JAN MOIR: Princess Anne, the super trouper who could teach Prince Harry and Meghan a thing or two

One interesting thing is that — in public at least — the Royal Family have kept quiet about the hasty departure to America of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The collective air emanating from the House of Windsor, like a smog of ever so jolly spring lilacs, seems to be one of understanding and polite regret. Everyone wants Harry and Meghan to be happy, of course they do. Anger, despair, anguish at their egotistic bid for the big time? Oh dear me, no.

Pass the scented pomander. We just love those crazy kids!

Indeed, the Queen is grateful, thankful and appreciative of the challenges they faced. In an official statement, she also wished the Sussexes a happy and peaceful life. Prince Charles has said nothing at all, which in itself is quite extraordinary — although royal actions speak louder than words.

Quiet despair: Princess Anne with Prince Harry and Meghan in March last year during a reception at Buckingham Palace for the 50th anniversary of the Investiture of Prince Charles 

He will pay for their security costs, his funds continue to bankroll their lifestyle and he still keeps photograph of Harry on his study shelves. All is not lost, son!

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge has only confessed to being ‘worried’ about his younger brother. As the Sussexes plunge on with their puzzling dual mission to save the world while making a personal fortune, the Windsors have kept their upper lip stiff and their bottom one buttoned.

Until now. The new leak in the royal moat has emanated via the unlikeliest of sources — from no nonsense, plain-speaking Princess Anne herself. In an interview with a glossy magazine — itself unusual — she has shed light on how the family might really be feeling about the flight of the Sussexes.

In the pages of Vanity Fair, the Princess Royal began by describing herself as a ‘fuddy-duddy’ who believes in the tried-and-tested approach to philanthropy. Then we get straight to it. She seems to be irritated by members of the next royal generation — who could she possibly mean? — who are set on forging a brave new path where none is needed.

Younger royals, she claimed, are guilty of trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when it comes to their approach to royal duties.

Not just reinventing it, Anne! Trademarking it as their own unique intellectual property before milking it for every last dollar.

Prince Harry, Meghan and Princess Anne attending the Christmas Day church service on December 25, 2017 alongside other members of the Royal Family

Prince Harry, Meghan and Princess Anne attending the Christmas Day church service on December 25, 2017 alongside other members of the Royal Family

In an admirable revelation, the Princess explained that she put in ten years of groundwork with Save The Children before she felt she had the understanding needed to take part in any public debates on behalf of the organisation.

All that time with a charity, putting in the hard yards, before you feel knowledgeable enough to make a speech? So admirable. We weren’t ten minutes into the corona emergency before Harry and Meghan were urging the world to use their SussexRoyal website as a conduit of ‘accurate information and facts’.

The couple insisted they would be working to support health and sharing inspiring stories in this global emergency. Big ideas and even bigger plans.

But just as the pandemic took hold, the website was decommissioned when the couple were stripped of their royal status — and became useful to precisely nobody. In its place came nothing very much.

A cough mixture of truth and art

For three wonderful hours this week our minds were taken off the pandemic by the wonderful ITV mini-series Quiz, adapted by James Graham from his own play.

The dramatisation of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? coughing scandal involving Major Charles Ingram (played by Matthew Macfadyen) his wife Diana (Sian Clifford) and Tecwen Whittock (Michael Jibson) was brilliant in every way.

Michael Sheen was exceptional as Chris Tarrant, somehow managing to capture that blue vein of malevolence under the cheesy showbiz bonhomie. The drama portrayed the Ingrams in such a sympathetic light that many viewers are now wondering if the couple are innocent. The Ingrams themselves have seized the moment to launch another appeal against their convictions.

While I think the Ingrams have suffered enough, remember that this was a drama, with some truths sacrificed for art. Quiz did not, for example, include very much of the prosecution case — and none of the prosecution barrister’s devastating summing-up. So accept it as highly enjoyable but highly selective entertainment.

Now Meghan and Harry will have to wait for the next pandemic to make their mark — and are contributing by delivering meals in Los Angeles instead. Maybe.

No wonder Anne quietly despairs. ‘You don’t necessarily look at the previous generation and say, “Oh, you did that?” Or, “You went there?” Nowadays, they’re much more looking for, “Oh let’s do it a new way,” ’ she says. If Harry and Meghan really want a new way or to carve out a ‘progressive new role within the Royal Family’, they could do far worse than follow her inspiring example.

