By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by The Royal Family Channel©
“Our world’s greatest assets are threatened every day and it is so important that we support local communities to safeguard every element of this incredible world.”
These are the words of Prince Harry as he stood before a crowd of 12,000 young people at the WE Day UK Conference. He stated that Climate change is a humanitarian issue, not a political one and that “every forest, every river, every ocean, every coastline, every insect, every wild animal. Every blade of grass, every ray of sun and every rain drop is crucial to our survival.”
Inspiring words for a generation consistently described in millennial terms as ‘woke.’ But one has to wonder, did the Duke of Sussex think about these ‘right on’ statements when he was polluting the very climate he so passionately campaigned to protect, by taking a private Helicopter to a number of engagements just two-days prior?
Did he think back to his own experiences as a twenty-something Royal tearaway, when he stated in the same speech: “You don’t judge someone based on how they look, where they’re from, or how they identify.” Was there any reflection on his current position as a public figure when he also said: “Every day you are inundated with an overexposure of advertising and mainstream media, social media and endless comparisons, distorting the truth, and trying to manipulate the power of positive thinking. But you don’t let them sway you.”
With the swagger befitting a self-righteous Hollywood star and not an engaged member of the Royal Family, I am inclined to say – no.
Now, none of us can stand at the altar of perfection, of never making a mistake. And, unlike many celebrities, most of us never preach from it too. Our sermons don’t patronise or paint ourselves as saintly. So, it is astonishing that Prince Harry, aka the former Party Prince willingly chooses to.
Harry unsurprisingly has a very chequered past when it comes to his public life, and whilst it is unfair to hold past mistakes against someone, it is also wrong to speak from a platform pretending they don’t exist.
The Duke spoke passionately about climate change, yet two days before, readily took a Helicopter from London to Birmingham (just 125 miles) at the cost of £6000. The trip, which would have come with a hefty carbon footprint, was for two engagements commemorating the appalling terror attack in Tunisia. But, our eco-warrior Prince could have taken the same trip on the train, from Euston to Birmingham New Street for a lot less cost, and most importantly reduced his polluting carbon footprint by 90%. It also seemed to slip his mind that his wife, Meghan took a private Jet to attend her ostentatious, and heavily criticised £300,000 baby shower.
Harry spoke about the importance of respect for others, irrespective of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. Great! Another inspiring and current message. Yet in 2006, Harry was ordered to attend an equality and diversity course by the Army after being recorded making racist comments. In the clip, the Prince stated Asian soldier Ahmed Raza Khan was his “little Paki friend.” Another video emerged later showing a 21-year-old Harry saying to another cadet: “F*** me, you look like a rag-head.”
‘Woke’ Harry finished this particular segment of his speech by exclaiming to be “mindful of the 7.7billion other humans that inhabit this planet.” I wonder if he felt the same in 2005, when the then 20-year-old Party Prince attended a fancy-dress-party wearing a Nazi costume? Was he “mindful” of the fact that the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was two-weeks later?
He emphasised the importance of protecting every animal. Presumably every animal, besides the water buffalo he shot and killed in an organised hunt in Argentina during a “gap year” in 2004?
Many will argue that these are historic experiences; that Harry is now a changed man, matured beyond the careless and rebellious Party Prince of old. And whilst aspects of that may be true, it is unfair on the 12,000 strong audience, for him to act as if they never happened. Most of the youngsters in that audience would’ve been unaware of the controversies Harry willingly self-inflicted in his early years, and I can’t help but feel that the Prince missed an advantageous trick here.
What would have been truly inspiring, was if Harry embraced the mistakes of his past. To show how someone with a capacity of destruction can transform into someone willing to be the solution. But he didn’t, instead he continued with the opposite game, one which he has played since the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana. The blame game. And for Harry there has only ever been one opponent – the media.
To an extent, it is understandable why the 34-year-old Prince has such an aversion to the mainstream media. Their treatment of Diana, especially in her later years was appalling. But, the People’s Princess actively fed into this toxic relationship. She keenly engaged with journalists, dropping hints here and there. And whilst it all ended in tragic circumstances, the media cannot and should not be solely to blame.
Harry doesn’t see it this way, and perhaps a lack of intervention from the Royals is to blame for his attitude. The media has reported on the Royal Family for decades, both the good and the bad. Harry seems to not understand that, any negative article is an attempt to bring him down, and in his speech at WE Day UK, that lack of understanding entered new unchartered waters, the ones where even the sturdiest ships sink.
The Press is vital to the survival of democracy. It is the founding pillar of free speech. To claim otherwise is a dangerous and irresponsible path to tread. You may not agree with what is written, or feel that truths are sometimes twisted, but to actively warn any generations, specifically the younger ones, that the media will “distort the truth, and try to manipulate the power of positive thinking,” is something you would hear from the lips of Vladimir Putin, not the sixth-in-line to the Throne!
It is shameful for Harry to engage, and more so, promote this perilous rhetoric. To make the media the enemy benefits no one, especially public figures like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I would hope that Royal advisors quietly remind the Prince that the Monarchy is much more reliant on the Press, than the Press on the Monarchy. If the sometimes-overwhelming coverage of Harry and Meghan was to suddenly stop, then so would their own relevance.
I don’t think Harry is necessarily a bad man, but I do feel he is one who has truly lost all sense of reality when it comes to his position as a Royal. We expect our Royals to be engaged with the public, to help highlight charities and organisations that would lack the necessary spotlight the Monarchy can provide. But we also expect integrity. To lead with honesty, without the hypocrisy.
You only have to look at the other Royal engagement taking place on the same day as Harry made his ‘sick’ speech.
His brother and sister-in-law were visiting Blackpool and William and Kate’s engagement visiting the degenerated slums on the seafront was said to have horrified the couple. So much so, that William pledged to help solve the problem in “whatever way I can.” He spoke briefly afterwards, stating: “there obviously is a sadder side to Blackpool that we will see a bit of today, and we shouldn’t attempt to skirt around this issue.” He concluded: “a unique problem has also arisen as a result of falling demand for tourist accommodation, which has created an oversupply of what the council now perceive to be extremely low-quality private-rented accommodation.”
No criticism. No political agenda. No attack on the media, or any other organisation. Only constructively highlighting an issue many Blackpool locals have been trying to raise for years. Now, through a future King, their voices have been exemplified louder than ever before. This is the constructive power the Royal Family can have when it is done correctly.
Sadly, for Harry, his speech in where he also attacked the previous generations as ‘frustrating’ and seemingly like “they don’t care,” he obviously hasn’t learnt that you don’t need to lessen other’s experiences to champion everyone else’s. You also need to practice what you preach.
For Harry, I feel that this is a slippery slope to isolation. In today’s society, people don’t want a Prince whose ‘woke’ ideals are placed higher than actions. They don’t want a Duke who attacks when it is unwarranted and is unwilling to acknowledge his imperfections. They don’t want a Harry who is a hypocrite, yet sadly as time goes by, it feels that’s what we’re all getting.