PRINCE Harry is entitled to his views. But in criticising the Commonwealth – the organisation closest to his grandmother’s heart – he has simply lost the plot.
One of the Queen’s greatest achievements has been keeping together 54 countries in this “family of nations”, which grew out of the end of the British Empire.
She treats every single one of these countries, large and small — from India, Canada and Australia to tiny island states such as Tuvalu, Malta and Cyprus — as equals.
Harry knows just how important the Commonwealth is to the Queen.
And Meghan does too. When she wore her wedding veil, embroidered with the flower of every Commonwealth nation, the Queen was touched.
So to criticise the one thing the Queen cherishes above all things, which is preserving the Commonwealth, is an insult to her — no matter what the palace may say officially.
Any country can look back and find faults, but we learn from history and move on.
Harry should stop listening to his wife, who is obviously filling him full of these ideas.
She is evidently no fan of Her Majesty’s beloved Commonwealth.
Indeed, after the Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey in March — her and Harry’s last official royal engagement — Meghan couldn’t wait to leave.
She went straight to Heathrow Airport, where British Airways staff held up the last flight to Vancouver so she could get on.
At least Harry stayed and spent the evening with the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family.
Harry and Meghan’s grand pronouncements — made in their roles as President and Vice President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust charity — about this historic organisation will tarnish its reputation, especially among younger people who will have scant knowledge of what it is and what it does.
And that will concern the Queen the most.
The Commonwealth’s total population of around 2.245billion means one in three of the people in the world is a citizen.
With 54 members, its job, by its own definition, is “to promote prosperity, democracy and peace and amplify the voice of small states”.
During her near 70-year reign, the Queen has visited every single member country — bar Cameroon and Rwanda who joined later — including places such as Mozambique that were never part of the British Empire.
And over the past 40 years I have accompanied members of the Royal Family to 43 of those nations.
To criticise the one thing the Queen cherishes above all things is an insult to her.
I have seen the Queen walk, without her shoes on, in the temples of Islamabad in Pakistan and at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial in Delhi, India.
In Montego Bay, Jamaica, I photographed her smiling while she swayed to the music of Bob Marley as he sang “Don’t worry ’bout a thing”.
At a durbar (reception) in Ghana people had travelled miles to play their drums for the Queen, who tapped her feet to the beat under the West African sun.
In the year before the pandemic, Prince Charles, the organisation’s new head, continued her work, travelling to 20 Commonwealth countries — proof of how important this organisation is to the Queen and her heirs.
The Queen is never happier than with the heads of government at the Commonwealth state banquet, where she dresses in her finery and jewels.
She individually greets every single head of state, who she knows personally, and they can call her at any time for advice.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela used to regularly call Buckingham Palace and ask to speak to “My Dear Elizabeth”.
She remembers every name and the names of their spouses.
So many times I have witnessed the joy at these get-togethers that are so unlike any other state visit.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is held every two years, was due to take place last month in Rwanda, in central Africa.
Due to the coronavirus crisis, it has had to be postponed to next year — and Prince Charles will be there, with Camilla by his side wearing the jewels at the state banquet.
But it is not all tiaras, state banquets and champagne receptions.
When natural tragedies hit, the Commonwealth rallies round and donates money and resources to its members who are suffering.
The Prince of Wales, representing The Queen, was the first dignitary to go to the West Indies in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
He visited several islands, including Dominica, to offer words of comfort for the people.
I watched as the Prince trudged through the rubble as workers, mainly from Britain, toiled 15-hour days, seven days a week, to try to rebuild the country.
Every four years you see the good this organisation does, at the Commonwealth Games — nations competing against each other in an incredible spirit.
You see it every year at the Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey.
Most of the group’s people are Muslim but the Queen gets them all under the roof of that Christian church.
In 2012, as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebration, she insisted every member country had a royal visit.
William and Catherine went to Malaysia and Tuvalu but Harry, who visited the West Indies, was the star.
He hugged the Jamaican Prime Minister, ran races with Usain Bolt and, in his blue suede shoes, danced with kids in the clubs.
He knew just how important this organisation is to his grandmother.
How quickly he forgets.
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