HISTORY buffs in England - the ones who might even be aware that Ireland is a separate country - will be familiar with one of the most famous lines uttered by a king: “Will no-one rid me of this troublesome priest?”
It has been attributed to Henry II in 1170, when his Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was crossing him. It ended up with Henry’s lords - whether he intended them to or not - slaying Becket in his own cathedral.
I’m not sure the still officially uncrowned King Charles III would want to go that far with his errant son, Harry.
But after another week of spite, gossip, and tabloid revelation was laid bare to the world from Harry and his wife Meghan’s American mansion, you couldn’t blame Charles for uttering the words: “Who will rid me of this tiresome prince?”
And the answer, of course, is in his own hands. The monarch can’t expect his lords - or worse still, his eldest son, William - to do his bidding. Only he should be wielding the metaphorical axe.
Charles is a 74-year-old meek and mild man, traits you suspect became ingrained in him through his own unusual and often unloved childhood. His instinct may be to pretend problems don’t exist until they go away.
But Harry is a problem that isn’t going away.
Now, not three months since the death of his mother, Charles has to take the initiative and be decisive - perhaps for the only time in his life. He has to act like a king and cut his son Harry adrift from a monarchy he has already damaged and seems intent to try to bring down from afar.
It is within Charles’ remit to set in motion a process that would lead to Harry and Meghan being stripped of their titles as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Yes, it would ostracise his youngest son. It would mean that Charles may never see him or his grandchildren ever again. But the point of reconciliation has long since passed anyway, and a clean break is the only power left in the king's hands after the latest example of Harry and Meghan’s treachery.
“Never complain, never explain.”
That was the motto attributed to Queen Elizabeth II during her long reign - it was advice she lived and died by, ensuring a veil of secrecy and mystery remained over the royal household in an ever-changing modern world.
Her grandson Harry clearly feels it’s one pearl of wisdom he can live without.
There was a time, and not too long ago either, when the carefree ginger prince was the most cherished member of the Royal Family. Born into great wealth, he enjoyed all the advantages of his accident of birth, but with little of the responsibility.
Unlike his dutiful big brother, he could party, date beautiful women, and employ his cheeky smile to get him out of scrapes. He served 10 years in the army, and later threw his weight behind the hugely successful Invictus Games, for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
It’s worth remembering that when the boy who could do no wrong met and married Meghan Markle, the British press and public were almost universally thrilled and delighted.
Whatever happened inside the Royal Family - and we have only heard one side of that divide so far - Harry and Meghan can have few complaints about their treatment in the UK, in a lifestyle funded by the UK taxpayer no less.
Oh, but they do have complaints. So many complaints.
We were told they were fleeing to the USA to protect their privacy, but their privacy is the one item they have exchanged for bucketloads of cash. In return, Netflix and the book publishers want their pound of flesh - and they are getting it in spades.
Complaints, gripes, woe-is-me revelations.... all packaged up as something declared as ‘their truth’ - as though that is any way distinguishable from ‘the truth’.
The Netflix documentary that dropped this week was predictably more of the same - mawkish victim-hood peddled for a €100million war chest, in which Harry drops sly digs about his brother and father.
For Irish people, it’s yet more of the non-stop soap opera tittle-tattle that has surrounded the royals since the 1980s when a certain Diana Spencer - and, not coincidentally, the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle and the British tabloid war - entered the fray.
But even the most republican of Irish stock must witness events like this week and feel anger at the naked betrayal of Harry and Meghan, and feel a tinge of sympathy for Charles and William and their spouses - trapped by the silence of royal protocol from even defending their defamed characters.
Well, King Charles must see this, and he must act.
Perhaps he will await the second batch of self-serving documentaries on Netflix next week - feared to be even more ‘poisonous’ by Buckingham Palace insiders - or perhaps he will let the dust settle, then strike.
But that could be a mistake - as Harry could sense the way the wind is blowing and resign his titles first, forever then the victim
Now is the time for Charles to act, as the ‘revelations’ and drip-drip of poison will keep coming. Next up, in January, is Harry’s book, self-pitying titled Spare - after the fact William was always the heir and he always the spare.
No, Harry and Meghan’s life is laid out for them now, a never-ending but decreasingly less newsworthy round of tell-alls, and sell-alls. What Charles has to do is lance the boil - strip them of their titles and ostracise them.
His next move will be nothing less than the making or breaking of his reign.
You know, that 850-year-old quote by Henry II has often been debated - were those the king’s actual words - “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”?
Respected historian Simon Schama prefers the version by a contemporary biographer, writing in Latin: “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt...”
Isn’t that Prince Harry’s actions, nailed right there?
The only person who can rid Charles of this troublesome prince is himself - and if he doesn’t grasp that nettle, he risks doing permanent, possible irreconcilable damage to the institution he heads.