Voices: My heart bleeds for Prince Harry at the coronation – doesn’t yours?

Voices: My heart bleeds for Prince Harry at the coronation – doesn’t yours?

Never was there a more solitary figure than the King’s second son walking down the aisle alone at the coronation.

If your heart didn’t ache to see Prince Harry – yes, the “spare”, the black sheep, the outlier – taking those brave steps all by himself to sit alongside former friends and relatives after months of acrimony, then it must be made of stone.

Forget what he’s “done”: the tell-all, explosive memoir, the revealing Netflix documentary, the inner circle revelations that have sent shockwaves through the core of the royal family. All I saw was a self-conscious, grim-faced man, in pain, without the comfort of his wife to soften the blow. I can only imagine how tightly he must have been gritting his teeth to do it in the first place.

And while the Duke of Sussex walked into the venue with his cousins, Beatrice and Eugenie, and their respective partners, he could not have looked more lonely.

We all know what it’s like to have to go to a “big event” (a wedding, a family party, a birthday) without your other half – you feel like a part of you is missing. And I’m sure we can all imagine what it would feel like to be without the one person who makes us feel bolstered, bold and confident at a once-in-a-lifetime event – at the same time as your own brother has his wife and children by his side.

It must be a painful wrench indeed for Harry to be without Meghan today.

It is perhaps no surprise that he’s cutting his time in London short – Harry is rumoured to be returning to the US almost immediately after the coronation, after arriving early on Friday morning. He wasn’t even there with the rest of the royal family on the balcony.

But imagine how fast his heart must have been beating, how tough it must have been to keep a perfect poker face throughout the whole affair – could you have done it? I’m not sure I could have. Especially because this marks the first time Harry is seeing his father, brother Prince William, and other members of the royal family since he released his memoir Spare in January; notable for shocking revelations such as claims William physically attacked him, as well as his thoughts on Queen Camilla, his sex life, his drug use and his “kill count” during his time served in the army.

If you’ve ever experienced a family breakdown or estrangement, or even just a savage argument at the dinner table, then you know how much it takes to walk back into the room (yes, even if you’re the one who stormed out of it in the first place). It takes bravery, humility and a good deal of self-awareness to face the music after you’ve caused a right royal fuss. For that, Harry deserves to be commended.

The fact that he turned up in the first place is admirable enough – many wouldn’t have been able to stomach it.

Imagine the eyes of the world, let alone your family, on you and you alone; the whispers and giggles and snide looks. Imagine the poignancy of being relegated to the third row, next to a second cousin of the King, while your brother takes prominence and embraces your father as part of the official pledge of allegiance. Imagine knowing that you could have avoided it all by staying at home with your wife and celebrating your son’s fourth birthday. Archie’s birthday plans apparently include a “low-key” party at the couple’s California residence. Quite a change from a coronation, then.

People blast Harry for “betraying” his family, but his presence at his father’s special day, to my mind, proves the opposite: he’s showing them a great deal of respect, at the expense of his own comfort. Lesser men wouldn’t have gone at all.

We’ve explored before the idea that you might have to “divorce” your family in order to have a successful marriage; have heard the argument that in fact, it’s quite right that Harry chose Meghan and his children Archie and Lilibet over the sense of duty and rigid responsibility that would have kept him stifled and unhappy. Some might argue the bravest thing would have been for Meghan to come to the coronation to be by his side. But had he not split from the establishment – had he remained in Britain, and the couple been made central to proceedings – my guess is we would see a man even more reduced.

What Harry has done today took guts, strength, determination, love – and respect. We should show him the same in return.