When Harry and Meghan announced their nuptials would take place in Windsor, with tens of thousands of tourists and well-wishers expected to descend on the quaint Thameside town for the occasion, the last thing anyone anticipated was a right royal row over homelessness.
Simon Dudley, leader of Windsor Council, was pilloried in January after saying many of the town’s beggars are not homeless, or if they were homeless they were “choosing to reject all support services” making it “a voluntary choice”. He blamed rough sleepers and homeless people for rubbish accumulating on the streets, and lamented that “the whole situation presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light”.
Rather than propose investment in measures to prevent people falling into homelessness and proactively deal with those who are already homeless, Dudley requested Thames Valley crime commissioner intervene and demand officers use the power of the law to clear them off the streets ahead of the celebrations.
Controversy duly exploded and Prince Harry, who since childhood has shown support for homeless charities through his mum Princess Diana’s support of Centrepoint, and Meghan, a renowned human rights activist and equality campaigner, became embroiled in the uproar over callous treatment of people already marginalised by society and most in need of help.
Murphy James, project development manager with Windsor Homeless Project, was stunned. “I was shocked that the leader of the council could make such a sweeping statement,” he admits. “And to bring the royal family into it, when it quite literally has nothing to do with them, is also shocking. The royals aren’t allowed to be seen to be political so why should the politicians bring the royal family into their arguments?”
James points to Harry and Meghan’s visit in February to Social Bite, a social enterprise cafe in Edinburgh which trains homeless people in catering, as a clear statement of where their sympathies on the matter lay. “I think that really spoke volumes,” he says.