Daniela Elser: Prince Harry’s comments on Queen are his lowest move yet
Let’s start with something nice shall we? A sweetener if you like. On Thursday, to mark the Queen’s 96th birthday, Buckingham Palace released a new photo of Her Majesty, showing her beaming and enjoying the springtime weather with two of her beloved Fell ponies at Windsor. (She has since travelled to Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate.)
I really urge you to take a good long look at this cockle-warming image – no truly, look again. Enjoy the blooming flowers, her warm smile, some very nicely brushed gee-gees.
Because from here on out, things are about to get mucky.
While it might be nigh on impossible to find the perfect birthday present for a woman approaching a full century, her grandson Prince Harry marked her big day by gifting her something I doubt was on her wish list, namely another one of his signature bombshell interviews.
Speaking to a US breakfast TV show, the Duke of Sussex is back at it, lobbing a new PR molotov cocktail or two at Buckingham Palace and managing to snub his father Prince Charles and brother Prince William to boot.
This week, the royal, California resident and self-appointed global champion of compassion, has been in the Netherlands for the latest Invictus Games, the sporting championship for wounded, injured and sick veterans and currently serving armed forces personnel which he founded in 2014. The entire event had, thus far, gone delightfully well. The sun shone! There were hugs aplenty! Netflix got to film the whole happy clappy thing!
This was Harry at his finest and it looked like we were witnessing a certain return to the man of old, surrounded by people he clearly cares so deeply about.
However, Harry seems to have a spectacular ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and has derailed what should have been a stellar week by using his sit-down with the American Today programme to take fresh aim at his family and the palace.
Let’s keep one thing in mind here: None of what host Hoda Kotb asked Harry would have even remotely comes as a surprise and he had every chance to assiduously prepare his answers, which is to say, what came next was not a slip-of-the-tongue or an awkward turn of phrase.
Kotb tossed the softest of soft balls to Harry about his recent lightning strike visit to the UK to see the Queen.
“How did it feel being back, being with her?” the veteran host asked.
This should – should – have been an easy one. All Harry needed to do was dribble out a few rote lines about how great it was to see his history-making Grandma and maybe some sort of anodyne platitude about family.
But, oh no. What we get instead was Harry serving up an answer that was just as barbed as we have come to expect from the royal refusenik, with him saying that had used their Windsor Castle meeting to make “sure she’s protected and has got the right people around her”.
He went on to explain, you see, that he and Her Majesty “have a really special relationship” and: “We talk about things that she can’t talk about with anybody else.”
Which makes perfect sense coming from a person who has spent barely 10 days in the UK out of the last 750, has caused no end of damage to the institution said grandma heads and who missed the memorial service for her late husband and his grandfather last month.
(Logic and Harry have never really been bedfellows though, have they?)
Likewise, reports have only said that Harry and Meghan “met” with the nonagenarian, which sounds like they had barely enough time to stuff a few finger sandwiches in one mouth’s path and pat a dorgi, let alone do a thorough welfare check. Even in the words of their very own spokesperson, “They stopped by the UK” – which hardly suggests a lengthy catch-up.
Then came Kotb’s next entirely predictable question which Harry could – and again, should – have been ready for. Asked by Kotb, “But do you miss your brother, your dad?” Harry dodged the question with all the grace and ease of a self-taught clog dancer.
“Look I mean, for me at the moment, I’m here focused on these guys and these families and giving everything that I can, 120 per cent to them to make sure they have the experience of a lifetime. That’s my focus here. And when I leave here, I get back and my focus is on my family who I miss massively.”
Harry’s “right people” comment now joins the ever-growing list of absolute and utter open-mouthed, slack-jawed, gobsmacking lines that the Duke serves up every time a microphone gets waved in his direction.
The exact target of the comment remains a mystery, however a couple of strong contenders could be the Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young and her dresser slash official bestie Angela Kelly, both of whom have allegedly butted heads with Harry and Meghan in recent years.
(“‘If in doubt, blame the staff’ appears to be Harry’s mantra,” one palace source told the Telegraph.)
The reaction to Harry’s latest anti-palace salvo in the UK has been just as collectively angry as you might imagine.
“I don’t see how you can stay away from somebody for over a year and not go to the memorial service for her husband – and then pretend that you know better how to look after her than anyone else,” Harry biographer Angela Levin told the Times. “I think it’s an insult to Prince Charles, Prince William and their partners who have done so much to help the Queen.”
Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press secretary, told the Times that his former boss would feel “let down”.
The question I want an answer to here is, why? What was Harry trying to achieve?
Because Harry’s line about “making sure she’s protected” and about having “the right people around her” sounded suspiciously like a pre-prepared one he had ready to trot out.
So again, why? If this is him trying to sell himself to American audiences as still being on chummy terms with Her Majesty and very much still in the royal tent then this was a pretty bumbling way of going about it.
(Another royal source has told the Telegraph: “What the visit to Windsor Castle last week demonstrates is that this was more about topping up their royal credentials (doubtless at the urging of Netflix) than checking up on Granny.”)
What is not up for debate for a second is what a low move this was.
What I, and pretty much everyone with opposable thumbs, can’t get over is the sheer cheek of it; the gobsmacking gall to sit there telling the world that he is looking out for Her Majesty when he and his wife have been the palace’s biggest, loudest and most vociferous critics. They are the ones who accused the Firm of institutional racism and a callous disregard for their mental health and it was Harry who accused the royal family of “total neglect”.
I can’t even begin to fathom how a person could square away having staged this public onslaught against the Crown over the last year only to then turn around and grandly proclaim to be the ‘protector’ of the woman who actually wears said crown.
This situation defies logic, sense and reason, but when has that ever stopped the Sussexes when there are cameras around?
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that he chose to give this interview and to take a fresh swing at the palace just before his Grandmother’s birthday, a move he surely must have known would overshadow her celebrations.
Again, that’s just crummy.
If there is one thing the Queen needs right now, it is peace. To be able to spend time at Wood Farm, the cottage where Prince Philip spent the last few years of his life, without some fresh hullabaloo brewing and the royal family descending into Kardashian-esque made-for-TV-drama territory anew.
But with Harry and Meghan having a Netflix series in the works that will need promoting and with him having his memoir set to hit shelves later this year, quiet is likely to be one thing that the 96-year-old won’t be getting any time soon.
• Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
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