Finally, the news brings us a happy story. Late last night, Melbourne time, news broke that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged. Just when I thought we’d only ever hear about crime, or terrorism, or more news about male predatory behaviour in the show-biz world, we are treated to the wonderful prospect of a Royal Wedding. Ah, it makes us all feel lighter, happier, as if we can go about our days without the shackles and weight of bad news.
But let me be upfront. This is not a place to discuss views on royalty or failed republic referendums. This is not a time where the cost of such a wedding will be debated. If you are opposed to this good news, or feel the need to be negative about it, can I ask that you just back away now? Please? This is good news, which the world sorely needs to hear more of, in my opinion.
Back to the engagement.
This morning when I watched Prince Harry and Ms Markle’s interview, I felt truly happy for them. I couldn’t help but think back over the last thirty-odd years when his mother, Lady Diana, first strode shyly into the world’s view. The news of her engagement to Prince Charles brought her from an unknown kindergarten teacher to the world’s most photographed woman. We all wanted to know more about her, to become like her: countless woman approached their hairdresser asking for a ‘Lady Di’ hair style, or simply copied her fashion choices.
I remember being transfixed to the TV on Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding day, my eleven-year-old eyes wide and mouth agape over the dress. And the train! I’d never before believed a train could be that long. It never occurred to me the weight that Lady Diana was carrying, in both the dress and the train, to say nothing of the expectations of the royal family and society in general. All I noticed was romance, a fairy tale, the belief that one day, everyone’s prince will come and bring with him the chance to live happily ever after (hey, I was only 11).
Later, I watched as Princess Diana stood outside the front doors to the hospital holding her baby boy, Prince William. A year or two later, the same front doors, holding a new baby boy, Prince Harry, with toddler Prince William in tow, too. She looked proud, but still also so shy. The cameras must have been clicking constantly in this young woman’s eyes. And then, even later, I watched with the rest of the world as we came to see it all unravel. The fairy tale was a lie. Princess Diana was miserable in her marriage. She loved those two boys, of that there was never any doubt. In all the photos of her with them both, the love between mother and her sons was almost tangible. But it appeared she could not keep up the show anymore and Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage was over.
Then, tragically and with the world in disbelief, Princess Diana died. In a car accident. In Paris. I watched the news, again transfixed but this time with horror. The funeral, god those two boys, walking bravely behind the coffin and the envelope atop, ‘Mummy’. My heart broke for them. I sobbed.
Princes William and Harry had a great start to their lives, with Diana as their mum. She fought to bring them up as normal as possible, given their status in life. But, as any normal boy would do, I watched as Prince Harry went through a tough time during his late teens and early twenties. It seemed he struggled to find his place – as ‘the spare’ his future was never mapped out as clearly as ‘the heir’. But he came good. Wow, did he come good. The war in Afghanistan, the Invictus games, the work in Africa, the jocular, yet deep bond between two brothers. The respect shown to his sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate. The move from a wild child to the world’s most eligible bachelor. We all wanted him.
I feel as though I watched him grow up, which in a sense I did. But that doesn’t mean I know him, just that weirdly, the man has lived his life like a fish in a bowl – everything has been visible, on display, for the world to see. I feel as though I have a right to wish him and Ms Markle every good thing, every happiness and long-lasting love together.
Prince Harry, you don’t know me at all, but I wish you and Ms Markle all the very best in your life together. You’ve brought back the concept of the fairy tale (and your brother too), even though, collectively, we’re wiser now and we realise that no such thing exists. But if you work hard at your relationship, keep stoking the fire of passion and love and respect, I think you’ve got a great chance of making it real.