The Royals have nothing to do with us or our fair country, but we’re fascinated by them. But it would be fair to say that Prince Harry, fifth in line to the throne, hasn’t really had a chance to shine until now. He’s always taken a back seat in public life – it’s hard to not follow a beloved power couple like Will and Kate – unless certain Vegas escapades or who he may be dating earn him inches in gossip columns.
He’s had reason to be private. At just 12 years old, he and big brother Will lost their mother, Princess Diana and one of the most adored women in the world at the time, in a tragic accident. I remember the impact. My own mother sobbed as the funeral aired on TV. Dealing with the abrupt loss of their mother under such an intense media spotlight seemed unimaginable. But this weekend, Prince Harry decided to speak out about how exactly it affected him twenty years ago.
He took part in a new mental health podcast set up by The Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon, and this it was no ordinary royal interview.
Harry, in case you thought differently, remains affable despite a life of wealth and privilege. After asking if it’s allowed, he swears (just a bit) and makes a joke or two before admitting that, in his early twenties, he had a problem. He admitted, “I, through a lot of my 20s, was a problem.” But he really wasn’t the problem; any self-confessed problems stemmed from unresolved grief at losing his mother so young, too young. Grief that went repressed for years; refusal to think about his mother, shutting down emotionally. He eventually accepted that he needed counselling, but he struggled to cope, and was “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.”
This news would have surprised few, but in talking so openly about it, he broke down barriers. And it matters.
It matters because he is from one of the most watched families in the world. It matters because he came from one of the most macho backgrounds possible as a soldier and is showing a venerability we seldom see in men. It matters because he is speaking directly to every adult who suffered a similar loss and didn’t know who to turn to or whether shutting everything out was normal. And it matters because he’s doing his part to shatter the stigma that still surrounds mental illness and it’s important for everyone – and especially men, who might see such an admittance as weakness. He’s speaking directly to a younger generation and assuring them that no, you don’t have to feel ashamed to speak out.
And for those who would scorn the idea of someone of such stance opening up about his issues (because some have), it serves as a reminder that we should never judge another’s life from the outside. Even as a royal who in material terms, wanted for nothing. I remember how he and William were praised for their dignity and composure as they stood, dry-eyed and solemn-faced, alongside their mother’s coffin and now two decades on, in memory of his mother, he’s turning that image around in hopes to help other people.
Prince Harry rules. Okay, not literally in terms of royal blood (he’ll likely never sit atop the throne), but he’s using his powers for greater good, and that should never be let linger in the background.