And so it should transpire that a young, moderately handsome and not especially bright young man has a) lost his virginity in regrettable fashion b) dabbled in recreational drugs c) had a moderately violent row with a brother of about the same age and d) done what was expected of him in the armed forces.
Woah woah woah. Clear out all the front pages. This is jaw-dropping stuff. Surely all of these entirely plausible incidents can’t be real. Scrape my pieces up off the floor. I am blown away.
The front page of the Daily Mail announces, in its ingenious pun on the title of Prince Harry’s autobiography, “PLEASE SPARE US!” before then devoting almost its entire edition to all of the details which it simultaneously claims to wish to be spared from, in a curious attempt to capture what it imagines to be the public mood: that at this point, Prince Harry simply needs to stop talking about himself for money, and most of all, stop throwing the rest of his family under the proverbial bus.
And maybe they’re right. If you feel you have something important to say, there are ways of saying it that do not necessarily require six hours of Netflix documentary, an autobiography and yet more hyper-extended sit-down interviews. That if the act of making your argument also makes you a hundred million dollars or more, you may find that people do not take your argument altogether seriously.
It has also been explained so many times now how Prince Harry is the new crown prince of all hypocrites. That if he cares so much about press intrusion, and the safety of his family, then he should simply shut up and not continue feeding the beast he claims to loathe. And that’s also true.
But in both cases, only up to a point. Prince Harry has a right to speak. Is it absolutely hypocritical to feed the media beast, if the alternative, as far as you’re concerned, is to have the beast come and eat you? (And as far as he is concerned, the beast, don’t forget, killed his mother.)
Naturally, the outrage generated by Prince Harry’s now almost never-ending public regurgitation of private information manifests itself as a defence mechanism. On one level, many people feel inclined to defend the royal family on an almost patriotic level. Harry is a betrayer, a traitor. And on another, it’s very hard for the media to engage with the aspects of Prince Harry’s life that lay bare how appalling their behaviour has been towards him and his family.
Journalists will instinctively stick up for their trade, even when it’s been up to things that they personally would never dream of doing themselves. This is a universal human failing. Loyalty is a noble characteristic but it is so often misplaced. Dame Cressida Dick’s downfall came because she found herself, with honourable intentions no doubt, protecting the police force more than the public.
The pope that died this week did the same – his instinctive reaction to horrific allegations of sexual assault within the Catholic Church was to protect the generally noble institution of which he was the head, rather than its victims. Some but not all of the media, in much the same way, is looking the other way, rallying around its own. It is not necessarily the honourable course of action.
Prince Harry’s decision to share salacious but ultimately worthless details of his private life has understandably turned him into a figure of ridicule. His decision to announce his kill count in Afghanistan is monstrously stupid. As a former sports columnist, I occasionally rewrote columns through fear of upsetting the hooligan elements of certain football clubs, should said comments ever go viral. Announcing you have killed 25 Taliban soldiers is on quite another level.
But it is hardly surprising such details should be seized upon. Harry’s ultimate mistake has been to pile his own buffet too high. To make it too easy to hide his important points away. That his family is a neurotic mess, that it is in what he calls a mutually parasitic relationship with the tabloid press, and that he has – seemingly deliberately – made it almost impossible to make peace with them again. And making peace with them at some point may be crucial to keeping the whole mad circus on the road.
On Thursday night, I was doing a TV panel show with an American political staffer called Miles Taylor (author of the notorious, anonymous “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration” New York Times op-ed). He said that the relentless Prince Harry news meant that suddenly Americans could “relate” to the royals. That actually they were just a normal family, with kids that do stupid things and brothers that fight each other.
That, one must presume, is the very last thing the family wants. Harry’s titillating but ultimately tedious revelations show him to be exactly what the royals have all always been – absolutely nothing special at all, and that won’t do.