When Prince Harry and his American wife, the Duchess of Sussex, gave up their royal duties, the Queen left them with one close to her heart. She made them President and Vice-President of the Commonwealth Trust, effectively the Queen’s envoys to an organisation of 54 states that includes 2.4 billion people, about a third of the world’s population.
That is a serious job by any standards, offering them a golden opportunity to do the kind of good in the world to which they say they are committed. Yet last week, in an online video to Commonwealth youth leaders, they trashed the very thing they were appointed to promote – and did so in a manner that betrayed their total ignorance about it.
Both of them said the Commonwealth must acknowledge “the wrongs of its past” before it could move forward, evidently mistaking the Commonwealth for the British Empire – an error so crass it is hard to believe they could be so stupid.
The Commonwealth contains some of the world’s biggest and smallest countries. They joined the organisation voluntarily after becoming independent states. Some of them, such as Mozambique and Rwanda, were not even part of the British Empire. About 94% of them are from Africa and Asia.
Fifteen of them outside Britain, including Australia and Canada, recognise Elizabeth II as their Queen. Some have held a referendum to see if their people want to the Queen to remain their Head of State: all of the referendum results were positive, including one in the proudly independent nation of Australia.
The Commonwealth exists to provide a foundation for economic growth and financial prosperity for all its members. Far from wanting to navel-gaze about the evils of the past, these countries are getting on with providing a future for their subjects, young and old. They are “comfortable” with the help provided by the Commonwealth even if Harry and Meghan are not.
If a country like Rwanda, which has lost about a million people in genocidal civil wars in the past 30 years, can put its past behind it and look to a future alongside other countries, what right have this golden celebrity couple, who have chosen not to live in the Commonwealth, to say it is wrong.
In fact, there is something patronising about His Royal Highness Henry Charles Albert David Windsor, Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel, who has lived a life of unearned privilege from the day he was born, giving lectures to other people on how they should feel about world poverty and injustice.
Furthermore, as part of a dynasty whose ancestors have oppressed people since the Norman conquest, one might expect him to stay silent and instead embrace the private life, away from newspaper headlines, that he says he really wants.
One has to fear for the future of Prince Harry and his American bride. They seem utterly confused about wat they want. The prince is engaging in these politically correct activities because he wants to please the wife he loves, not because it comes naturally to him; in fact, he looked extremely awkward in the video, whereas she is an accomplished actor.
He looks “uncomfortable”, to use one of their favourite words, away from his army and sporting chums. And one has to wonder how they will they find the money to live in a $18 million mansion in Los Angeles and sustain the Hollywood lifestyle that goes with it.
Presumably this can only be done by trading his celebrity as a royal for cash, which is at odds with the idealism the couple profess. As someone said the other day, maybe the SAS should send in a squad to rescue him.
Sport back with a bang and a whimper
Having been starved of sport for such a long time during the lockdown, I expected I would welcome it back with joy when it returned on television, albeit in a strange form without the noise of spectators in the ground.
But I have been surprisingly uninterested, especially about watching Premiership football matches – except, of course, when a revitalised Manchester United are playing. Even the return of Test cricket has so far failed to excite me – and not just because England started so badly.
Much has been written about Ben Stokes’s boldness as stand-in captain, choosing to bat on a rainy day with heavy clouds overhead. Had it been anyone else but the England’s great hero of last season, the verdict would have been that it was a foolish decision to bat, especially when he knew the West Indies have found some pretty god fast bowlers again.
I also have doubts about the wisdom of playing the three fast bowlers he chose – James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood – at the expense of the more workmanlike Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. Stokes’s chosen attack are all bowlers best used in short bursts, unlikely to relish sending down upwards of 20 overs in a day. Again it was a bold decision, but not, in my view, a wholly sensible one.
The record of charismatic, extrovert all-rounders as captains of England, notably Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff, is disastrous. Thank goodness Joe Root should be back for the next Test match, having seen his new daughter safely into the world.
Manchester United are a revelation, the first side worth watching since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. It shows what one man, in this case Bruno Fernandes, can do to revolutionise the fortunes of a team if he has enough talent, energy and character to make others play better alongside him.
He has helped to inspire Anthony Martial, so often a brooding figure seeming out of sorts with himself, to score 22 goals as a lone wolf centre-forward. Two local products, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, show that you don’t just need highly priced foreigners to create a winning team. It is hard to believe that the powerful Greenwood (with shooting strength in both feet, a rare attribute in modern football) is only 18.
Paul Pogba, the great enigma, seems to be enjoying himself playing with Fernandes. There have been moments recently when they have reminded me of the great Leeds duo of Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles. Previously, when Pogba has brought the ball out of defence or picked it up in midfield, he has scattered it about a bit, often aimlessly. Now he simply kooks for Fernandes and gives him a short pass – and is sometimes on hand for a return, as he was when he scored against Aston Villa.
I’m so pleased that Ole Solskjaer is finally proving himself as the galvanising manager he always promised to be. Under him United should now make the top four in the Premiership and rejoin the Champions League, where they belong.