Like a record-breaking chunk of the Irish book-buying public, Herself bought Harry’s revenge memoir. She got the audio version, so I keep getting surprised by the sound of some posh bloke in another part of the house.
Her cover story is that she works in the media and it’s part of the zeitgeist and so she needs to keep up with these things. I still think it was a waste of money, given that so much of the book had already been leaked. Try as I might – and I have – it’s impossible to avoid all this stuff. The world seems to have gone berserk with it, sucking in every tawdry detail.
You can understand why the British might be exercised by the tumult within their royal family, but in so many other countries, including (of all places) Ireland, there’s an interest that goes beyond simple prurience; an emotional investment in the row, with people declaring their fealty to Team Harry or Team William: as if all this has some greater significance. As if which royal you support says something about you.
[ Seán Moncrieff: No visiting. No visitors. Covid robbed us of a Christmas with the people we love ]
This could come from identification with the story. All families have their difficulties. Bad marriages. Tragedy. Siblings that don’t get on. Wives that are disapproved of. Bullying. Gaslighting. It’s all there. And we can project on to that: if we were there, we’d be strong or kind. We’d get everyone into therapy. But that’s to assume that if we were born into that family, we’d end up being the same person we are now. We wouldn’t.
Seán Moncrieff: ‘My daughter said I might be mildly traumatised. Her generation likes to throw around the T-word’
Seán Moncrieff: There’s nothing wrong with Irish trains. As long as you’re not going to Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan or west Cork
Seán Moncrieff: I tried to look as relaxed as a beardy old geezer surrounded by 400 20-something women can be
Like other celebrities, they fight for their share of public approval: by smiling and waving during public appearances; by leaking dirt on their perceived enemies to the tabloids. But there’s no greater purpose in any of this
Every person is a mixture of nature and nurture; and we can all puzzle as to the proportions. But the British royal family is all nurture. Its singular aim for centuries has been to produce people of a certain type: royal people, who are different to the rest of us. The family and institutional structure is set up to quench any individual agency, to actively discourage interests or talents that don’t fit within the royal template. Insulated from the rest of the world, they are raised with the expectation that they become essentially the same person. It’s a modern marvel of dysfunction, stemming from a historical conviction that they were chosen by God to rule.
No one could come through that undamaged. I’m surprised that it isn’t the subject of numerous psychological studies.
And painted over that is the gauze of celebrity culture. Like many people in that constellation, they don’t do anything of any great value. They are famous for being famous. Like other celebrities, they fight for their share of public approval: by smiling and waving during public appearances; by leaking dirt on their perceived enemies to the tabloids. But there’s no greater purpose in any of this. They don’t need the money. The process that created them has left them unable to act in any other way.
[ Spare: Harry tells us about his penis, sibling rivalry and panic attacks. Just not about why he wrote this book ]
In the public mind, that’s in the entertainment category. It’s engaging, but not quite true: like an episode of Fair City, the Kardashians or WWE. Or some crazy art performance piece where a family – such as it is – destroys itself for our delectation.
One of the many revelations in Harry’s book is that he killed 25 members of the Taliban when he was in Afghanistan. Herself played me that bit. I didn’t get the sense that he was bragging. Because of the training he had received, he didn’t seem to feel anything. The enemy are, as he put it, chess pieces to be taken out.
In a similar sense, the rest of us have dehumanised the royals. If they lived on your street, you’d be up at night, agonising over whether you should call the authorities. But when the depictions of their lives are mediated through screens, they take on the veneer of not-quite-reality. It’s easy to regard them as not-quite-real people at all. And perhaps, God help them, they are not.