Robert Hanks: Prince Harry, Rupert Murdoch, and the family ties that bind

Prince Harry wasn’t the only one breaking the rigid family rules last week

Share

Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch descended from Mount Doom to issue one of his characteristically gnomic utterances via Twitter: "Prince Harry. Give him a break. He may be on the public payroll one way or another, but the public loves him, even to enjoy Las Vegas."

It was, perhaps a shade less characteristically, gallant of him to defend the prince from the approximately no people who have attacked him in the past few days, since the unleashing of his bottom on the world. The consensus – and it's interesting to notice how general it seems to be, crossing generation, social class and political party – is that Harry Windsor can do what he likes as long as all parties are consenting adults.

Harry isn't the only scion of a rigid dynasty who attracted attention last week for breaking the family rules. Giving the annual MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Elisabeth Murdoch flagrantly contradicted every position her brother James took at the same event three years ago. Where James took the official News Corp line – BBC is hegemonic and evil, profit the only reliable guarantee of an independent media – Elisabeth more or less stroked Mark Thompson's beard while issuing horrified squeaks about "profit without purpose".

Her lecture attracted applause, but also much snark about her sincerity – was she trying to supplant James as heir apparent to the Murdoch empire? Was the whole thing imperially approved propaganda? So far, Rupert's tweets haven't given his views. What both episodes emphasise is a certain confusion about families – what we owe them, what they should do for us. During the past century, the tendency in Britain has been to reject family as the determining factor in our lives. Once it seemed natural that people's circumstances – social status, profession, where they lived – were dictated by their parents: the son defying paternal authority to do the "wrong" job or marry the "wrong" girl was a staple of fiction.

Now, we have a more limited vision of the duties parents and children owe one another. The child doing the job, marrying the person their parents expect, is an object of pity; we look askance at somebody still living at home after 25.

But still family values tug at us. We have trouble discarding our faith in the hereditary principle as a basis for the British constitution; recession and ludicrous house prices pull a generation towards their parents' back bedroom; and we're only interested in Harry and Elisabeth at all because of who their parents are. Harry's lack of regal propriety may titillate, the scorn Elisabeth pours on Murdoch mores may tweak our political antennae; but in the end, what makes the thrill is seeing a child in conflict with the family, the escape attempt that can never quite succeed.

Twitter: @RobertHanks

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor’s Letter: The Sussex teenager killed fighting in Syria

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Actor Zac Efron  

Keep your shirt on Zac – we'd all be better for it

Howard Jacobson
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit