THE house of Windsor has a long and very checkered history of trying to demonstrate that they are at least vaguely in touch with normal life but of late, Prince William has been doing a bang job of just this.
As the English football team has progressed towards the finals of Euro 2020, Prince William has emerged as one of the team’s most vocal, and genuinely passionate supporters (well, he does happen to also be President of the Football Association so his enthusiasm is genuine.)
Twice in recent weeks he traded the streets of Kensington for Wembley Stadium to lend his proto-regal support to the team, proving that even the blue-blooded can barrack with the best of them.
Such is his exuberance for football that last year he admitted his staff “deliberately keep [him] away” from the official palace Twitter account after he went, in his own words, “completely out of control” after one game in 2019 and posted his own unauthorised tweet.
In the lead up to today's final between England and Italy, things have reached a fever pitch, pun absolutely intended. (Let us all in our own way prepare for the moment during the match when England’s men collectively and drunkenly take their shirts off to reveal sloppily applied body paint versions of the St George’s Cross.)
But when the opposing sides take to the field, as the tens of millions crowd around televisions and slosh pints around the place in nervous anticipation of the biggest event to take place in the UK since the Cambridges’ 2011 wedding, one man will very clearly be missing.
As the nation unites and prepares to come together for the first major public event since Harry and wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex quit royal life in a fit of hurt feelings in January last year, conspicuously absent will be the sports-mad royal.
In fact, the game will be the first historic public event that Harry will miss being a part of since the Sussexes took the extraordinary step of bailing as working members of the royal family.
Last week he, Kate and George joined 22,500 fans at Wembley Stadium to watch the English team trounce Germany.
The trio laughed, joked and proved that you can put on a passionate display of nationalist sporting pride while adhering to the smart casual dress code.
Again on Thursday, William was in the crowd to next watch the semi-final match, joining Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik, Crown Princess Maryand their son Prince Christian.
In the before times, when no one had ever heard of the portmanteau Megxit and the most exciting royal news was when Kate flirted with a fringe, surely Harry would have joined his brother for these outings too. Squint hard enough and you can nearly see the picture: It’s rousing, heartwarming brotherly stuff.
Instead, when William takes his place ahead of the match on Sunday, his brother is, literally, a world away. This weekend, as the match VIPs gather in the Royal Box, never will Harry’s flight from his old life be more glaringly apparent.
The reality of his choices and his decision to quit are about to come even more acutely into focus.
It’s hard not to wonder: During milestone moments like this, does the now father-of-two ever experience any minor inkling of regret or twinge of remorse over the extreme course he has taken over the last 18 months? Over the events he will miss out on being a part of? Of the moments he won’t share?
While England is steeped in excitement does Harry regret his decision to cut himself off from royal life?
Curiously, in an unfortunate quirk of fate for the Montecito-based content creator, another Harry has played a crucial role in the English team’s dream run with Harry Kane scoring the match-saving goal against Denmark to guarantee them a slot in the finals.
After that history-making shot, fans quickly started calling him ‘Prince Harry Kane.’ This social media-ennobling and jubilant wave of public support of the Tottenham player stands in sad contrast to the real Harry’s swift and dramatic fall in the public’s approval and good graces.
In late April, after the couple’s incendiary Oprah interview and after Harry’s brief return to Windsor for Prince Philip’s funeral, their approval rating dropped to their lowest level ever.
Meanwhile, William’s popularity is buoyant, with polling done in June finding he is the person who Brits want to assume the throne after the Queen passes away. Sorry Charley, old boy.)
If ever there was a moment to encapsulate just how precipitously and drastically things have changed it will be when the Harry the UK adores appears inside Wembley Stadium on Sunday and the one the country has fallen out of love with is absent.
Back in the days of the Kensington Palace Three, when William, Kate and Harry used to be deployed like a Bakers Dozen of royalty to collectively grin and caper for a charmed public, this final is exactly the sort of outing that would have seen them join forces.
It speaks volumes that even if Harry of the unusable HRH was in the UK right now, the chance of him joining his brother for a rousing outing is basically unthinkable.
The prospect of there ever being a day, in the near future, where we might see the two brothers enjoying an outing like the Euro final is about as likely as the Queen taking up Zumba.
No matter which country emerges triumphant this weekend, no matter if we end up seeing if William can tear a Marks & Spencer mid-weight wool blazer by punching the air excitedly enough, this moment is a reminder of what has been lost in the morass that has been Megxit. Harry and Meghan might have gained the freedom to make hundreds of millions of dollars and ride their bikes about the place with only a Range Rover full of hulking security and the lurking cameras of the paparazzi for company – but that trade came at a cost.
Sunday’s game will be a reminder of what the couple, Harry especially, has given up, that is the price they have paid, for this so-called independence. Hope it has been worth it.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
This originally appeared in News.Com. Au and has been republished with permission
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