Penny Junor is sort of a professional royal sycophant, a long-time hagiographer to various royal figures. Junor was one of the “royal journalists” who took Prince Charles’ side in the War of the Wales, and she still maintains that position, having just published an authorized biography of the Duchess of Cornwall, a biography which completely lies about what really went down between Charles and Camilla during the Diana Years. Well, now Junor has written a column for the Daily Mail about why Harry took Meghan Markle to Botswana. It’s just as sugary and sycophantic as you would imagine.
Africa is the one place on earth where Prince Harry can be truly himself. He describes Botswana as his ‘second home’, but this magical country is even more than that — it is his haven, his safe harbour. Of all his family, he wears his ‘royalness’ the most lightly, and in Botswana he can cast it off altogether. He is not a prince under African skies. He is just Harry. That, I believe, is the real significance of this holiday with his girlfriend, the American actress Meghan Markle.
Since photographers spotted them walking across the airport in Botswana last week, loaded with baggage, his arm protectively around her and with the most affectionate of smiles as he gazed at her, the bookies have been offering odds on whether Harry would propose over the next few days. But they are missing the point. This is the best opportunity Harry will ever have to show Meghan the real man behind the royal persona, with the weight of public attention and duties removed from his shoulders. I hope she will adore what she sees.
And as I discovered when researching Harry’s biography, at 33 he has matured into a sweet, kind, thoughtful, generous and a genuinely nice man. He never pulls rank, and is not remotely stiff or awkward. And it seems obvious to me that he’s very much in love with Meghan. Since their relationship was revealed last October, he has calmed down noticeably. I think he’s partying less often, and has a more grown-up air about him. He may well have already made up his mind to ask Meghan to marry him, but it would be a mistake to assume this is bound to happen, just because his older brother William chose Africa as the backdrop for his own proposal to Kate, seven years ago.
The spot that William picked is perhaps the most romantic place on the planet — Lake Rutundu in Kenya, as far from the royal hubbub as anyone could go. Kenya has deep resonances for the royals: it was here, after all, that the young Princess Elizabeth heard of the death of her father, George VI. From that moment, she was Queen. But none of that will have influenced Harry’s decision to take Meghan to Botswana. I doubt that he gave a moment’s thought to the past — or what his brother did. The couple have simply gone to the one place he can be properly free.
Harry has many friends in Botswana, who value him as a human being rather than a walking status symbol. They will protect him and his privacy fiercely. Even better than that, most ordinary Africans don’t care that he is a prince. It’s irrelevant to them. He has the freedom to be a normal person here. And that is priceless. I know Harry has planned this trip for months. He originally hoped to introduce Meghan to some of his favourite places on this vast continent in January, though they had to settle for a trip to see the Northern Lights in Norway — impressive, but not really what he wanted.
I’m catching a whiff of racist/neo-colonialist “noble savages of Africa” commentary about this, like Harry can only truly be himself when he’s around the regular, noble Botswanans who do not know or care about royalty, as opposed to all of the civilized – and therefore terrible – people back in England. I mean, I’m sure he loves Botswana. I’m sure he loves to go on vacation there. I’m sure he wanted to show Meghan a place he loves. But both brothers seem to really love their neo-colonialist fantasies, right?
Photos courtesy of WENN, The Sun.