‘A stiff upper lip damaged my childhood too’ Like William and Harry, Alex Renton survived Eton. He’s glad the emotional climate is changing

Stiff upper lip. There is no better name for the essence of classical Britishness. It is a phrase used the world over to describe us, sometimes in admiration, often in exasperation. It distils and bottles a variety of abstract British traits — the ability to laugh in the face of adversity, to keep calm and carry on, to take trouble full on the chin without complaint, to maintain an even keel and a degree of pluck — that together are the glue that bound the Empire. A very current argument says that stiff upper lips saw us through the Second World War, and so they will see us through Brexit. Rigidity below the nose (with a bit of hoisting up the chin)was, is and always will be the magic that makes Britain exceptional.

And now the heir to the throne has said that there’s “a time and a place” for stiff upper lippery, “but not at the expense of your health”. This lesson he has learnt as an air ambulance pilot, dealing at the sharp end with the epidemic of young male suicide attempts. His brother, Prince Harry, spoke out at the weekend about the years of “total chaos” in his twenties, coming close to mental breakdown, as a result of unresolved sadness over the death of his mother, at 12. Bottling it up isn’t healthy, the princes are saying. In fact, it causes more harm.

The Times