The Duke of Sussex has said some British soldiers were not “necessarily” supportive of military efforts in Afghanistan.
During a live-streamed conversation with author and therapist Gabor Maté, Prince Harry discussed his military tours to Afghanistan.
In response to Maté stating he did not align with the west during the conflict, the duke said: “One of the reasons why so many people in the United Kingdom were not supportive of our troops was because they assumed that everybody that was serving was for the war.
“But no, once you sign up, you do what you’re told to do.
“So there was a lot of us that didn’t necessarily agree or disagree, but you were doing what you were trained to do, you were doing what you were sent to do.”
Harry, 38, also described how it would have been impossible for him to stay in the UK inside the royal family and preserve his mental health and assure a loving environment for his wife and their two children.
Harry and his wife, Meghan, left Britain in 2020 and have settled in southern California, giving up their roles as working royals.
Speaking on Saturday, he was careful to avoid blaming anybody by name for the fracturing of the family. But his comments likening his move to America to a life-saving escape from a toxic, hostile and sometimes racist “containment” will do little to quell the feud that has intensified with his father King Charles and brother Prince William since the publication of his tell-all autobiography Spare in January.
It was reported this week that Charles has evicted Harry and Meghan from Frogmore Cottage, their UK home gifted by the late Queen.
“I’ve lost a lot, but at the same time I’ve gained a lot. To see my kids growing up here the way that they are, I just can’t imagine how that would have been possible back in that environment,” Harry told Maté, as they faced each other in outsized armchairs before a robust log fire.
“You try your best to make sure you don’t hand on any traumas you have as a parent. But if you’re still stuck within the same environment it kind of always feels self-defeating. To be able to change what I would say was the root cause of so much of those issues, to be able to up, move, feels as though it gives me much more of a chance, agency as parents to be able to bring our kids up in a way that is really, really beneficial.”
Alluding to his own emotionally challenging upbringing inside the royal family, Harry added: “We do the best we can as parents, learning from our own pasts, overlapping those mistakes perhaps, and being able to grow together in order to be able to provide for our kids and to be able to break that cycle. You certainly don’t make friends in the process in the short term.”
Marriage to his wife Meghan, he said, helped him realize who he truly is.
“People have said my wife saved me. I was stuck in this world. And she was from a different world and helped draw me out of that. But none of the elements of my life now would have been possible without me seeing it for myself,” he said.
The event was organized by publishers Random House as an exploration of Harry’s journey from trauma to healing. Maté is a 79-year-old Hungarian Canadian physician whose book, The Myth of Normal, addresses “trauma, illness and healing in a toxic culture”.
In a 2018 interview with the Guardian, he praised princes William and Harry for opening up about the mental pain caused by the 1997 death of their mother, Princess Diana. Harry was also widely lauded for his admission that he sought counseling after 20 years of bottling up his feelings.
During their chat on Saturday, Maté said he had read Spare, and concluded that Harry had attention deficit disorder (ADD), which he could overcome. “I don’t see it as a disease. I see it as a normal response to abnormal stress when a kid is in a stressful environment,” he said.
In relation to previous views he has expressed on serving in combat in Afghanistan, British veterans criticised the Duke of Sussex’s claim in January that he had killed 25 Taliban soldiers while serving with the British army in Afghanistan and warned the high-profile admission could increase the risk to his personal security.
The prince recounted in his memoir his time as a gunner in an Apache attack helicopter while on his second tour of the country in 2012.
The retired army veteran Col Tim Collins said the prince’s disclosure was crass, and that “we don’t do notches on the rifle butt”.