Simon Parke: The heir with no airs

27 March 2008

IN FIVE minutes, Playboy Prince the Pointless becomes Plucky Prince the Perfect. No axe required.

The battle of Naseby, in 1645, sealed the King’s defeat in the Civil War in England; but it did not herald a republic. The King was allowed his foolishness, with one or two safeguards proposed, encouraged back on to the throne.

He never made it. Charles I was beheaded not because England did not want a king, but because, while negotiating with Parliament, he was also negotiating with every foreign army possible. And he was inept at human contact. As even his ally Archbishop Laud said: “A mild and gracious prince who knew not how to be, or how to be made, great.”

After the Republican experiment of the 1650s, however, monarchy returned with a vengeance — literally. The body of the usurper Cromwell was dug up, dragged through the London streets to Tyburn, and hanged on a gibbet for a day, before being decapitated.

The thing is that, however low the monarchy sinks, its resurrection needs only a moment. And “When Harry met Tally” was certainly one of those.

Prince Harry “The Bullet Magnet” returns from taking on the Taliban in great form. He says: “It’s best being shot at — because it makes the day go quicker.” He talks of night-bivouacs under the stars, and rubbish food. Yes, he is a royal who eats ration-pack grub like everyone else. “It’s not great. I had fresh goat with the Ghurkhas, but since then, nothing fresh.”

So did he enjoy it? “It was probably one of the happiest times of my life. I enjoyed it more than I should — out there in the middle of nature, under the stars. Two days before I left, I even heard a bird sing in the desert! And although I hate to say it, I have to say ‘thank you’ to the British media for keeping the pact.”

He is clearly angry with the army high-ups, however, who try to protect him. Harry is an action prince — he does not want people to mollycoddle him.

And what now? “I’m disappointed to be back. Once you’re back from operations, everything’s an anti-climax. It’s why people join up — the adrenalin. But I’m looking forward to having a bath; you can’t be upset about being at home. I’m currently waiting to hear from my Colonel, to see what he’s offering me.”

The only two people to receive letters from him while he was away were Prince Charles and Prince William, who would inform the Queen of any “nice bits”. And the first words of Prince William when they were reunited? “Hello, how are you? There’s the food!”

“He was just one of the troop leaders,” said Corporal O’Reilly, “a good lad; no airs about him.”

That is the secret. We execute only kings with airs.

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read five articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)