Spectator by Seema Goswami: Spare us!
So, here we are again
So, here we are again. Prince Harry is telling us all about his life, how awful it is to be born a royal, how everyone has been vile to him and his wife, how he had to run to California to save himself and his family. Only this time, it’s not on Oprah. Or on Netflix. This time, it is in a book, a memoir called Spare (because—sad background music here—he is the spare to Prince William’s heir).
Well, I’ve just finished the book—which is a cracking good read; full marks to ghostwriter J R Moehringer, who has translated Harry’s stream of consciousness into a tight narrative—and here are some thoughts.
Harry and Irony are complete strangers to one another. Here he is discussing his exit plan with his father: “I really hope and trust that we will be able to have further conversations without this getting into the public domain and becoming a circus.” And then, Harry proceeds to detail private conversations with his grandmother, his father and his brother, without the slightest awareness of the fact that he is, in fact, the ringmaster of this particular circus.
The same Harry, who is livid that the Daily Mail published the letter Meghan wrote to her estranged father, reveals the full texts of the messages exchanged between his wife and sister-in-law as they discussed the fact that Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress needed reworking. Meghan sued the Mail for publishing her letter and won; presumably Harry is sanguine about releasing these texts because he knows the future Queen of the United Kingdom won’t sue him.
Harry is clearly a glutton for punishment. After telling us what utter hell life in the royal institution was, he then insists that he never wanted out completely. He wanted to spend part of the year abroad making money while making flying visits back home to fulfil his royal duties. He is incandescent with rage when he is told that he can be either in or out—there is no royal half-way house. Even now, after he has written an entire book about how his life was utter misery in the royal goldfish bowl, he says he would quite like to work for the Commonwealth (which his Netflix show described as Empire 2.0). Does he not realise that would mean working with the same courtiers he despises so much that he can’t even call them by their names (dubbing them the Bee, the Fly, and the Wasp instead)?
In Harry’s mind, his grandmother is a prisoner of her senior staff, who all seem to have it in for Harry. The Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly, gives him the runaround when it comes to Meghan’s tiara (for the wedding). Her private secretary, Edward Young, scuppers a private meeting between Harry and the Queen. When Harry calls up to ask why the meeting was cancelled, she says something came up that she wasn’t aware of. Harry writes: “Her voice was strange. Can I pop in tomorrow then, Granny? Um. Well. I’m busy all week. At least, she added, that was what the Bee told her… Is he in the room with you, Granny? No answer.” The Queen as Hostage: now we really have heard it all.
Harry genuinely seems to believe that the monarchy has some sort of mysterious control of the tabloid press. When his father says “You must understand, darling boy, the Institution can’t just tell the media what to do!” Harry is disbelieving. “I yelped with laughter,” he writes. “It was like Pa saying he couldn’t just tell his valet what to do.” So the media is like Charles’ personal servant, and follows his every command? Wonder why Charles didn’t just order them not to carry transcripts of his famous ‘Tampongate’ conversation with Camilla, in that case.
Harry is genuinely besotted with his wife. He fell deeply in love with Meghan. He believed that his family would fall in love with her too. When they failed to do so, a normal person may have made his peace with it and moved on. Harry simply cannot. That is the essential tragedy that lies at the heart of this story. The royals can’t bring themselves to love Meghan like he does. And he can’t bring himself to forgive them for failing to do so.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, January 21, 2023
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