Sunday 20 August 2017

Comment: Prince Harry's ordinary Christmas wish is a world away from average

While the rest of us strive to create magical memories, princes William and Harry want an average experience

Prince Harry arrives for the unveiling of the dedication to The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy and Arbour Day Fair at Queen Victoria Park Botanical Gardens on the third day of an official visit on November 22, 2016 in St John's, Antigua and Barbuda.
Prince Harry arrives for the unveiling of the dedication to The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy and Arbour Day Fair at Queen Victoria Park Botanical Gardens on the third day of an official visit on November 22, 2016 in St John's, Antigua and Barbuda.
Meghan Markle
Prince Harry attends a reception hosted by Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda on November 21, 2016 in Barnacle Point, Antigua. Prince Harry's visit to The Caribbean marks the 35th Anniversary of Independence in Antigua and Barbuda and the 50th Anniversary of Independence in Barbados and Guyana. (Photo by Paul Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Eamon de Valera took what seemed a romantic view on King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson: ‘Why can’t the King marry the woman he loves?’ Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage
Prince Harry visits Sumara Village in the Guyana Hinterland on day 13 of an official visit to the Caribbean
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte wave as they leave from Victoria Harbour to board a sea-plane on the final day of their Royal Tour of Canada
ALTERNATE REALITY: Wax models of the British royal family wear Christmas jumpers in a display at Madame Tussauds in London. Photo: Jonathan Hordle/REX/Shutterstock
Prince Harry was on royal duty yesterday when he led the UK’s Armistice Day commemorations in Staffordshire. Photo: PA

Sarah Caden

For the ordinary person, an ordinary Christmas is not something for the Santa list. Christmas, for your ordinary person, is the time of year when we strive for exceptional. Meanwhile, if you happen to be a prince, all you want for Christmas is to be ordinary.

Picture-perfect ordinary, admittedly, but ordinary all the same. We could tell them, of course, that ordinary is overrated and that the only thing that gets the rest of us through the winter is this good-old-keeping-up-with-the-Joneses party season.

Last week, Prince Harry's American girlfriend Meghan Markle arrived in London so they could spend some pre-Christmas time together. She will not be spending the season itself in Sandringham, it has been reported, as the Queen invites only the established partners.

No great loss for actress Meghan, perhaps, as this is the old-guard Royal Christmas. And what she and Harry had last week was the modern regal experience. Which is a sort of souped-up, almost Hollywood version of what Christmas is.

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle

Last week marked the first time Harry and Meghan were photographed in public together. They were spotted early in the week in a high-end hipsterish Christmas-tree shop, where they were observed giggling and snuggling as they chose a tree.

"They were just doing cute, couple-y stuff, like making each other laugh and being excited," said the woman who sold them the tree. "Just lots of touching and laughing. They were just like any other couple."

Most couples will testify that this is not quite the ordinary tree-buying experience, which is generally a little fraught with issues such as one person imagining they live in a bigger house than they do, one person being peeved about having to wreck their car with the scratchy tree, and both people wondering if an artificial tree might be an idea for next year.

Harry and Meghan went for a 6ft non-shedder apparently. That's Christmas sorted and the staff left hanging with nothing to do, not even some hourly pine-needle sweeping to keep them busy.

Harry put the tree under his arm and walked home with it, reportedly, because that's what ordinary people do. Well, in Christmas movies, anyway.

Later last week, Harry and Meghan were photographed together going to see a performance of the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Again, observers at the theatre commented on how they were just like any other couple. Which is the ultimate compliment you can pay the young Windsors.

Prince Harry arrives for a visit to the Double Jab Boxing Club to support Sport for Social Development initiatives on June 6, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Harry arrives for a visit to the Double Jab Boxing Club to support Sport for Social Development initiatives on June 6, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In the same week that Harry and Meghan were striving to mark themselves out as the most ordinary royal romance, Kate Middleton was at the panto with her children. Oh yes she was. Well, according to the choreographer at the Thursford Christmas Spectacular in Norfolk, close to the Middleton family home.

"So lovely the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and Princess Charlotte very much enjoyed watching our teddy bears followed by hugs #xmas," wrote Tracey Iliffe online.

Again, they were just so ordinary. Like any other family. Bar the fact that you might not bother to share the presence of any other family. And bar the fact that these days, any other ordinary family would probably be madly sharing online their presence at the show, thus showing off just how spectacular a season they were enjoying.

To be ordinary these days, oddly, is to be constantly drawing attention to oneself and sharing your every special experience. The efforts of a Windsor trying to fly below the radar are characterised by attempting to blend in and be the same as everyone else. Which is, quite simply, impossible.

Further, as most people would happily tell William, Harry and their significant others, being ordinary is overrated. Really. Observe how hard everyone ordinary strives to be different and better and elite and then think again.

Of course, we ordinary folk know that the princes' attempts at regular are far from it. They're a sort of souped-up ordinary, free of financial worries or career agonies, secure and comfortable and cosseted and cushioned all around with the company of people much like themselves. They have an idea of what ordinary is, but it's not like yours or mine.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte wave as they leave from Victoria Harbour to board a sea-plane on the final day of their Royal Tour of Canada
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte wave as they leave from Victoria Harbour to board a sea-plane on the final day of their Royal Tour of Canada

And the foundation of their desire for normality isn't so much that they want our dull workaday lives so much as that William and Harry really want to break the cycle of their childhoods. They pin all that is ill in their lives on the degree to which their late mother was scrutinised and they don't want that. Not for themselves, not for their partners, not for their children.

So, they eschew the near arranged marriage of their parents, they eschew the formality and the royal rules of engagement. They are writing their own rules, which include, in this oversharing, overexposed age, trying to live, as much as possible, away from prying eyes. Whether this works out for them, though, remains to be seen.

Certainly, William is doing a fine, fine job of making himself as uninteresting as possible.

The once-dashing golden-haired young man is now a less exciting prospect, and not just because of the Windsor male-pattern baldness that he can't be blamed for. He dresses like a door-to-door salesman of old and tends towards the rather pained facial expression of his father these days.

Everything about William screams "nothing to see here" and despite her prettiness, Kate is on board with the high-speed descent into middle age mediocrity.

Their official trip to Canada with the children delighted Royal fans, but the couple made it clear that Prince George and Princess Charlotte won't be on display again for quite some time. They want the children to have an upbringing more closely resembling Kate's than William's, and that, obviously, includes the local Middleton panto.

When he wrote his public statement earlier this year, essentially stating that he wanted to protect and preserve his love affair with Meghan, Harry laid down a marker. He's aiming for an ordinary love. No glass slippers, no happy ever after, just date nights and tree-shopping and, you know, a regular Christmas.

Which is a contradiction in terms, of course. Christmas is as irregular a time as can be, and that's how we like it. And it's how we'd like our princes, too, if they'd only rise to the occasion.

Sunday Independent

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