The Cocktail Party Contrarian: The Fruit of a Father’s Labor

While we didn’t believe much of what Prince Harry accused his family of, there was something we felt his father, King Charles, should own: He raised Harry.

AP/Kin Cheung, file
Copies of the new book by Prince Harry are displayed at a book store at London, January 10, 2023. AP/Kin Cheung, file

I have a friend whose parents met in a DP camp after World War II. Both were imprisoned in concentration camps, where all their immediate family members were killed. Together, they moved to New York, had three sons, and built a life. 

Like many children of Holocaust survivors do, my friend could probably write a book about the myriad ways in which his parents’ childhood trauma affected their parenting and, therefore, him. He has the opposite instinct. “I don’t know,” he mused at a dinner party recently, “maybe it is just me — my parents definitely had their stuff, but I don’t have some grand lament about them. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell the world about it.”

The subject came up because the table had been discussing the new Prince Harry book. No one in our group had read it, or wanted to, but it was hard to ignore all the headlines. The press is certainly more interested in this story than is true of anyone I know, so many of the sordid details had already reached us.

From what we had absorbed, we agreed we weren’t persuaded by the prince. The consensus was that he and his wife were run-of-the-mill opportunists, motivated by greed and narcissism, and supported by victim culture and profit motive. Nothing new to see there. Yet while we didn’t believe much of what he accused his family of, there was something we felt his father, King Charles, should own: He raised Harry. 

The grown man who makes his living whining about his family is the product of that family. That Harry is this kind of grown man reflects poorly on him, to be sure. His father couldn’t be said to have had nothing to do with it, however. Charles probably wasn’t the racist monster Harry wants everyone to believe he was, but he seemingly somehow failed to sufficiently model personal integrity and dignity, such that his son seems to be devoid of both.

The same is true of my friend at dinner, but in the reverse. He is, himself, the kind of person who wouldn’t think to attack his parents publicly or blame them for their human deficiencies. He is mature, and honorable. Although I have never met them, I imagine his parents are, too. I assign some of the credit for their son to them. 

King Charles shouldn’t be worried that people around the globe who have been subjected to Harry for the last few years believe what he says. He should worry that we believe what we see — a grown man in arrested adolescence, lacking in self-awareness and dripping with entitlement. How did that happen?

After a certain age, everyone is responsible for his own actions. Harry’s choices are his own. Yet his character, which directs his choices, was built by a team. It is, in part, the fruit of his father’s labor, or lack thereof. King Charles can’t be thrilled with the outcome, or excused from his role in creating it.


Ms. Sugar is a writer and philanthropic consultant living in New York. She is married and has twin teenagers and an English Bulldog named Batman.

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