Years from now, people will still be talking about the night when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were, according to their own official statement, involved in a ‘near catastrophic’ two-hour car chase in New York, resulting in ‘multiple near-collisions’ involving other cars, pedestrians and police officers.
Hit the brakes for a moment to consider how the word ‘near’ is called upon to do a lot of heavy lifting in this context.
Near, as in a flaming meteor shower from Mars was involved in a near-hit on their car. Near as in that near-calamitous moment when King Kong nearly fell off the Empire State Building after climbing up to get a better view of this terrifying car chase. One, I might add, that is surely becoming the most famous hot pursuit in American history, right up there with Steve McQueen in Bullitt or O.J. Simpson’s slow-speed freeway police chase nearly 30 years ago.
Yet in the fevered aftermath of this incident, the most striking element is that everyone seems to be telling a different story, no two accounts match up.
The New York Police Department called the evening ‘challenging’ but without collision and not catastrophic, while New York City Mayor Adams said: ‘I would find it hard to believe there was a two-hour high-speed chase.’
JAN MOIR: Years from now, people will still be talking about the night when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were, according to their own official statement, involved in a ‘near catastrophic’ two-hour car chase in New York
A bodyguard for the couple said he saw the paparazzi drive through 15 red traffic lights, but a celebrity news agency on the scene claimed it was an SUV in the couple’s security detail which was driving recklessly, not them.
The taxi driver who picked up Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, and her mother, Doria Ragland, for part of their journey dismissed any claims of putative disaster as ‘exaggerated’.
However, the Archewell ‘global’ spokesperson reported that after a year in the Sussexes’ employ, she had ‘never experienced their vulnerability as much as I did last night’.
Perhaps she wasn’t there the day they so beautifully peeled opened their hearts and went to lay flowers at a Los Angeles military cemetery. Or she didn’t personally witness their mutual distress when Bridesmaid Three wore the wrong tights at their wedding — but I get the drift, even if much of the U.S. media themselves seem sceptical.
‘As more details emerged, the picture became more complicated,’ wrote the New York Times archly, while the New York Post dubbed the couple The Duke and Duchess of Hazard.
Meanwhile, major networks such as CBS hinted that the incident had been overblown, with Gayle King revealing: ‘It was a scary moment, but police tell us it was not as serious as Harry and Meghan said.’
The taxi driver who picked up Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, and her mother, Doria Ragland, for part of their journey dismissed any claims of putative disaster as ‘exaggerated’
Of course, everyone has been so, so careful, voicing sympathy and understanding of how being pursued by paparazzi — even for five minutes at 5mph — might be triggering for Prince Harry.
One can certainly understand how his trauma response might be tuned to a higher pitch than most, and why he might have catastrophised the incident into something approaching a near-death experience — because for him, perhaps that is how it felt.
For others, perhaps it merely mirrors the uncomfortable reality of being a celebrity on the mean streets of 21st-century America, a place where one man’s catastrophic car chase is another man’s cruising the block looking for a parking space.
On Wednesday’s Newsnight (BBC2), even Omid Scobie was rowing back, claiming the initial hyperbolic statement from the Sussexes had been made by people in an ’emotional’ state.
Does that make it OK? No, it does not. What history needs is the truth, not the near truth. What we need is the NYPD to launch an investigation, because the 18,000 police cameras that monitor nearly every godforsaken corner of New York City cannot tell a lie, nor allow tragic personal history to cloud their focus.
Yet quite honestly, I feel like this is the Harry and Meghan story that has finally broken me. It is just never going to stop, is it? The entire world is forever going to be punished for what they see as the fault lines in their lives; all of us caught in the psychodrama of their need for the kind of high-profile public acclaim that produces revenue, versus their demands for blanket privacy or else.
I feel like this is the Harry and Meghan story that has finally broken me. It is just never going to stop, is it? The entire world is forever going to be punished for what they see as the fault lines in their lives
For reasons still unknown, Harry and Meghan became involved in a bizarre Manhattan car chase that cynics might say looked, from some angles, like part of a scripted reality show. Or even an exercise in creating and harvesting content for some dread future Netflix project aimed at burnishing their premium victimhood credentials.
Can’t they just get on with their blessed and happy lives? Obviously not.
Since arriving in America, the Sussexes’ courtship of the media has been assiduous and slick, and good for them.
Yet the success of their Netflix documentaries and Harry’s recent memoir, Spare, has only inflamed American interest in their royals-in-exile lifestyle, exactly as intended.
They are the Kardashians with a coronet, The Osbournes with knobs on, The Real Royals Of Montecito — and perhaps the sooner they accept that, the better it would be for all concerned.
If Prince Harry truly cannot cope with the flaming torch of fame, after putting the match to it himself, if it really is all too painful, perhaps he should stay at home in the rescue coop and count his chickens instead.
That’s not a criticism. Just an observation from a long-suffering bystander that it might just make him happier.
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