…heroic sense of duty…
The heroic sense of duty our Queen has shown all her life, just as her mother and father did in theirs, is also alive and well in the younger generation of the Royal Family.
We are seeing this today in the example set by Prince Harry, who is on active service in Afghanistan.
As we said here[i] a year ago, rather than an emphasis on rights and self esteem, the principle of putting service and duty first remains a hallmark of the monarchy. This principle was also once central to the teaching and upbringing of successive generations of all Australians.
There are monuments in public squares, schools , halls , churches , clubs and other public places, in every town, every suburb and all of our great cities, on which the names of those who followed this principle and served the nation beyond our shores.
And with their names, we also find those words which capture that sense of national and personal duty: “For God, King and Country.”
It is this emphasis on the primacy of duty, this expectation that the Sovereign and the princes too will serve, which ensures that in the nation, the Crown alone can provide leadership beyond politics.
…Prince Harry on the front line…
Because of leaks on an American website, based it is said on a generally ignored report in the Australian magazine New Idea, it has been confirmed that Prince Harry has achieved his wish. On active service, the Prince has been fighting the Taliban on the front line in Afghanistan for 10 weeks.
The plan was that under an embargo agreed by the British media, Prince Harry would complete a four-month tour without the standard two-week R&R break other soldiers enjoy. In return, the media were to have access to the Prince, with an understanding that these could be released on his return.
The leak has made the situation much more dangerous than it already was both for the Prince and his comrades.
As the Prince says in one of these interviews reported in the London Daily Telegraph: "Once this film comes out there'll probably be every single person, every single person that supports them will be trying to slot me." he said.
"I would never want to put someone else’s life in danger when they have to sit next to the bullet magnet," he said. "But if I’m wanted, if I’m needed, then I will serve my country as I signed up to do."
"I just want to put it into practice and do the job and get it done and essentially help everybody else that’s in the army and do my bit."
Apparently it was The Queen who informed the young Prince that he would be allowed to fulfil his wish and go to Afghanistan.
…Prince Harry and the media….
Prince Harry had been much criticized by journalists for a certain boisterous and youthful joie de vie, one not unknown among healthy young men. He was even set up by one London tabloid. As we reported on 13 August 2006 (“Republican media score own goal”)
The London Sun had used old photographs as if they were new to suggest that Prince Harry was deceiving his current girl friend. Many in the Australian media joined the rest of the world’s media in relaying that disgraceful and blatant lie, but few bothered to correct it with the same prominence or at all when the truth came out.
So it was ironical that it was in the United States media that Prince Harry’s qualities seemed to have first been recognized. This was when the Prince was preparing to go to Iraq. One particular example of this by Washington Post correspondent, Marie Cocco.[iii]
The comments which are flowing into London newspaper offices indicate a realisation around the world that the Prince is setting an example of honour and service to his generation, and not only in the Commonwealth. So it is well worth recalling what Mc Cocco said.
…an “uplifting” Royal tale…
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**se 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 declared, 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.”
A young contributing writer in the official student newspaper of Wayne State University, The South End, on 21 February 2007, agreed.
Responding to an earlier piece in which another student had written that she was "distraught" about Prince Henry going to Iraq, Mr Caswell said that rather than being distraught he was humbled.
But unlike Ms. Cocco, who compared the Prince with the US upper classes, Mr Caswell compared him with other young men.
“The Prince’s adolescent antics aside, he should be elevated as an example of selfless service. He doesn’t need nor have to serve in the military, but decided to.
Whether it is family pressure or pure devotion that made him choose his route, it is nice to see a young, wealthy person decide to do something other than drink, vomit and rally for the fourteenth party of the night.”
…with a heavy heart, The Queen does her duty…
Ms. Cocco was especially impressed by the fact that “England sends its prince into battle.” She will no doubt be impressed that rather than blocking Prince Harry’s wish to go to Afghanistan, The Queen understood it and approved it, no doubt with a heavy heart.
Once again The Queen did what she always does, her duty.
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. Prince Harry’s 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.
…comparing royalty with the ruling class in a republics…
In the meantime, 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 Argentina’s conscripts had been sent into battle, the officer class tended to stay in Buenos Aires.
Ms.Cocco also contrasted the way US veterans are treated with that offered by the UK authorities to theirs. While they send their princes to war, she wrote that “…we ( Americans) 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?
If the American upper class were sent to battle — or expected, by tradition, to serve — would soldiers have shipped out to Iraq without proper body armour? Would the Senate now be tied in a political straitjacket, with members agreeing that something must be done to change course in Iraq, but with lawmakers incapable of passing any measure to alter it?”
Comparing Iraq and Vietnam, she says one overriding truth separates the two conflicts: the draft. As a consequence, only a tiny 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”.
Once again The Queen and the Royal Family have shown that they lead their lives guided by a high sense of duty and service. This is the standard which inspires the representatives of the Australian Crown, and those who serve the Crown.
This demonstrates once again that in our Commonwealth of Australia , only the Crown can provide leadership beyond politics.
It remains indispensable to our system of governance.