Prince Harry could learn a lot from other royals like Princess Anne - Sarah Todd

Training to be a journalist over 30 years ago one of the golden rules was to always follow the latest news. Well, hell will freeze over before any time is spent keeping informed about this week’s appearance in court by Prince Harry.

A good book and keeping up to date with The Archers on the radio will be more than enough to keep this writer distracted while the Duke of Sussex gives evidence in the High Court as part of his high-profile phone hacking case against the tabloid press.

It seems such a shame that somebody who was born with the world at his feet is risking dragging his reputation - and by association that of the wider institution - through the mud by being the first royal to testify in court since the 19th century.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It’s a joke that somebody who claims to hate the spotlight keeps putting themselves firmly front and centre of it.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of the Duke of Sussex giving evidence at the Rolls Buildings in central London. PIC: Elizabeth Cook/PA WireCourt artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of the Duke of Sussex giving evidence at the Rolls Buildings in central London. PIC: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of the Duke of Sussex giving evidence at the Rolls Buildings in central London. PIC: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire

So interesting to learn that Prince Harry’s brother, the new Prince of Wales, quietly accepted a settlement for phone hacking and equally discreetly gave it to charity.

Anyway, that’s all the column inches he’ll get from this correspondent.

Far better to highlight the amazing work of other ‘spares’, such as Princess Anne, who have dedicated their lives to making a difference. Imagine if he-who-shan’t-be-named-now had been subjected to an armed kidnap attempt like his aunt?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Or what about the late Duke of Edinburgh? He could have simply sauntered along a pace or two behind his late wife, Her Majesty the Queen. Instead, he took the initiative and came up with marvellous ideas like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and founded the World Wildlife Fund. He made a real difference; undertaking over 22,000 solo engagements, as well as all those he accompanied the Queen on.

According to his friend Gyles Brandreth, the Duke declared it “madness” and predicted “no good would come of it” when it emerged his third-born grandson was going to take part in the now infamous interview with television’s Oprah Winfrey.

There was a man who told it how it was; no pussyfooting around.

This last week weeding has become something of an obsession. For years The Husband has been too tight to use a strong enough solution of weed killer to get rid of the blighters in the gravel. They have hung-around half dead for decades and a realisation that there are smarter scrapyards than our driveway, I got the gardening gloves on. Hour after hour has been spent pulling them up by the roots and it is no exaggeration to say that few tasks have ever given such job satisfaction.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In fact, it inspired some reflection on the way people were outraged last month when former MP Ann Widdecomb dared suggest those who claim unemployment benefits should be asked to work on farms picking fruit.

As a nation, we have become removed from physical work and there is nothing more satisfying than coming inside for a meal after having put a good shift in. It’s no exaggeration to say that while weeding yours truly has been in absolutely fine fettle. Another outside job has been tackled; filling in holes with a shovel where old fencing posts have been removed. As soon as this correspondent’s head has hit the pillow, sleep has come, there’s been no time for checking the mobile phone or worrying about silly little things.

Yes, there would be a lot of sensible questions to ask about the practicalities of how Ms Widdecomb’s scheme would work, but surely it should be given a bit of thought? Until 1987 there used to be the Manpower Services Commission, which did tremendous work putting the unemployed and ex-offenders on the right path. The countryside was very much part of the programme, with cohorts coming out to farms to learn skills in employable areas like fencing and forestry.

Inspired by her late grandmother, who was plucked from the bustling streets of Liverpool and sent to the heart of Somerset as a Land Girl, a friend has written a book about the 80,000 women who fought from the fields during the war. For many of these young ladies, including my friend’s grandmother who was posted on to Lancashire where she met and married her dairy farmer husband, these were times of not only very hard work but also the most tremendous job satisfaction and camaraderie.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

How many benefit claimants would simply feel so much better after time spent outside in the fresh air? Some would hate it, but others would doubtless go on to find work and transform their quality of lives as a result of it.