As the ongoing feud between the British royal family and estranged ex-royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle dominates headlines, anyone following the drama likely does so with a touch of sadness. Last month, Harry and Meghan released their Netflix docuseries, and this week, Harry debuted his memoir “Spare,” giving British and American TV several cutting interviews as part of the book’s release campaign.
Since Harry and Meghan have packaged and sold their personal lives in a book, podcasts, and TV series, there’s a tendency to view the royal drama purely as entertainment. The royal family, however, is not made up of fictional Netflix characters, but real people, who should be loving each other. While the royals may be unique and eccentric, their problems are not dissimilar to the generational dysfunction that impacts so many families today. So here are five lessons we can take away from Harry and Meghan’s royal rift.
1. In a Family, the Parents’ Relationship Comes First
Harry is a product of a broken home. Diana and Charles had a famously volatile and adulterous marriage ending in a divorce that was painful for their two sons. Long before the couple publicly separated, they were leading separate lives. Charles and Diana both played the press against each other, using leaks, secret recordings, and tell-all interviews.
As for their children, the sadness from the divorce and the pain of Diana’s death were so great that, as Harry revealed in his book, both he and William begged Charles not to marry Camilla. Charles did it anyway. For Harry, his parent’s disunion was a major cause of his tumultuous youth and clearly bred resentment toward his father that persists today, as he makes media rounds bashing his family.
Whether you’re royalty or not, regular life can still make it difficult to prioritize your marriage. That’s why it’s important to carve out time for your spouse. Fortifying your relationship is the best thing you can do for one another and especially for your children.
2. Family Dinner Is Important
Making a point to eat dinner together is one of the healthiest things you can do for your family. It may seem mundane but it leaves members with a sense of unity. It has also been proven to promote happiness, relieve stress, and even improve children’s grades.
For the royals, this kind of day-to-day bonding doesn’t happen. Prince Charles was raised by nannies and spent his adolescence in boarding schools. The decision to outsource parenting was a given for Queen Elizabeth, who herself was raised by royal staff, rather than her parents.
When William and Harry were boys, they were famously given more motherly love and affection from Princess Diana than Charles ever received from Queen Elizabeth. However, the boys started attending boarding schools at age 8, ultimately meaning they were not predominantly raised by their parents.
Most of us don’t send our children to fancy boarding schools or have a team of nannies on hand, but the temptation to get lazy about setting aside time to connect is a struggle for all parents. Today, only around 30 percent of families find time to eat together regularly, while phones and increased extracurricular activities for children have only exacerbated the problem. To avoid the disunion found within the royal family it’s crucial to be deliberate about setting aside family time, especially family meals.
3. You Are your Brother’s Keeper
While the public saw Harry and William as a united front, particularly as they walked side by side at their mother’s funeral, Harry described something far different in his book. According to Harry, his and William’s closeness was a media facade. Harry describes how growing up his brother excluded him at school, and how he was emotionally incapable of discussing their mother’s death with William.
Today, Harry has gone nuclear with his brother, turning their quarreling into a public dumpster fire, and, according to Harry, William has done the same thing by leaking negative stories to the press. And who can really blame the boys? They never learned to have one another’s backs because their own parents spent years backstabbing each other.
Harry and William’s behavior reminds us how crucial it is to be our brother’s keeper. Siblings have a unique power to relate to one another. They share blood and an upbringing. Harry and William are the only two people in the world who could have genuinely empathized with each other after their mother’s death and encouraged one another as they began to navigate adulthood.
Celebrity friends and fans will never love Harry in the same way as his brother. His disloyalty is a lesson to us all: Siblings are a gift to rely on, protect, and treasure, not slander.
4. Who You Marry Is the Most Important Decision You Will Make
A good wife encourages her husband to stick by his family, work toward resolution during conflict, and never be disloyal. Meghan has done the opposite for Harry. With her support and approval, Harry has vilified not only his family, but the British people, as racist — while physically and emotionally separating himself from his father, brother, niece and nephews, aunts, and uncles.
Who your spouse is will impact the trajectory of your life in either a negative or a positive way. Meghan helped facilitate a rift between her husband and his family that may never be healed. Her influence on Harry shows why it is extremely important to be very thoughtful and clear-minded when choosing one’s partner for life.
5. Give Lots of Hugs
Harry was 12 when he lost his mother in the infamous car accident. “Pa didn’t hug me,” revealed Harry, as he recounted how Charles broke the news to him that Diana had died. “He wasn’t great at showing emotions under normal circumstances, how could he be expected to show them in such a crisis?”
Harry was clearly deprived of affection and attention from his father and mother (after she died). Tenderness from a parent is integral to a child’s emotional development and could help explain why Harry seems to act so resentfully and vengefully today.
For some people, warmth doesn’t come naturally. Many, like Charles, were raised by distant parents themselves. Whatever the reason, though, it is essential to break the cycle, move out of your comfort zone, and show affection. If you don’t show your family that you love them, they won’t know.
At the end of the day, we don’t get to choose our family, but we do get to choose how we behave and interact with them. Harry’s behavior is deeply immature, but it is likely rooted in decades of the Windsor family failing to function as a genuine family unit.
Had Harry’s grandmother cared more for Harry’s father, had Harry’s father and mother cared more for their marriage, and had Harry’s father been more affectionate to his sons, Harry might not be flame-throwing his family right now. For us, the Harry and Meghan soap opera is a call to work on our own families and avoid the glaring dysfunction that’s plaguing theirs.