The United Nations should have been celebrating the memory of Nelson Mandela and honouring the late leader’s contributions to freedom and equality. Unfortunately, the focus of this year’s Nelson Mandela International Day shifted away from the great man’s legacy and onto something far less substantial: Harry and Meghan.
Despite Prince Harry’s self-professed preference for the quiet life, he placed himself centre-stage by delivering the keynote address on Mandela to the UN General Assembly. Given Harry is neither an elected official, nor a working royal, how did he obtain this honour? Harry and Meghan continue to find themself in a peculiar position whereby they court the very same fame that they say they don’t want, dabling in politics to ‘stay relevant’, while insisting they are merely private citizens.
A second aspect that turned commentators’ heads was the contrast between Prince Harry and Mandela. By nature of his birth, Harry is and always will be a symbol of the British monarchy, an institution with a pronounced colonial history. Mandela, on the other hand, dedicated his life to fighting imperial forces and pioneering democracy in South Africa. Was Harry really the best the UN could find to honour Mandela’s legacy?
In addition to questions about Harry’s suitability, the Prince’s comments on climate change during the address sparked yet another distracting debate. Whilst the UK experienced record breaking temperatures, Harry remarked that: “Our world is on fire, again…the right thing to do is not up for debate, and neither is the science. The only question is whether we’ll be brave enough and wise enough to do what is necessary.”
Harry is correct: the right thing to do is not up for debate. But the advice seems to have left a sour taste in the mouth of the British public given the Prince’s propensity for jet setting around the globe in high-emission private planes. Is it fair to have an unelected (former) royal lecturing the public about doing more to save the environment when he probably has a higher carbon footprint than significant swathes of the population combined?
This is the issue Harry & Meghan continuously struggle to overcome – an air of hypocrisy. They want to be private citizens left alone by the press, yet they continue to lead public lives with splashy media appearances. They lecture about climate change whilst clocking up thousands of miles on a private jet. Until they understand that it’s the hypocrisy the public take issue with, they will never find their place in whatever semi-public/private world they want to live in.