I'd be lying if I said that the fantasy of marrying a prince didn't cross my mind a time or two as a child. This narrative was romanticized in nearly every Disney movie of my childhood and became even more real as the young Prince William and Prince Harry were sensationalized by the media. By no means was I obsessed with the Royals but I was drawn to their stories. Now I see that the Royal family falls into everything I love about human psychology, where the worldly obligations conflict with a person's aspiration for authenticity. The point where a person has to decide if he will act on his true desire or obey the religious, cultural, or other self-imposed duties . This is where the "Have-to's" and the "Want-to's" stand in conflict. This is the most fascinating aspect of humanity in my eyes.
But as a girl, I was not simply drawn to the titles and crowns and dashing young princes. I remember Prince William, back when he looked less like his father, and when he was just a teenager photographed on ski trips. I remember Harry with that ginger hair, usually making a silly face, the way a boy who would surely never be the King of England could. I was barely a teenager myself when Princess Diana died but I remember the moment I heard the news. As my mother woke me in the middle of the night in order to watch her funeral on TV, I still see the image of William and Harry following behind Diana's casket, devastated and forced to mourn on a public stage.
Diana speaks to me as a mother. Diana knew her most important role on earth was mother to those boys. And when she no longer felt that their mental wellbeing was being cared for, she did everything to give her boys some sense of a normal life. Diana did what many before her couldn't do; step out from the "Have-to's" and decide to put herself and her boys first.
Twenty years after Diana's death, Harry can still see "the institution", as he calls it, failing to protect the most important woman in his life. At least from his perspective, Meghan, much like with Diana, was tossed to the tabloid-wolves with no support from the Royal Family when outright lies were spoken. Only this time, racism was at play and his children would soon become the target.
The idea that British tabloids could print racial slurs about the great-grandchild of Her Royal Highness the Queen without triggering the full wrath of the Monarch is shocking, to say the least. But it's clear that this was the way things were going to be handled.
However, Harry is no longer the devastated boy struggling to keep up as he walks behind his mother's casket. He sees Meghan's pain. He knows the extent of what could be done for him and his family of three (soon to be four! Meghan and Harry announced they will welcome a baby girl this summer!) And he knows what should be done to protect the ones he loves.
In 2019, when Meghan and Harry announced their intentions to step down as Senior members of the Royal Family, they suffered even more bad press. They were backed into a corner, left with no other options. But they have one thing that Diana never had. They have the love of a supportive spouse, something no one has ever accused Charles of being to Diana. So Harry and Meghan stepped out of their "Have-to's" and chose to create their own path to happiness. They chose to put their own family unit first and recognize that the rest of the worldly obligations come second.
As a mother, I can't help but wonder what Diana would think of all that has transpired. I don't pretend to know her but I do know the mind of a Mama-Bear. I imagine Diana watching this Royal drama filled with equal parts sadness and pride filling her heart. I imagine it pains her to see the treatment of someone so much like herself as she realizes so little has changed in the decades since her death. But I know she is beaming with pride, knowing the strength Harry is showing for his wife. A strength that Charles will never know.
As a mother, I know Diana sees Harry and smiles with pride knowing that she helped raise a man with the ability to stand up for what is right and the conviction to decide to do so. I'm sure Diana is filled with joy seeing the love that Harry has found in Meghan, knowing he deserves to be happy and knowing that Meghan is his happiness. And I'm sure Diana is smiling down on Harry as he does everything he can to give his children the life Diana wanted for him. A life of happiness and authenticity and hopefully a few less "Have-to's".
Read more thoughts on Harry and Meghan from a year ago.