I HADN’T intended to watch ITV’s documentary Harry & Meghan – An African Journey, but there was nothing else on TV on Sunday night that caught my eye, so I stuck with it. And in a way I am glad I did. It’s confirmed what a few friends of mine who have had dealings with the young royal couple have told me: they are a bit of a nightmare.
The fact is that although this film was supposed to be a travelogue with a focus on their charity work in Africa, it turned into a classic episode of The Me Show.
Instead of looking just at the hardships of those on the African continent, presenter Tom Bradby, who has known Harry for 20 years, invited the 35-year-old duke to talk about his personal life and struggles with mental health. Venturing into this line of country can only have been part of an agreed plan. There was nothing spontaneous about it. And it showed. (What did appear to be more genuine was Harry’s admission that he and his brother, William, have fallen out, of which more below.)
Bradby lobbed the same kind of personal questions at Meghan, though he seemed pretty nervous when he did so. Weirdly, she seemed more confident than Bradby at this point. Anyway, this experienced actress admitted that she struggles with the scrutiny of being married to her husband. She seemed to feel so sorry for herself. Perhaps she expected viewers to feel sorry for her as well. I don’t reckon many will have done. But they may have wondered (as I did) why it was that whenever she and Harry were on camera together, she would not take her hand off his shoulder or back. I would find constantly being touched like that intolerable.
With their staggering privilege and newborn son, Harry and Meghan should be among the most content couples on the planet. But they’re not. They are angry and resentful, mainly of the tabloid press. They claim it’s ruining their lives. It is as though they won’t be happy until it’s written into law that nobody can criticise them in print.
Now Meghan is suing the Mail on Sunday for alleged breach of privacy and Harry is suing News UK for alleged phone hacking. Drastic stuff.
Exploring the validity of these legal actions belongs in another column. For now I want to say: I don’t feel any pity for them. Yes, Harry’s mother’s death was dreadfully sad for him and will have left a mark. But this is the point. Since he knows better than most how destructive press intrusion can be, why doesn’t he just go about his business quietly, like his uncle Edward or aunt Anne? They seem to cope perfectly well twinning their duties as royals with their personal lives. Indeed, after all that happened between Charles and Diana, one is bound to ask: why didn’t Harry, as fifth in line to the throne, make sure he married a sensible woman who feels no need to be famous?
Having worked on various newspapers, I can state with confidence that if Harry and Meghan decided to reveal none of their personal views, to lead more boring lives, and to do what most Britons expect of the monarchy in that old-fashioned way, they would never find themselves in the press other than for the most prosaic reasons. Reporters would tire of them. And they would, in turn, be happier and perhaps more productive. It’s very simple: shut up and people will leave you alone.
Far be it from me to criticise another man’s marriage, but Harry and his wife ought to stop talking about climate change and female empowerment and just generally stop being so Californian. Either that, or they should do us all a favour and move to California.
As for why Harry and William have fallen out, my source tells me that part of the problem lies between Meghan and Kate Middleton. Meghan does not like her sister-in-law and never has done because she is, for some odd reason, jealous of her. The frostiness is palpable. Meghan has also had to be told not to be rude to the royal staff, who are not used to being ordered around like servants. I will let the tabloids chew over these rumours – if they dare.