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One flew out of the cuckoo’s nest

January 10, 2020

In 2004, as part of a degree course in media arts at Birkbeck College, I took a screenwriting class. One of our early assignments was to come up with three ideas for short films. These ideas would be shared with and discussed by classmates the following week and decision reached about which script to write.

One of my ideas was Wild About Harry, a short film about young prince who was desperate to be kicked out of the royal family into which he’d been born. His behaviour was determinedly outrageous, but no matter what he tried (“I turned up at a costume party wearing a Nazi uniform! What the fuck do I have to do?”), the family wouldn’t let him go.

I didn’t write this script. After the class discussion I went with one of my other ideas. I’d more or less forgotten about the Harry script idea until this week.

Of course Harry’s decided to bail. Why wouldn’t he? His older brother, the heir, has three children now. There is no more need for a spare.

Of course Harry hates most, if not all, of the press. One of his earliest childhood memories is probably of his mother being hounded by photographers.

William is (or was moulded to become) his father’s son. Harry is his mother’s son.

Harry was widely and justifiably praised in 2017 for speaking openly about his mental health challenges. (Unlike Diana, who was largely dismissed in the media as an hysterical attention seeker for publicly acknowledging her struggles with bulimia and suicidal impulses.) His candour did much to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health, just as his mother, thirty years earlier, played a major role removing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.

I can’t imagine anyone thinking Harry would marry a little-miss-perfect. His choice would undoubtedly be interesting. And it was.

Meghan Markle immediately ticked one of the British media boxes. She was beautiful. Quite undeniably beautiful.

It was a bit of a deal in the press back in the 1980s when the previous spare married a woman who’d lived with another man, but the media decided to let that go, because Sarah Ferguson was fun. She’d be a breath of fresh air in the royal family. (Of course that was before they turned on her and started tearing apart everything she did or said.) So, the fact that Meghan was a divorcee was deemed acceptable. (Of course, it pretty much had to be, given that Meghan’s soon-to-be father-in-law is married to a divorcee.)

The fact that she was American (oh, and an actress) was a bit of a challenge, but, oh, right, she’s beautiful, so that’s okay.

Oh, but wait a minute. Listen. Is that a dog whistle I can hear? I do believe it is. It’s okay for Meghan Markle to be a divorced American actress. In fact it would be just fine – if she was blonde and blue-eyed, but she isn’t. Anyone who tries to tell you that Meghan Markle’s mixed race status has nothing to do with the British media’s attitude towards her is either lying or stupid. She never had a chance.

I confess. I’m a sucker for a royal wedding. So of course I watched Harry and Meghan’s wedding last year. A few things struck me, such as how brave that woman was walking into the church on her own and how fucking cold the royal family were for putting protocol over basic humanity and forcing Meghan’s mother to sit completely alone. More than anything else, what struck me was how absolutely in love those two people were. This element was completely missing from the marriage of Harry’s parents and largely missing from his brother’s wedding. It was incredible.

harry meghan

Look at his face. He can’t believe how fucking lucky he is.

Of course Harry was not going to tolerate his wife being tormented by the tabloids. Of course he would decide, fuck protocol, and sue the bastards. As he said in the powerful statement he released at the time, “Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.

And now, of course, Harry is choosing his wife and their happiness over the goldfish bowl. Good on ya, mate.

Lay low with Meghan and Archie for a year. Okay, yes, keep working with the organisers and turn up in public in the Hague in May for the 2020 Invictus Games (to remind the British press what a useful, thoughtful chap you are), but, other than that, lay low. Breathe. Just be.

Good luck to you both.

From → Columns

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