THE HOUSE OF WINDSOR

Prince Harry And The Golden Dog Bowl

Or in cauda venenum

A fairytale*

By Elena Vassilieva

“O tempora! O mores!” – Cicero. Image is by Elena Vassilieva

“The night was well advanced, when he reached his own house, having met no interruption on the way, proud of his well-planned stratagem, elated by success, and flattered by the hope that he had extricated himself by his own energy from all the perils which had of late appeared so dark and difficult to shun. Duri magno sed amore dolores Pollute, Notumque furens quid faemina possit [Virgil].” – Henry William Herbert, the old Etonian, in The Roman Traitor (1846).

Once upon a time, Harry was a dashing British prince. He must have caught Meghan Markle’s eye on May 9, 2013, when the Prince was warmly welcomed by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the Mother’s Day tea party, at the White House. One needn’t be present there to feel the pleasant atmosphere and all the waves of fascination for the guest of honour, since all the TV channels seemed to be wrapped in a cloud of giddiness while broadcasting the event. Mrs Obama herself looked very jolly and lovely, clad in a romantic floral dress that matched her mood and hairdo. Enjoying the Prince’s company, the First Lady kindly invited children to the party, and the British Prince didn’t fail to charm them. Harry’s team’s win at the charity polo match, at the Greenwich Polo Club in Connecticut, only added to his success on this week-long visit to America. Prince Harry was also well received at the Russel Senate Office Building. The flock of giggling girls were delighted to be in such close proximity to the prominent guest. In fact, the young ladies were over the moon and, of course, they wanted to take home a souvenir that would mark the occasion. They photographed the Prince, who was sent on the Warrior Games mission to America, from all angles, but they also were eager to take a selfie with Harry. At that precise moment, the Prince had caught my eye as well because he happened to say to the girls, disapprovingly, that he was very much anti-selfie. He believed the quality of selfies was very low, and that one would get much better results if one asked someone for help. Not only was his remark reasonable, I thought, but he also made clear that he wasn’t afraid not to confirm to the fancies of contemporary fashion.

Meanwhile, Meghan Markle, about whose existence the world happily knew nothing, must have desperately wished she were at the tea party and most certainly envied Mrs Obama for being such an elegant First Lady who was to receive the Prince. Moreover, Ms Markle might have produced sigh after sigh after sigh, after all, Harry was out of reach at the time, the Prince was in a relationship with the beautiful and levelheaded Cressida Bonas, with whom the unknown American actress stood no chance to compete. Nonetheless, Prince Harry’s charming and smart manners at the White House inspired Ms Markle and boosted her aspirational power to get what she wanted. Precisely then, she must have started making her plans and tedious preparations for the future. Her notes on logistics would begin with the elementary, such as how to make herself visible to the Prince and how to meet the most eligible bachelor in person, how to present herself to him right after, and, finally and most importantly, how to dazzle him. She pondered what type of woman she would rather be and what she would rather not be for the Prince, dismissing the Duchess of Cambridge as a paragon of virtue resolutely and absolutely, but seriously considering Diana, the Princess of Wales, as a helpful book to study from cover to cover, so she decided. Also, she found in Wallis Simpson’s predatory brazenness an invaluable source of inspiration.

Ms Markle’s own hunting instincts dictated to her that, in the beginning, it would suffice to be perceived simply as American as apple pie: sweet and funny, outgoing and poised, practical and unceremonious, and, like a teenager, flashily in love with her Prince, clinging on to him as if he were about to be grabbed by an invisible other woman, the villain. But she’d better be in good standing, too, with as many good deeds on her resume as possible, even if the deeds would be done in a hurry and one time only, so she thought. Later on, however, she might want to shed the image of the cute and awesome American apple-pie-like woman, replacing it with that of the flamboyant femme fatale, who is capricious and demanding, ambitious and desirous of power and attention to such a degree that she would dare seriously think she could dismantle good old House of Windsor in a trice.

To everyone’s amazement, she showcased her inexhaustible stratagemical energy par excellence, when she had deployed every means available to her to reach the unreachable. She, somehow, connected with the right people who knew the Prince. She arranged an engagement at the UN (there weren’t too many details about it in the Netflix docuseries, just a photo of her at the UN headquarters was shown for a second so that we would know she set a foot there to corroborate that instance on her Curriculum Vitae). She also didn’t shy away from less credible enterprises that might have helped her get closer to her goal. Thus, she paid a visit to one wizard who emboldened her by predicting a grand wedding in the near future. It certainly makes one wonder whether the wizard’s job hadn’t ended with his prediction? Perhaps, he did more than that, who knows? Naturally, these are pure speculations of my silly mind, and for now, let us follow the Shakespearean logic of all is well that ends well.

