When Prince Harry was dating Cressida Bonas, five long years ago, a mutual friend of both of them told me that they didn’t believe the relationship would work because they were both “childlike” and “naïve.”
Harry, they said, had faced many problems in his life, but was oddly immature, almost innocent, in normal life.
On a practical level, they said, he’d never had to test his “idealism” against the real world, where the rest of us live.
I couldn’t help thinking of Harry the idealist as I read, slack-jawed, the transcript in The Sun of his conversation with two Russian pranksters he believed were the Nordic activist Greta Thunberg and her father, Svante—in particular the moment where Harry said, “I’ve always believed, one of the strongest ways to change mindset and be able to raise consciousness and be able to create self-awareness among people, is to challenge the media and say you have a responsibility and you are accountable for everything you are feeding people because you are brainwashing people, so this is far bigger than just us.”
We probably shouldn’t be too hard on Harry for believing the pranksters were who they claimed to be. Vovan and Lexus (Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov) have fooled everyone from Elton John to Bernie Sanders, and for all the absurdity they manage to shoehorn into the conversations to make their victims look ridiculous, it’s a well-oiled and extremely convincing machine at this stage.
The hoaxers posed as Thunberg’s “director” using a fake email address set up under the name of Ueli Maurer, the then president of Switzerland, and sent emails under the heading “Call or meeting with Greta Thunberg.”
Harry emailed them back at first and ultimately called them from his own phone, without concealing the number.
We’ve all heard stories of intelligent people who have been taken in by sophisticated phishing scams, and for Harry to believe Vovan and Lexus were Greta and Svante is no more stupid than for unsuspecting victims of fraudsters to believe they are bank staff.
What is bewildering, however, is that Harry was so indiscreet in his conversation with the people he believed to be the Thunbergs.
On an absolutely basic, elementary level, the same way many people, and certainly those in positions of power, wisely assume that their emails or texts may one day be compromised and are careful what they write, Harry will have had drilled into him from his earliest days that any phone call he makes could well be being recorded or tapped, so don’t say anything indiscreet.
Even if it had been Greta on the phone, in other words, it was still wildly inappropriate to criticize the President of the United States when speaking on the phone to her. It was even more foolish to use emotive language like saying he “has blood on his hands” because of his support for the coal industry.
That many people agree with Harry doesn’t change that.
The fact that Harry and Meghan were on the way out of the royal family when these comments were made is the one saving grace.
It lessens the scale of this act of idiocy substantially, and the ongoing panic about the novel coronavirus means the tapes have received less coverage than might perhaps otherwise have been the case.
They are of course entitled to their opinions, but their status as being in transition to being private citizens render these remarks more of an embarrassment than a diplomatic disaster.
Personally, however, antagonizing Donald Trump and calling him a killer is going to make Harry and Meghan’s life very awkward.
They would be wise to forget moving to America while Trump is in power, for starters, as hosting Harry and Meghan is not without problems and requires political goodwill from the very top.
Trump, known for both his thin skin, love of the British royal family and dislike for Meghan, is not likely to be unaware of this latest slagging, and could choose to make it difficult for them to fundraise amongst, and associate with, the ultra-wealthy Republican elite who are allied to him.
Ever since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced that they were effectively leaving the royal family, stepping back from their formal roles and moving to Canada, a debate has swirled about just how to fund their security protection.
Their critics say they should pay for it themselves; Harry and Meghan have argued that as “internationally protected people” they have a right for their security to be funded by the British state.
The irony, of course, is that this security breach happened despite the fact that, for the time being at least, Harry and Meghan have won that argument and are enjoying, at vast expense, round-the-clock armed security provided by officers from London’s Metropolitan Police force, who are being flown back and forth to western Canada.
It just goes to show that all the expensive physical security in the world cannot constrain somebody who acts unilaterally, hot-headedly or on the basis of advice from Hollywood PRs.
Vovan and Lexus told The Sun that none of Harry’s Hollywood advisers, whom they made their approach through, actually checked if they were genuine.
Stolyarov told the newspaper: “His staff must have forwarded him the email. Probably the emails were transferred through many people before he got it. We were shocked when he emailed us. No one ever checked us out to see who we really were.”
The palace has refused to be drawn officially on the incident so far, although a palace source told The Sun that it was “completely natural” for Harry to want to speak to Thunberg.
They are, after all, both idealists; and that was the chink that Vovan and Lexus were able to so skillfully exploit.