Cry, God, for Harry, England, and an indecisive military
Cranmer would like to bring to the attention of the Chief of the General Staff the words of another royal Harry, who positively gloried in the ‘security situation’ of the French insurgents at Agincourt:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Shakespeare articulated to the point of literary perfection the patriotism of war and the celebration of valour. He engraved upon the British psyche the notion of service with leadership, fusing royalty with the military to the point of making it a raison d’être of the Monarchy. This echoes some of the most prevalent themes of Scripture, in which the Lord is portrayed as a warrior throughout the Old Testament, and in the New, believers are exhorted to put on the full armour of God in order to wage war against the prince of the power of the air.
The main problem with the reasons given by the Chief of the General Staff for not deploying Prince Harry is that Iraqi insurgents would, in fact, kill or kidnap any British soldier, given half a chance. This decision therefore hands them a degree of victory. It is said Prince Harry’s presence would endanger the lives of others, yet in combats, helmet, camouflage, and blacked up, it is unlikely that one soldier may easily be distinguished from another. And it is perfectly possible to keep deployment decisions out of the media, and halt the perpetual conjecture about his precise location.
The decision is also an affront to the parents of all those soldiers already killed in combat - as if royal blood were somehow of greater worth – and it is also potentially damaging to the Royal Family, who are now obliged to perpetuate an impression of exemption: one’s subjects may die in defence of one’s realm, but one has to be manifestly exempt from participating in that defence in case one is harmed.
Prince Harry is evidently a man of courage and conviction, and his own sense of self-worth is certain to have been damaged by this. His media portrayal as a ‘playboy’ is unremittingly negative, and he has now been deprived of an opportunity to prove his worth. Military combat is, after all, what he has been trained for. He has previously been reported as saying: ‘There is no way I'm going to…sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.’ Sadly for him, he now will. And he shall doubtless think himself accursed that he was not there. And as he hears, week by week, of his comrades, Dave and Derek, who have fallen on the battlefield, the resentment and regret may well be life-long.
Cranmer wishes his Communicants a blessed Ascension Day
(and a measly PS is just about precisely what the Church has made this most important of Christian festivals)