Time will tell sooner or later what really happened. A love potion or not that might or might not have been prepared for the Prince, it shouldn’t matter at all, especially when people genuinely fall in love with each other, one reckons. But one thing that matters is how utterly busy Ms Markle must have kept herself before our Prince came to visit America for the second time, in 2015. President Obama was exuberant to have Harry as a guest of honour in October of 2015, in the Oval Office: “It is a great pleasure to welcome His Royal Highness Prince Harry to the Oval Office. I’ve had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with so many of his family members, but this is the first time we had a chance to talk directly. He has gotten to know Michelle very well, for a range of reasons, but in particular, he’s here to talk about the Invictus Games, an initiative that is bringing together the wounded warriors around the world, under the leadership of Prince Harry and others, to make sure that we see not simply the sacrifices they’ve made, but also the incredible contributions, strength, and courage they continue to display.” (President Obama’s speech is quoted as in the USMagazine, October 28, 2015)

Again, Meghan Markle must have been quite envious of the delightful Mrs Obama who visited the USO Warrior and Family Center at the Fort Belvoir military base in Fairfax County, VA with the Prince and seemed to have had a good rapport with His Royal Highness, as the President himself jokingly noted. During that visit, President Obama and Prince Harry had a private conversation about the 2016 Invictus Games, which were going to be played in America. Ms Markle must have realised precisely then that she ought to act, and fast, because Harry, then single and free as a bird, was publicly expressing his despair and concern whether he was, perhaps, doomed to carry on as an eternal bachelor, as there seemed to be no woman on this planet who would be willing to marry the poor thing. And to order and fetch a bride from another planet had still proved quite difficult, albeit the engineering genius, Elon Musk, had already, no later than since 2012, been sleepless while working on his beloved Spaceship-project. But Harry had no patience at all to walk on this planet as a lonesome bachelor till the day the Spaceship would be built and equipped to make interplanetary bride deliveries. Searching and waiting for the right woman, even for two years, seemed to Harry unbearably long. As it turned out, the Prince had a far more complicated task than Mr Musk. Little wonder that this period of bleak solitude quietly drove poor Prince if not to insanity, then definitely to desperation.

Now, in the circumstances, one would think nearly any woman would appear to a man as sweet and delicious as Turkish delight, no? So when, one day, out of the blue, Ms Markle had landed on Harry’s screen, disguised as a dog (sic! Cave canem!), our Prince couldn’t help but think she was heaven-sent. Despite the disguise, the dog-woman intrigued him at once and took his breath and sleep away. Hence, he didn’t hesitate to ask the friend through whom the dog-woman’s image flew to him: “Who on earth is this?” Not quite extraterrestrial, no, but rather appealing in her own trivial and bold way, he reasoned. He already imagined her being the incarnation of the promised bliss, not knowing that later, he would learn firsthand that ‘what Meghan wants Meghan gets,’ and that he himself would soon make not a very soft landing on the dog bowl in Nottingham Cottage, when his sensible brother would try to dispel the dense fog that had enveloped Harold’s impressionable mind. Prince William also hoped to shake off Harold’s naivety and gullibility, for the good of Harry himself, alas, to no avail.

This account comes from the Prince’s book, Spare (2023), so we can’t fully rely on it. The scene might have been dramatised by Harry’s ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer, for the sake of the Shakespearean tension, which the melodramatic and gossipy book would have lacked completely, despite the Prince’s quite intolerable tendency to overshare. But if there had been any other purpose of that histrionic, blood-and-thunder scene, such as exposing his brother as a steadfast man who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, Prince Harry succeeded in doing so, but he also, embarrassingly, placed himself into the dog bowl, not only making a laughing stock of himself but also presenting himself to his reader as a distrustful and immature man who, clearly, is in discord not only with his Royal relations, but also with his conscience and reality.

Prince William, on the contrary, if the wrangle occurred indeed, earns respect and even admiration from the reader like myself, because he chooses to stand up for all those who were callously reduced to tears by Harry’s wife, whereas Harry adamantly refuses to believe it. The argument should have been left behind the scenes, of course, but the book needed some sensationalism, after all, what was Harry paid for? Definitely not for his Hamlet-musings in the Frogmore gardens. “Good money can make one say anything at all, regardless of whether certain events happened or not, if the one is desperate enough and doesn’t play by the rules,” was the conclusion of the majority of Britons and a good deal of Americans, too. But if Harry just entertained his newfound home, America, with his opus, the prodigal son slapped his good old motherland, Great Britain, on the face, leaving their relationship at daggers drawn. By all accounts, not a very wise chess move. “Check, Harry!”

