Meghan Markle and Harry's son will get 'normal' life Princess Diana battled for
THOUGH he slept soundly through all the clicking commotion, it was soon clear that Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is an international celebrity.
He might be a commoner — Archie will only receive a title if and when Prince Charles becomes King — but there will be nothing common about his life.
If William and Catherine’s blue-blooded brood are Made In Chelsea royals, then this little fella is definitely Made In Hollywood.
And if Harry’s mother Princess Diana had been alive to cradle her fourth (yes, fourth) grandchild in her arms, she would have instantly appreciated that this commoner has a very special destiny.
While he might have Christian names that go back to Anglo-Saxon times, young Archie — whose name means bold or brave — is an instant “global citizen”, not only bi-racial but bi-coastal, straddling the shores of America and Britain.
It was a direction Diana herself had arrived at in the last years of her life.
The girl raised in rural Norfolk wanted to be known as a “princess for the world” not by her formal title, Princess of Wales.
Before she was tragically killed in a car crash in August 1997, she spent half her time in the States, either on holiday or attending charity functions, chatting easily with her new circle of friends who included diplomat Henry Kissinger, ex-army chief Colin Powell and others.
She even seriously considered living with her last boyfriend, Dodi Fayed — son of the former owner of Harrods — at his proposed mansion in Malibu on the Californian coast.
Like Archie, who will learn to love the countryside in Windsor Great Park, Diana was brought up in a rural setting — the Spencer home is next to Sandringham, the Queen’s winter retreat.
She went for rambles with her springer spaniel Jill, played hide and seek with her brother Charles and in springtime looked for frogs and newts.
But her most vivid childhood memory was of her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, walking out of the family home during her acrimonious divorce from Earl Spencer.
When I worked with her on her famous biography, Diana, Her True Story, she told me that the sound of her mother marching across the gravel courtyard, driving off in her car and out of her life was stained on her memory.
She would certainly have agreed with Harry’s view of loss. During a trip to The Hague this week to promote his charity the Invictus Games, Harry told former Dutch soldier Dennis van der Stroom that “missing a mother is like missing some kind of security”.
Looking at the loved-up couple standing before the world, Prince Harry carefully nestling baby Archie in his arms, would have brought tears of joy to Diana’s eyes.
Archie seems destined to enjoy a happy childhood in a home filled with warmth and affection — a childhood the princess longed for.
She told me she had everything she wanted materially, but none of the hugs and love that Archie is enjoying. Diana remembered craving cuddles from her mum and dad but never receiving them.
In Diana’s childhood her mother was replaced by a succession of nannies, who ranged from the sweet to the sadistic. She told me that one nanny fed her and brother Charles laxatives as punishment, another hit her on the head with a wooden spoon, while a third banged their heads together.
Her brother confessed he kicked a hole in his bedroom door when he was sent to his room for no good reason.
A rebel in her own quiet way, Diana wanted to do things differently when she married Prince Charles.
She challenged his desire to have their boys home-schooled and to employ the elderly nanny from his own childhood.
Diana realised her husband was simply replicating royal tradition. As she told me: “I don’t want them hidden away in the attic with the governess.”
She struggled against royal tradition to give her sons what Archie seems certain to enjoy — a relatively normal life filled with love and laughter.
In Diana’s day it was a lot harder than it seems now, with the princess blazing a trail her sons have followed.
Both William and now Harry have followed their mother’s example and are determinedly hands-on parents
Once at Balmoral, when William was small, his nanny was on holiday and Diana naturally looked after him.
The Queen’s reaction was one of surprise. “I don’t understand why Diana has to do this,” she said.
“There are millions of housemaids around.”
Millions of royal staff too. Diana wanted to pare down the number of flunkeys surrounding her, a desire that put her at odds with her husband.
After their separation in December 1992 she took pride in the fact that, busy as she was, her staff was cut to the bare minimum.
What a difference a generation makes. Both William and Harry have opted for the “normal” home life that their mother strived to achieve, the flunkey quotient cut to the bone.
While Charles once employed a valet whose duties included pressing his £5 note for church service, William is said to do his own ironing. Meghan boasts that she is the one who does all the cooking, which she loves.
If Harry and Meghan do end up employing a nanny or “manny” because of the pressures of royal life, that person will not occupy a central role in Archie’s life as they did in Prince Charles’ day.
Both William and now Harry have followed their mother’s example and are determinedly hands-on parents.
Much as he loved his children, Charles left the discipline to others.
“You deal with them,” he would say to a passing courtier.
Diana would have approved of the way Meghan and Harry are trying to make life at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor as ordinary as is feasible for a global rock and roll royal couple.
They want to keep it as real as possible, which Diana would have appreciated.
She knew first-hand how the royal world is a bubble that shields people from reality.
She was determined to prepare her boys for the outside world in a way unknown to previous generations.
She blazed a trail to bring up her boys in a reasonably ordinary way, and it is this philosophy which has given William and now Harry the latitude to do their own thing as dads.
She believed that William and Harry should be open and honest to the possibilities within themselves and the variety of approaches to understanding life — and in William’s case his future subjects.
“I am altering him but in a subtle way,” she told me.
The iconic visits to Disneyland and Thorpe Park were matched by quieter, more serious trips to visit sick people in hospital and the homeless. Her aim was to guide her boys for their destiny on the public stage.
Remarkably, without having an inkling of what fate had in store for Meghan, her mother Doria Ragland replicated Diana’s philosophy but in a different setting.
Though Doria believes Meghan was hotwired from birth to want to make a difference in the world, she played her own part, by showing her daughter parts of the world way beyond her expensive private schools and cosy home life in Los Angeles.
She raised her to be what she called “a global citizen”, taking her to places such as Oaxaca, in Mexico, where young Meghan recalls barefoot children playing on dirt roads and selling gum to tourists for a few extra pesos.
When Meghan, then aged ten, and her mother visited the slums of Jamaica, the schoolgirl was horrified to see such grinding poverty. “Don’t be scared, Flower,” Doria told her. “Be aware but don’t be afraid.”
As globetrotting comes naturally to Meghan — she visited a dozen countries in three months shortly before meeting Harry — she will think nothing of putting Archie into his papoose and whisking him off to Africa, where the royal couple are discussing staying for a time to help Harry fulfil his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.
It’s also where the royal couple fell in love, Harry commemorating that romantic time on safari with diamonds from Botswana for her engagement ring.
Meghan and Harry’s commoner son is currently seventh in line to the throne. As Archie will grow up without a title, there is not as much pressure of expectation on him as with his royal cousin and immediate heir, Prince George.
Everything from his trendy clothes to his schooling will be more informal and relaxed.
That may change when Prince Charles becomes King.
Under royal rules Archie then can become a prince, if he wishes. That is for the future.
- Andrew Morton’s biography, Meghan: A Hollywood Princess is published by Michael O’Mara, £20
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