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Prince Harry has damaged the bond between people and monarchy

When the royal family start to behave like ordinary people, they will cease to represent us

By on Friday, 24 August 2012

Naked Harry pictures published

Apparently there is huge public interest in the Prince Harry story, or so I read here. I am not quite sure what this means. Does it mean that it is in the public interest that these pictures be published? Are they pictures we have the right to see, and the right to know about? The whole argument strikes me as bizarre.

What does interest me, though, is the historical perspective. Traditionally British monarchs have been very badly behaved people, whose eating, drinking and fornicating has tended to the excessive: think of Henry VIII, or of Charles II – both of whom are popular figures, though with slightly different constituencies of admirers. George IV is perhaps the paradigm of royal excess, and was never popular in his lifetime, though some modern aesthetes do admire him (and rightly so: he had great taste in both books and buildings.)

As for the well-behaved, well they are few and far between. James II and William IV had exemplary private lives during their reigns, but both had rather wild youths. George III was really the first ever to be a good family man; Queen Victoria, Georges V and VI, and of course our irreproachable present monarch, all get the thumbs up, but Edwards VII and VIII do not. Edward VII was a popular monarch, but his private life was not subject to much scrutiny, and most of his subjects must have had very little idea of his addiction to gambling and lady friends.

Edward VII was, as the phrase went, “fast”. He moved in fast circles. He was the first monarch to have Jewish friends and indeed Roman Catholic friends (which I find to his credit.) He was in many ways ahead of his time. He was a hugely successful monarch, a true focus of national unity: he was well known for his affability, and people loved him.

Prince Harry and his circle are what you would expect of a 27 year old unmarried Guards officer who had been to Eton. So is his behaviour in Las Vegas. If his behaviour is disappointing, it is because it is so ordinary. There are pictures of similar riotous behaviour all over Facebook. This is the sort of thing that people of his age and background do. And here is the problem: the Royal family are meant to be rather different, aren’t they? They are meant to set an example, though an example of what, I am not quite sure.

On the day of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, the assembled friends of the couple waiting in the Abbey before the service sounded exactly as you would have expected them to sound at any wedding where an Etonian married a Marlborough girl – that particular brand of upper class was much in evidence in the loud chatter’s vowels. (I seem to remember that Dr David Starkey pointed this out at the time.)

Does this matter? Oh yes it does. The monarch and her family are supposed to be a focus of national unity. If the day comes when the monarch and her family look like and sound like a very narrow section of British society, then on that day they cease to represent the nation, or rather the illusion that they represent the nation disappears.

Prince Harry, by his behaviour, has brought that day closer. Drunken and undignified horseplay in Vegas does not shock me one bit, it merely confirms that the things I would hope to see in any Royal family – seriousness, piety, a concern for the poor, affability, an ability to put people at their ease, along with a sense of fun and an ability to enjoy oneself in a good way – the sort of qualities that are seen in some other monarchies – are qualities not apparent in Prince Harry.

  • am-s

    At least he’s the spare and not the heir.

  • Robert

    Naked pics; they will be loved by Westminster curia lavender mafia. A cheekie posh boy, and a prince, too what better to interest them.

  • Meena

    Maybe this is because he IS the butler’s son – as his mother virtually said, and as the butler claimed.

  • Theresaruk

    Ok father, you’re a priest aren’t you?  So did you read the bit about “let he who is without sin throw the first stone”?

  • Hughes196

     Yo’ve missed the point. Father L-S is not condemning or throwing stones but simply pointing out that royalty should behave as royalty, as in :Noblesse oblige”. Have you ever seen a photo of Her Majesty cavorting in the nude? If they are to be held as our leaders and representatives deo gratiae they should behave with honour and dignity regardless of what they choose to do behind closed doors. Couldn’t Harry have closed the curtains at least? The fellow seems to have the IQ and common sense of a mosquito.

  • nytor

    Closing the curtains wouldn’t have helped as it was someone INSIDE the room who took and sold the pictures. The moral of this story does not concern his behaviour per se, it concerns his trust in strangers which he ought to moderate.

  • paulpriest

    Is this the Catholic Herald or the ‘Disgruntled of Budleigh Salterton’ Gazette?

    Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense….

  • am-s

    I won’t be able to get Blithe Spirit out of my head now.

