I fear Charles will feel very bruised by this film: SARAH VINE on how some may see William and Harry’s documentary as a rejection of their father
For the millions who, 20 years on, still mourn the Princess of Wales, tonight’s ITV documentary will make for bittersweet viewing. At a preview screening I attended at Kensington Palace, Prince William introduced the film.
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‘Twenty years on, Harry and I felt it was an appropriate time to open up about our mother,’ he explained. ‘We feel hopefully this film will provide the other side – from close family friends, from those who knew her best and from those who want to protect her memory and want to remind people of the person she was.’
He spoke about wanting people to see ‘the warmth, the humour and what she was like as a mother’, and of the brothers’ desire to see her legacy ‘live on in our work’.
‘You have to remember,’ he concluded, ‘that there are people who don’t even know about her; there are 25-year-olds who probably have just heard the odd snippet about her, so this is introducing her to a new audience as well.’
Even without the benefit of William’s insight, it will be clear to viewers from the very first moments that this film is that most heartbreaking of things: a love letter from two little boys to the mother they lost.
There is a vulnerability to the princes’ recollections of Diana, an aching sadness that – for all the happiness they might find in their lives – will never truly leave them.
But there is also, simmering just beneath the surface, beneath Harry’s self-deprecating squaddie humour and William’s more thoughtful demeanour, a white-hot rage, an intense feeling of injustice coupled with a very Diana-esque desire for retribution, to lash out in defence of their beloved mother’s memory.
William and Harry may be grown men, but the princes we see here are just two small boys, mummy’s brave little soldiers, intent on standing up for her, on defending her memory against a husband who never wanted her, a press that hounded her, the critics who scorned her.
The film is a loving tribute to an adored mother, but it is an implicit rejection of their father Charles and his wife, Camilla
There is something so inherently human, so moving, about their need to protect the mother who, in their short time together, gave them so much love.
And yet at the same time their actions will inevitably raise questions about the motivations behind such an overtly one-sided narrative of Diana’s life – and its potential fallout.
Because while this film is a loving tribute to an adored mother, some will inevitably see it as something else: an implicit rejection of their father, Charles, and of the royal identity he has sought to establish with Camilla, Diana’s nemesis.
For nowhere in this happy family portrait is there a place for Charles. Whether consciously or otherwise, William and Harry have excised him from this account of their childhood. Not once is he spoken about directly, save for in the context of Diana’s unhappiness and their parents’ subsequent divorce.
Not a single fond anecdote, nothing to redeem him. The Queen is there, with her heartfelt concerns for her struggling daughter-in-law; but of Charles, nary a whiff.
It is almost – to my mind anyway – as if the boys are punishing him. For not giving up Camilla, for failing to love their mother and for ultimately, unwittingly contributing to her death.
We all know, of course, that the reality of Charles and Diana’s marriage was never black and white. Charles behaved badly – but so did Diana. Multiple sources tell of her petulance, her moods, of the fact that she came to the marriage with her own demons in tow.
And while it is true that Diana was by far the more skilled of the two when it came to publicising her caring side, Charles has been no less dedicated to doing good through his own charity endeavours.
As for love, Diana, did not have a monopoly on that, either. Charles might not wear his heart on his sleeve as she did, but there is no question that he has one. His dedication to Camilla proves that. And there can be no doubt that he loves his sons deeply.
So my hunch is he will be very bruised by this film – by the way it silently blames him, by the way it implicitly paints him as a neglectful husband and father, while she is held up as a saint. And by the way Diana, even in death, continues to shape perceptions of him as a royal and as a husband, and of how the destructive side of Diana howls after him down the years, haunting the present and exacting revenge in the cruellest way possible: through their sons.
Of course, Charles must bear some responsibility for this. His one great weakness as a royal is that, unlike his mother, he put his heart before his duty.
He may have sought to legitimise his actions constitutionally by marrying Camilla, but this film makes clear that no one could ever supplant their mother in the hearts of these two boys.
Watching this film, for the first time I realised what a task the Duchess of Cambridge has in claiming a place alongside her dead mother-in-law in William’s heart. And how hard it will be for whoever marries Harry.
One thing stands out: William and Harry have an unbreakable bond. Forged through their shared suffering, they clearly draw strength and succour from each other.
You can just imagine the two little princes clinging to each other on their own little emotional raft, as the violent storm of their mother’s death washed over them.
As their mother – the one who ‘would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible’, who used to drive her children down old country lanes in her Audi, top down, Enya on the stereo, who would smuggle sweets into school in their socks and send them silly postcards – was suddenly, in the blink of an eye, gone forever.
That sense of that light going out is perhaps the most moving moment of this documentary, where the brothers recall the final conversations they had with Diana.
You see a lifetime of pain in William’s eyes as he recalls her final words to him.
Watching this film, so much about William and Harry falls into place. It also gives us a window into the future, of the kind of monarch William intends to be when he finally inherits the throne.
In Kensington Palace, where an exhibition of Diana’s dresses draws daily crowds, and where her sons have just recreated her private writing desk – a kind of mini shrine complete with family photographs and her favourite pop music albums – William and Harry have created their own little royal compound – a youthful, informal, golden Eden.
This is where William, Kate, George and Charlotte will be living when the young family move back to London this autumn.
Here Prince Harry’s glamorous girlfriend Meghan Markle visits him in his bachelor pad, Nottingham Cottage, and cooks up a storm with ingredients from nearby Whole Foods.
It stands as a stark contrast to the more static atmosphere of Clarence House on the other side of Hyde Park – the official home of Charles and Camilla – or the grandeur of Highgrove.
It is almost as if the House of Windsor now stands divided, with two clear alternative visions forming of the future of monarchy beyond the reign of Elizabeth II.
One based on the principles of yesteryear; the other fashioned on the image of a woman who, 20 years after her death, is still making waves.
Source: DAILYMAIL MAILONLINE
Tags: Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, William Harry and Charles, Princess Diana, Diana Charles William Harry, Clarence House on the other side of Hyde Park, monarchy beyond the reign of Elizabeth II, Charles and Diana’s marriage, William, Kate, George and Charlotte, Charles and Camilla, grandeur of Highgrove