Prince Harry: ‘Very difficult’ to remove peerage says expert
Each reaching out to touch the hearts and minds of a new generation of followers and reshape the world after the pandemic is finally over. The past year has seen the emergence of a struggle by Prince William and Prince Harry to find a bigger voice, a bigger audience. On one side of the Atlantic, Harry signs up with media giants Netflix and Spotify to maximise his followers.
On the other, William employs more traditional methods in his attempts to help reshape our battered world.
So who’s winning?
Since that abrupt departure from the royal scene a year ago, Harry has refused to be silenced. He agreed to drop his HRH title and strip the word royal from his website as part of the terms of his severance package.
But he inherited his mother’s campaigning zeal and sees no reason not to carry on the good work, at a different level and in a different way. Just as his mother declared her ambition to be Queen of Hearts, it would appear Harry wants to be a prince of the world, not just the UK.
William’s ambitions appear lower, more localised but more focused – and, if anything, the media battle which has bubbled up between the sparring brothers has sharpened his game.
Interestingly, the tone of their messages has switched.
Kate, Wills and family visit panto to thank key workers
Once Harry was cuddly, jokey and blokey; now his video messages have taken on a more distant tone. William was more lordly but has acquired a much greater warmth recently.
A case in point is the Christmas messages. For many, the high point of the royal year was the deftly produced video to accompany William and Kate’s visit to the panto at the London Palladium.
With George, Charlotte and Louis in tow they thanked key workers, and their children, for their part in the struggle against the virus. But they joyfully maximised the event by using lottery money and the famous Hamleys toy shop to create a mini-drama where “elves” raced to the store and brought back presents in real time for children at the theatre.
As a way of raising Christmas spirits it was a masterpiece, glittering with goodwill and topped off by William and Kate reciting the verses which narrated the story.
Harry and Meghan talked about the global crisis of online misinformation
It was the culmination of a triumphant tour of England, Scotland and Wales on the royal train where the Duke and Duchess again thanked key workers.
This was a simple, unflashy, journey which generated positive vibes everywhere and brought the vital message in person to workers that their efforts are truly appreciated by the Queen and her family.
Last year, Harry dressed up as Santa and sent out a “ho-ho-ho” video to the Scotty’s Little Soldiers charity for bereaved children. But that magic touch we once saw so much of was replaced this year by the launch of the Archewell charity site which will, in time, support such issues as racial justice, gender equality, climate change and mental health.
At the same time, Harry and Meghan talked about the “global crisis” of online misinformation, followed up by Meghan’s “raw” account of her miscarriage. That brought sympathy from all quarters but some critics argued it was about herself, not others.
Kate Middleton’s 5 Big Question into childhood development was the culmination of nine years’ work
Without doubt the Sussexes have chosen important issues but the way they are presented has set a different tone. Put simply, William and Kate have followed the traditional royal path of engaging with people on the ground – meeting and greeting, making themselves visible.
It may not be hi-tech, and it may not speak of the same lofty ambitions as Harry and Meghan, but it is popular and gathers support for their cause.
Kate’s 5 Big Questions into childhood development was the culmination of nine years’ work.
It demonstrated, in its low-key way, a level of consistent support for an important cause which did not demand a spotlight permanently shining on its initiator. And the recent decision to bring their children to the fore has strengthened the Cambridges’ position. The whole idea of a Royal Family is to reflect the family life of the nation, and William and Kate’s restrictive attitude towards sharing their children’s upbringing with the nation was seen by some as over-protective and, at times, selfish.
That’s all changed and we can hope to see more of the children in the months and years ahead.
By comparison Harry and Meghan’s shielding of son Archie is understandable – as so much of their life in California is in the spotlight – but the lack of images of the lad has dismayed many.
Meanwhile, what of the Princes’ father? Charles responded nimbly to the pandemic with video calls and personal visits, ably supported by Camilla. Indeed both Royals, now well into their 70s, flourished with the new media challenges coming their way.
But when it comes to visions of rebuilding the world, the focus in 2021 will be on William and Harry.
Will it be Harry, with the bigger global audience, who wins the game of thrones – or William, with the bigger message?
• Christopher Wilson is a royal biographer who has written about the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.