Just look at Princess Anne! Underneath her unchanging hairstyle and sensible tights, she is a royal revolutionary.

She did it all her way — and did it without a speck of fuss or the need for grandstanding.

She divorced and remarried, she became an Olympic athlete and she was the only child of the Queen who had the grit to refuse royal titles for her own two children. She is a super trouper who undertook more than 500 engagements over the past year — and you can bet she turned up at about 498 of them wearing a truly terrible frock.

In this image-conscious world, her refreshing lack of interest in clothes and killer outfits is one of her greatest strengths.

Saving the planet, recycling and thrift? There is a lot she could teach the Sussexes. Anne hasn’t bought a new skirt since 1977 and often turns up in something that looks like it’s been run up from a pair of old curtains from the shed — quite possibly because it has.

She has never tried to cash in on her status, push herself into the limelight, overstay her welcome, endear herself to the public or try to be something she is not.

She chooses her friends wisely, keeps her own counsel and — most importantly of all — wants to help rather than be seen to be helping.

Until Anne provided this chink in the armour, the most revealing royal sign of Sussexian disapproval was the thunderous expression worn by the Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey last month.

Now the brisk, no-nonsense Princess Royal, in speaking up for the old guard, reveals that divisions may run deeper than public performances suggest. 

JustGive in to a walking wonder

What an incredible achievement by Captain Tom Moore, the 99-year-old World War II veteran who walked around his garden and raised at least £15 million for the NHS. I loved his determination and also his philosophy about the lockdown.

‘We will get through it in the end. All the people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine again and the clouds will go away,’ he said.

His contribution to society puts the likes of grubbing tycoons such as Sir Philip Green, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Tim Wetherspoon to shame.

In an interview in the Daily Mail earlier this week, Captain Tom revealed the kind of quiet joys of British life that are often overlooked. A trip to Marks & Spencer was his wife Pamela’s highlight of the week.

British World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore, 99, poses with his walking frame while doing a lap of his garden in the village of Marston Moretaine, 50 miles north of London

British World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore, 99, poses with his walking frame while doing a lap of his garden in the village of Marston Moretaine, 50 miles north of London

For him, it was tinkering with his motorbikes. It was roast on a Sunday, polished shoes for Monday morning. Always doing the right thing, always thinking of others. Pamela died in 2006 but he carried on. ‘You just have to, don’t you?’ he mused.

His choice of dream car also explained a lot — ‘not a high-speed Ferrari, but a four-wheel drive to get me through the muddy parts of life’.

Well, we are in the muddy part of life now. So let’s follow his example. One step after another, just keep plodding on.

P.S. Captain Tom’s millions were raised via a JustGiving page. Good on it for donating £100,000 to his cause. But will it, this time, relinquish its percentage fees and hand more money over to the NHS?

Even the payment processing fee for Tom’s efforts is hundreds of thousands of pounds. That’s an awful lot to process, in more ways than one.

A friend in Newcastle doing her Tesco shop spotted that one customer had made her own mask out of a bra, with one of the cups over her mouth and nose and the straps looped neatly over her ears. Geordie ingenuity!

This is the kind of practical lateral thinking that will get us girls through this — although I suppose it all depends on the size of bra. 

Some of us could go into production making bra-masks for newborn kittens, while others could provide protection for any basking sharks that stray too close to our shores. It might be a storm in a C-cup, but we’ve all got to give it our full support.

Banksy joins the rat race 

A photo from Banksy's Instagram account (above) shows a section of the new work he created in his bathroom during lockdown, captioned: 'My wife hates it when I work from home'

A photo from Banksy’s Instagram account (above) shows a section of the new work he created in his bathroom during lockdown, captioned: ‘My wife hates it when I work from home’

Wherever you are, whoever you are locked down with, be grateful you are not married to Banksy.

Bored at home, the famous street artist surprised his wife by filling their bathroom with a fresco of alarmingly lifelike rats.

‘My wife hates it when I work from home,’ he said, and who can blame her? She must have screamed for a week. It is a nightmarish work of genius — love that squeezed toothpaste tube — to be adored from afar. Other husbands, don’t try this at home.  

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