OPINION - Emily Sheffield: Prince Harry’s big achievement is the Invictus Games: now he’s spoiling it

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OPINION - Emily Sheffield: Prince Harry’s big achievement is the Invictus Games: now he’s spoiling it
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Prince Harry just blew the best chance he had at repairing his reputation. It doesn’t matter that he believes it’s not his responsibility to fix the damage he sees foisted upon him — by the media, by dark forces among royal courtiers, and character clashes in his close family. This was his moment to lay claim to the crowning achievement of his working life to date, the Invictus Games.

Instead in a cringe-making interview with NBC, he threw any hint of newly found mature discipline to the wind and allowed the old demons to run riot. The possibility of headlines praising his resilience and the powerful message of Invictus were swiftly buried in the wreckage of the emotional car crash that is the royal family.

I’m no Harry and Meghan basher. Without doubt the media is vicious when it sets its sights on a quarry, especially when that quarry has fightback. And as a mother of two sons, I have never forgotten the image of that young boy, in his oversized suit, walking behind Diana’s coffin. And I don’t doubt the “grey suits” in the palace have done their fair share of divisive meddling as well as aiding the Queen. But in that interview, Harry was only harming himself.

For readers who have not watched the footage, let me first make clear most of it is an absolute bore fest. But amongst the “chats” there were clearly plenty of mini grenades. He had tea with the monarch, to “make sure she’s protected and got the right people around her”. Boom. Even if interpretations have been overtly negative, it was deeply patronising to the Queen and an obvious gaslight to the media.

Next up, how he now considers America his home. Fine, but then came the “woe is me” dig, how they’d been welcomed “with open arms”. He acknowledged how negatively this would be interpreted. Poke, poke like a small boy shoving a stick into a bee’s nest or picking away at an old scab. Then there were the “security” issues mentioned and how he and grandmother talked about topics together no one else did. Riling to the rest of the royals. Silence on whether he missed his dad and brother. It went on…

Defending yourself or worse, reviving old battles is exhausting and often makes you look like the victim, not the eventual victor. Harry is too mired in hurt and anger to maintain the discipline of dignified silence, which he absolutely should unless he has something positive to say.

What he could have done while in the Netherlands was pay closer attention to those competing at the games, the servicemen and women whom he has done so much to help. They talked of their determination to not let horrific loss prevent the arc of achievement they had begun when serving their country. Legs severed, wheelchair-bound, eyesight gone… but nothing was stopping them living a full life.

There is a brilliant book, The Confident Mind, by Dr Nate Zinsser, who has directed the performance psychology unit at the US Military Academy for nearly 30 years. Some of the Invictus competitors may have read it and had similar army training. Zinsser points out that while much has been written about the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress, much less has been said about post-traumatic growth, “the process of finding a new appreciation for life and a greater sense of purpose following adversity”.

Developed in the Nineties, PTG theory holds that people who endure psychological struggle can often see positive growth afterward. The ability “to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances” was identified by psychologist Viktor Frankl as “the last of human freedoms”. What Zinsser sets out is how to develop that disciplined approach.

With every interview we saw with those incredible men and women, this hard-won fortitude shone through. I don’t see a villain in Harry as many do. If you read the whole script of his interview, there also emerges a relatively young man still trapped by the traumatic events of his past. Equally, you can discern he’s battling to get out. The Invictus Games, his move to America, his work on mental health, are the massive positives to the negatives of his continued gripes. Let’s hope he goes for more PTG.

Who doesn’t want to dream that in a few years’ time he could host an Invictus Games in Ukraine. In the meantime, perhaps palace courtiers could do the Queen a favour and anonymously send him Zinsser’s book?

Did Boris wilfully lie to the House? That’s it

Yesterday evening Tory MPs finally did the right thing. Against expectation, Boris Johnson has been referred by MPs to a parliamentary investigation by the privileges committee into whether he deliberately misled the Commons over Downing Street parties.

We had been led to believe that Johnson would at some point face justice if found to have knowingly broken his own laws and lied to Parliament about it. Instead, we got prevarication.

When the PM got a fine, his cabinet rushed to defend him, while much of the country branded him a liar. It seemed that even if he had purposely misled Parliament, a resigning matter, the great Houdini was going to escape. There will always be arguments about what happened.

All that matters is whether our elected leader lied to the House. That we cannot allow to pass. Preserving trust in our parliamentary institution is an absolute must.

Cutting costs? Does Netflix go, or Amazon?

The cost-of-living crisis is taking a bite out of Netflix subscriptions, as we wean ourselves off the sofa addictions of the pandemic.

Like many, in a cost-cutting exercise I went through ours, to discover with horror that we were signed up to every content streamer — Disney, Amazon, Apple, Sky, Netflix… Now a family row has begun on what gets chopped (I’m loving Sienna Miller in Netflix’s rather awful Anatomy of a Scandal, so that’s my vote).

Most surprising was the discovery that despite my Peloton running machine being collected a year ago, we are still being charged. That’s one easy budget fix.

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