What do Prince Harry and Boris Johnson have in common? At first glance, very little apart from both having attended Eton. Harry was born into privilege, whereas Boris attained power by a more circuitous route. Harry served his country with two tours of military duty in Afghanistan, while Boris is generally held to serve only himself. Boris, like the rest of his remarkable family, is highly intelligent, while Harry shares the intellectual limitations of his.
There is, though, one striking similarity between these two very different men, born twenty years apart, which has a direct bearing on the position that they find themselves in today. Both, at a vulnerable early age, lost the love, care, and devotion of their mothers, Charlotte Johnson and Diana, Princess of Wales. Harry in the most dramatic, tragic, and final circumstances; Boris less permanently, but arguably with equal relevance for the chequered course of his life.
These different deprivations left both men in lasting need of feminine love and attention
Harry has acknowledged that his mother’s death in 1997 when he was an adolescent has resulted in him suffering depression. Boris has been less forthcoming about his mother’s hospitalisation with severe depression in 1974 when he was only ten years old. But we do not need a psychology degree to deduce that these different deprivations left both men in lasting need of feminine love and attention. It is an axiom of psychology that the mother-son bond is strong, and if it is severed at an early age for any reason, it is likely to have lifelong repercussions. I would suggest that this is the case with both Boris and Harry, and it is a reason that the Prince and the prime minister are both in the news this week.
Buckingham Palace’s announcement that Harry and his wife Meghan are to lose their remaining Royal patronages after their decision to “step back” from being working members of the family and make a new life in California is the culmination of a process that has been underway since the couple married in 2018. It is clear that Harry is in thrall to his strong-willed wife, and – to use old fashioned terms – that if not exactly henpecked, he is happy to let her wear the trousers in the relationship. There are eerie echoes in the saga of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of the last time that a senior Royal deserted his post to marry an American divorcee with a colourful past.
In December 1936 Harry’s ancestor King Edward VIII abdicated the throne he had occupied for just ten months to wed Mrs Wallis Simpson, swapping the pomp of being King Emperor for an empty exile as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Like Harry, Edward had an unhappy childhood: in his case a strict upbringing as the unloved son of emotionally frigid parents. Like Harry, under the influence of his wife he went off the political piste to espouse controversial and extreme positions – in his case open sympathy for Hitler and Nazi Germany rather than Harry and Meghan’s hypocritical woke greenery. And like Harry’s probable future, Edward spent the rest of his life as a sad, fading, and almost forgotten ornament of the international jet set.
Boris Johnson’s response to his childhood traumas has been rather different. In his search for love he has taken the route of compulsive womanising; with two failed marriages, multiple mistresses and girlfriends, and siring an unclear number of children. Boris’s very public private life has been an open secret for decades, and as long as it remained just a matter for him and the women concerned, it was merely passing entertainment for a prurient public to gawp at and giggle over. Since becoming prime minister, however, Boris’s love life has taken on political importance.
There is little doubt that moves are afoot to swing the Tories yet further to the Left
Specifically, his current fiancée, Carrie Symonds, unlike Boris’s previous lady friends, is a very political animal and was a rising star within the Conservative party as its director of communications when the couple’s relationship began. Since moving into Downing Street with her paramour, Carrie has not confined herself to domestic duties and bringing up her son Wilfred, but behind the scenes has been an increasingly influential figure in the hierarchy of power. Last November she was widely believed to have used that influence to get rid of Boris’s chief political advisers Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.
Now she has struck again. Only a fortnight after he was appointed to lead the government’s fightback to save the Union from the rising forces of Scottish nationalism, another adviser, Oliver “Sonic” Lewis, has resigned, blaming unnamed people in Downing Street for making his job impossible. It does not take a detective to guess who he could possibly mean.
Carrie is also held responsible for the recent appointment of two of her friends, Baroness Simone Finn and Henry Newman, to the Downing Street staff. Both share Carrie’s enthusiasm for what David Cameron once memorably called “Green crap”. Their arrival rang alarm bells and is reported to have almost caused the resignation of Lord (David) Frost, the man who negotiated Britain’s Brexit withdrawal deal at Christmas.
Frost was temporarily pacified by being appointed to the Cabinet as Minister in charge of relations with the EU, but there is little doubt that moves are afoot to swing the Tories yet further to the Left and that Carrie is pushing her easily influenced fiancé in that direction. Now the Conservative think tank and pressure group the Bow Group has broken cover and openly called for an inquiry into Carrie’s influence. They point out that she has no official job, has neither been appointed nor elected, yet seems to wield disproportionate power over the prime minister.
Predictably enough, Carrie’s critics have been accused of sexism, raising the question of whether she would attract such attention if she was a man. Such charges can be answered by pointing to the barrage of venom that Dominic Cummings attracted during his days in Downing Street, which seems to have been conveniently forgotten.
The current influences bearing on Prince Harry and Boris Johnson remind me of the relationship between Paul Reynaud, Premier of France when it fell to the Nazis in 1940, and his mistress Countess Helene de Portes. Although Reynaud was himself in favour of resisting the Nazis and continuing the war at Britain’s side, his lover was an Anglophobe who would burst into Cabinet meetings arguing for an armistice. She once even drew a knife and threatened Churchill with the weapon. She died in a car crash soon after France surrendered; but by then her damage had been done. Asked why he allowed this termagant to so influence him against his own better judgement, Reynaud wearily replied: “You have no idea at the end of a hard day what a man will do to secure a little peace in the evenings.”
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