When the two Princes had disagreed at Nottingham Cottage in 2019, Prince Harry must have already been going through a rapid transformation from the Prince everyone used to be fond of into someone entirely different. The old Harry had been vanishing into thin air by the day. The dog bowl, metaphorically speaking, was turning into a gold-making machine and as well a trap for him into which he lured himself because of his poor judgement and estrangement from his brother who had dutifully looked after him ever since they were children, even if Harry diminishes his significance now, although, ironically, still looks up to William. Who would forget that moment when Prince William, while volunteering in Southern Chile during his gap year, in 2000, had Harry on his mind all the time? He said to the journalist that, after he had been done with his chores (at the moment of the interview, he was cooking and then cleaning a toilet), he would write a letter to Harry. Prince William has cared for his brother, probably no less than their mother, who was as strict as loving, not rarely at all scolding Harry for his naughtiness.

The Princess Diana’s reflection in the Prince William’s behaviour towards Harry is hard to miss. To this day, William handsomely resembles her looks, and that is, of course, merely a genetic coincidence, which, by no means, should be emphasised by Prince Harry, as if it were the wormwood and the gall to him. Harry allowed this rather fatuous comparison to see the light, but he blundered again, showing his own rough corners, not his brother’s. It might be that his ghostwriter either insisted on the passage or didn’t think it was awkward. I certainly thought it was maladroit. But, again, maybe those aren’t Harry’s own remarks? Has Harry been really that jealous of his brother’s looks? And if so, how preposterous! Didn’t Princess Diana joked once that William is destined to be a king, whereas Harry has more freedom of choice, and, besides, all the girls would be his?

But Harry didn’t want all the girls or any girl, he wanted ‘the List,’ ‘the love of his life.’ Fair enough, it’s his choice, but how could this love of his possibly dare to demand from the Royal Family to change their traditions for the sake of her vulgar caprices? Aside to being Harry’s wife, who is she, anyway? The book would’ve been more attractive, had it not contained various comments about Harry’s relatives, who, understandably, would dread any invasion of their privacy and intrusion into their personal space. And who wouldn’t? It does sound a trifle as if the Sussexes might have even resorted to chantage to negotiate the Megxit deal. They even expect the Royal Family to offer them an apology now. Most believe, however, that it should be the other way round. But the Sussexes, I daresay, have been debilitated by their wondrous gold-making dog-bowl-machine so much that they have completely forgotten which one is the left foot and which one is the right foot.     

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only instance in the book when Harry’s candid verbosity was hardly endearing but very much repugnant, despite some truly touching moments of self-reflective contemplation, e.g., in the preface-essay in Spare. There, he is sharing his emotions and thoughts from the gardens at Frogmore, on April 17, 2021, right after the funeral of Prince Philip. He is conflicted with Hamlet in himself. Oddly, he doesn’t pay enough attention to Prince Philip, given the circumstances, while waiting for his brother and father. I think it is as sad as the fact that Harry’s memory seems to deceive him, and his recollections are often truly equivocal. It’s unlikely, therefore, he would remember the care and love he received from his brother and father. Not now, after he had married not only ‘his List,’ his ideal woman, that is, but also, as some braved to utter, his ‘mother.’ I disagree with this point of view. Harry didn’t ‘marry his mother,’ he married an impostor with excellent calculating skills and with an ardent desire to reincarnate Princess Diana for Harry, in order to open the doors for them to everything they had been denied before.

But who said Diana wouldn’t disapprove of it and would support Harry’s wife’s demeanor? That’s very unlikely for a number of reasons. And it’s a great pity that Harry’s wife has misconstrued Princess Diana’s personality so grossly, and Harry allowed it. Despite her rebellious nature and just one or two public incautious moves, which by no means imperiled anyone’s life, Princess Diana was a conservative enough woman. She knew how not to cross the line and what was good and what wasn’t, unlike Harry and especially his wife, who sees the world through a very peculiar lens, that of her looking-glass self, which isn’t her true or authentic self at all. If one saw the Netflix documentary, one might have noticed how she is (re)imagining herself all the time, here she is the wannabe Gwyneth Paltrow, there the wannabe Julia Roberts, but rarely if ever her own self. Princess Diana didn’t have such a conflicting personality at all, she might have had a self-deprecating humour, but she knew who she was, and she fearlessly, to the heart’s core, defended her true original self, Lady Diana Spencer, not permitting others to influence her self-perception and identity. Harry’s wife wants to be this and that, and that’s fine, not fine is the means she chooses to achieve her personal goals. Hysteria and blackmail are favourite devices used by those who want, consciously or unconsciously, to harm others and make them suffer. The consequences thus from Meghan Markle’s actions are dire for others, but even more so for Harry and Meghan themselves. By the way, when one derives enormous pleasure from cruelty, what is one called, then?

