For a man who says his happiest years were those spent in the army it is surprising, that Prince Harry is not someone who apparently responds well to being told to what to do.
The latest example of the young royal’s defiant streak came over the Christmas break, when Harry, who was guest presenting Britain’s premier breakfast news and current affairs radio show, which featured an interview he had landed with Barrack Obama, practically announced that he was inviting the Obamas to his wedding to Meghan Markle next year.
For several days previously the papers had been full of leaks from diplomats, imploring Harry not to invite Obama to his wedding. It was reported that the Foreign Office fear that Donald Trump’s nose might be put out of joint if his hated rival is invited to attend a royal wedding before he gets to meet the queen (Trump’s long-mooted trip to the U.K. having been repeatedly downgraded and delayed).
Rather than achieving their supposed goal of reining Harry in, these off-the-record briefings appear to have had the opposite effect.
Displaying his typical lack of impulse control (and basic media training), which minutes later also prompted him to suggest that his fiancé had never had a proper family, Harry chose to answer an opportunistic last-minute question from his co-presenter Sarah Montague.
Asked, in the dying moments of the show, if Obama was on the guest list for the wedding, Harry said: “I don’t know about that. We haven’t even put the invites or the guest list together yet. Who knows if he’ll be invited yet or not—I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.”
So, unless the surprise is that, er, he’s not on the list, there is no reason to disbelieve the source who told Us Weekly: “Harry has already told the Obamas he wants them at the wedding… If they don’t go, it will be because the Obamas have turned around and said ‘We understand the situation you’re in, let us make it easy for you.’”
It’s not impossible to imagine Obama making such a graceful suggestion, but it is difficult to see hardheaded Harry accepting it.
Harry and Obama’s bromance has been a remarkably quick-growing affair; they only met for the first time, at the Oval Office, in October 2015. A few hours after meeting the president, Harry was pictured with Michelle Obama watching a basketball game played by wounded warriors at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, as part of his effort to spread the word about the Invictus Games for wounded vets.
The three apparently connected, and appear to have kept in contact ever since.
It was seven months after their meeting at the White House, in April 2016, that the Obama’s traveled to London where they met Harry at Kensington Palace.
And it was here, as the Obamas were entertained by Harry, William, and Kate (a dressing gown-clad Prince George made a cameo appearance in the role of Hugh Hefner) at William’s private apartment, that the finishing touches were put to an unprecedented plan to promote the Invictus Games by releasing on social media a video featuring four of the most famous people on the planet: Obama, his wife Michelle, Harry, and the queen.
The video was presented as if it were two rival sports coaches were squaring off against each other and was the biggest royal spoof since the queen pretended to jump out of a helicopter with James Bond for the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
The video message showed Barack and Michelle Obama standing side by side flanked by servicemen.
“Hey Prince Harry,” says Mrs. Obama. “Remember when you told us to bring it at the Invictus Games?”
President Obama, standing next to her, says: “Careful what you wish for!” before a serviceman behind him says “Boom!” as the others pull faces.
After watching the video on Prince Harry’s cellphone, the queen, clearly less than intimidated, smiles and says: “Oh, really. Please!”
“Boom!” says Prince Harry, giving the mic drop sign.
The goofy clip was weeks in the planning and was the first real insight into the level of friendship—and trust—that existed between Harry and the Obamas.
Harry later said in an interview with the BBC that the video, and getting the queen involved, grew out of a friendly rivalry between himself and Michelle.
“She asked whether we were going to bring it and I said, “Yes.” She ended up dragging the president in on something that was quite personal between the two of us… there was no one else I could think of that would be able to top the first lady and the president of the United States.”
In his Radio 4 interview with Harry, Obama remarked that Harry knew Michelle “quite well,” which suggests that the two have communicated beyond their formal, recorded contacts.
The same likely applies to Obama. When they met at the Invictus Games in Toronto this year, Obama was overheard asking in familiar tones Harry how Meghan was doing.
In May 2017, after he had left office, Obama was again received by Harry at Kensington Palace.
An official palace Twitter account said the meeting was to discuss “support for veterans, mental health, conservation, empowering young people and the work of their respective foundations.”
Mr. Obama tweeted after: “Good to see my friend Prince Harry in London to discuss the work of our foundations & offer condolences to victims of the Manchester attack.”
Obama’s decision to publicly describe Harry as a “friend” has been taken as further evidence that the two have had private contacts between what has been recorded by the cameras.
In September 2017 Harry and Obama were photographed giggling like schoolboys in the stands of a wheelchair basketball game, at the Invictus Games in Toronto. It was here that the interview broadcast this week was recorded. In some amusing outtakes released earlier in the week, the two are seen kidding around with each other before taping starts.
In October, Harry returned the favor, attending an Obama Foundation event in Chicago where he discussed how young people can drive community engagement.
Taking the helm of the Today program was a clever way for Harry to draw attention to his causes. And roping his pal Obama into the effort was a masterful way to leverage that unique friendship into global coverage. Whether Harry will be able to invite the Obamas to his wedding remains to be seen, but he must surely be frustrated that the petulance of the current president is the roadblock complicating it.