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Prince Harry Wants 'Father, Brother' Back But Is Royal Family Even a Family? 'Hidden Cousins', HR Secrets EXPLAINED

By: News Desk

Edited By: Vidushi Sagar


Last Updated: January 03, 2023, 15:14 IST

New Delhi, India

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, stands next to King Charles, Anne, Princess Royal, and William, Prince of Wales, as they salute during the state funeral and burial of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, in London, Britain, September 19, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, stands next to King Charles, Anne, Princess Royal, and William, Prince of Wales, as they salute during the state funeral and burial of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, in London, Britain, September 19, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Explained: Is it an institution, a firm or a family? Prince Harry's latest interview gives a whirl to the royal world

Prince Harry has said he wants to have his father and brother back and that he wants “a family, not an institution," during a TV interview ahead of the publication of his memoir.

The interview with Britain’s ITV channel is set to air on Sunday. Harry was heard saying in clips released Monday that “they feel as though it is better to keep us somehow as the villains" and that “they have shown absolutely no willingness to reconcile" — though it was unclear to whom he was referring.

What is the Controversy?

Since stepping down as senior royals in 2020 and moving to California with their two young children, Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, and his wife Meghan have aired their grievances against the British monarchy.


Since his departure from the United Kingdom, Harry, 38, has previously spoken about his estrangement from his father, King Charles III, and elder brother, Prince William.

Last month, Netflix released “Harry & Meghan," a six-part series about the couple’s experiences leading up to their decision to start over in the United States.

In that documentary, Harry was critical of the royal press team and discussed how his relationship with William and the rest of the royal family had soured. Meghan described wanting to end her life as she struggled to cope with negative press coverage in the United Kingdom.

Harry’s autobiography, titled “Spare" after the saying “the heir and the spare," will be published on January 10.

Could the Royal Family Ever be ‘Just a Family’?

Much has been said and depicted around this very question. Estranged members, one being Prince Harry’s mother herself, Princess Diana, have often spoken about the harsh expectations and rigmaroles around being associated with the royal family.

Britain’s Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry react during the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales. (Reuters/Archive)

In the explosive 2021 interview to Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle had interchangeably referred to the royal set up as ‘an institution’, or the firm. But a family or a firm or an institution? The lines between the choice of words is blurred.

Victoria Arbiter, a royals commentator based in New York, explained in a Vox report the difference between these three.

“It’s a very complex and complicated answer. “The institution” refers to the institution of monarchy — the business of monarchy — so its public role. Within the institution of monarchy, there are palace aides. There will be private secretaries that oversee the diary and the day-to-day handlings of senior members of the royal family. There is a communications team that handles the press. Within the royal household, there are people that oversee the day-to-day running of the monarchy, whether it’s those that are working in the kitchens or those responsible for winding up the Queen’s clocks — that is a job. The institution of monarchy is the big picture," she said.

Talking about the use of the word ‘firm’, Arbiter called it ‘quite interesting.’

“George VI, the Queen’s father, was the first person to have coined that phrase. What he was referring to was the family business. So historically, “the firm” has referred to senior working members of the royal family. In the interview, Meghan jumps between saying “the institution” and “the firm.” I don’t think she is saying “the firm” in context to referencing senior members of the family. I think she’s using it in the same vein as she’s using the phrase “the institution," she told the Vox.

So is there No ‘Royal Family’ at All?

Arbiter said this is where the lines become blurred. At the time of the report, Queen Elizabeth II was alive. “This is where the lines become quite blurred because the queen is the head of the institution. She is the monarch and she runs the show. But at the same time, she’s Harry’s grandmother. So it’s difficult in that respect because the buck rests with her," she explained.

Now, that same onus would fall on Prince Charles III, who is both Harry’s father and also the reigning monarch ‘who runs the royal show’.

Estranged Family Members

The Netflix show ‘The Crown’ has depicted, albeit in dramatised versions, the often harsh decisions that have taken place against the members to ‘preserve’ the ideals associated with ‘the institution’ - whether it be delaying the divorce of Princess Diana and Charles, to the ‘forbidden love’ story of late Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth II’s sister) or even when Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.

There are also darker stories which are lesser known, such as the ‘hidden cousins’ of Queen Elizabeth II. Due to their mental disability, the two cousins - Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon - never truly became a part of the family. (They were sent to a mental institution, never talked about, and also mentioned as dead in records).

The story of the sisters’ tragic existence was not published until 1987. In reality, Nerissa had died only a year before, and Katherine was still alive. She passed away only in 2014.

While the royal family (or institutions’) strict standards have modernised to a certain degree over the years, Harry and Meghan have cast fresh spotlight on the system that exists.

But if time is taken as measure, the royal family has never taken kindly to public proclamations of the inside details, a lot of which is being done by the ‘Spare’ couple now.

The HR Department of the Royal Family

Arbiter, in reference to Meghan’s remarks in the Oprah interview, also talked about the HR department which looks after the ‘human resources’ of the royal family.

The HR department, like any other, is responsible for human resources. Buckingham Palace is a palace, but it is also the seat of the British monarchy and a working office. There is a human resources department because, like any business, they have a responsibility to protect the employees and ensure that everything is done in an ethical and moral manner, she said.

“So, if an employee files a complaint, the HR department is in charge of investigating the claim. Meghan stated in the interview that she went to HR to request assistance and was denied. “We can’t help you because you are not a paid employee," said human resources, whoever it was. That she wasn’t. She belonged to the family. But I believe Meghan was looking for assistance wherever she could find it. That was one of the areas where the door was shut. However, the human resources department would function in the same manner as any other business. Its purpose is to protect employees’ welfare and well-being, to ensure that there is no harassment, and that everything is running in a safe, acceptable, and professional manner," Arbiter told Vox.

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first published:January 03, 2023, 15:13 IST
last updated:January 03, 2023, 15:14 IST