Colin Brazier: Millions of people are hanging on every syrupy word of Meghan Markle’s latest interview

None of those words will make as much sense as the handful uttered by Terry Waite on his release thirty years ago today

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Meghan Markle is back on TV in America. A big sit-down interview with a comedian called Ellen DeGeneres.

I know we’re meant to nod sympathetically when the Duke or Duchess of Sussex tell us about ‘their truth’. We must think them brave to share stories of suffering, from their 14-bedroom Californian mansion. But their’s is a particular kind of confected courage. And here’s the proof.

Because, although the Meghan Markle interview will secure global coverage, even though there are apparently no bombshells, another story went almost unnoticed today. Scarcely a single newspaper mentioned it. And it’s a story of unimaginable mental bravery that the Sussexes, for all their advocacy of let-it-all-hang out psychobabble, would do well to heed.

Thirty years ago today, a British man was released from a tiny room where he’d spent almost five years in solitary confinement, chained – night and day - to a radiator. There was no natural light, barely enough room to walk around. No books, no newspapers, no music. No company. No smartphone.

There was some variety. Now and again he was tortured. Once or twice he was subjected to a mock execution. Subsequently he said he was never quite sure whether he was going to be shot or beheaded.

The next time you hear the Sussexes talk about the pain of isolation, call to mind this image – Terry Waite – freed exactly three decades ago today after spending 1,763 days in captivity. He’d gone to Lebanon to negotiate the release of other hostages and ended up becoming one himself.

The next time you hear the Sussexes warbling on about themselves, filling the airwaves with their characteristic brand of self-pitying cant, call to mind these words, the words of Terry Waite, after his release from a living hell.

“It wasn’t an entirely pleasant five years, but one survived it.”

For some, this type of reserve and self-restraint belongs to the dark ages of mental health. All that repressed anger and suppressed suffering. But what critics of the fabled British stiff-upper-lip always overlook is this.

In those pithy words lies the secret of Terry Waite’s survival. Other hostages in neighbouring cells went mad, had nervous breakdowns. He didn’t. And in the almost comically stoical understatement of those words, we begin to see how and why.

Because Terry Waite, a giant of a man physically, was also a giant of a men mentally. In those words - “It wasn’t an entirely pleasant five years, but one survived it” – he shows he hadn’t been broken, he could make light of his ordeal, even gently mock his captors. They may have held his body, but he kept control of his spirit.

How on earth did he do it? Well, he lived inside his mind. He recited the Psalms. Afterwards, he said: “Good language, like good music, has the ability to breathe harmony into the soul.” He composed poems and memorised them. He’d been no good at maths at school, but made himself do sums in his head. He did physical exercise, in so far as that was possible, and tried to retain some dignity. He was given a pair of pyjamas to wear, and at night would put his trousers beneath his mattress to press them, so he could stay smart.

Terry Waite had been sent on his mission to Lebanon by the Church of England, who’s supreme head is Prince Harry’s Godmother, the Queen. And it was partly that Christian perspective that gave him the historical long view that comes from feeling part of a 2,000 year old story. As he slumped, chained to the wall, he comforted himself with the thought that some early Christian slaves had lived their entire lives in chains.

He’s still with us by the way. He’s 82 and still smiling that big toothy grin of his. He lived those 1,763 days in captivity by a code. No regret, no self-pity, no over-sentimentality. The exact opposite of how the Sussexes live. Harry and Meghan peddle regrets, wallow in self-pity, and commercialise sentimentality.

Right now in America millions of people are hanging on every syrupy word of Meghan’s latest interview. So many words, that reveal so very little. And none of those words will make as much sense, and bear out as much truth, as the handful uttered by Terry Waite on his release thirty years ago today.