Prince Harry: Definitely not a nullity - Hindustan Times
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Prince Harry: Definitely not a nullity

ByNeha Kirpal
Jan 26, 2023 06:40 PM IST

Spare proves that while royals might lead a life of privilege, they also have to endure the torture of living in a gilded cage

In a memoir filled with revelations, Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex talks honestly about his family and misconstrued life. A look at the royal’s life – one that everyone probably believed was free of problems – it is his statement of why he gave up his title and mother country and fled to another with his wife and family.

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (REUTERS)
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (REUTERS)

A carefree and happy-go-lucky “Spare to the more serious Heir”, Harry was two weeks short of his thirteenth’s birthday when Princess Diana died. The tragic incident changed the course of his life. He didn’t come to terms with his mother’s death at first and, for years afterwards, he continued to long for his mother even hoping she was in hiding somewhere and would magically reappear some day.

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416pp, ₹1599; Bantam Books
416pp, ₹1599; Bantam Books

From the start, it was made clear to everyone that Harry was brought into the world in case something happened to his elder brother, Prince William. “I was the shadow, the support, the Plan B,” he writes. He felt nothing about the fact that his family had declared him as somewhat of a nullity. “Being a Windsor meant working out which truths were timeless, and then banishing them from your mind,” he explains. Britain’s press added to the complications in his life by mocking him from time to time.

When he shaved his head, the Daily Mirror plastered his picture across the front page with the headline, Harry the Skinhead. “My existence was just fun and games to these people. I wasn’t a human being to them,” writes Harry who was ruthlessly labelled “Prince Thicko”. Given the role of the press in his mother’s untimely death, it is easy to understand why Harry hates the paparazzi. He talks at length about “the glory, the luxury, of privacy, of spending an hour or two away from the press’ prying eyes.”

The prince does also recall some happy childhood memories of family vacations spent at the royal family’s Balmoral Castle in Scotland. At the 200-acre Ludgrove School where he studied, a “naughty” Harry struggled with his grades and fought loneliness. It didn’t help much that he always had a bodyguard and uniformed police around him – which often made him feel more caged than safe. At Eton, rugby let him indulge his rage. Meanwhile, William pretended not to know his younger brother. It was around this time that Harry started smoking cigarettes and then weed.

Britain's King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla on December 11, 2022. (via REUTERS)
Britain's King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla on December 11, 2022. (via REUTERS)

He remembers the painful experience of meeting Camilla, “the Other Woman” in his father’s life, for the first time. Before Charles remarried, William and Harry had pleaded with him not to go ahead. A paper once even published a false report about Harry being a drug addict who had gone to rehab. Apparently, the lies had been fabricated in part by his father – a sacrifice of the Spare to gain public sympathy for Charles, a single dad, and his stepmother.

At 21, Harry joined the British Army where he found a sense of purpose and faced two combat tours. It also left him anxious, stressed, depressed and suffering from panic attacks – for which he found some refuge in therapy and meditation. Along the way, he also met a few women but the relationships didn’t last long. As a confirmed bachelor, he seemed to be a non person even within his own family. When William and Kate’s children were born, the press asked Harry if he was unhappy now that he had moved lower in the chain of succession.

Finally, at the age of 32, Harry met Meghan, an American actor who became the love of his life. As the two texted and began talking to each other, they felt an instant connection. After meeting in London and then in Canada, they spent a week together in Botswana. Harry soon realised that she was “the One”. “For the first time, in fact, I felt myself to be living in truth,” he writes.

Britain's Princess Diana and son Prince Harry during a Heads of State Ceremony at Hyde Park in London, Britain on May 7, 1995. (Dylan Martinez/REUTERS)
Britain's Princess Diana and son Prince Harry during a Heads of State Ceremony at Hyde Park in London, Britain on May 7, 1995. (Dylan Martinez/REUTERS)

From the very beginning, Britain’s tabloid press preyed on the couple, saying all kinds of nasty things about Meghan – her family background, work and past relationships. The Sun went as far as putting her pictures on a porn site. Later, she reportedly even began receiving death threats. “Racism, misogyny, criminal stupidity – it all increased,” writes Harry. There were also press reports sourced to the Palace that some in the royal family didn’t quite approve of her. William had always been discouraging about Harry dating Meghan.

In due course, Meghan met Harry’s family, and he, in turn, visited Toronto to meet hers – and they got married in May 2018. However, the couple continued to face a lot of discomfort. The last straw was possibly when the two princes got into a physical fight about William’s perception of Meghan. After that day, it was announced that the two royal households, Cambridge and Sussex, would no longer share an office. Soon, Harry was stripped off his royal titles, and the Palace cut off all ties with them. In January 2020, Harry and Meghan found a place in Santa Barbara and eventually moved there, where they continue to live with their two children, Archie and Lilibet, and three dogs. The book ends with Harry returning to England to bid goodbye to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died last year.

Most believe that those who belong to royal families lead a life of privilege, straight out of a fairy tale. Spare proves quite the contrary. The book is also, among other things, a powerful statement of how the lives of celebrities are often cruelly scrutinised by the paparazzi, and through them, the general public.

A freelance writer based in New Delhi, Neha Kirpal writes primarily on books, music, films, theatre and travel.

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