  • Laurence England

    If I had a naked picture of a member of the Royal Family, I wouldn’t publish it out of respect for the Royal Family. If someone had a naked pic of me, I wouldn’t want it in the public domain out of respect for me. If I had a naked pic of a Priest, I wouldn’t put in on my blog out of respect for the Priest.

    As much as I agree with Father that his behaviour is out of line for a Royal, surely there must come a time when the Press show some restraint in what they publish in order to gain sales.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I do not approve of the publication of these pictures by anyone anywhere, Laurence! Naked pictures are one thing we can all do without. Especially in newspapers!

  • Dorothy

    Harry does not show much dignity and sense of honour for his family. What a shame for the Queen! He is not the only celebrity to behave like he does… Paris Hilton topped him. I am personally more concerned about the behaviour than the fact that the photos are published. As the Sun says.. people have the right to know what the 3rd in line to throne is up to, especially with unknown girls picked up at the bar of an expensive hotel in Las Vegas. He knew his image could be compromised with strangers walking into the room with mobile phones and at 27 one could expect he knew what he was doing.   Who knows what he does while on duty in the army or in Afghanistan? quite scary.
    But reading the comments, it looks like a large part of society identify with his behaviour, finding it “fun”.

  • John_Seven

    Oh, Father, do take care, you are almost in danger of sounding as though you were a member of the  bourgeoisie. 

  • Cynicus

    What is the point of the upper classes if not to set us a bad example?

  • ChantryPriest

    Father, you are in danger of arguing against your own headline. As you so rightly point out, the English love a rogue-hence the popularity of the Monarchs listed above.[I think George IV suffered more for his extravagance rather than his excesses as his brother, William IV had a 'colourful' life as well and didn't suffer for it.
    In any case, remember his namesake, Prince Hal [Henry V]. After a wild and dissolute youth, he did quite well.

  • teigitur

    Your headline is tosh Father.

  • Mosquito

    How dare you!

  • Honeybadger

    Reading the headline, it’s rather like shutting the stable door…

    Prince Harry is a grown-up. He has a brain… somewhere… surely?

    He and Prince William have grown up in the intense media spotlight and saw what such exposure did to their parents.

    If anything, prince or no prince, you’d think that he’d have a bit more sense. You know, finding, developing and fine tuning a bullplop detector to know who he can trust and who he can’t.

    The Sun gobbles up stuff like Prince Harry’s frolicks. It came as no surprise to me that they went ahead and published those pictures.

    It says something about a country when its best selling newspaper displays women’s naked bodies on a regular basis without a whimper (apart from some feminists) and hell breaks loose when a nude bloke is put on the front page with a quasi-sanctimonial ‘excuse’ such as ‘press freedom’. Ha ha! As believable as Cinderella joining the Moonies.

    It’s true, though, that the Crown Jewels is the property of the people…

  • Meena

    Revealing the truth about a significant institution such as the royal family can only be good.

    This should not be compared to (personal) news about an ordinary member of society.

  • Meena

    If the 3rd in line to be head of state, i.e. King has no clothes (when he ought) then the people should know.

    Perhaps the potential King with no clothes is deluded. 

  • Daclamat


  • Parasum

     What, Harry is like Madame Arcati :) ? I don’t see it.

  • Kevin

    I am sure he has, many times. It ends: “Go, and sin no more”.

  • RomanEnvoy

    I’ve never been to a Las Vegas pool party, and, as a corollary to that, never cavorted naked in an expensive Las Vegas hotel suite either.

    Not that I wouldn’t be tempted. But really, is this now a right of passage for the young these days?

    Harry is no representative of mine. Which makes Father Lucie-Smith’s point rather redundant. Don’t you think…..?

  • JabbaPapa

    Revealing the truth about a significant institution such as the royal family can only be good.

    Do you imagine your moral callousness to be of any intrinsic value whatsoever ?

  • GFFM

    None of this is surprising in the least. What is notable is Harry’s stupidity and self absorption in this age of You-Tube and camera phones. Where is Harry’s honor and self-respect as a man and and as a member of the royal family? I am sorry for his grandmother.

  • matty

    With expressions that look exactly like Prince Charles!!!!

  • Meena

    What sort of individual describes the wish for truth about something that is important as “moral callousness” that is devoid of value?

