The future everyone thought lay ahead of Prince Harry and William may never happen
I sincerely hope that Princes William and Harry will find a way to repair their relationship.
If not today then some time in the future, before it is too late and they are left living with regrets.
Their relationship may never be as geographically close as it once was when, pre-Meghan, Harry lived at Kensington Palace and used pop round to William and Kate’s to play with the children and raid his brother’s fridge.
It may not even be as emotionally close as it was before they had wives and children, but it would still be a relationship well worth having.
There is too much treasure there for it to go to waste.
But the reality is, the future everyone assumed lay ahead for these two princes and their families may never happen.
In the past few months, Harry and Meghan have burnt some significant bridges that may be beyond repair.
Right now, that doesn’t seem to bother them. And I can’t see Meghan ever wanting a way back.
What she discovered in her brief spell as a working member, is the British royal family is no place for someone with political ambition.
This centuries-old institution provides an unparalleled platform for charitable work – to change and improve people’s lives – but it is not the springboard for changing the world – however burning and evident the need.
Both as a woman and as a woman of colour, she sees the need for change all around her and is clearly passionate about standing up and being counted.
And I wish her well in that.
However, I don’t believe that Harry has the same ambition. He is not a political animal.
His passion is – or certainly was – for helping people who were disadvantaged in one way or another, especially children.
And that was where he was so very talented.
Because he had such a difficult childhood, he could empathise with others in a similar boat.
He may have lived in grand houses and palaces and been the Queen’s grandson, but loss is no less painful because you have Rembrandts on the wall and your granny wears a crown.
He can get alongside people in a compelling way and, whatever age, colour, creed or background of the person he’s talking to, he’s engaged in their story, he’s on the same wavelength, utterly genuine and spontaneous, often making them laugh, and people respond well to that.
It took a long time for Harry to find his place in the world.
For years he was angry and wild, partying too much, drinking too much and finding his way on to the front pages of newspapers.
But then he went into the Army and came spectacularly good.
It was something he had wanted to do since he was a child and found, after a lifetime of thinking himself second-rate, there was something he was good at.
He had always struggled at school and done dismally in exams, but he discovered, against all the odds, that he could fly Apache attack helicopters with extraordinary skill.
He also proved to be a very gifted leader, able to motivate a team of people while earning their respect and affection.
These discoveries were the making of Harry.
For several years before this, Harry had been so disenchanted that it had seemed possible, if not probable, he might opt out of royal life and go and live in Africa, which he loved and where he could live anonymously.
The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho might have been a possible home.
He had helped out at an orphanage there between school and Sandhurst, and the charity, Sentebale that he and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho founded together as a result, has always been very close to his heart.
Almost an entire generation had been lost to HIV/AIDS, leaving hundreds of orphans and Harry was moved to help them in a permanent way.
He has raised millions of pounds – a lot of it riding polo ponies – also awareness, and made a huge difference.
When he came out of the Army, a life in Africa seemed less likely.
Having served on the front line in Afghanistan – and seen terrible things, not least the courage of his comrades – the disenchantment seemed to have faded and he was motivated to raise the profile of veterans.
He put his name to Help for Heroes – as did Prince William – he walked with the wounded to the South Pole, and he created the Invictus Games – to prove that there is useful life beyond injury.
The Invictus Games are now an annual international, televised event – a sort of mini-Olympics – and the first one was organised within less than a year.
The 2012 Olympics in London took eight years.
His personal charisma helped considerably, of course, but Harry knew that he could never have done it in the time, or persuaded the high calibre of experts to join him, had he been plain Harry Wales.
His HRH title was the key to moving mountains.
He appeared to be so committed to helping others that it seemed inconceivable, after that, that Harry would ever walk away.
Maybe one day he will find his way back.
At the weekend, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff at that time and instrumental in getting Harry to the front line and then into helicopters, let it be known in an interview with the Sunday People that he had written to Harry pleading with him not to stay away too long.
He said: “Harry and Meghan are very much involved in other things and that’s their life choice and I don’t criticise them for that but it means that he is not as available, not supporting in such a high-profile fashion, the work of charities and the needs of veterans.
“He makes his own choices but we miss him and I hope that in a change of circumstances, that I can’t envisage, he returns to take up more traditional royal duties.”
If we could have the old Harry back, firing on all cylinders, I am sure many would welcome him with open arms, but his departure has brought the problem of the spare into sharp focus and concentrated the minds of the Queen and the current heir and spare – William and the Prince of Wales.
It has never been easy to be number two in this family – half important, half redundant – but always in the media spotlight and seen as fair game for scrutiny and criticism.
Harry negotiated it better than his predecessors and had the additional trauma of his childhood experiences to cope with. Maybe the system, or the public, asks too much of them.
After March’s Mexit deal, it seemed the new life Harry and Meghan would forge for themselves might be a blueprint for the future, for William and Kate’s “spare” children, the adorable Charlotte and Louis, and all those that follow.
Could it prove a way to let them live normal lives – as the Princess Royal’s children do?
The royal family shines a light on causes in urgent need of support, and brings in urgently needed funds.
Without them, Britain would be a poorer place.
Harry and Meghan contributed to that but their departure is not significant.
The Queen is still going strong, Charles and Camilla are ready and waiting and William and Kate are the long-term future.
Prince George can breath easily for a while.
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