By Joe Delmonico, Dateline Producer
Let me be candid: I was predisposed not to like these guys.
You see, I am not a royal watcher. Quite the contrary. It's always been hard for me to care about the doings of people who were born into immense wealth, guaranteed admission to the finest schools, and assured of a lifetime of total privilege, comfort and security, without having to earn any of it. William and Harry don't just automatically go to the head of the line—they never see the line. How can they possibly have insights that are relevant to those of us leading normal lives? And aren't they so programmed to always say the right thing that they're incapable of the spontaneity that makes an interview interesting?
Add to that the inherent hassle of interviewing such people. It's nobody's fault, just the way it is. For example, you can't interview two princes just anywhere. Their representatives decided the interview should take place at Clarence House, which is the official London residence of the Prince of Wales. It's a lovely old building with manicured gardens and a courtyard where there's a footprint reputedly left by Henry VIII. Clarence house also has security cameras watching your every move, machine guns on the roof, and guards who wear those very photogenic red coats and beaver hats and carry very impressive assault rifles. We were cautioned – only half in jest-- not to stray too far from the area assigned to us, lest bullets start flying.
Also for reasons of security and the princes' comfort level, the palace representatives required us to severely limit the size of our crew and radically simplify our usual lighting setup. (The fact that this ancient building has ancient wiring also argued in favor of the fewest lights possible.) We all of course underwent the usual background checks, and all our camera and lighting gear was gone over by bomb-sniffing dogs.
All the while I am asking myself: for what? So we can interview a couple spoiled kids with nothing much to say?
Then the interview started.
Matt mentioned that Princess Diana has always wanted the boys to lead as normal a life as possible. Would she think they were doing a good job?
Harry jumped right in: "I think she'd be happy in the way that we're going about it, but slightly unhappy about the way other people were going about it, as in saying: 'Look, you're not normal, so stop trying to be normal.'"
William soon interrupted: "You may be abnormal. I'm pretty normal," which made everybody laugh.
So the tone was set: surprisingly forthright answers, leavened with humor. Harry in particular impressed everybody who saw him in person or has seen him on tape. Over the years he's managed to get himself photographed in more than one awkward situation, and has mostly been portrayed in the media as a party boy and a loose cannon, even a bit of a lout—and he knows it. When Matt asked the brothers to describe each other, Harry offered that William is "definitely the more intelligent of the two of us, which I'm sure is the next question!"
Yet the Harry we met seemed thoughtful, straightforward, and genuine. He provided what was to my mind the most poignant moment in the interview.
Speaking of about his mother, Princess Diana, Harry said, "You know when people think about it they think about her death. They think about how wrong it was. They think about whatever happened. I don't know for-- for me personally whatever happened you know that night. Whatever happened in that tunnel. No one will ever know. And I'm sure people will always think about that the whole time."
"Have you stopped wondering?" asked Matt.
Harry responded, "I'll never stop wondering about that," and the look on his face showed he never would.
Right about then I had the belated realization that despite their vast wealth and immense privilege, these were two guys in their twenties dealing with some enormous and universal challenges: their mom's death, not to mention the messy divorce that preceded it; their dad's remarriage; the normal twentysomething issues of romance and career choices and the occasional boneheaded behavior at the local bar. The huge difference of course, is that since William and Harry were infants every one of these dramas large and small played out on a world stage, with, as William put it, "all eyes on."
One of the classic setups for storytelling is putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations. The fact that William and Harry seem so very normal, coupled with the fact that their life situation could not be farther from normal, means that at the end of the day, despite my misgivings, they do have a story to tell.
Hope you enjoy it.
Watch the full interview on Dateline, Monday at 10 p.m. on June 18. Click here for preview video, which aired on TODAY this morning. Click here to read a Q&A with Matt Lauer about what it's like to talk with the Princes.