Let’s begin by making one thing perfectly clear: I have never served in the military. Leaving aside the minor issues of my fondness for cock and predilection for barking like a dog, not to mention a childhood history of using psych meds (most of the meds used to treat Tourette are on the military’s “never mind” list), I don’t think the military has much use for someone who can’t even lift his cat without major pain. Long before my neck injury or even leaving for college, I spoke with a Coast Guard Reserves recruiter. I was rejected because of the TS and having taken the drugs most commonly used to treat it, but looking back now I think my swishy hips and bent wrist would have constituted “telling” under DADT.
All that said, for spooky reasons I have studied physical and magical combat in a tough school. Before my injury I was a pretty damn good hand to hand and knife fighter. Now, while not a competition grade shot by any stretch of the imagination, I am quite competent with a variety of firearms. As a combat magician I have been in combat situations which left their own kinds of scars (that’s right kids, cut up your astral body bad enough and it scars too).
My reason for bringing all this up isn’t just to make myself feel better in the face of my second bout of bronchitis in a month. Instead I am trying to establish a foundation from which to criticize… His Royal Highness Prince Harry of England.
Actually I suspect that it is not Prince Harry that deserves my distain but rather the British government and perhaps some elements within the Royal Family.
The reason for my vitriol is that His Royal Highness is deploying to Iraq soon with the rest of his regiment of the British Army. Troop Leader Wales as he is known by his soldiers has been trained to command four tanks and eleven men. How will those men he has trained with and commanded going to feel when they are sent into combat sans the Prince. That’s right, as second in line for the throne of England, Prince Harry is not eligible for combat duty. He is too important.
The media has proudly pointed out that the Prince (and his brother who also is a military officer) is continuing a long line of military service. His father was a navy pilot. His grandfather abandoned his Greek and Dane royal titles to serve in the British military in WWII and his uncle served on board an aircraft carrier in the Falklands War. When the British government wanted to remove Prince Andrew from his dangerous posting during the Falklands War the Queen and Prince Phillip supposedly overruled the government in order to keep their son on that aircraft carrier.
These recent military exploits, and let’s be honest the Falklands War wasn’t Britain’s most dangerous hour and while flying planes is a dangerous practice it is unlikely Prince Charles was ever in anymore jeopardy then if he had become a tour bus driver, are only the surface of the British Royal military tradition. To make a broad and historically dubious generality: there is a historical tradition both in and out of the British Isles that members of the ruling family lead their troops into battle.
If we accept that broad generality, than should the current generation of British Royals have chosen not to join the military it would have been a break with family tradition. However, to join the military but be held out from combat surely makes a mockery of a traditional role of royalty that goes back millennia. It would be one thing if His Royal Highness was in a non-combat position within the military. That would be a way to get the invaluable experience of military training and contribute something back to the country without putting himself at great risk. However, Prince Harry is trained to command tanks for gods’ sake. I don’t think there is such a thing as an administrative tank commander.
My partner Summerwind, who lived for many years of his young life under British rule (first in England then in Hong Kong before the hand off to China) assures me that this all makes perfect sense from a British perspective. He has rightfully pointed out that the House of Windsor doesn’t do a whole lot of governing anymore. Rather, they are a symbol of Great Britain and the embodiment of British fortunes. While they don’t make law anymore, they still fill the traditional role of sacred kingship in the sense of being the country. Summer says that it could be devastating to the moral of the British people to loose a crown prince in combat.
However, Prince Harry is the same young man whose grandparents refused to evacuate London during the Blitz because if the citizenry couldn’t leave than they wouldn’t either. I know that there is a huge difference between the war in Iraq and the Blitz of London (although I bet the Iraqis could find some similarities awfully easily) but that doesn’t change the disparity between Elizabeth II’s refusal to leave London and keeping Prince Harry out of combat while his fellow troops go off to fight. All that changes is the scale of people affected.
What will it mean to the troops who serve with the Prince when they go off to get shot at and kill strangers while he stays in as safe an environment as you can have in what remains essentially hostile territory. Imagine the resentment of coming back from a bad patrol, dirty and bleeding, knowing that the man who could be your future king (obviously a concern or he’d be allowed in combat) stayed behind so he wouldn’t get hurt.
I’m not British, and unlike Summerwind I’ve not even had the experience of living in another country (or in his case, three). However, unlike the majority of my countrymen I believe that done right, there is value to be found in the monarchy model of government. Even in the extremely watered down form that the British still have a monarchy there is a spiritual and magical role played by the existence of the royal family.
The British schoolboy in Summer says that it makes sense for Price Harry to be held back from combat duty because of the potential damage his death might do to the country’s moral. At the same time though, the spirit worker in me wonders about the damage to the luck and fate of his country caused by his or far more likely his government’s unwillingness to risk his death when so obviously willing to risk the death of his subjects and comrades.