Farrukh Dhondy | Harry & Meghan might have lost their chance to make a difference
“The moon’s beauty is borrowed light
Or is it the contrast with the dark?
The bit that’s hidden from our sight?
Do you see a mirror in my eyes
That reflects truths of what you are
Or is it a portrait of vanity’s lies?”
From The Dance of the Gropies, by Bachchoo
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, is haunted by memories of the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash in Paris when she and her lover Dodi al-Fayed were pursued by the paparazzi. A security official who survived the crash says the car was doing more than 100 mph when it crashed -- and even that Dodi and Diana were exhorting the driver to go faster and faster to outpace the pursuing photographers. What may or may not be true is that both Dodi and Diana were high on cocaine at the time.
Harry has lived with the trauma of that death from his early childhood. He obviously doesn’t believe Dodi’s father, Mohamed al-Fayed, who alleged that Harry’s grandfather Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, had sent an agent’s car to force Dodi and Diana’s car to crash. Harry’s estrangement from the royal family has, as the world knows, not been caused by any suggestion that he believes al-Fayed’s fabrication. No, his now-lifelong battle is with the press and its pursuing paparazzi.
This past week, having missed a day of giving evidence when he was required in a British court to so do, he has been in the witness box. He cavalierly assumed his superior status and spent the day when the judge ordered him to appear celebrating his daughter’s birthday in California. He then flew to Britain to pursue his case against Britain’s Mirror group of newspapers accusing them of having obtained news stories about him by illegal means such as phone-hacking and planting recording devices in his car.
Prince Harry’s allegations and case against the Mirror group and its journalists is one of a group of the same allegations by celebrities such as Elton John. Obviously, the newspapers they accuse of criminal activity deny and contest the charges.
While the trial is in progress and Harry is in the witness box, The Times, Britain’s Murdoch-owned, but supposedly prestigious, “independent” paper of record, published the Mirror group’s defence on a series of allegations, proving in each case that the information they published was not obtained by illegal means like phone hacking or legally prohibited surveillance. There is yet time and it may be proved in court that Harry’s phone was hacked, and even a single proven allegation of this sort would result in a guilty verdict against the Mirror group, its then editors and its participating journalists. Dekha jayega, aagey aagey hotha hein kya… as we say, usually with reference to romantic outcomes, in Bollywood.
Framing the court case is the curious allegation by Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, that they were relentlessly and dangerously pursued by the paparazzi for hours in New York. The taxi driver who drove them and the police chief in charge of traffic in the Big Apple say that there was no such prolonged chase and, though there may have been photographers from the press pursuing the couple, there was no instance of such a pursuit becoming dangerous or fatal, as Harry later alleged to the press. Curioser and curioser… or perhaps understandable in the context of his memory of his mother’s death through pursuit.
The British press now reports that their daughter Lillibet’s second birthday celebration, for which Harry missed his first day in court, was not acknowledged with presents or greetings from this daughter’s grandfather King Charles III, his wife Queen Camilla or her uncle and aunt, the Prince and Princess of Wales. Bit of a snub? Not aimed at the hapless two-year-old but, one supposes, at Meghan and Harry in retaliation for all the negativity about the British royal family which the two of them have propagated through the famous interview with Oprah Winfrey and others and through the autobiographical book Spare, that Harry made bold to publish.
Pardon my deviating, gentle reader, to make a general point. The protest movements of Black Lives Matter, in the US and all over the world, had as many or more white people involved as the descendants of the slaves in the US or in the Caribbean or the descendants of colonised Africans. It was a “moment” which said we come here from diametrically different histories, but want to assert that from now on let us share the same circumstances which in time will be one united history.
The marriage of Harry to Meghan, who is half white and half Afro, was universally much more significant than the “mixed” racial marriage of Meghan’s father and mother. Multi-racial marriage? No big deal in today’s world, but a British royal marrying a Black American petty actress draws the same world’s attention. Here again are two different histories in confluence and very much in the public eye. But what the hell have they made of it? Tinpot celebrity based on titular heritage? An attempt to abolish a parasitical monarchy? Err… despite the accusations against the family, no sign of that! Poor Meghan is no Coretta Scott King or Michelle Obama, but even she could have contributed to a potential confluence of histories rather than a dismal drama of celebrity complaint.