• Fri. Jun 17th, 2022

The Queen loses control as Prince William breaks silence over Harry

Mar 12, 2021

He doesn’t have Che Guevara’s intensely sexy 1000-yard stare and, thank god, he’s never attempted to wear a beret in public but on Thursday, Prince William became the royal family’s equivalent to Che Guevara, a not-so-dashing revolutionary willing to go break ranks and chart his own radical path.
The scene for William’s insurgency was hardly a bloody battlefield but a school in East London where he and Kate were promoting a mental health initiative for children.
As the Duke, face mask firmly in place, moved past the waiting media, a journalist loudly asked him, “And can you just let me know, is the royal family a racist family, Sir?” Without breaking his stride the 38-year-old replied, “We are very much not a racist family.”
BOOM.
Or should I say clunk or crack.
That sound you just heard? Priceless porcelain smashing as the Queen at Windsor Castle and Prince Charles at his Gloucestershire home Highgrove House heard the Prince’s comments and their just dropped tea cups, their gobs (with an aristocratic bearing mind) wide open in disbelief (well, I’m guessing.)
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With eight short words, William has managed to, with Che Guevara-worthy cunning break ranks with the palace and open up a new, public battlefront.
On Monday this week, William’s brother and sister-in-law Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a prime time TV special which dramatically and excruciatingly pulled back the curtain on royal life.
During the bombshell interview, the couple accused the palace of both shocking cruelty when the Duchess was experiencing suicidal thoughts and of racism, saying that an unnamed relative had raised “concerns” about their unborn son’s skin colour before his birth in 2019.
The world stared, slack-jawed, as the Sussexes painted a picture of a rot at the heart of the monarchy and in a scant two hours plunged the palace into its biggest crisis since the death of the brothers’ mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.
The house of Windsor’s 21st century moment of reckoning was here. Thanks Oprah!
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And then the world waited. And waited. And went to sleep. And waited some more, to see how Buckingham Palace would respond to such cataclysmic charges.
And finally, nearly 40 hours after the Sussexes’ prime time close up aired in the US, the palace put out a scant 61-word statement that very politely challenged the couple’s assertions, saying that they were “saddened” and “some recollections may vary” of events. This situation, the statement said, would be “addressed … privately”.
The palace’s strategy was straight out of the courtiers’ dog-eared playbook: The royal family would try and, as they have done approximately 87 times beforehand, brazen this crisis out, politely waiting for the squall to pass.
By trying to haul this current saga back behind the palace gates, they were trying to douse the raging inferno of public anger and controversy, a strategy whose likelihood of success is dubious at best.
Throughout the week, the entire clutch of them – the Queen, Charles, his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the Cambridges, and Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex – maintained a full slate of official engagements, putting on a concerted show of unity.
‘We’re industriously getting on with the job at hand and working hard for Her Majesty’s subjects!’ was the collective Windsor message, ‘Not like those self-declared victims Sussexes and their California whingin’!’
RELATED: Glaring question Oprah didn’t ask
However, then we get to the events overnight when William, with his eight little words, managed to undermine that strategy, breaking ranks with the palace’s carefully crafted line.
On the most glaring level, in answering the racism question, the second-in-line to the throne has only stoked the global media fires, giving even more oxygen to this entire sad saga.
But, more importantly what he has done is defied the studied, carefully crafted stance that the Queen and Charles are trying to maintain to go his own impassioned route.
Here’s the thing: the royal family doesn’t do spontaneity in the same way they don’t do hugs or off-the-rack suits. William, I’d wager, didn’t just impulsively decide enough is enough and – unable to restrain himself – decided to answer the unnamed journalist’s questions.
Rather, the Duke’s Kensington Palace team would have been fully aware that the full Fleet Street contingent would be at the East London school to see the Duke and Duchess do their Duke and Duchess-y thing, nodding politely and banging on about worthy causes.
Likewise, the particularly succinct, sound bite-worthy quality of his rejoinder would, again I’d argue, add weight to the argument that this was not an off-the-cuff, can’t-keep-his-lips-zipped moment.
After all, royal life is one of ceaseless, carefully calibrated control.
Previously this week, Charles and Camilla stepped out in London to thank the National Health Service and the Ministry of Defence for the vaccine rollout, their smiles never slipping, textbook-worthy examples of royalty in precise, unfaltering action.
If they had wanted to offer a line or two to the press, they had ample opportunity.
The biggest loser out of William’s public intervention here is the Queen, and to a lesser extent, Charles. The unfortunate impression today is that the 94-year-old monarch has lost control of her grandson who is now charting his own course of action to try and retaliate against the global firestorm the Sussexes have unleashed.
Part of the Queen’s losing the reins here may come down to the fact that Prince Philip, long the family’s disciplinarian, is currently in his fourth week in a London hospital. Without his iron fist keeping the house of Windsor rabble in line, the troops seem to have slipped the leash and are doing what they want. (The HRHs have taken over the asylum?)
The fact William decided to overtly, and in front of cameras, very clearly go against the line his grandmother and father are vainly trying to hold suggests that Charles too lacks any sort of substantial hold over the royal house. Clearly he will not be stepping into his father’s steely shoes.
William’s comments augur badly for Palace cohesion.
If the Queen or Charles can’t keep the royal troops in line then the coming months and years will see the various royal houses scattering off willy nilly and doing whatever they fancy, rather than collectively pulling in one focused, considered direction.
Five days after Harry and Meghan’s PR blitzkrieg, one thing seems increasingly likely: Mayhem.
There’s a certain irony here: In William doing what he thinks is best, rather than docilely following the party line, he is showing a growing streak of wiley independence.
How very Harry and Meghan of him.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.