Princes Harry and William were complementing halves of a whole growing up, but, as William becomes more protective of his privacy and Harry loosens up as he contemplates marriage to his actress girlfriend, the styles and manners of the two princes are diverging fast.
Consider this for a tale of two brothers.
After Prince William succeeded in alienating the British public last week by skipping a symbolically important church service and taking an ill-advised ski trip, in the course of which he was pictured high-fiving a lingerie model over a boozy lunch and videoed doing some very dodgy ‘dad dancing’ in a Verbier nightclub, his younger brother Prince Harry won plaudits and sympathy for an emotionally-charged visit to an AIDS center his mother had once visited.
In an emotional moment, Harry was shown a signed photograph of his late mother from her visit to the Leicester Aids Support Service (LASS) in November 1991, and a wall of tributes she had launched honoring those who died from the disease.
Meanwhile, the extraordinary backlash has continued to unfold against Prince William on phone-in radio shows and the pages of British newspapers this week. William is said to still be quietly seething at what he perceives as the outrageous invasion of his privacy that a fellow clubber in a nightclub videoing him on a phone dancing like an embarrassing uncle at a wedding constitutes.
Few people who are not on William’s payroll identify with the young Prince’s outrage.
“The future king chatting up a pretty 20-something blonde at a ski resort? That’s a valid story,” says one usually sympathetic source. “But William won’t see it that way.”
In fairness to William, he has been hammered harder than is completely fair this week. The reason for the vindictive pile-in is a perception among the media that he and Kate have spent the past ten years deliberately antagonizing and frustrating the press at every opportunity, including attempting to neuter them by issuing news releases on social media.
The empirical reality is that ever since the Leveson inquiry disclosed their phones had been hacked, William, Harry and Kate have been treated with kid gloves by the British media in comparison to the privacy invasions all-too regularly dished out to other celebrities.
Witness, for example, the fact that no UK paper published pictures which appeared globally of Harry at Tom Inskip’s wedding in Jamaica with Markle a few weekends back because of privacy concerns.
Communicating this to William, in particular, is impossible, who continues to act with extraordinary hostility towards the press. He and Kate sometimes appear to go out of their way to make the lives of the UK’s phalanx of royal reporters difficult.
Harry, by contrast, used to be like this but has mellowed considerably in his attitude to the press since he unedifyingly sneered at a BBC reporter on camera in Afghanistan that he wished the man wasn’t there.
Richard Palmer, the veteran royal correspondent for the Daily Express, told the Daily Beast: “I think it’s true to say that all three [William, Kate and Harry] at various times have alienated the media—and many of their readers and viewers—because of their hostility, their attempts to control the press, and the perception that they wanted to have their cake and eat it.
“William and Kate are great with the people they meet, less so with the media. Photographers covering her arrival at an engagement this week complained, for example, that she didn’t even bother to look at them so they had no photos showing her face.
“Harry has mellowed. He’s not the party prince anymore and not quite the same angry, outspoken young man he was in his late teens and early twenties. He can still be abrasive at times but on the whole, he is charming, relaxed, and chatty. He is engaging and sometimes quick with the banter.”
Palmer believes that Harry’s professional success—his achievements in setting up an HIV/AIDS charity in southern Africa and creating the Invictus Games as part of a campaign to help a generation of military veterans physically or mentally scarred by 25 years of wars—has helped create a more at-peace individual.
William, by contrast, is still waiting for his anti-poaching campaign or one of his other causes “to show some real tangible success” and adds that he needs to shake off the ‘reluctant royal’ image.
Other royal watchers have similar takes on the way the siblings’ lives and styles are diverging.
The author Penny Junor who has written biographies of both young royals says: “William and Harry are very different characters William’s focus is now his family and he is very protective. He is also very controlling and hates press intrusion, and probably gets unnecessarily wound up about it.
“Harry is much more of an extrovert and Meghan is a public figure and, I assume, very happy to be recognized and photographed. He doesn’t agonize, as William does, he just gets on with life.”
Of course, William has spent a lifetime constrained by his destiny. Harry—like younger brothers since the dawn of time—has always got away with more than his older sibling. Whether its regular six week sojourns in Africa, partying naked in Vegas hotel rooms, or rolling drunk out of nightclubs, Harry still manages to project an image of being the chilled kind of guy you’d want to be friends with.
William’s solo dad dancing, by contrast, isn’t the kind of party many people would want to attend.
William’s challenge—and one at which he has so far been unsuccessful—is to make us love him like we do his brother, foibles and all.