In the fall of 1991, Granta magazine published an issued devoted to “The Family.”
The idea was to explore the building block of society. How are we shaped by our parents? How do siblings influence the people we become? I still remember reading the haunting lead essay by Mikal Gilmore. His brother Gary, a convicted murderer, was executed in Utah by firing squad in 1977. The consequence of a broken family was made stark by the profane cover line, a nod to Philip Larkin. Families, it seems, “They f–k you up.”
I doubt Prince Harry read that issue. He was seven at the time.
But if Granta ever revisits “The Family,” he should write the lead essay.
At this point, even the Queen’s Corgis must be on Prozac. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now in self-exile in sunny California, continue to bury Buckingham Palace with shade and permafrost. Two months ago, the Duchess made shocking allegations to Oprah, all but painting the royal family as two Special K’s short of the KKK, an out-of-touch monarchy prone to racism and indifference to her suicidal turmoil. Now the Duke of Sussex is comparing life in the royal family to a “mix between ‘The Truman Show’ and being in a zoo.”
Turn off the cameras and please don’t feed the goats.
His recent interview on the “Armchair Expert” podcast will not generate as much heat as Oprah did in March. But this one had more light. Disarmed by co-hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, Prince Harry was funny, wise and something we don’t expect from royals: self-aware.
His stiff upper lip is trembling with catharsis. He wants to talk.
Harry shared an epiphany from his early 20s.
“I don’t want to be here,” he recalled thinking. “I don’t want to be doing this. Look at what it did to my Mum. How am I ever going to settle down and have a wife and a family when I know that it’s going to happen again?”
This might be the biggest takeaway. There are many critics who believe Meghan is a Lady Macbeth, a cunning monster who is manipulating her ginger dolt of a hubby to advance her own ruthless ambitions. She is calling the shots and he’s running for cover.
But Meghan didn’t force Harry to leave London. He wanted to go long before he met her.
So maybe it’s time to stop thinking of Meghan as a Yoko who broke up the Beatles? A better analogy is that Harry is Ice Cube, the royal family is N.W.A. and now he’s left the group to be a solo rapper with legit diss tracks in his heart.
And the rhymes go back to family — the one you are born into and the next one you make.
“If I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering, because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure that I break that cycle so that I don’t pass it on,” said Harry. “There is a lot of genetic pain and suffering …”
Break that cycle? Genetic pain and suffering?
Somewhere, Prince Charles is pilfering pills from the Corgis’ pantry.
And, somewhere, Princess Diana is nodding with pride.
Shepard asked Harry about the catalyst that led him to therapy recently.
“It was a conversation that I had with my now wife,” Harry replied. “She saw it straight away. She could tell that I was hurting. And that some of the stuff that was out of my control was making me really angry. And it would make my blood boil.”
The gas burner was always a feeling of helplessness.
For Harry, there are three defining life moments: 1. As a kid in a car with his mother as the paparazzi gave chase. 2. While piloting an Apache chopper and serving in Afghanistan.
3. Meeting Meghan.
He already wanted out of his old family. His new family now teetered on that exit plan.
“Sometimes you got to make decisions and put your family first and put your mental health first,” he said, of his move to America and new mission. His new docuseries with Oprah about emotional well-being, “The Me You Can’t See,” debuts May 21 on Apple TV Plus.
It’s all a bit odd. Harry and Meghan now live about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, ground zero for celebrity scrutiny and invasions of privacy. But to them, it’s nirvana.
“Living here now, I can actually like lift my head,” said Harry. “I feel different. My shoulders have dropped … We can walk around feeling a little bit more free.”
The universe, as he noted, is trying to school you. It’s your job to ace the exams.
Prince Harry has morphed into a philosopher king, just as Mikal Gilmore’s essay in Granta morphed into the 1994 memoir “Shot in the Heart.” I’ve read it more than once. As I told Mikal a decade ago, his book is poignant, thoughtful and deeply affecting.
The same words apply to Prince Harry’s interview this week. He’s gone from a lost boy to a man actively rewriting his own destiny. He’s traded swirling dysfunction for a bedrock of purpose. Those old feelings of helplessness have given way to a desire to help others.
We all dream of fairy-tale endings.
But the universe’s ultimate test is knowing how to escape a living hell.