For years, there’s been a very morbid energy around the entire British royal family. I’m a realist, so I understand why people speak openly about what will happen after the Queen dies and I only find that stuff (funeral arrangements, the succession) slightly macabre and mostly fascinating. But the energy around everything to do with the late Princess Diana is really something. On one hand, you have the Duchess of Cambridge doing these superficial “homages” to Diana, which becomes even weirder because Kate is truly nothing like Diana, and Kate only wants the Diana imagery and nothing else. Then there’s this: today is Prince Harry’s 36th birthday. Diana had just turned 36 about two months before she died in Paris in 1997. Now “36” has become some kind of marker for the royal family? It’s very strange and this entire Vanity Fair piece reads as somewhat threatening and morbid, like Prince Harry is going to die soon because he’s 36 now. The VF piece was written by Katie Nicholl, of course. Some highlights:
Omid Scobie on Harry’s birthday and how he’s carrying on his mother’s legacy: “I would call it destiny,” said Omid Scobie, coauthor of the recent Finding Freedom. “This is a man who said he wanted to continue his mother’s work. We’ve long mourned Diana’s place on the humanitarian landscape, and here we have Harry, who embodies her values and is willing to dedicate his life to them. He’s at an age now where he’s taken that baton and is able to run with it in a way that he would never have been able to do within the House of Windsor. That’s very powerful and exciting.”
Harry is happy. Harry is said to be “happier than ever.” Scobie again:“Here is a man who’s very content and happy with his marriage, his family life, and thriving within his professional life. This is the moment he can sit back and think, ‘I made it.’ He has found his happiness.”
Ingrid Seward seethes: “He can celebrate his birthday on a high,” said royal commentator and author Ingrid Seward. “He’s embracing his new life and everything is an adventure right now. He has moved on very quickly, and I don’t think he misses his old life at all.”
Finding Meghan gave Harry purpose: “In Meghan, Harry has met a woman who meets him on many levels,” said Scobie. “They share the same ideals and wishes for the world. Meghan gets criticized for a lot, but one can’t knock her authenticity when it comes to wanting change and giving back. This is more than a marriage. It’s a couple on a philanthropic journey together, with the same goals. Harry has always said he wanted a teammate, and now he has one. Meghan brings things to the table, things Harry hasn’t been familiar with—Hollywood, for a start.”
Diana always wanted to move to America: While Harry’s departure from the royal family is still a sore spot, Diana would likely have been one of the few family members to approve of the move, according to Seward, who knew the late princess. “Diana often spoke about wanting to move to America; Harry’s actually done it,” she said. “I’m still surprised, though, that Harry has left Britain. I know he has always hated the media and quite often hated being a prince, but I never thought he would leave his homeland. He’s always been such a lover of British life, polo, the countryside, the shooting, Scotland. That said, with Harry it’s all or nothing, and it always has been. He doesn’t do anything by halves. He’s always done things differently. As a boy, people at the palace would say, ‘Harry’s Harry, he does his own thing,’ and he always has.”
The point of no return: The sight of 12-year-old Harry walking behind his mother’s coffin in her funeral procession is now a very distant memory. As Diana’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson notes, as a 36-year-old man and an ex-pat, Harry now finds himself being viewed very differently. “Having reached the same age at which his mother died, Harry has arrived at a point of no return,” Jephson said. “A life on the American public stage is now his destiny unless he decisively turns away from it. The time to do so is fast running out. We must hope—as Princess Diana surely would—that he has weighed his options wisely.”
It’s true that Diana loved coming to America, and she thought that a move to America might be in her future following her divorce. I think it was Tina Brown who wrote (in The Diana Chronicles) that Diana, at 36, was divorced and free and realizing that Hasnat Khan didn’t want to marry her, so she just wanted someone who would take care of her and take her away from the Windsors. Maybe if she had met some rich American dude (George Clooney, perhaps), she would have run off to America too. All that being said, the tone of all of these Harry-Diana comparisons come across as unsettling, like a vague threat. Harry found freedom by the age of 36, just like his mother. And then Diana’s freedom was cut short. Don’t even put that out in the universe.
PS… I honestly just realized that Harry proposed to Meghan on or around her 36th birthday too. THAT is quite something, isn’t it? 36 represents freedom, let’s just go with that.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red, Backgrid.