A Russian Duo Prank-Called Prince Harry and Probably Did Him a Favor

Prince Harry on the BGC Partners trading floor, London, 2011.  (PAUL GROVER/AFP via Getty Images)

This week, Russian prank callers, Vovan and Lexus, released secretly recorded audio of two conversations they had with Prince Harry while they posed as climate activist Greta Thunberg and her father, Svante.

Though no official confirmation that it’s the prince has come from either the Sussex household or Buckingham Palace, not only does the voice on the tape sound an awful lot like Mr. Meghan Markle, but ET Canada is reporting they’ve received confirmation of the prankee’s identity.

Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov specialize in trying to catch people off guard and off brand. As such, their targets are usually politicians (Bernie Sanders, Maxine Waters and Lindsey Graham have all been duped), but they do sometimes veer into the world of celebrity. (In 2015, the duo called Elton John, posing as Vladimir Putin.) With that in mind, it was probably only a matter of time before a royal was on the receiving end of one of these calls.

Listening to the content of the just-released audio, and assuming we’ve IDed the prince correctly, it’s difficult to imagine Harry regretting anything he says. For a start, the comments he makes about his and Meghan Markle’s decision to step away from their roles as senior royals are nothing but endearing.

“I can assure you, marrying a prince or princess is not all it’s made out to be... This decision certainly wasn’t the easy one but it was the right decision for our family, the right decision to be able to protect my son. And I think there’s a hell of a lot of people around the world that can identify and respect us for putting our family first.”

In addition, when he does get onto the subject of climate change, Harry speaks authoritatively and passionately, coming across as a profoundly empathetic person who is desperate to see policy change enacted to protect future generations.

“It’s not an easy time, and the world is in a troubled place, and unfortunately the world is being led by some very sick people who stop any change from happening, whether that’s because of their own bias [or] whether that’s because of the fact that it will change how they are able to behave themselves... We have to almost physically shake these people to get them to realize that not only are they stealing from your future... but also that they are directly responsible for actually killing people and wiping out whole communities.”

Harry has never been (and probably never will be) permitted to speak like this in any public, official capacity—even post-Megxit. But given his well-established rebellious streak, one has to wonder if the leaking of these real-life personal views might be a breath of fresh air for him.

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It also must come as a bit of a relief to finally let the public know where he stands when it comes to his uncle. When asked about Prince Andrew—who is currently neck-deep in allegations of sexual exploitation related to his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein—Harry does not mince words. Not only does he make zero attempt to defend Andrew, he also gets in a dig at the relatives he perceives as more concerned about protecting their ranks than looking out for the welfare of the public.

“Whatever [Andrew] has done or hasn’t done, is completely separate from me and my wife. We operate in a way of inclusivity and we are focusing on community. And so we are completely separate from the majority of my family.”

The most controversial part of the recording concerns Donald Trump and the current administration's energy policies. Whether you find Harry’s comments about Trump atrocious or a triumph will depend entirely on your political leanings, but either way, one gets the sense that Harry enjoyed getting this off his chest.

“I think the mere fact that Donald Trump is pushing the coal industry so big in America, he has blood on his hands. Because the effect that that has on island nations far, far away... Again, out of sight, out of mind. We’ve visited those places and I’m sure you have as well and people’s lives have been completely destroyed. People are dying every single month by some form of natural disaster that has been created from this huge change in our climate.”

Regardless of the controversy that is now swirling around the prince, Harry’s conversation certainly pales in comparison with what his parents, Diana and Prince Charles were previously caught saying over the phone in secret recordings.

In a conversation between Diana and her friend James Gilbey that leaked in 1992, Gilbey affectionately called her “Squidgy” or “Squidge” no less than 53 times, and the Princess said of her then-husband: “He makes my life real torture.” A 1989 conversation Charles had with his then-mistress Camilla Parker Bowles was even worse, causing such a furor when it leaked years after the fact that it has taken the prince decades to recover. (During the call, Charles memorably told Camilla: “I’ll just live inside your trousers or something. It would be much easier!”)

As demonstrated by Harry and Meghan’s recent move to Canada, this is not a couple interested in being trapped within the bounds of British royal protocol. And for Harry, adhering to those standards of public decorum and political neutrality for his entire life must have been inordinately stifling. Harry himself indicates during the recording that he is looking forward to having a louder, more honest voice moving forward.

“Being in a different position now gives us the ability to say things and do things that we might not have been able to do,” he says. “And seeing as everyone under the age of 35 or 36 seems to be carrying out an activist’s role, it gives us the opportunity to try and make more a difference without being criticized.”

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Vovan and Lexus may have inadvertently given Harry his first major stepping stone on the road to doing just that.