This week we’ve been much occupied by thoughts of royal dynasty. I’m talking about Game of Thrones, of course. If you’re not a fan, bear with me. There’s a bloke known as Jon Snow who is the rightful ruler of an ancient kingdom not dissimilar to our own. His qualifications out-rank all other contenders, but he maintains that he doesn’t want to be king.
A wise courtier remarks that in his long experience, the person who doesn’t want the throne is usually the one best-suited to it. I’m wondering if the script writer has been talking to Prince Harry. In 2017, the grandson of the Queen, sixth in line to her throne himself, suggested to Newsweek magazine that none of his close relations actually fancied her job. “Is there any one of the royal family who want to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties.”
What then, is going through Prince Harry’s head this week, as he contemplates his new role as a father? It’s not just a son who’s been born, but a child who will take his own place in the order of succession and become seventh in line.
Granted, the chances of baby Archie ever becoming king are very remote, but the lineage is there. Whatever 34-year-old Harry might say which makes him sound like any other over-emotional new dad, he can’t escape this fact.
And whatever steps he and his American-born wife, the former Suits actress Meghan Markle, take to ensure that they establish a new way of doing things, one day their baby is likely to be grandson of a king.
Harry then, is not just a father, but a custodian. The weight of this responsibility must weigh heavily on his shoulders. I worry for him. I know he’s a big strapping former soldier of six foot- odd and he has none of the worries that other young men today face; his home is secure and mortgage-free, he has money in the bank, a beautiful wife and clearly, a job for life.
Still though, I remember the little boy who followed his mother’s coffin. And as a parent myself, I can’t help but think that while he wants for nothing in material terms, his inner life has not been easy to navigate.
Now he finds himself at a crossroads. He has admitted that like his brother, father and other relatives, he is bound by duty. Yet, apparently steered by his wife, in the past year he has broken away from the confines of Kensington Palace and set up his own court at Frogmore Cottage, in Windsor.
We could speculate all day about the repercussions this has had vis-à-vis his deep fraternal bond with his older brother, William. What we should conclude is that no family, Royal or otherwise, is set in stone. The very nature of the unit is designed to be flexible, to evolve and bend with the winds of change.
Each new partnership, while attached firmly to the wider family tree, must set up its own way of doing things. While many aspects remain held in common, others will be distinct, marking out their own territory, just like in any animal kingdom.
It is also important to remember that Harry is now married and that his wife’s wishes cannot be trampled under the weight of Royal expectation. In trying to establish what passes for a ‘‘normal’’ life, he is rightly focusing on building a life with her.
There has been much talk of the Duchess of Sussex’s predilection for avant-garde ideas. In addition, her determination to ensure that her own heritage is not forgotten has certainly not gone down well with traditionalists. Who ever heard of a member of the British Royal Family inviting an American film crew along to witness the ‘‘first look’’ of a new baby, alongside the venerable BBC and ITV, and ahead of Commonwealth broadcasters?
Yet, we must remember that we live in a global world and Prince Harry and his wife represent this. There has been talk of his new branch of the family decamping to Africa on a lengthy assignment, ostensibly to underline their quest for independent status.
Presumably, advisers will be looking for ways to use this proposal as a positive enhancement of their interests in conservation, education and health and a chance to promote the Commonwealth. American newspapers, on the other hand, have commented on the Duchess’s desire to connect with her own African roots. What is certain is that, if it happens, it will be no re-hash of Harry’s grandparents’ own trip to Kenya in 1952, when Princess Elizabeth learned of the death of her beloved father and became monarch with immediate effect.
We talk of wanting this monarchy to modernise, to become ‘‘more like us’’. Yet when a leading member makes a determined stand to come across like any other flustered young father putting his wife and child above his job, eyebrows are raised. We demand that our Royal Family changes to better reflect the times, but when it does, perhaps it’s us who are guilty of being stuck in the past.