Harry’s identity as a prince began to crumble the minute he met Meghan Markle. He, all of a sudden, became an enthusiastic selfie-taker, as the Netflix documentary paraded a bunch of selfies taken with his wife. Of course, it’s too miniscule a thing to mention even, compared to the fact that he abdicated himself as a prince, thus distancing from his blood relations, which Diana would’ve never done. She was proud of being Lady Diana Spencer, but she was also very proud and honoured to be part of the Royal Family. “I’ll never let you down,” she said to Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II. Her divorce from Prince Charles was a crushing moment for her, but not for her identity; she stood up bravely for herself, resisting negative emotions as much as she could, cultivating and elevating her kindness to the highest degree possible. And, as time tells us now, she didn’t cause any damage to the Royal Family at all. Also, it’s very unlikely that Princess Diana wouldn’t have noticed right away how manipulative Meghan Markle is. Would she have accepted it? I think not. There would’ve been an inevitable confrontation between the two women. Then, Harry would’ve faced the Hamletian dilemma of ‘to be or not to be,’ indeed.

Moreover, given that Princess Diana is not only Harry’s mother, but also Prince William’s, and that she is a beloved historical figure, it’s a Gargantuan carnivorousness not only to usurp Harry but also Princess Diana’s persona, commodifying her figure for their only benefit. But at the same time, Harry’s wife depreciates Diana’s significance (read: ‘unconscious bias’!), degrading her publicly to the role of Harry’s mother and their children’s grandmother exclusively, choosing to disregard that Princess Diana is a cultural phenomenon, an icon and an inspiration for others, and has been that for decades. I’m thinking of the moment in the Netflix documentary when Meghan Markel is holding their baby in her arms and looking at the portrait of the Princess in their Montecito house, cooing to the baby: “It’s your Grandma. Yes, it’s your Grandma.” She is enticing herself through this pseudo-mother construct into Harry’s personal space in the hope of replacing Harry’s memories of his mother with her own daily self, making him depend on her (not positively!), instead of his mother, the ideal-like, dream-like, mythical almost, human being, who had been, in fact, quintessential to Harry’s existence and personality, for Princess Diana could also be viewed as his conscience. He said it himself in the preface of Spare that she is to him like the Morning Star that has been guiding him. And attempting to take it away from Harry completely, is very dangerous for him, it would mean that part of his personality would suffer tremendously from this loss, a second time round, which he shall regret later. Of course, this gives Meghan Markle the opportunity to exercise her power over Harry, enslaving and even colonising him this way. She would prevent any other person to enter that space, where Meghan is striving to replace Diana for Harry, so that she could never lose control over him. And if that makes Harry happy, why not, after all, it’s his life? The problem is that the new guiding star of Harry’s, despite some good qualities, has serious shortcomings, most of them are of ethical nature.

It appears to be an attack with a vengeance on all levels of Meghan’s consciousness on nearly everyone whom Harry had known prior to meeting her. And bringing the class shifts into their relationship this way, she imagines herself and acts as Harry’s quasi-Empress, while publicly denigrating him and disregarding nearly every single one of his relatives, never mind their rank or historical and cultural significance. Harry, the slave, becomes a mere source of fame and material enrichment for her and that of notoriety and scandals for his Royal Family. The late Queen Elizabeth II is just Harry’s Grandmother to her, Prince William – ‘your brother,’ as she barks indignantly in the documentary, after Harry had showed her a text message from Prince William. One might forgive it if it’s done in a private conversation, but she does it publicly, as if she wanted to prove her superiority to the Royal Family. What would give her the right for such an unheard impertinence, many wonder? And what would ever justify such an insolent conduct?

However, it’s time for a flashback. When the Prince had found out that the dog-woman had also an interest in meeting him, he was oblivious of festina lente, alas, and rushed to hold on Fortuna’s hair as tight as possible, in order not to let the chance slip by. And if the wizard provided Ms Markle with a certain love potion (a rhetorical figure here only, God forbid!), the latter seemed to work like a magic wand. Prince Harry didn’t think twice, he just seemed to know instantaneously that she was that woman who knew how to charm him, and, sadly, she also knew how to mislead him, and, eventually, to destroy him as a prince, lowering him to her own level of incessant ruthlessness and never-ending acquisitiveness. Besides, she also knew how to stir the pot, out of jealousy, malice, Schadenfreude, fun, and what not, while trying tirelessly to glamourise and popularise her own image, making it a household name. One isn’t surprised at all, then, why Ms Markle was a professional social media influencer. And I object to this a great deal, because she happens to undermine the cultural and social values I had been introduced to as a child.

