He could have chosen the quiet life — but opted for Hollywood instead
Vladimir Nabokov claimed that his inspiration for Lolita came from a newspaper story. It was late in 1939, or 1940, when he opened up his paper and came across an account of an ape in the Jardin des Plantes. This ape, after months of coaxing and teasing by scientists, produced the first ever charcoals drawn by an animal.
The sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.
I have no idea whether our renegade Prince Harry can sketch, but he can certainly talk, and he sounds rather like Nabokov’s ape. Yesterday in an interview on the (sigh) American Actor Dax Shepard’s podcast, he again described the monarchy as prison:
“I’ve seen behind the curtain, I’ve seen the business model, I know how this operation runs and how it works. I don’t want to be part of this. It’s a mix of being in The Truman Show and being in the zoo.”
Harry, of course, is completely right. The monarchy is our national zoo — and the animals on display are human beings. Like a zoo, it is both cruel and funny — there are many times when the squabbling monkeys within Regent’s Park have made me laugh, just as Prince Charles dressing up as a Sikh, or yakking with his plants, is comedic dynamite.
What Harry misses is the rest. The magic of monarchy — and it is magic, not logic, or duty that powers the institution — is that all this indignity is transformed, on occasions like Prince Philip’s funeral, into majesty.
So Harry has escaped. In The Truman Show, a 1999 satire starring Jim Carrey, the main character finds out that he has been secretly filmed from birth as part of a reality television show. (Now people do this to themselves for free on Instagram). As the film ends, Carrey charges up a flight of stairs, leaving his fake past behind him, running into the light.
Tellingly, the viewer never finds out what happens next. If we saw all the messy fallout, we would likely be disappointed. Truman’s dream of escape would be temporary; it would create a new set of painful problems to solve.
This is what is happening to Harry. We already know too much about his post-Royal life, and there is only more to come. He has not chosen to fade away. To enjoy privacy or enter seclusion. He has somersaulted from one zoo, the British monarchy, into another — Hollywood.
Imagine if Harry and Meghan had stayed in British Columbia. At this moment, Harry stalks along an old wooden pier to gaze out over a vast crystal lake. Meghan, splendidly housed in an enormous yurt, is feeding the very best maple syrup to Archie. A powerful eagle screeches overhead. The Prince who chose anonymity, who judged the world with silence, not words. They’d be writing fairy tales about the pair of them for centuries to come.
Instead, along with Harry’s interview, we learn that Madame Tussauds has moved its waxworks of the couple. They have left the ‘House of Windsor Zone’ and entered the ‘Hollywood Zone’. One set of bars exchanged for another.