IN my first week as Director of Communications at 10 Downing Street, I had the abstract art collection removed from my office and replaced by a single portrait of the Queen.
I figured that, in the heat of making big decisions, it would be wise to stop, think and ask myself: “What would Her Majesty do?”
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She seldom puts a foot wrong — but clearly mistakes have been made on all sides in the dispute which led to Harry and Meghan’s explosive TV interview this week.
The whole episode has been divisive and cool heads are required now to learn the lessons of the public relations disaster — and prevent things from getting even worse.
Whether it’s Meghan and her father, or William with Harry, what the past few days have taught us is that freezing out family members doesn’t work.
If we could turn back the clock, perhaps they would all accept they were a little too hasty in reacting to the fallout from the Sussexes’ decision to step back from their royal duties.
The decision to strip the couple of their royal patronages was perhaps the trigger to the chain of events which has inflicted so much damage on the Royal Family.
Surely it wasn’t such a big ask to allow Harry to stand beside his father and brother to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph each year?
Letting her grandson and his bride retain the roles that clearly mean so much to them would have been a small price to pay for keeping the peace.
Instead, the decision has led to rifts with the Commonwealth — Australia debating whether to drop the Queen as their head of state and the whole Royal Family being portrayed as racist.
But it’s not too late to repair the huge damage caused to the institution — providing that a proper, thought-out strategy is put in place now.
The only sensible way to move forward is to try to build bridges between the two sides — if nothing else to prevent more PR disasters in the future.
First, it requires a complete rethink from the Queen’s senior advisers.
I can’t imagine Her Majesty was best pleased with headlines last weekend, fresh from the lips of courtiers, branding the Oprah interview a “circus” and threatening to retaliate and “come out swinging”.
What exactly did they hope to achieve? Talk of war will only make things worse.
The Palace has also been too slow to respond.
The Duke of Cambridge should have immediately let it be known he was upset with some of the accusations, but was determined to find a way through these difficulties and would always love his brother.
Days later, and William still has not picked up the phone to Harry.
This situation is not going to get better until the Palace takes control of the situation and tries to make amends, no matter how painful that might be.
Of course, families up and down the land go through this kind of thing all the time.
But we get the benefit of conducting our heated arguments behind closed doors, not in front of the world’s cameras.
We don’t have to face the world’s judgment on who is right, who is wrong, what is true and what isn’t.
I’m not the only person to think that some of what Harry and Meghan said doesn’t add up.
What is clear is that we can choose to discount their accusations, while at the same time having sympathy for how they felt trapped.
These are not mutually exclusive positions to take.
The reaction to the interview has thrown up many strong opinions.
But despite these, I believe most Britons possess an excellent sense of fairness underneath it all.
Was it fair for Harry and Meghan to air their dirty laundry in public and give a one-sided view of history? Probably not.
Were they always treated fairly during their time together within the Royal Family? Probably not.
It’s time that they called it a score draw. Repairing relationships from this won’t be easy, with the anger raw on both sides.
The most damaging part of the interview was the accusation of racism within the Royal Family.
The minute anyone has to explain that they are not racist is the exact moment when people think they must be — otherwise why protest so much?
It’s a lose-lose situation.
Harry and Meghan put the family firm in the most impossible of positions by levelling their accusation against an unnamed family member.
Did they know what hell they were unleashing? Or did the clarification from Oprah after the interview that Harry wanted it to be known that it wasn’t the Queen or Prince Philip sense a slight panic? We will never know.
The question is — how do they move on from here? First, senior royals must show some loyalty to Harry in spite of what has happened.
It may even win back some goodwill.
Now might also be a good time to review how the royals operate and to find a way to open up the institution a lot more.
The Firm needs to modernise — it’s not the Mafia, where you leave the family and all hell is unleashed.
A more open, transparent family, who people can see are willing to embrace other cultures and influences, would be a positive step forward.
William and Kate have already paved the way and they would do well to build on this over the next few years.
It is never easy, but it is time to dial back the rhetoric, remove some of the raw emotion from this situation and find a way to patch things up.
They need to be honest with the public, admit how difficult this is and ask for the space to heal privately.
Otherwise, the longer this goes on, the worse it’s going to get.
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