The Prince of Wales – Bouncer of the Monarchy

“‘I put my arm around my brother all our lives […], and I can’t do it any more. We’re separate entities’” Prince William once said about his relationship with his brother Prince Harry. With the release of the Netflix so-called documentary about the life of the Sussexes, media outlets report that the Prince of Wales will respond in a “swift and robust” manner to any unjust claim made by his brother and sister-in-law, whose second part will air tomorrow, December 15.

Anyone eager to know what kind of response Harry and Meghan might encounter from the principal members of the Royal family should immediately grab Robert Lacey’s enthralling and insightful book Battle of Brothers – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (Harper). Full disclosure, I received a review copy of this book more than a year ago. The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II prompted me to dive into it. I think the timing couldn’t be better, even though I know an updated version is available with new material.

This said, the facts put forward by historian Robert Lacey in the first edition permit us to understand that the new Prince of Wales won’t mess around with the future of the institution he will one day embody. Furthermore, one needs to realize that King Charles will not lead the charge, if only because it is harder for fathers to fight with sons than for a brother to man the barricades against his sibling. The bestselling author shows that the Prince of Wales is well equipped for the task.

Compared to a “nightclub bouncer,” William is “[…] not prepared to allow anyone – and certainly not his brother and his American celebrity wife – to threaten the precious legacy that had been entrusted to him by his gran.”

Driven by a profound sense of duty instilled in his character at a young age in the aftermath of his parent’s divorce, William never minced his words towards his mother, father, or brother. “‘The boy’s got a temper!’ Charles’s wife [Queen Consort Camilla] has been horrified at the ranting and raving that on occasion William has unleashed against her husband in her presence.” William’s teeth don’t only serve to smile. He also bites. And it can be painful.

Of course, Buckingham Palace’s response will be delivered with white gloves and polite words. Don’t expect the Palace to roll in the mud. But don’t expect them to be rolled over, either. Those who watched the last season of The Crown – and those who read Battle of Brothers – are regaled by the role played by Mark Bolland in designing a brilliant strategy to make Camilla acceptable to the broader public and selling the notion of the then Prince of Wales marriage to the love of his life. The PR guru also improved Charles’s image, notably as a father. One can assume that public relations mavens are already working behind the Palace’s walls to ensure Buckingham doesn’t get steamrolled by the Sussexes’ operation.

I sense it will get ugly, but the Sussexes knew what they were getting into. Harry, much more so than Meghan, in all honesty. After all, as the author points out, William doesn’t see his role as heir and the future monarch as appeasing his brother and sister-in-law’s “[…] trendy vision of doing good.” And let’s not forget that the monarchy’s survival is at stake in the aftermath of the late Queen’s death and the passing of the torch to King Charles III.

The future King never shied away from speaking his mind to his brother and will hold the line, much as he learnt during his service in the British Army. Revealingly, Robert Lacey evokes that the military proved to be a determining and stabilizing factor for the two Princes whose family life was shattered by their parents’ divorce.

I watched one episode of the Netflix Sussexes ego show because my wife forced me to endure that torture of soporific self-centeredness. At one point, I heard Harry suggesting that he did that because of a sense of duty. If he wanted to talk seriously about that word and elaborate on that notion, Harry should have looked upon the life and heritage of his grandmother. He would have understood that what we could call “the system” always comes before personal and secondary considerations.

I’m a staunch monarchist and believe that the Crown will remain – although most certainly in a different form, every Monarch leaving her or his mark – long after people have forgotten the Sussexes Netflix buzz. Prince Harry might then look at the Pacific Ocean and sip a cup of coffee from his luxury mansion while thinking about King and Country with nostalgia, like his infamous ancestor, the Duke of Windsor, did before him. But the system will remain viable and inspiring because that’s what the Royals have been doing for centuries. Those who understand that duty comes before ego are the institution’s backbone.

In a book where no line is superfluous and every page informative – notably about the personalities and motivations of the characters – Robert Lacey’s best quote is the one about Prince William being compared to a bouncer. Let’s be honest. The Sussexes intend to crash the gates of the Palace. The “system,” therefore, needs someone to block their access. If ever a doubt lingered in my mind, I will sleep well knowing that the Crown is well-defended by the Prince of Wales.

In sum, this book is essential to understand the rift between the two Royal brothers or have a foretaste of things to come. You will even have the advantage of benefitting from the updated material.

_____

Robert Lacey, Battle of Brothers – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (first edition), New York, Harper, 2020, 400 pages.

I want to express my gratitude to Hannah Long of HarperCollins for providing me with a copy of this book and for her continued collaboration with this blog.

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