Great Britain

Farewell and good luck Harry – a conflicted prince forever torn between duty, love and fame

BEAMING Prince Harry seemed to have a spring in his step as he landed in Vancouver to start his new life with Meghan and little Archie. But appearances can be deceiving.

As he says farewell to Crown and country, he is clearly a man gripped by inner conflict.

This is not the happy, easy departure that his smile suggests. On the contrary, it is an abdication that has sadly plunged him into turmoil.

He is a man pulled in opposite directions, torn between patriotic duty and his deep love for his wife, between his loyalty to the monarchy and his desire for a new, less constrained role.

That explains why, throughout the recent crisis that he and Meghan inflicted on the House of Windsor, his stance has been so confused and contradictory.

He speaks of his devotion to Britain but seeks a fresh start in Canada.

He expresses his desire to serve but gives up the commitments that go with his position.

Throughout the recent royal crisis, Harry's stance has been confused and contradictory

He trumpets his yearning for privacy, yet he and his wife appear keen to set themselves up as a millionaire celebrity couple - hardly the way to avoid attention.

He continually wails about media intrusion, yet he resigns as Captain-General of the Royal Marines so he can spend more time on his social media accounts.

He and the Duchess endlessly talk about their need for emotional support, yet they have shown little concern for the needs of their own families.

Those inconsistencies were graphically exposed in the speech he made on Sunday night at a charity dinner in London to try and justify his recent conduct.

His address was given in the immediate aftermath of the deal reached at Sandringham, where he and Meghan agreed to the loss of public funding and the use of their titles in return for their independence.

It was clear that the saga had exacted a heavy toll on him. In a voice often cracking with emotion, he told his audience that they would “hear the truth from me”.

But what they actually heard was a catalogue of embittered anguish.

As often, he moaned about the press, which he painted as a sinister, powerful force which needs to be curtailed.

Unfortunately, despite all his professed love of Britain, Harry appears to have no understanding that a free, open media is essential to our democracy.

He has proved unable to handle any criticism at all – even when it is justified, as in the hypocrisy of his green campaigning while indulging in the use of private jets.

It is as if he thinks the media should be filled with fawning sycophants who never scrutinise but just lavish him with praise.

That is the kind of regime that belongs to a totalitarian dictatorship, not traditionally liberal Britain.

Much of Harry’s hostility to journalists stems from their relationship with his mother. But, however understandable, this is another myth.

Princess Diana was not naïve when it came to the press. She was a shrewd, sometimes ruthless operator, who was quite willing to exploit the newspapers when it suited her.

Royalty cannot be a vehicle for self-enrichment or political posturing

With some indignation, he complained that the Sandringham deal was not what he wanted. But it was foolish of him to believe that he and Meghan could have semi-detached Royal status, enjoying its privileges without its obligations.

The Queen could never have tolerated that, especially because any commercial deals reached by the Sussexes could have badly compromised her family, just as their cherished fashionable causes could have undermined the Crown.

Royalty cannot be a vehicle for self-enrichment or political posturing.

The Duke’s inner agony was at its most obvious when he spoke of his regrets for the life he is leaving.

Having revealed that he and Meghan were excited to “fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride”, he referred to his “great sadness” at the step they have taken.

Yet he claimed that they had “really no other option”. It was another moment of self-deceit, for there were certainly other courses open to them.

They could have either stuck to their Royal positions without creating such a psycho drama about themselves, or, if they really wanted freedom without scrutiny, they could have retired to live quietly as ordinary citizens, as some other members of the Royal family have done in the past.

But such modesty would not have fulfilled their ambitions to be globe-trotting celebrities.

It is this craving for fame that highlights the emptiness of Harry’s language about his devotion to service. “I will continue to be the same man who holds his country dear and dedicates his life to supporting the causes, charities and military communities so important to me,” he declared at the charity dinner.

Yet this is the same man who was revealed to have touted his wife’s voiceover skills to Disney bosses at the London premiere of the Lion King last summer.

In the eyes of their critics, the real dedication that Harry and Meghan will probably soon show is to TV deals, book advances, and brand partnerships.

In a further attempt to justify their actions, Harry implied that they had been suffering for a long time through the crushing restrictions of Royal life.

The final move had been made, he explained, “after so many months of talks and so many years of challenges.”

He and Meghan have only been married for 18 months. A true model of stoical determination, the Queen has been on the throne for almost 68 years without any public complaint.

That just illustrates Harry’s lack of perspective. Insulated by privilege, he has little understanding of the lives of ordinary British citizens, many of whom have endured far greater struggles than anything he has ever experienced.

After the Queen had been so publicly generous about him and Meghan in her statement from Sandringham at the weekend, saying that “they will always be much loved members of my family,” it was bad manners of Harry to complain about the deal he had just accepted.

He should have responded to his grandmother’s generosity in the same spirit.

But what’s done is done. Our monarchy has survived its latest crisis. The moment for recriminations has passed now that a new chapter is about to begin.

As he settles in Canada, Prince Harry is bound to miss aspects of his old life in Britain, which even now he describes as “my home and the place I love".

And the British public will miss him. At his best, he brought a lovable humour, spontaneity and lack of convention to the Royal Family.

We can only hope that now, after taking this drastic decision, he finds the peace that he and Meghan crave.

Prince Harry makes surprise appearance at the UK Africa Investment summit after speech describing great sadness at stepping back from royal life