Alexander Larman

Is Britain really too dangerous for Harry and Meghan?

Is Britain really too dangerous for Harry and Meghan?
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Shortly after his abdication in 1936, the now-Duke of Windsor wrote a series of letters while in European exile, in which he complained vociferously about numerous perceived privations that he faced. Chief amongst these was the provision for their security. The British government saw this as now being the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s responsibility, rather than the country’s, but the Duke was infuriated by what he perceived his former kingdom’s ingratitude in not offering to foot the bill for his police protection.

A similar dilemma now presents itself to Edward’s great-great-nephew the Duke of Sussex and his wife. Ever since their announcement of their quasi-abdication from their roles two years ago, they have struggled both for relevance and attention. Both have been obtained by spectacular acts of public provocation, most notably their interview with Oprah Winfrey last year. When Prince Harry was allowed to speak, he devoted a disproportionate amount of time complaining about the cost of his security measures. While this no doubt weighs heavily upon his mind, it is of less import to the millions of people watching who have seldom wondered what would happen if they were well-known enough to need bodyguards.

However, the issue has emerged once again this weekend with Harry’s public statement that he and the Duchess will not be returning to the country because it is ‘too dangerous’, given his being chased by paparazzi when he briefly returned to Britain last year to unveil a statue of his mother. He has consequently begun legal action against the government because of its decision to remove his police protection when he gave up his ‘working royal’ status. Although he has an expensive private security team, he has claimed that they would be unable to function effectively in the United Kingdom, and therefore he needs to be given the same safeguards that he enjoyed before he decided to renounce his royal privileges and title.

Leaving aside the precedent that this is the first time that a member of the Royal family has taken the government to court – though the Duke of Windsor undoubtedly would have liked to – it shows a remarkable degree of ignorance as to how the action will be received in Britain. Although Prince Harry has offered to fund the costs of police protection himself, the British police cannot generally be hired by the day, like an especially expensive taxi service, and it also remains unclear how popular a return by him and Meghan would be.

The Prince Andrew debacle has caused reputational chaos to the wider Royal Family, and it is generally hoped that the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this year will act as a soft reset, reminding the world that the monarchy is still a much-treasured international institution. But whatever happens to the not-so-grand Duke of York, Harry and Meghan’s potential to bring discord where there should be harmony has only grown since their departure from Britain. Royal aides are already braced for the publication of the Duke’s no-doubt-damning memoir this autumn – 25 years after his mother’s death – and his every action before then will be scrutinised for its potential for troublemaking. Rather than acting out of genuine concern for his and his family’s wellbeing, this latest intervention seems to be the latest act of attention-seeking from Brand Sussex.

The Duke of Windsor never recovered his reputation or standing at home, and spent the decades after his abdication drifting around Europe and America: a playboy and a pariah. As his descendant shows every sign of following in a similar path, with added vitriol, he might look to history and see how badly it went the previous occasion, before miring himself in another unedifying round of obstinacy and controversy.

Written byAlexander Larman

Alexander Larman is an author and books editor of the Spectator’s World edition

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