Prince Harry faces fraught return to Britain for Prince Philip's funeral but Queen 'will try to heal rift'

Prince Harry faces fraught return to Britain for Prince Philip's funeral but Queen 'will try to heal rift'

THE sheer pleasure of being with Prince Harry was obvious from Prince Philip’s smile.

For years the courageous, no-nonsense ex-naval commander had watched with pride as his grandson carved a successful career in the British Army.

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Finally, Philip believed in 2015, Harry’s brave service fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan had established the young man’s true purpose in life: duty to his country and loyalty to the Queen.

Ever since Princess Diana’s death, Philip, the moderniser and maverick, had nurtured Harry to follow in his own footsteps.

The Army, Philip believed, would give Harry the security, comradeship and the purpose he needed to shrug off the horrors of his mother’s death.

And then, in 2019, Philip was aghast when it all went wrong.
Instead of serving as a hard-working member of the Royal Family, Harry fled to California. Rather than witness the divorce negotiations during the infamous Sandringham summit, Philip was photographed driving away.

Over the following months, Philip was mystified why Harry spoke in Californian psycho-babble about spirituality and his inner self.

Just why, wondered the 99-year-old polymath, had Harry gone off the rails?


Fortunately Philip, in his final weeks, was probably not told the full details of Harry’s disloyal defiance against his family uttered during his TV interview with Oprah Winfrey.

There will no doubt be focus at Philip’s funeral in Windsor about Harry’s reunification with the grieving family he has not seen for more than a year.

Poignantly, Philip’s funeral service will be held in St George’s chapel where, in 2018, the world watched Harry and Meghan’s spectacular wedding.

The ecstatic cheers as Philip followed the beloved couple into the Windsor sunlight have now become a sour memory.

In self-defence, Harry has tried to explain his unhappiness. He believed it started in 1997 when he was forced to walk behind Diana’s coffin to Westminster Abbey.

No 12-year-old, he said, should have experienced that public ordeal. And Philip was blamed. He encouraged William and Harry to march in front of the world.




In Philip’s mind, the young princes’ most public display was expected just as suppressing emotions was essential — even for a 12-year-old. Self-pity was unacceptable to Philip, a self-indulgence which appalled a man who believed: “Get on with it.”

After all, Philip had suffered similar anguish growing up in a foreign country without his parents and without a permanent home — cast as an 18-month-old baby as a refugee from Greece.

In Philip’s case, the trauma of youth was his making.

The same fractured childhood, Philip imagined, would produce the same resilience in Harry — and be a mutual bond.

Always finding a sanctuary in Buckingham Palace, Harry forged, as a teenager, an intimate relationship with his grandparents.

Philip could rightly claim that he tried to help Diana through the worst of her misery. She kept his handwritten letters to her with other precious secrets in a locked mahogany box.


The Queen gave Harry love and a refuge from the barriers with his father, Prince Charles.

For a time, Philip watched Harry lose his way and his dignity. Throughout his own life, curiosity and intensive reading had helped Philip win worldwide plaudits for his achievements.

It is rumoured that he was disappointed by Harry’s refusal to take over the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. To Philip, his grandson appeared to be neither practical nor endowed with a thirst for knowledge. But eventually, Harry learned from Philip to love sport, shooting, the countryside and military service.

Philip’s true grit was a model for young Harry. Watching his grand-father race a polo pony, fly helicopters and champion military service steered Harry away from Chelsea’s sin bins towards the start of a fulfilling career.

Like Philip, Harry found his soul in the Army. Being an action man appealed — and he excelled.

Just like Philip, Harry’s endearing character and unpretentious personality crushed any suspicion among his troops.

 

His unpompous, earthy manner in Helmand won Captain Wales — as Prince Harry was known — widespread praise.

Forced to leave the Army in 2015, he had, with his grandfather’s encouragement, matured. He understood his unique opportunity to benefit mankind.

Inspired by Philip, he created the successful Invictus Games and an African charity for animals and the environment. Delighted by his transformation, Philip passed on to Harry in 2017 the title of Captain General of the Royal Marines.

“Don’t cock it up,” Philip ordered his grandson.

Unfortunately, by then, the seeds of destruction had just been sown. Meghan Markle’s introduction into the Royal Family at best bemused Philip.

Three of his children had been divorced and all four had attracted horrific media headlines.


Some blamed Philip for his unsympathetic parenting skills. He was not in a position to warn Harry that a Californian divorced actress was unlikely to sacrifice everything to unselfishly serve Britain as a minor royal.

In any case, Harry was unwilling to listen to any advice. One year later, Philip witnessed Harry flee across the Atlantic.

Ensconced in California, Harry’s contacts with his grandparents inevitably became strained.

In declining health, Philip lacked patience for a man who abandoned his duty, his country and his family. Naturally, as a grandparent, he was pleased to see his great-grandson Archie on Zoom calls playing on a sunlit lawn.

But, with decades of experience, he suspected that Harry’s new life would end in disaster.

Now, Harry faces a moment of reckoning. The negotiations for his return to Britain for the funeral are certain to be fraught.


Not least because he has trashed some of his family on TV.  

Many are angered by Harry and Meghan’s accusations of racism.

Charles for being accused by Harry of cutting off his finances and refusing to take his calls and William because of Meghan’s accusation that Kate made her cry just before her wedding.

The tension will not be helped by the small number of mourners allowed at the funeral — just 30 because of Covid restrictions.

Much will depend on whether Charles and William are willing to seek reconciliation.

That will depend on Harry himself. If he arrives as a self-righteous, unapologetic warrior, he risks sealing a permanent divorce from his family.


If, in the sight of Philip’s coffin and his grieving grandmother, he is contrite, he might begin to rebuild a relationship with Charles and William.

Philip would have been the first to advise his grandson that he will never find permanent peace and happiness estranged from his family, just relying on Hollywood’s superficial celebrities.

Much will depend on the Queen. Undoubtedly mortified by Harry’s disloyalty, her prime focus will be saying farewell to her husband.

Thereafter, if Harry decides to stay in Britain for a few days, she will undoubtedly use the opportunity to broker peace.

 

The death of a loved one is always a reason to urge the living to forgive and love one another.

Hopefully, her children will agree that would be in the best interest of the Royal Family, the country and Harry himself.

  • TOM Bower is the author of Rebel Prince, a biography of Prince Charles.

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