Stumbling across Monday night’s BBC 3 documentary on Prince Harry in Afghanistan, my first reaction would have been to surf-onwards to the next channel. Fortunately, the missus had the remote at the time and she stuck around for a look. I was glad she did, because as a die-hard republican this made an incredibly strong case for bringing an end to Britain’s hereditary selection of a head of state.
This was not a great documentary. Richard Bacon was fawning and shallow, and there were many interesting issues raised and then passed over. For instance, should royal family members be allowed to serve in combat zones? On the one hand, training someone to fly/co-pilot a £45M Apache attack helicopter is expensive, and a pointless waste if you don’t let them do it for real when the need is there. On the other, their very presence may make the environment more dangerous to those around them – if identified, Harry would be the highest value target in the conflict. And should we really be allowing one of pop culture’s most famous figures to be an ambassador for killing people, just like it was on a video game?
It was a shame not to see this issue properly discussed and explored, but the programme remained compelling for all that. It was clear that Harry is very good at his job – no one gives that much expensive kit to someone in a war zone if they’re not capable of doing the job. It also seemed that this ability, and the training and work he’s done to achieve it, has given him a sense of worth that he otherwise lacks. Being born into the job of head of state doesn’t mean that the occupant will necessarily value it, or get self-worth from it – contrast this with how he/she might feel about it if they were elected or appointed to that role by the citizenry. Who would you rather have doing the job?
If that wasn’t enough, then after an hour of watching Harry explain just how much he despised the media, and hated the almost total lack of privacy in his life, it was hard not to feel sympathetic. This is a young man whose life has been so distorted by being born into the royal family that the only place he can find a sense of peace is on the frontline of a war zone. Think about that. It’s time to stop doing this to people. It’s cruel and unnecessary. If the Government messed with the lives of the rest of us like this - forcing roles and responsibilities on them - there would have been a revolution a long-time ago. No, there was no doubt in my mind as the credits rolled – it’s time to call time on the royals. Bye, Prince Harry, Hello Captain Wales...