Just when I think that Prince Harry can’t possibly become any hotter or more endearing to me than he is, he proves me wrong. I have written before about my embarrassing but unapologetic fangirling over the British royal family, the queen in particular. After the queen, Harry is my favorite royal.
I’ve always found him sexier and more interesting than his nice but dull older bro and heir-to-the-throne, Prince William. I’m practically old enough to be his mother, but that’s beside the point.
Anyone who believes the Windsors are useless, anachronistic, or don’t earn their keep were shut down royally this week with Harry’s public revelation that he had to seek professional counseling to deal with the anguished aftermath of his mother’s tragic death.
I’ve adored Prince Harry since he first stuck his tongue out at the paparazzi like a little redhaired Dennis the Menace. No one who is old enough to remember Princess Diana’s death in a car crash nearly 20 years ago now (I can’t even wrap my brain around that), can erase the image of that dejected 12-year-old boy walking with his father and brother behind his mother’s coffin. His broken heart was etched all over his little face. My heart ached for him, and the picture haunts me still.
It’s why we forgave him when he famously acted out with very un-royal behavior, first with his partying and drug experimentation at prep school, then foolishly wearing that Nazi outfit to a costume party, and (who could forget) playing strip-pool in Vegas.
Harry’s recent openness about his years-long emotional torment and his need to seek therapy is significant for a multitude of reasons. In one fell swoop, he not only dispelled the myth of the British stiff upper lip and broke with royal tradition by acknowledging royalty to be just as human and vulnerable as the rest of us, but made a giant stride in destigmatizing mental health treatment for men. Many Americans may not realize it, but British men are more macho than American men, and Prince Harry is the most macho of all the royal men. Tough guys need to ask for help, too.
By showing that even if you grew up in a palace, you never really get over the premature loss of a parent or any loved one, but grief is instead a lifelong, ever-present state that you have to find a way to cope with the best you can, Harry did more for the motherless and bereaved than a thousand episodes of Dr. Phil ever could.
It’s impossible for me to see these two princes and the good works they do and not think of the pride Diana would take in Harry, William, and Kate, or the joy she would take in her two grandchildren. And can we please give it up to Prince Charles as a parent too? Much has been made of what a good mother Diana was, but Charles never gets any credit for the fine young men William and Harry turned out to be. Raising two teenage children as a single father after the sudden and violent death of a beloved mother is a monumental challenge under the best of circumstances. In the intense scrutiny of the public spotlight, it’s even more impressive of an achievement.
Whatever Charles’s shortcomings as a husband may have been, no one can deny that he’s done something right as a father. When Harry started going down a wayward path with drugs, he resisted a predictable reactionary approach and dealt with it rationally, with successful results. Charles’s own father, Prince Philip, was reportedly a stern disciplinarian and emotionally remote, so perhaps Charles was determined to do things differently with his boys.
I like to think Diana is looking down on Harry today and saying, “Well done.” Her son is a prince of a man.