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Will Harry ever be free of the ghost of his mother, Princess Diana?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's car was reportedly given chase by photographers while they were returning from the Women of Vision Awards in New York on May 16, 2023.

May 27, 2023 / 12:57 PM IST
Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed died in a car crash on August 31, 1997, while trying to shake off photographers in a high-speed chase inside a tunnel. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed died in a car crash on August 31, 1997, while trying to shake off photographers in a high-speed chase inside a tunnel. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

That Prince Harry, who is now living in the US after fleeing from England and all its oppressive royal chores, has a giant Oedipal complex is perhaps to be expected. His mother died when he was very young – and the bizarre death of an English princess in a Parisian tunnel can never quite shake off all the conspiracy theories. Was Diana's death a deliberate accident, was it the media chase, was the driver responsible, why was the seatbelt not put? For her enraged fans, this was a tragedy beyond imagination, and they looked to blame someone for it. Naturally, Harry is still looking for closure too.

Subsequently, he and his wife Meghan have given a teary interview to Oprah Winfrey, done podcasts, made a Netflix documentary and written a bookSpare, to tell their side of the story. Which, unrelentingly, sees them playing victims. Everyone around them is a villain, according to them. Harry’s recent guest appearance at King Charles’ coronation was analysed as a complete lack of love for his own family. That Meghan is estranged from her own family only adds to the general air of ‘nobody loves us’.

In some ways their self-prophecy seems to be coming true. The couple has been demanding higher security, and retained the royal titles of duke and duchess, with their kids now prince and princess. Meghan has been picking up small awards here and there for feminism mainly, but also mentions kindness in all her acceptance speeches, with Harry beaming by her side. Whether or not they love each other, they are obviously in love with themselves. Their staff keeps changing, and their PR agency too is a different one now. There were rumours of Meghan’s bullying her staff back in the UK just when she seemed to call the royal family racist, a claim Harry then retracted unconvincingly.

Meghan’s self-congratulatory air and Harry’s traumatized expression only augment their reputation for drama. The latest being the dangerous paparazzi chase they speak of while returning from the feminism award soiree in New York. While the couple’s spokesperson said they were relentlessly pursued by the media in a 'near catastrophic' way, their Indian cab driver and NYPD officials suggest there was no danger at any point.

Which raises the question: is Harry trying to re-enact his mother’s story? Rightly or wrongly, they seem to be following a scripted plot. For him, there must be a fear of flashbulbs, triggering all the nightmares of losing his mother. For her, it may be a way to associate with a late icon in public consciousness. No one knows the truth – which could well be that they did get chased by the paps, and they really were terrified for their life. But the general weary perception is that this is yet another attention-seeking ploy.

Is it self-importance and a desire to be celebs that makes them see enemies everywhere or is there some truth to their paranoia? Being theatrical seems to be a habit with them, so that the recent taxi 'chase' could be both an exaggeration and wish fulfilment.

Shinie Antony
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2002, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.