Friday 22 March 2019

'I knew Diana and she would've been delighted by this match for Harry'

Prince has gone from strength to strength and his mother would have loved the woman he has married, writes James Colthurst

HOPES AND DREAMS: Diana with the young Harry
HOPES AND DREAMS: Diana with the young Harry

James Colthurst

It may seem presumptuous to second-guess how someone might have felt about a situation, were they here with us today. But having known Diana, Princess of Wales well, I find it hard to imagine she would be anything other than enormously happy about Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle, and extremely proud of her younger son.

The man we saw slip a ring on to the finger of his new wife yesterday has gone from strength to strength: from new recruit to fine soldier, and from soldier to creator and leader of the Invictus Games - from a boy left reeling by the loss of his mother while the whole world watched, to a man who has done great work helping others, improving lives and changing conversations.

Diana said: "I want my boys to have an understanding of people's emotions, their insecurities, people's distress, and their hopes and dreams."

Her wish has clearly been granted. But then, she was always proud of her boys and the way they worked so well together.

Since they lost her, they have continued to do her memory proud. William has taken on his role brilliantly, while Harry has defied the entire concept of the two princes as "heir and spare" and ably forged his own path.

It would have warmed Diana's heart no end to see how her sons supported each other on their wedding days; how both have grown into roles that are not easy, within the constraints of the British establishment.

Harry has his mother's ability to mix across the full spectrum of humanity, his interactions so often characterised by his humour and wit. Diana, likewise, could "tune in" remarkably quickly to complete strangers and show the same sort of empathy that's endeared her son to so many.

Diana, I'm sure, would have been deeply gratified by the fine following he has generated over the past few years, manifested in the public enthusiasm around his wedding.

When asked if his late mother would have approved of Harry's choice of wife, my answer must be: "I feel that she would be thrilled with Meghan."

As one delightful lady from my old home in Ireland put it recently, "That smile, that warmth, she's a real dote" - a high compliment indeed in Cork, and one that sums up the reaction of many.

His bride is a beautiful woman and that would have appealed to Diana.

So too would her confidence and grounding, as someone who has also experienced less easy times in the past.

This was a wedding of so many firsts and like his mother, Harry was never going to follow a strictly traditional path.

One of my early recollections of him dates from a lunch I was having with Diana at Kensington Palace.

Without warning, the door burst open and in charged a young Harry, aged about five or six, festooned with police radios he had "borrowed" from what looked to be the whole of the Kensington Palace police contingent. That sense of fun and mischief has not been lost in the intervening years.

But there's a serious side to him, too.

Aside from his obvious talent for encouraging people to realise abilities they would not otherwise have recognised in themselves, he has a knack for achieving outcomes by taking his own approach. He sets his own targets and sweeps others along with him.

Above all, I think Diana would be hugely proud that Harry has taken what he learnt from her and built on the foundation she helped to lay for him. He has inherited her gift for the human touch and displayed it again and again. Contributing something useful to the world has become one of his great aims, and already he has made a magnificent impact.

His mother would be delighted that he has found a companion who will challenge and support him superbly, so that the strength of their combined team will be far greater than the sum of its parts. Like his brother, he has turned his own misfortune in losing his mother into a life that reflects so well on his country. What more could any parent hope for?

James Colthurst met Diana when she was 17 and remained a close friend until her death in 1997


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