Published on April 3rd, 2013 |
by Benjamin Meggitt
Image © Prince Harry 2013
Harry: A Lost Prince
There are few people in the Western hemisphere who have not heard of the audaciously ginger and gaffe-prone Prince Henry ‘Harry’ of Wales, currently standing 3rd in line to the throne of Great Britain’s monarchy. Unintentionally propelled into the dazzling gaze of the world’s mass media due to a combination of being uniquely ‘royal’ and the tragic end that befell his ultimately over-photographed mother, Princess Diana, Harry has struggled to find a niche within a modern British society which in recent decades has increasingly queried the necessity of having a royal family. In a period which currently sees the UK rocked by incessant recession and harsh austerity measures, there is a strong inclination to scrutinise ever closer the role played by all publicly funded components of British government, including of course members of the crown. Although the two sides of the ‘royal debate’ have raised both valid pragmatic and constitutional points on the subject of retaining the house of Windsor as head of state, few have suggested the alternative notion of refocusing the parameters of the deadlocked debate itself. Instead of arguing whether the entire royal family should be kept or removed en masse, would it not make more sense in an age of blanket government department cuts to follow the pronouncements of Britain’s Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and review the ‘worth’ of Britain’s oldest relic of government on a more individualistic basis? With 1 out of every 7 UK employees made redundant (3.5 million workers) since the start of the recession and government departments experiencing a 10% cut in funding on average, surely the deficit-reducing spotlight should fall on the 18 taxpayer ‘patronised’ members of the royal family as well? Though controversial, and doubtful that any politician would potentially risk his or her seat in Parliament to do so, a good place to start an individual based assessment of the monarchy would be with the charismatic but dubiously crucial figure of Prince Harry; the royal family’s most iconic third wheel.
Born into an archaic and undemocratically populated ‘sovereign’ subsection of British government, the unfortunate Harry found himself irrevocably positioned in the shadow of his older brother William in the hierarchy of the crown. Currently ranked 3rd in line to the throne behind his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, the likelihood of Harry playing anything but royal ‘backup-understudy’ in state affairs is bleak at best. A regal position held by the young prince made arguably even less meaningful come the expected birth of Prince William’s first child in July, which would place dear Harry 4th in line to the throne and potentially 5th if not 6th in years to come, depending on the rate of infant-production by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton (Prince William’s wife). With few other democratic states bankrolling a ‘4th-in-line’ to state figurehead-dom and assuming that an April fools act of Parliament does not elevate Harry to kingship, the question must be raised as to what should be done with an arguably redundant monarchical figure.
Well, in a rather limited capacity Prince Harry has voiced an option of his own. Rather than sit in relative comfort as a genetic backup, or mimic the actions of his older brother and fill his time flying search and rescue helicopters, Harry chose to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors and enter military service. Educated at the esteemed Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Harry offered himself to the state in service as a ‘battle Prince’; a figure able to both serve and protect the public whilst simultaneously continuing to be available to cover the royal throne in case of a freak succession occurrence. In 2006 Harry began this ‘calling’ by being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the historic Household Cavalry regiment and saw active military service in a 10 week tour of Afghanistan in 2008 and a second lengthier 4 month posting again in Afghanistan in late 2012. However after six years of military service, initially as a tank operator and then an Apache helicopter pilot, to date Britain’s youngest Prince has spent little over 6 months on active duty due to concerns not only over his own personal safety but the safety also of the men he served with.
Though the fact that a Taliban attack on Britain’s military fortress Camp Bastion in Afghanistan late last year coincided with Harry’s stationing, the following Taliban public declaration that Harry was their intended target and shall continue to be, can by no means be ignored. In an environment as tense and prone to escalation as Afghanistan or Iraq, it makes little to no sense in having an internationally recognisable icon of British culture parading around a warzone. If for example the worst case scenario unfurled and the world awoke to a live video stream of the Taliban publically executing Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, peace efforts in the Middle East would be set back decades if not ruptured into open war due to a jubilant Taliban taking strength from seizing a major western ‘scalp’ and an irate British public baying for retaliation. Irrespective of Harry’s personal bravery and zeal for his country, are the wishes of a monarch’s grandson worth the real and potential terrorist escalations caused by his presence in a warzone? The rational-utilitarian in me says not.
Aside from trying his hand at warfare, Harry has also been modelled by the monarchy as a future British diplomat. His royal heritage has accustomed the prince to polite conversations, fashionable dinners and white-tie events; however 2012 saw the ‘warrior prince’ dispatched on his first official solo trip abroad to the Caribbean as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond jubilee celebrations. Mixed media reviews painted Harry’s stay in Jamaica and the Bahamas as either charming or ham-fisted, depending on which side of the royal debate they stood. Yet what drew all commentators, critical or otherwise, together in seriously questioning the young Prince’s potential as a royal ambassador was not his cheating at the 100 meter sprint but his ‘au naturale’ antics post-tour in Las Vegas, which resulted in leaked naked photographs shared among the world’s media. Though the crown seems determined to beat Harry into diplomatic shape and have scheduled to send him on a second royal tour abroad in May, this time to the United States, his military-inspired ‘laddish’ manner and history of insensitive stunts, such as donning ‘Nazi’ fancy-dress in 2005, begs to question the prince’s diplomatic credentials. Aside from success in a genetic lottery prone to inbreeding, the Prince has few genuine qualifications which in a truly democratic setting would see him chosen above others to represent the state abroad.
Regardless of Harry’s loveable qualities and lack of choice in being born into a royal household, the question must be raised as to whether the Prince is ultimately necessary and beneficial to subsistence of the British state. If after an unbiased and careful analysis the answer is ‘no’ then I can see of no overwhelming reason why the Prince could not become just Captain Harry and a member of the public he so wishes to protect. That is of course unless another Commonwealth country, such as Jamaica for example, wishes to take him on as their own Prince Harry.