Prince Harry, eh? Naughty Prince Harry. (Pauses to picture ‘Little Harry’.) Tut tut tut.
So, while I’ve been brushing up on my image-enhancing software skills, I’ve been thinking…if the chess-board was to be modernised and the dude on the horse was to be lobbed out in favour of a prince – what would the little fella look like? A noble gent? A mischievous chancer? What is a prince? History is peppered with stories of these privileged sons of Kings. We are taught to read with storybook tales of romantic chaps who save princesses and declare wild vows of love, action heroes who go on adventures and triumph in the name of Good. But what are they, really, real princes?
Are princes men of blue-blood graced with special qualities unattainable by the common man; crown-wearing heirs to a God-given position of power? Or can they be found closer to home? A cherubic son who brings you a daisy with your soup when you’re ill. A brother who lends you his last tenner so you can buy a dress. A boyfriend who burps your name like Tarzan while dive-bombing into a Magaluf pool. Are they princes, if our hearts say they are?
Prince Harry’s antics in a Las Vegas hotel suite had everyone wittering on about what it means ‘to be a prince’. Was it disgusting and disrespectful that he was cavorting naked with girls who didn’t even have a trust fund? Or was it a breath of fresh air to see that our royals are humans with a sense of fun too?
What are princes actually supposed to do anyway? Being a prince is like waiting for a train which might not come. It’s only natural that some of them get a bit bored and play up. It’s like sitting a kid in a room of fun things and saying “don’t touch anything.”
We’ve had all sorts through the ages. Peaceful princes, spiteful princes, mad princes, jolly princes, princes who eat grass and believe they are a goat, princes who fancy their mums, princes who kill their mums, playboys, gluttons, kleptomaniacs, psychotics, loons, dandies and fools – humble, proud, bonkers, enlightened.
Assuming there is no one type of prince, no one type of person, how then do you go about being ‘prince of the people’, when the people decide that’s what princes must be nowadays? What does it actually mean? That we want to be able to take them to the pub and not have them turn their noses up at our penny-saving burping normality? If you took Prince William to a Wetherspoons he’d probably have half the punters signed up to a life of charity-work by last orders while the local drunks sang like redeemed choirboys around a broken piano. Take Prince Harry to a Wetherpoons and he’d probably down a jagerbomb, disappear into the kitchen and come out naked under an apron, shouting “Madras for all! It’s not even Curry Night, but what the hey, chaps! LOOK! I’VE STUCK SOME PESHWARI ON LITTLE HARRY LIKE A COCONUT BERET!” (Then he’d get told off for making an ostentatious gesture using tax-payers’ money. Then if he went out and got a ‘proper job’ and paid for everyone’s curry with his ‘own money’, he’d get told off for abandoning duty and following his own selfish career ambitions.)
Can the Royals ever get it right?
Perhaps the reason we find it such a problem is that there is no such thing as a prince. A prince is the son of a King – a thing men made up once upon a time. Royalty doesn’t really exist – it is not a tangible thing like being a father, or a brother, or a son; real things. It is a name men seized for themselves when they realised it might just work. They declared themselves special, used God’s name to give their claim some welly, built great intimidating castles, surrounded themselves by weapons and warriors, grabbed priority over all the good stuff and got weaker men to do the stuff they didn’t want to do. And it kind of stuck. Except now they don’t bosh us commoners on the head with a ceremonial mallet and kidnap whichever totty they want to marry. They play polo, go to functions, do safe jobs in their country’s wars, cut ribbons, quietly obey heritage, because heritage is history, because history is a story, and the story has to continue somehow. Of course sometimes they don’t know how to behave, just like we sometimes don’t know how to behave. There are no princes, just like there is no one type of person. There are good boys, and naughty boys. Sometimes we like them, and sometimes we don’t. And that is what makes history interesting. It’s all just stories… (and we like the pictures, right?)