17 May, 2021

Happy families?

Prince Harry is in the news again, and again at his own instigation.  He’s now talking about emotional pain inherited from his parents, and presumably pain they inherited from their parents, and so on.  Well, it’s a pretty unique family, coping throughout their whole lives with pressures that none of us can ever experience.  Apparently Harry feels that by moving to California and speaking out on his family difficulties to the world media, he can reduce his own pain and so can behave in a way to help his children to avoid any harmful influence from him.

It isn’t new, is it?  We all at times think about our own personalities and behaviour, and wonder how many elements are ‘caused’ by the way were treated by the folks. I’ve put brackets round ‘caused’ because we can’t avoid being influenced but we can do something about it. As many know, Philip Larkin had his own opinion on this and expressed it bluntly – see here.

I had a stab at looking at myself, and accounting for some of my own attitudes, in the blog entry of 5 July last year, ‘The Big Question’.  Just re-read it, pondered on it, and feel I got it more or less right. Were he around, Mr Freud might have identified other inherited problems, but thankfully he isn’t.

About 15 years ago I was having a drink with two business colleagues.  We didn’t know each other well but that evening we realised that each of us was an only child – none of us had brothers or sisters.  It led on to a chat about that.  Without siblings to help and be helped, to argue with, to rival, to share with, to deliberately withhold from, and so on, did we have much in common?  We identified one common attitude: a strong desire to manage our lives with minimum pressure from anyone else.  Then the rather defensive question, “What’s wrong with that?” 

It was too big a subject for that evening and I seem to remember we’d already had a few drinks. Something did emerge though.  Two of us were unmarried with no children.  We acknowledged we’d been affected by parental influences – in my case desperate, smothering love, in his case rather brutal control – and it had made both of us uneasy about coping with family life.  The third man was married and had seven children.  He had resented his only-child status and had decided to compensate by having a large family.  So what about “managing life with no pressure from others”?  For us two, relatively easy.  Large Family Man: “I run my family.  My wife and the kids do what I tell them. There’s trouble if they don’t.  Let’s have another drink.”

These are big questions, hence the title of the 5 July blog entry.  I reckon I’m writing this because of Harry’s assumption that by moving overseas and broadcasting his views on his family’s problems to the world he can somehow break the cycle and bequeath to young Archie and the expected second child quieter, calmer and more private lives.  I’m not so sure.

4 Comments

  1. Dear David,

    I love that you have written about this subject. I could go on for hours and hours (ask Michael if you don’t believe me!) both on the subject of the influence of family, and Harry and Meghan. I totally agree with you in being not so sure.

    Did you read the article in the Times Luxx supplement this weekend? There was an article on Julia Samuel who is an aristocrat, a counsellor, was a friend of Diana’s, knows William and Harry well, and is godmother to Prince George (oof!). She sounded a note of caution about going public with such issues, but rather the need for choosing the receiver very carefully. Anyway…

    On a lighter note, and this may amuse you, I was so triggered by the whole Oprah interview that I actually took the steps of getting in touch with Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell- yes indeed! I was on Instagram one day, so was he and he actually responded to me and we had a chat about the whole thing. The upshot was that he didn’t think it was a good idea either. It was a very nice chat all the same, and I quite understood why Diana might have turned to him for advice- he has quite a comforting and paternal energy about him.

    All the best to you dear David. You are often in my thoughts.

    Reply
    • My goodness Vivienne, it’s good to hear from you, and that’s quite a story! I try not to get too involved in the Comments on the blog but this does deserve a response. I think in the interests of preserving editorial independence I’ll say “No Comment.” Fascinating. Over to others to comment. But thank you very much!

      Reply
    • Oh dear! The Dyson report into the Bashir interview with Diana has put the chat amongst the pigeonnes hasn’t it! A dreadful tale indeed that unfortunately gives those of a particular political leaning a big stick to bash the BBC.

      Reply
  2. I was in Paris on business when Diana’s car came to grief in the underpass and saw the flowers build up over the next few days. But that was nothing to the botanical and psychological outpouring that seemed to take over most of the UK. I found it all very odd and a bit naff but it clearly represented something significant. Fast forward to the present and I think Harry is being a bit of a nit! Bearing all in public is asking for it. On the matter of being an only child, I don’t think I was in the conversation with you David but as an adopted only child I strongly agree a strong sense of autonomy and independence goes with the territory.

    Reply

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