Credit Annie Spratt via unsplash

Prince Harry’s Spare: Vulnerable exposé condemned to tabloid frenzy

By Pau Brugal Climent

“Wonderful! Now you’ve given me an Heir and a Spare”. Prince Harry pulls back the curtain on the Royal family.

Spare – Prince Harry’s new memoir, ghostwritten by the Pulitzer-winning J.R. Moehringer – is a story of rift, first a tragic one between Harry and his mother, and now one between himself and the Royal family. It is an attempt to mend this broken bond. Throughout Harry’s memoir there is a vulnerability that is at times touching and universal. This can especially be seen in those passages concerning the grief caused by Princess Diana’s passing. A young Harry’s initial belief that his mother had simply gone into hiding, or his perplexity at the funeral attendee’s grief “‘you didn’t know her…”) are written in a plain recollective fashion that invokes the fatigue caused by the emotional trudge that follows such a tragedy. His earlier descriptions of Balmoral – particularly of his last summer there before learning of his mother’s passing – are written in laborious and excruciating detail. The vast hallways and ever-increasing rooms of the castle teem with whiskey-coloured oak, star-shaped tiles, bronze status and the like, as he furnishes the pages of his memoir in a quasi-stream-of-consciousness style. There is a certain pain here too: a frantic attempt to capture as much of this moment as possible.

As the memoir progresses, there are tales of his relationship with Meghan, and the trials that accompany it. And there are tales of his time in Afghanistan: a boy is wheeled towards his convoy as bait, “his legs hanging over the side… ripped to pieces” so that the Taliban have time to launch a rapid attack. However dreadful these wartime tales are, though, they hold little bearing in the wider context of the book. On the one hand, an expansive, recollective memoir of this style stands at odds with the nature of war. These are not universal stories, after all, and Harry recounts them at too steady a pace. A deeper, paused exploration of the “quieter” moments of these times would have fleshed them out more touchingly. On the other hand, the public is not looking for a war story in Spare

What has stirred passions and debate are his more serious revelations involving the Royal family (particularly his brother and dad). This is where readers have reared their heads, because the very tabloid obsession Harry has always criticised (and even blamed for his mother’s death) is in the end what has dictated the cultural impact of Spare. The British crown is a symbol – a paragon of British life – and although this image was better protected in the past (when a greater mysticism surrounded the monarchy) it still holds true today. Hence the monarchy is scrutinised, and a pervasive shock is felt where its mystical, ideal image is tarnished.

When Harry confesses his agoraphobia, then, recounting how William came at him laughing (“Look at you!”) after the stress of a public appearance nearly caused him to faint, the focus is not on the pain caused to Harry by the inconsideration at hand; the focus is on William, and particularly, his failure of character in light of his royal rank. When Harry speaks ill of his relationship with his father, summarised succinctly by the sardonic remark made by the latter upon Harry’s birth – “Wonderful! Now you’ve given me an Heir and a Spare” – Harry’s aching takes a step back, and the drama of King Charles’s indecency takes centre stage. Even lighter moments, such as a young Harry’s interruption of his father’s headstand routine, where in “just a pair of boxers” he’d hang from a bar “like a skilled acrobat”, feel sacrilegious to be privy to, and all the more interesting in light of that.

At other times the bewilderment centres around Harry himself, even in throwaway stories like that of losing his virginity on a field behind a pub. In a way, it is regretful that a man’s torment and vulnerability should be swept aside in favour of the gossipy dramatisation of Spare’s revelations; even if this is, after all, due to Harry’s brazen decision to thrust it all into the limelight. More noteworthy, though, is the very fact that Spare has led to this tabloid craze. If Royal vulnerability is necessarily accompanied by headline drama, is the monarchy’s public purpose really to expound a set of ideals, or do they exist to subvert them for our enjoyment? Is the monarchic ideal being turned on its head, and, if so, what really does the British public look up to?


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