Sam Leith Sam Leith

Harry’s complete lack of self-doubt is a problem for the royal family


Watching Prince Harry being interviewed by Tom Bradby, one thing was clear: the man is in deadly earnest. He is a true believer. And that, I think, makes him very dangerous to the monarchy indeed.

He came across well: modest, steely, scrupulously honest by his own lights, unshakably coherent in his view of the world and in his view of his place in it. He combined the moral authority of a victim of trauma with the unruffled calm of the fanatic. It was an extraordinarily, dangerously seductive performance. Moral clarity, a simple story, an injury nobly borne, a righteous crusade against a corrupt institution – these are the things that public opinion finds it very easy to get behind. Reticence, emotional stiltedness, institutional complexity, human frailty: not so much.  

The book extracts, incidentally, artfully burnished that seduction. They speak very well of his ghostwriter. Crisp little writerly details studded the vignettes that punctuated their conversation. For example, when after his mother’s death he and his brother smiled and greeted mourners outside Kensington Palace, he recalls shaking ‘wet hands’; the freely flowing tears of people who’d never met Diana contrasted with the forced reserve of those who had been closer to her than anyone in the world. And looking at the photographs of the twisted car at the crash site, seeing ‘paps, and reflected paps, and refracted paps’ on the surfaces of the wrecked vehicle, none of them coming to his mother’s aid: ‘they were just shooting, shooting, shooting’.  

It was impossible to watch that interview and doubt Harry’s sincere belief in what he’s doing

His basic thesis, to which he returned again and again with absolute tunnel vision, was that the ‘tabloid press’ are heartless villains (some truth in that), that the royal family has climbed wholly into bed with them (some truth in that, too, but perhaps not so simple a one as he supposes) and that an institution he claims to believe in and a family he claims to love have been captured and corrupted by the same villains who killed his mother.

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