need to be settled and that sometimes turning the other cheek is as cathartic as screaming and shouting at those who we don’t have to always agree with but can just agree to disagree. Has he damaged the reputation of the Monarchy, undoubtedly he has. But it has been damaged before and survived. And while the nation is no longer quite so subservient to those whose birth determines who is at the helm as past generations have been, we surely all recognise that they at least add a little brightness to a grey day and a diversion to our own woes as well as a reminder that we all make mistakes, it’s how we put things right that counts. Over to you Harry. Only this time we don’t need to know every last cough and splutter darling boy. Just that it’s been sorted, or it can be.