How Prince Harry Forgot Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Rule

There are a lot of rules to follow when you’re a member of the royal family. Of course, rules are made to be broken and so many have been tossed aside either out of specific circumstance or carelessness at one point or another.  The one rule that Queen Elizabeth holds above all others, though, is her Golden Rule: “Never complain, never explain.”

The rule is attributed to many different sources, but the queen says that she took the advice from her own mother and that it has served her well in her decades on the throne. Now it seems the queen’s own grandson, Prince Harry, has forgotten this important rule and is paying the price for it. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex frequently break tradition

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle frequently break royal tradition. From Markle’s clothing choices and the couple’s decision to keep the christening of their son a private affair to the way they shared a kiss on their wedding day, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are no strangers to setting aside expectations. 

These actions have drawn criticism from some fans of the royal family, but others see the pair as representative of a fresh, modern era. Some fans are particularly impressed by the couple’s feminist acts and break with a tradition that seems to be empowering and more in line with progressive values. 

The latest mishap is about air travel 

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Today, we are excited to be able to announce details for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s upcoming tour to Africa! • In just two weeks, Their Royal Highnesses will embark on this official tour focusing on community, grassroots leadership, women’s and girls’ rights, mental health, HIV/AIDS and the environment. This programme has been many months in the making, and The Duke and Duchess are eager to focus their energies on the great work being done in Southern Africa. From meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to joining ‘Waves for Change’ on Monwabisi Beach, the South Africa programme will be educational and inspiring. The Duke is especially proud to continue the legacy left by his mother with her work in Angola as he joins Halo Trust again in an effort to rid the world of landmines. HRH will also travel to Malawi where he will check in on the British Army’s partnership with African Parks and will be working on the ground supporting local communities. The Duke is particularly proud to be able to deliver an exciting new initiative, a Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy three-country partnership which he designed and consulted with Governments in Namibia, Botswana and Angola to protect forest and wildlife corridors around the Okavango Delta. The Duchess will be working with local organisations to promote women and girls’ health and education, entrepreneurship and leadership. With such a textured culture and history, Their Royal Highnesses are grateful for the opportunity to connect with those on the ground in Southern Africa and to be inspired by the work being done and learn how they can be better supported. As President and Vice President of The Queens Commonwealth Trust and The Duke’s role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, The Duke and Duchess cannot wait to meet with young leaders mobilising change and adding to the beauty of these Commonwealth countries • “We look forward to seeing you soon!” • Photo ©️ PA images / Tim Graham – Getty Images / @Sentebale /@AfricanParksNetwork / @YouthAlert

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While some of the couple’s decisions to break tradition can be explained by their values, the latest one has more to do with their preferences for comfort and safety. Prince Harry is a vocal proponent of conservation efforts in the face of climate change, so critics have pounced on his and his family’s use of private air travel as glaring hypocrisy. 

While he and other members of the royal family typically travel by commercial, Prince Harry and his family have occasionally taken private planes. For one recent trip, they were flown by Elton John, a close friend of Prince Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana. John defended his gift, insisting that the carbon impact was offset with a contribution to Carbon Footprint. 

Still, many members of the public were less than thrilled by what they saw as an extravagant travel choice unbecoming of someone speaking out against waste.

Prince Harry breaks Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Rule

If Prince Harry were following his grandmother’s Golden Rule, he would simply remain silent in the face of the criticism. After all, her motto clearly directs him to “never explain.”

Prince Harry; however, did not follow this crucial advice. Instead, he attempted to explain away his decision by focusing on his family’s safety. He justified the extravagance by saying that he flies commercial “99 percent” of the time. He said that when he makes a decision to use a private flight, it is done with his family’s safety in mind and is a matter of finding “balance.” 

Just as the queen predicted, explanations have given way to even more criticisms. She believes that the “never explain” part of her rule is important because explanations make the public think they have a right to pry further and make more judgments. That’s certainly what has happened in this case. 

Since Prince Harry has come forward with his explanations, critics like royal author Duncan Larcombe have called him a liar. Larcombe told Good Morning Britain host Susanna Reid that “I would guess, 40 percent of his time he has been flying privately, so he’s lying.” He went on to point out that his excuse about family safety was inadequate since Prince William, who is heir to the throne and arguably more vulnerable to threats, has traveled commercial with his family. 

If Prince Harry had followed the queen’s advice and simply refused to engage with the critics, he may have avoided this deepening scandal. As it is, it looks like he will continue to get criticism for some time.