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American children tuning into Netflix today, Friday, to pass another endless day of lockdown will have a new offering to entertain them—a special edition of the British show Thomas The Tank Engine, introduced by one of its biggest fans, Prince Harry.
Promotional clips of the special, Thomas & Friends, released this week, showed Harry, who showed up for his first day of nursery school in 1987 sporting a Thomas bag, settling down fireside to read the story. Harry looked at home and comfortable in the clip, filmed in the U.K. in January before he and Meghan left British shores for good.
It was a self-consciously British setting; a squishy rather than elegant armchair, covered in a loose check print, a pile of hardbacks on a side table next to him and a set of fire tongs casually propped up against the marble fireplace surround.
It was hard not to reflect that in the multiple video clips he has filmed since then, from the rented or borrowed homes the Sussexes have occupied in Canada and now Los Angeles, Harry has sought out anonymous, featureless backgrounds, lest we learn anything of his whereabouts.
Even Harry’s most loyal supporters freely allow that Meghan and Harry have found adapting to the stresses of life under lockdown as challenging as anyone else, but they hit back Thursday at claims that Harry is all at sea emotionally, and badly missing the old pals and army comrades who used to sustain him.
“Most people’s lives have been shaken up quite a bit in the last few months,” a friend told The Daily Beast.
It was reported Thursday by the Daily Telegraph, one of the few British newspapers not to have been cut off by the Sussexes, that Harry was yearning for at least some parts of his old life, with what was described as a well-placed source saying: “Harry has told friends he is really missing the Army as well his military appointments. He misses the camaraderie of being in the forces.
“He has been telling friends that he still can’t believe this has happened. He can’t believe his life has been turned upside down.
“He was in a happy place when he was serving in the Army, then he met Meghan and since then life has been great. But I don’t think he foresaw things turning out quite as they did.”
The Telegraph added that Harry, 35, does not “blame Meghan,” but can’t shake a “sense that he might have been better protected if he was still in the Army.”
Harry’s team would not comment on the Telegraph’s story to The Daily Beast. However, a friend told The Daily Beast that “any implications that these feelings have anything to do with the duchess are completely untrue.”
The friend told The Daily Beast that Harry’s “military titles will always be important to him, as will the friends that he made while he served,” but noted but “he left service a few years ago.”
It is, of course, no secret that one of the toughest blows for Harry, when it came to stepping down from his royal life, was being required to relinquish his official military associations. He fought tooth and nail to keep them but the royal establishment would not ultimately allow it.
You could hear the bitter tang of personal experience in his voice when he told a podcast two weeks ago of the “gaping hole” that “hanging up” the military uniform leaves on former squaddies such as himself.
It is noticeable that the charities that Harry has sought to really strive to continue to be involved with are the military ones. He has recorded messages for the Invictus Games; given an interview to a military-focused podcast; and just this week fronted the launch of a website, HeadFIT, designed primarily with the mental health needs of the defense community in mind.
While Harry was said to have enjoyed the wild and rugged beauty as well as the isolation of Canada’s remote Vancouver Island, life in L.A. is very different. Fleeing the space and freedom of rural life in a pandemic for the confined environs of a major American urban center seems a strange choice.
With some kind of lockdown now seeming likely to persist in Los Angeles for many months to come, few would begrudge Harry the occasional yearning for face time (real face time, that is) with his old mates and a glimpse of the green, green grass of home.