It seems like a lovely birthday tribute to a royal baby – but there’s something hidden in the clip that’ll make you cry. Picture: Instagram
It seems like a lovely birthday tribute to a royal baby – but there’s something hidden in the clip that’ll make you cry. Picture: Instagram

Devastating detail hidden in Meghan video

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It happens for the first time at the 13 second mark and then again a minute later. And then again, and again.

It could be easy to let it slip by and not notice it, such is the overwhelming deluge cuteness in front of us: An adorable Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor being cradled by his laughing mother Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, while she reads him a (well-chewed) children's book.

But there is something else going on in this remarkable video. Time and again in the 2 minute 55 seconds video, a sound we have not heard in months and months is audible: Harry laughing.

The doting dad filmed the video to mark not only Archie's first birthday on Wednesday but also to help raise money for Save the Children's #SaveWithStories campaign, inadvertently making his presence while playing cameraman felt by chuckling at various moments as his wife and son read together.

This should simply be a lovely feel good moment for the young family along with serving as a lovely jolt of feel good publicity for the Sussexes' after a rocky start to 2020.

But, the fact we are even talking about this is a reminder of just how significantly unhappiness and discontent have become a central part of the Sussex story for the better part of a year.

 

If there is one adjective that has been widely overused when it comes to Harry, it is "cheeky". While William was always the more serious brother, it was Harry who cracked jokes on the Buckingham Palace balcony during Trooping the Colour which made Kate giggle and it was Harry who time and again brought a certain impudent bonhomie to otherwise fusty royal events.

And, the world loved him for it. His irreverence, at times, in the face of stiff protocol made him all the more empathetic a royal figure. He seemed unfazed by pomposity or grandiosity and found an inherent humour (at least outwardly) in royal life. He was not just a bit of a naughty rebel, he was our naughty rebel.

Beyond that, he genuinely seemed to find, and be able to express, joy and pleasure in a public sense in a way that no royal has really been able to since Diana, Princess of Wales. He cuddled babies, hugged the elderly and was a one man monarchical charm offensive, a skill which seemed to come innately to him - again just like his mother.

That happiness grew exponentially when Meghan entered his life and their clearly apparent love for one another was positively infectious.

When they tied the knot in May 2018, more than two billion people around the world tuned in that day to see what felt like the final, lovely tear-jerker of a chapter in a two decade-plus saga. His marriage to Meghan felt like a homecoming of sorts.

 

However, in the two years since then, that Cheeky Chappie persona has started to crack.

In 2019 and Harry and Meghan faced a cavalcade of PR controversies, from her star studded New York baby shower to their decision to trade Kensington Palace, where a vast apartment had already been made available to them, for the relative wilderness of a cottage in Windsor that required extensive renovations.

When in June the bill for Frogmore Cottage was revealed, there was a public outcry (there was a similar furore when it came out in 2014 that the Sovereign Grant had paid the $8.5 million bill for renovation of Kate and William's Kensington Palace apartment which included major roof repairs and asbestos removal).

The Sussexes' decision to up-end royal tradition and exclude the press from being able to film the family entering the chapel for Archie's christening, caused a fuss in headlines and on social media.

In August, the family flew first to Ibiza and then later to the South of France for two sun-drenched holidays, via private jet. The duke faced public accusations of hypocrisy given he was also publicly agitating for action on climate change.

For a royal who had been the apple of the public's eye for years (the occasional slip-up such as dressing up as a Nazi aside), Harry had started to become a more polarising figure. For a man who had always worn his heart on his sleeve, likewise, he increasingly made his unhappiness known.

In October he released a stinging statement, excoriating the press and writing, "my deepest fear is history repeating itself … I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces".

When a documentary about the couple's South Africa tour aired in October, Harry did not hold back, telling journalist Tom Brady that his grief over his mother's death is "a wound that festers".

He also revealed his ongoing distress, saying: "I think being part of this family, in this role and in this job, every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash - it takes me back. So in that respect, it's the worst reminder of her life as opposed to the best."

Prince Harry and Archie in Canada. Picture: Instagram
Prince Harry and Archie in Canada. Picture: Instagram

His honesty and forthrightness earned him plaudits. When he and Meghan announced they were taking a six week sabbatical, it seemed apparent they both were clearly struggling.

Still, the Sussex narrative had now become about suffering, spawning a rancorous public debate about whether Harry and Meghan were in a position to lament their circumstances.

And then came the bruising, hurly burly drama of 2020 when Harry and Meghan announced via Instagram they wanted to forge a "progressive" new role in the royal family and were keen to "collaborate" with the Queen.

Pearls were clutched and cups of Earl Grey were choked on the length and breadth of the UK. The Sandringham Summit put paid to the model that the Duke and Duchess were proposing and thus they decided they had no choice to quit.

On January 20, as Harry prepared to leave Britain, he gave a speech at a charity dinner with the couple releasing a video of the event on their (now defunct) Instagram account. Watching the video, it looks like the weight of the world is on Harry's suited shoulders. His anguish is palpable.

When Harry returned to London in late February for his final round of official engagements, he resembled a thundercloud. In only two years, the grinning Prince who had finally found The One had seemingly disappeared, his impish joy replaced by a dour, glum visage. Harry's transformation into a figure of public malcontent seemed complete.

Which is why it is so joyfully, wonderfully striking to hear Harry laugh in this video. There is something incredibly heartwarming in knowing that despite a rough, rocky few months that merry, cheeky boy the world knows is still there somewhere.

More than that, it is lovely knowing that despite this year's slings and arrows (and no matter what you think of the choices he and Meghan have made) that there is such happiness in his new life.

This might sound saccharine but I can't help but feel like the world is just a little bit brighter today, knowing that despite this year not playing out the way the couple may have wanted, Harry's life is clearly full of laughter and love. That Archie, he is one lucky kid.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.

 

Originally published as Devastating detail hidden in Meghan video