Professional complainer and former British royal Harry Markle has done himself few favors in the leaked tidbits from his forthcoming memoir, from unflattering stories about his frostbitten manhood to his wife Meghan making comments about sister-in-law Kate’s pregnancy hormones (and then claiming to be the one who was “offended”).
In one of his many gripes, the defrocked prince complains about an argument with his older brother William in 2019 after William confronted Harry over Meghan’s “difficult,” “rude,” and “abrasive” behavior. After the spat escalated, Harry writes that William:
…called me another name, then came at me. It all happened so fast. So very fast. He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog’s bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out.
The Guardian, which obtained the passage from the soon-to-be-published book, further reported:
Harry writes that William urged him to hit back, citing fights they had as children. Harry says he refused to do so. William left, Harry says, then returned “looking regretful, and apologised”.
I assume Harry thought the inclusion of that allegation in his memoir reflected well on himself. But from the limited context of the excerpt, I can’t help wishing the brothers had come to blows there and then, potentially saving the rest of us from having to watch their family gripes play out publicly for years. William’s fisticuffs would have been a healthier, more effective means of settling the family drama than Harry’s strategy of cutting off his entire family and firing snide complaints at them from the pages of gossip magazines.
Of course, the best-case scenario for hashing out family feuds is usually a frank conversation. There will never be a better how-to guide for conflict resolution than that which Christ himself offered in Matthew 18. I’m not arguing that a well-placed punch is the ideal, Jesus-endorsed way to end an argument: It’s certainly not, although there are clear circumstances of biblically sanctioned blows.
But it is true that resolving issues directly, between offended and offender, and removing cause for a festering grudge is a healthier (and, relatedly, a more biblical) means of conflict resolution than waging a covert war behind each other’s backs. Most conflicts don’t require throwing punches. But none require going on daytime TV and book tours to trash family members while capitalizing on the fight with Spotify and Netflix deals.
Harry writes, the Guardian says, “that William urged him to hit back, citing fights they had as children.”
“Come on, hit me, you’ll feel better if you hit me,” William allegedly said. “Come on, we always used to fight.”
In a Sunday interview with ITV, Harry recalled the brothers used to “fight all the time” as children, from “shoot[ing] each other with BB guns” to having “firework fights.” (I guess that’s what you do when you’re a privileged prince and can’t just use your fists like the common folk?)
“I can pretty much guarantee today that if I wasn’t doing therapy sessions like I was and being able to process that anger and frustration, that I would’ve fought back, 100 percent,” Harry confessed in the interview. Maybe if he had fought back, the brothers’ dust-up could have been resolved then — and the rest of us might never have had to hear about it.
What Harry should have learned from those childhood tousles is how to get over a gripe, and how to pick battles wisely in the first place. Is the comment you’re butthurt about worth a sore jaw? If not, it’s also not worth burning family bridges by leaking your gripes to any magazine that will listen.
In the hands of wise parents, the fights kids get themselves into — verbal or physical — are an arena to teach kids how to handle conflict. You learn to forgive afterward, and eventually, to evaluate whether something is worth fighting about beforehand. You learn which forms of expressing your feelings are healthy and effective, and which ones aren’t. You also learn that there are worse things in the world than getting your rear end handed to you (such as: alienating yourself from your family). You learn communication and compromise. It’s a messy process, but it works a whole lot better than never speaking to each other again — something you can’t do when you’re a kid and you share a bathroom with the other combatant.
I’m certain, growing up in the thick of their parents’ explosive divorce, the bickering princes missed out on a healthy model of conflict resolution. Letting things come to blows is a sign that failed communication has happened already — but it also ensures that the resentments come to a head immediately, and usually results in some kind of patch-up afterward, rather than allowing those resentments to grow exponentially.
Unfortunately for the royals (and for the rest of us who have to watch them air each other’s dirty laundry), Harry didn’t settle his grievances with his brother via a private scuffle when they had the chance. Instead, he’s throwing punches through the inflammatory channels of podcasts, talk shows, and book deals, each of which shrinks the chances of real resolution.
At least a fistfight is more genuine. And probably more pleasant — I’d rather be on the receiving end of a shove than have to read Harry’s new book.