Show, don’t tell. That, I was always taught, is the basis of successful writing.
Don’t bludgeon people with grand pronouncements, rather take them on a thoughtful journey of discovery which, hopefully, will lead you both to the same conclusion.
In fact, it is a principle that can be applied to almost every aspect of life – from the world of work to parenting.
It’s the difference between someone telling you they love you via pointless gestures – and showing they care through constant daily actions, large and small.
It’s the difference between politicians who make promises they never keep and those who change policy.
In short, it’s empty grandstanding versus industrious authenticity. And, to my mind, it is the ultimate test of a person’s character and maturity.
Prince William’s Time To Walk podcast is the perfect example.
Everything about it, from the concept to the simplicity and sincerity of its execution – and the fact that Apple is making a six-figure donation to charity on his behalf – reinforces the impression of the Duke of Cambridge as someone who understands the crucial difference between superficial sentiment and meaningful action.
SARAH VINE: There’s a wonderful intimacy to his words, a total lack of princely reserve as he talks about his life with charming candour, from his experiences with the Air Ambulance Service to his memories of being driven back to school by his mother, singing along at the top of their voices to Tina Turner. (Pictured: Prince William and Kate Middleton on a walk last January)
A person who gets that you can’t just expect people’s respect, you earn it.
By showing, not telling those around you (in his case that includes the millions of British citizens who look to the Monarchy for guidance and inspiration) why you deserve your status in life.
And boy, has he succeeded. In just 38 minutes strolling gently through the Norfolk countryside, we learn what so many Royal-watchers have lately come to sense is true of William.
That he is a remarkably well-rounded human being, a man who embodies rather than wears the mantle of Royalty, who harbours an acute understanding of the responsibilities and challenges of his role, who has a real and heartfelt connection to other people.
Someone who recognises his own weaknesses and tries hard to remedy them.
It’s clear things haven’t always been straightforward for him. We all know the trauma he shares with his brother, of losing his mother at such a young age with the eyes of the world on them.
Yet he is also painfully aware that, compared to the problems of so many others, his own struggles might seem marginal.
And it is precisely because of this self-knowledge that he inspires such empathy. He talks about his experiences of anxiety, of the challenges of his circumstances with such self-effacing sincerity, such honesty, you can’t help feel for him.
He doesn’t ask for our sympathy; but he gets it nonetheless.
If William’s experiences have shaped him into a thoughtful, rather noble individual, poor Harry’s seem to have done the opposite, writes Sarah Vine
And that’s in large part because there’s not a hint of self-pity in what he says. No anger, no desire to lash out or wound. Just a calmness, mercifully devoid of cliches or woke-speak.
There’s a wonderful intimacy to his words, a total lack of princely reserve as he talks about his life with charming candour, from his experiences with the Air Ambulance Service to his memories of being driven back to school by his mother, singing along at the top of their voices to Tina Turner.
Interestingly, while he talks about his family and his children, the Duchess of Cambridge is never mentioned by name.
But she doesn’t need to be; her influence, the positive impact she’s had on his life, is unmistakable.
She is there in the gaps between every syllable, her tacit presence and constant support quietly acknowledged at the end, when he says: ‘Feels like I’ve been on a walk with a best mate, or my wife.’
There is much about this podcast, particularly in the Prince’s memories of his mother and grandfather, and of his time flying helicopters, that feels a little sad, a little wistful.
But while those moments may seem bittersweet, he’s never bitter. Which brings me, sadly, to his brother Harry.
Because if William’s experiences have shaped him into a thoughtful, rather noble individual, poor Harry’s seem to have done the opposite.
Where William is funny, self-deprecating, down-to-earth, philosophical about life’s trials, Harry – as we have seen time and again over the course of the past few months – is peevish, self-obsessed, grandstanding.
It’s clear things haven’t always been straightforward for him. We all know the trauma he shares with his brother, of losing his mother at such a young age with the eyes of the world on them
He is enraged by what he considers to be the injustices visited upon him by members of his own family and a free press which, to his fury, have stubbornly refused to buy into his rebranding of himself as the Prince of Woke and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, as a victim of terrible injustice.
The contrast between Harry’s approach and William’s could not be starker. And this brief insight into William’s character offers us the clearest explanation yet of why relations between the two brothers have become so strained.
For someone as measured and as thoughtful as William, his brother’s constant outbursts and apparent disregard for anyone else’s feelings save his own must be at best baffling, at worst infuriating.
A never-ending catalogue of complaints, a whiny, self-pitying narrative in which everyone else – from his father to palace officials – is responsible for his supposed woes.
The only time Harry seems to take a break from being absolutely furious with everybody is when virtue-signalling about his and Meghan’s general saintliness through the medium of his famous ‘friends’.
SARAH VINE: Show, don’t tell. That, I was always taught, is the basis of successful writing. In fact, it is a principle that can be applied to almost every aspect of life – from the world of work to parenting… Prince William’s Time To Walk podcast is the perfect example
A saintliness which, strangely, never seems to be backed up by much concrete evidence – not unless you count swanning around New York promoting Meghan’s book, or hopping on private jets to deliver hypocritical homilies about the evils of climate change.
On the principle of show, not tell, Prince Harry is all tell. He tells us he loves his grandmother; but his actions, surely, show otherwise.
Or else why would he have been such a thorn in her side over the past year, depriving her of the chance to see her great-grandchildren, accusing the Royal Family of being racist, causing drama at the funeral of her husband of 70 years?
In practical terms, he has shown none of the characteristics – kindness, understanding, generosity –that he so loudly claims to possess, while demonstrating all those – vindictiveness, anger, venality (note, he is being paid millions for his podcasts) – that he allegedly despises. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but it’s true.
Everyone has trauma in their life, at one time or another. The real test is how you let it shape you.
There is much about this podcast, particularly in the Prince’s memories of his mother and grandfather, and of his time flying helicopters, that feels a little sad, a little wistful
Whether you allow it to turn you into someone who pushes their loved ones away, who turns themselves into a victim, who finds endless people to blame for their mistakes.
Or whether you accept it, deal with it and move on by taking responsibility for your life without blaming others for everything.
Ultimately, whether you build something positive out of adversity.
That is what William has done. It’s not the easiest route, and it’s certainly not the quickest.
And perhaps, of the two brothers, he has been the luckier in that he seems to have found in Kate a life partner who grounds him, whereas Meghan seems to press all Harry’s buttons, winding him ever tighter. Then again, it could be luck, it could be wisdom.
Either way, what this rare glimpse into the mind of a future King shows is that, whatever obstacles he may yet encounter, he’s on the right path.
If only Harry could follow in his brother’s footsteps, perhaps he might finally find some measure too.