Prince Harry left England yesterday after what many are calling his final royal engagement and was seen arriving in Canada last night to rejoin Meghan Markle and their son Archie in Victoria, British Columbia now that Sussexit is a done deal. We’ll get to some of the other updates about their future and their plans in another post but right now, I want to go back to Harry’s remarks the other night at the Sentebale gala and one particular sentence I singled out in my post yesterday. Addressing the audience, many of whom he’s known and worked with for years with the foundation, Harry thanked them for what they brought to his life:
“Together, you have given me an education about living.”
As I wrote yesterday, those were the words that jumped out at me because Harry turns 36 this year, which is how old his mother was when she died. And living, even for someone born to nobility as both Diana and Harry were, is a thorny word, especially when you consider how trapped she said she felt by her circumstances. There’s a reason why his words pinged me. It’s because his mother actually said them too.
It was December 1993, a year after it was announced in Parliament that Diana and Prince Charles would be separating. Diana was at Headway, the brain injury association working with people suffering from brain trauma, to give a speech at the annual luncheon. This is where she announced that she would be withdrawing from public life.
So she delivered her remarks about stepping back from public duty at one of her patronages…just like Harry. And here’s what she said that’s not unlike what Harry said:
“It is a pleasure to be here with you again sharing in your successes of the past year. Headway has grown into an organisation which is improving the quality of so many lives. I'm so proud of the work you've achieved.
In the past twelve years, I can honestly say, that one of my greatest pleasures has been my association with people like yourselves. During those years I have met many thousands of wonderful and extraordinary people, both here and around the world. The cared for and the carers.
To the wider public, may I say that I've made many friends. I've been allowed to share your thoughts and dreams, your disappointments and your happiness. You have also given me an education. By teaching me more about life and living than any books or teachers could have done. My debt of gratitude to you all is immense. I hope, in some way, I've been of service in return.”
A full transcript of the Princess’s speech that day can be found here. Video of it is below this post.
The similarities are undeniable. William and Harry speak often about their mother, about missing her and about having to cope with her not being with them, how they’ve struggled with mental health issues from their grief. But rarely do they reveal – and they shouldn’t have to – what their grieving looks like. How they remember her. What they study about her.
This cannot be a coincidence. Harry would know that it got so bad for his mother at one point that she had to retire from public life. At some point, obviously, he heard what she said about it. And now… he relates to it. He relates to it so much that he may have borrowed her words in his own speech about his own decision. While their situations may not be exactly the same to those looking at it from the outside, clearly to him, it’s an experience he feels he shares with her. So much so that he’s echoed her words.
Something to remember as we continue to unpack Sussexit and consider Harry and Meghan’s future.