  • Meena

    Have you seen the butler? And who else in the royal lot has red hair?
    This is a widespread view and owes its origins to his mother who went as far as she could without actually putting it into a fully clear statement. The British TV media agreed not to broadcast the interview, and the print media did not publish it. The interview was broadcast in France and elsewhere.

  • Parasum

     “What a shame for the Queen!”

    ## Maybe, but given the behaviour of her children, it’s not surprising. Divorcing is not very dignified either.

    “The Sun” knows that people like looking at pornography and feeling superior – people in this country are dirty-minded & judgemental: so of course it published. When the monarchy collapses, in part because of “The Sun”‘s prurience & sensationalism, “The Sun” will be genuinely amazed, &very indignant, that people will accuse it of being in any way to blame.

  • Parasum

    Henry V also became king at the age of twenty-eight, and died seven years later. So today’s Prince Hal is cutting it rather fine.

  • John Wilson

    Is that Harry the nazi? Harry the gloater of killing Afghans? Harry the sex pest?

  • paulpriest

    I was an eager young bride, Charles -
    I wanted glamour, and music and romance – all I got was potted palms,
    seven hours of every day on a damp golf course and a three piece
    orchestra playing ‘Merrie England”

  • Texas

    What happened to “What Happens in Vegas Says in Vegas” ?

  • Honeybadger

    There are ancestors of Prince Harry who had natural red hair, thickwig!

    William II (Rufus), Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots…

    … Queen Alexandra wife of Edward VII.

    Paul Burrell the butler did not have red hair.

  • Honeybadger

    Same to you!

  • Jimin Kang

    Well, I wonder one should even make remarks about the royal family at all. You may make remarks about democratically elected politicians and criticise them on pertinent issues but the royal family I think should not be placed under public scrutiny at all. Should not the life of a prince or a princess be considered somewhat of a vocational character? I.e. by Divine mandate?

  • Alban

    “Judge not, that ye be not judged”

  • Info

    None of those you mentioned are Windsors. So t is not the same bolld line

  • Guest

    As a trained historian I have to say that the notion that contemporary events should be given ‘historic perspective’ is a contradiction.  Only historic events can be given that perspective i.e. if we were looking at the behaviour of a son of one of the named monarchs – Henry VIII for God’s sake murdered some of his wives! – then we can look at the time period to see if such behaviour was in line or out of line with that period in time.  One glance back at some of the Popes would make us shudder – and certainly not try to put our own time in THAT perspective.

    Harry’s behaviour can only be judged by our own contemporary times.  Is it acceptable that the son of a reigning monarch in the 21st century be seen in these situations?  Given the treatment of democratically elected officials under similar circumstances, I very much doubt it.  Harry is almost 28 – certainly way beyond youthful folly. 

  • Patrickhowes

    But surely we do need accountability from those who represent our country?.Harry is an army officer and as such should exercise good judgement.After all,he carries people´s lives in his hands!Is he not showing us that maybe he cannot shoulder such responsability?Also he is The Queen´s grandson and should act like a gentleman and not a yob in Ibiza!He should show class and not crass!

  • Patrickhowes

    Well said.Not to mention that he and the Royal Family are the head of a Christian Church.When has hedonism become Christianity??

  • Patrickhowes

    The moral of this story does concern his behaviour as it shows a not so young man who needs to grow up!Children need role models and God forbid they need any more hedonistic ,self absorbed and vulgar individuals to lead them off the path of virtue

  • Patrickhowes

    Did she really say that?He resembles his mother´s sister

  • Patrickhowes

    What´s divine about some of their behaviour?

  • Chrysoprase

    It is disappointing, of course that Prince Harry didn’t seem to care about his dignity. But the Prince has become rather popular. He is a courageous soldier which should not be underestimated. It is a royal tradition to be a brave warrior.
    But the prince needs a wife – and not just any glamorous girl. Someone who can guide him to glory. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the court to find him one.

  • Guest

    I think when a Priest stops knowing his place before God and thinking it is his position to publicly criticize and question those which the Church commands that we obey and those which have a divine Mandate to rule. I think that is rather worrying too.

    You should know better than to give your opinion on any member of the Royal family when it has not been invited Father. Know your place.