The role of the monarch in Britain is a contentious one. In 2022, around 55% of the population believed that it was ‘important’ to have a monarchy in the UK. However, the majority of these people were over the age of 65. What does that tell us? Well, a major segment of the nation conversely thinks that the concept of being born into that much wealth and privilege is a backwards tradition. And despite the fact that the royal family has very little power nowadays, it sends the wrong message.
But if you could be a member of the royal family, would you? Many will probably say yes to this, but perhaps there’s more pain than might be originally thought. Prince Harry, who is now gaining the reputation as a royal-family-reject, has spoken out about his experiences as a monarch and his potential drug habits. In this article we’re going to dissect his words, and try to understand if being part of the royal family really is as smooth sailing as it looks.
The Life of Prince Harry
Prince Harry, born Henry Charles Albert David on September 15, 1984, is a member of the British royal family. He is the younger son of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and the late Princess Diana. Yes, I know, it all sounds very English, doesn’t it? Anyway, he was born in London, and spent his early childhood in Kensington Palace. His parents’ marriage was fraught with difficulties, and they separated in 1992 when he was only eight years old. In August 1997, Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris.
Her death had a profound impact on Prince Harry, who was just 12 years old at the time. Many have overlooked this experience, as if losing a mother at this age as a royal would somehow be less traumatic. But when looking at how Harry has led his life, it seems that perhaps he may have shared a similar anti-establishment mentality to that of his mother: Diana. In fact, the princess, when she was alive, would consistently vote for the abolition of the monarchy. The Daily Express writes:
“The Princess of Wales did claim that she did not want to destroy the monarchy as that “is my children’s future”, but she claimed reform was needed to change the remote relationship between the Royal Family and the public.”
This disjunct between the monarchy and the public is the major reason why the royal family have made themselves slightly scarce over the last few decades. You can’t abolish what you can’t see, can you? In other words, who’s going to throw out an old china plate that looks nice, quaint, and brings tourists to your house? It’s not hurting anyone! However, this then relies on the royal family being almost personality-less. This, perhaps, is something that Harry especially has found hard. After studying at Eton school, playing rugby, and joining the British army in Afghanistan in 2007, Harry began to look beyond his simple life as a royal.
The Life of a Royal
Being a member of the British royal family is often seen as a position of great privilege and wealth, with access to the finest things in life and the ability to travel the world. However, the reality of life as a royal is not always so glamorous. Ultimately, there is no point trying to persuade someone that living as a royal is not as good as living as someone who is struggling. Of course not. But, perhaps by seeing the downside of being part of a monarchy, we can finally decide to abolish the idea entirely. So let’s take a look at some potential difficulties.
One of the biggest difficulties of being part of the royal family is the intense media scrutiny that comes with the position. Members of the royal family are constantly in the public eye, with every move they make and every outfit they wear scrutinised by the media. This can be extremely stressful and invasive, particularly for those who value their privacy. Princess Diana, for example, famously struggled with the intense media attention she received throughout her life. Harry was much the same. The Independent writes:
“In his late teens, Prince Harry was viewed as something of a royal rebel as he was pictured on several occasions partying and leaving nightclubs early in the morning.”
Another difficulty of being part of the royal family is the loss of personal freedom. Members of the royal family are expected to adhere to strict protocols and rules, and their personal lives are often subject to the approval of the Queen and other senior members of the family. They are expected to uphold a certain image and represent the monarchy at all times, which can be limiting and frustrating. It’s the same with any especially famous person. This was evident with Harry’s relationship, when compared to that of Prince William’s (his older brother). When William married Kate in 2011, the world celebrated a new princess. However, when Harry and Meghan began to date, the royal family did not show the same support. Meghan did not fit the stereotypical princess model that they so desperately wanted. In a 2019 interview, Meghan says:
“I have said for a long time to H… [Harry], It’s not enough to just survive something. That’s not the point of life. You have to thrive. You have got to feel happy… I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a ‘stiff upper lip.’ I really tried, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”
Six months after this interview, in January 2020, Harry and Meghan announced their plans to step down from their senior royal duties. The decision was made in part due to the intense media scrutiny and public pressure they had experienced, as well as their desire for financial independence. They have since relocated to the United States and have been involved in various charitable and business ventures.
The Memoir: Spare
“Spare”, Prince Harry’s recent memoir, was released in 2023. In this book, Harry is unflinchingly honest, opening up about his difficulties being part of the royal family, and how this may have led to him using recreational substances. One of the main reasons for the writing of this book, according to the prince himself, was to explain why he and Meghan felt the need to leave the monarchy entirely.
But also – as his mother had wanted all those years before her tragic car crash in Paris in August 1997 – to bridge the gap between the public and the royals. According to Harry, he only cried once after his mother’s death. Despite the fact that he was the youthful age of 12. This, he stated, was one of the reasons he turned to recreational drugs. To open himself up emotionally. After turning to alcohol for many years, the prince eventually began to experiment with harder drugs. He has admitted to taking cocaine and cannabis. ITV news writes:
“(Cocaine) didn’t do anything for me, it was more a social thing and gave me a sense of belonging for sure, I think it probably also made me feel different to the way I was feeling, which was kind of the point… marijuana is different, that actually really did help me”
Prince Harry admitted to not feeling the same effects as his other friends when consuming coke- the feeling of happiness. As he says, it made him feel different, which was enough at first, but soon became dull. That was when he began to look into psychedelic substances, including ayahuasca and psilocybin. The Independent quotes Harry, saying:
“I would never recommend people to do this recreationally. But doing it with the right people if you are suffering from a huge amount of loss, grief or trauma, then these things have a way of working as a medicine… For me, they cleared the windscreen, the windshield, the misery of loss. They cleared away this idea that I had in my head that I needed to cry to prove to my mother that I missed her. When in fact, all she wanted was for me to be happy.”
Prince Harry has since praised the substance, calling it a fundamental part of his life that helped change him for the better.
It cannot be underestimated the power that this type of honesty can have; both for good and for bad. Many traditionalists have reacted angrily, not understanding why the prince can’t simply do his duties, enjoy his privilege and keep quiet. Anti-monarchs have also spoken out, seeing it all as a pathetic cry for help by a very rich man. But of course, Prince Harry has his supporters.
For me, I believe that it’s important that we rid the royal family of this deistic reputation. As if they are untouchable, omnipotent, un-human. They are just people at the end of the day, very rich people. By being honest about his own drug use, his feelings towards his family, and his trauma – Harry has taken the monarchy off their pedestal. I think this is positive. Hopefully, in the end, it will be seen as a step towards the eventual end of the royal family entirely in Britain. In my opinion, everyone will be better off.
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