But then, in 2016, Harry found himself under her spell, having encountered ‘the love of his life,’ at last. To confirm his feelings, Harry took out of the drawer the list of all the traits he wished to see in his dream-woman and thoroughly went through it, making sure that the woman was not going to end up a mere mirage for him any minute. After studying the list carefully, he ticked all the boxes on the list and decided that the American actress happened to fulfill all his requirements, besides, she appeared to remind him of his mother, he said. The awesome American, apple-pie-like, woman was shortly offered the Prince’s heart and a ring that he designed for her by himself, the lavish wedding followed, the bride, yesterday’s divorcée, was even given permission by the ever gracious Queen Elizabeth II to wear a white dress and a veil, after all, Harry had never been married before. The couple seemed to have the endless train of all kinds of stories and demands surrounding their wedding preparations: the wrong tiara, the ill-fitting bridesmaids’ dresses and missing stockings, the bride’s father’s overjoyed heart that suddenly commanded him into hospital, the bride’s stolen letter to her father, her niece that was abruptly uninvited from the wedding, etc., etc. (One wonders what Shakespeare would have thought about this eventful Windsor wedding?) Our newlyweds started their married life at the historical Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace, and at this point, the fairytale should have ended with the usual ‘And they all lived happily ever after,’ not this time, however.

‘Love wins,’ triumphed their supporters. ‘Harry is ruined,’ sighed their adversaries. ‘She’s a manipulative gold-digger!’ cried one half of the world. ‘No, she is Harry’s saviour!’ cried the other half. And all this time, with the poor Royal Family in the middle! One can rest assured that the Royal Family haven’t seen anything of the sort ever since the King Edward VIII’s abdication. Only it has turned out to be a much worse saga that seems to have no end. Neither its historicity nor the splendid entourage of roses around Nottingham Cottage were good enough for Harry’s wife, and like all nouveaux riches, she wanted more, much more, something that is larger than life, something that is colossal and ostentatious, something that would have her name on the deed to the house. Did it matter to her that good old Nott Cott is probably one of the very few properties in London that is still sui generis and has the original bones? Of course, not. Why would she care about that? Especially after the brash remarks of her dear friend, Madame Oprah, who, after visiting the Cottage, surprised by its modest size, exclaimed: “No one would believe it!” “No one would believe it!” repeated our heroes in tandem in their Netflix documentary shortly before Christmas 2022.

But the most likely truth is that, in a century or two, no one is going to believe how on earth such a petty individual with such low ethical standards became a British Duchess who wrapped the prince around her little finger, disrupted all his relations, and took him away from his country, blaming the British media and the Royal Family for all the sins of the world. And while Prince Harry and his wife try continuously to invalidate the Royal Family’s mantra, ‘Never complain, never explain,’ their own mantra seems to be ‘Stir the pot and cash in as much as you can’ at the expense of those whose credibility, nobility and kindness they are shamelessly exploiting. Responsibility of being a historical figure that had been instilled into Prince Harry’s mind ever since he was a little boy has been overturned by irresponsibility of his wife’s irreverent attitudes towards History. Somehow, they convinced themselves that, despite their scurrilous conduct, History would still grant them a privileged place when the time comes, forgetting that History can be as ruthless and unforgiving as they are themselves, when it comes to settling accounts with the historical figures. They also seem to be oblivious of the fact that glory, which may be gold and roses for them now, will eventually turn into historical soot and dust. Thus, they have already reserved a place for themselves in the chronicles of Time, and it’s not the most prominent or pretty one, in the Perifereia of History, thanks to all the noise they are making today. Also, the Hamletian dilemma of ‘to be or not to be’ has never been a matter of crucial importance for Harry, except on the first pages of Spare, because Harry’s new guiding star, his material girl, thought he’d rather be consumed by the conundrum of to have or not to have. And he chose ‘to have,’ of course, to Meghan Markles,’ great satisfaction.  

*This postmodern fairytale is a work of fiction. All the characters, events, incidents, and discourses are fruit of imagination and under no circumstances should be perceived as real. Any resemblance to actual events, places, names, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

(Written on the rainy night of January 14, 2023, in the Sky Control Room, on Cape Cod.)

Copyright © 2023 by Elena Vassilieva. All rights reserved.

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