The report about Prince William’s determination to follow his brother and serve in Afghanistan tells us that the sense of service which has so long been the badge of our Royal Family continues in the younger generation.
How reassuring it is that the future King of Australia is so determined to serve and prepared to offer the supreme sacrifice.
In a column at the time Prince Harry indicated a wish to be with his men in combat zones first in Iraq, and then in Afghanistan I wrote that it is ironical that it is in the United States of America, rather than in, say, Commonwealth realms such as Australia, that there is an acknowledgement of the fact that there is something very special about the Prince.
The same can be said of Prince William, our future King.
I wondered whether it was because we are used to and are rather blasé about a Royal Family which puts duty first.
Or perhaps the long campaign by many in the media against the Royal Family has had some effect.
Or is it that Americans still feel an inner need for monarchy, and appreciate ours?
I cited one example of an American sense of fair play and of an ability to recognise quality, that by the Washington Post correspondent, Marie Cocco.
Her piece in ContraCostaTimes on 1 March 2007 was published under this telling headline: “U.S. upper class more stuck up than Britain's royalty.”
She wrote that a royal tale, even “more uplifting” than Dame Helen Mirren’s superb portrayal of The Queen in the film of the same name, had begun to unfold in London “just as the red carpets were being rolled out in preparation for the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. This was that Prince Harry is marching off to war in Iraq”.
“Having graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the equivalent of West Point, the son of Diana and Prince Charles is fulfilling, at his own insistence, a duty to serve on the battlefront with the troops he was trained to command.”
" ‘There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my a*** back home while my boys are out fighting for their country,’ the young prince said in a 2005 interview that has been circulated widely.”
Ms.Cocco writes that it takes no nostalgia for the Crown to hear the honour in Prince Harry's vow — and to wince at the contrast with the US much larger force in Iraq, from which, she declares, the sons and daughters of the American well-heeled and the well-known are largely absent.
“Like the United States, Britain has a volunteer military. Unlike the United States, Britain has some vestige of an elite that believes in the notion of noblesse oblige.”
Ms. Cocco was especially impressed by the fact that “England sends its prince into battle.”
…the Royal Family…
This sense of duty in the Royal Family is no new thing. Older generations remember it in the Second World War, when The King and The Queen, as well as the Royal Family, stayed with the people.
The Princes’ grandfather and his father saw distinguished service. More recently, in the Falklands war, Prince Harry’s uncle, Prince Andrew, also rode, or perhaps more correctly, flew into battle.
The Argentinean media, once they were freed as a result of the United Kingdom’s refusal to accept the invasion of the Falklands, lamented that while conscripts were sent into battle, the officer class tended to stay in Buenos Aires. Ms.Cocco also contrasts the way US veterans are treated with that offered by the UK authorities to theirs. While they send their princes to war,“…we are making paupers of our military families.”
“By what turn of history”, she demands, “did a nation founded in rebellion against absolute power wielded by a coddled elite become less concerned with equal treatment and shared sacrifice than the monarchy it overthrew?
“…only a slice of American society today bears the republic’s military burden. Because of this, our ruling class is proving itself to be more aloof than royalty”.