It is simply refusing to go away. No matter how hard I try to escape, it returns regularly like an endless groundhog day. I am talking about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Meghan’s bombardment of complaints and allegations.
Prince Harry’s latest autobiography Spare which was published on Tuesday is already the highest-selling non-fiction ever. It began with the couple’s interview with Oprah Winfrey followed by their Netflix series and finally this book interlaced with endless interviews.
Sadly, as a journalist whether I want to read the book or not, I’m deemed to read the 400-odd pages. I am still building courage to buy Spare, which was marked at half-price on its release.
Here is a trigger warning, I am neither white nor a royalist but I cannot bear so much complaining and whinging. Towards the end of Harry’s interview on ITV, interviewer Tom Bradby joked, “I’m not going to turn this into a therapy session, don’t worry.”
It seems the whole exercise of Spare is an act of therapy. Agreed, he had a troubled childhood, losing his mother at an early age, sibling angst as his brother William and not him, was heir to the throne, going to war in Afghanistan which may have resulted in PTSD. But he simply comes across as miserable, angry, bitter, and unable to let go.
A Tell-All That Does More Harm Than Good
Many critics have alleged that the memoir is primarily a money-making venture to fund their luxurious Californian lifestyle now that they are no longer funded by British taxpayers. It is rumoured that Harry received USD 20 million advance for the book, ghostwritten by the Pulitzer-winning Journalist and Novelist JR Moehringer. Netflix apparently paid a reported USD 100 million to the Sussexes. But there are those who believe it to be a desperate need for attention and a vengeful attempt to destroy the monarchy altogether.
Even if revenge, money, and hatred for British tabloid media were the aims, he could have done it much more smartly and compassionately. By putting volumes of intensely private conversations and text exchanges with his family, losing his virginity at 17 behind a pub with an older woman and mounting her like a stallion, his brother being circumcised, and sex and drugs, into the public domain he is doing exactly what he hates the tabloids for. In fact, he is being called the 'male Kardashian'.
By advertising how many Taliban members he killed, he has put himself, his family, the Royal Family, and the military in danger and ignited reprisals from the likes of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. He has faced heavy criticism over his comments.
Dai Davis, a former protection officer of the princes cautioned against the lunatic fringe, saying, “Look at Salman Rushdie. It took a long time to do what they did. It is not so much what he (Harry) said but about how the lunatic fringe react."
Harry’s Spilling Beans on Family Secrets Garners Mixed Reaction
“It's all about him. What about his family and us? He’s put all of us at risk.” However, on a late-night US TV show on Tuesday, Harry tried to backtrack and said, “it was a dangerous lie” and blamed the media for it. Earlier too, in the ITV interview, he tried to backtrack from his and Meghan’s racism allegations against the Royal Family by saying, there isn’t any racism in the Royal family.
Furthermore, after exposing his strained relations with his brother The Prince of Wales, making serious allegations against him and Kate, his father King Charles, and the Queen consort, he has said he wants reconciliation. That definitely seems a long way off after all that has been put out in public. What’s reality, what’s fiction? What’s the evidence?
Writing in The Guardian, Marina Hyde said: “One minute you’re reading some more unspeakably sad evidence of the needless damage done to a troubled child; the next you’re doing an ironic deep-dive into the circumcision/frostbitten penis status of princes that might as well have been subheaded It’s A Royal Cockout.”
Hyde goes on further to write: “It must be said there are top notes of Paul Burrell at times, however, the comparison might anger Harry who uses one bit of Spare to recall how appalled he was by Burrell’s own memoir of life with the Royals. Just assume that only princes are allowed to write books when they’ve been through a big experience, not servants.”
Is Reconciliation Among Royals Possible After The Grand Reveal?
Harry’s comments about the matron at Ludgrove School, Pat Jones, are in the least, demeaning. He explains that Pat did not ‘make us horny’ because she was short and unattractive, ‘not much of a thing, always a tired face with greasy hair.’ She had a deviated spine and her knees were so stiff she had to descend the stairs backwards. Given how Harry stresses his sensitiveness, this would have elicited some empathy from him.
Journalist Tina Brown said the book is “an expression in psychotherapy – an extinction bust, so much in his own bubble, not knowing where the bullets will land.”
Can this extinction bust be followed by reconciliation? Highly unlikely. Will he and Meghan be invited to King Charles’ coronation in May? Many feel they should, it will put the Royal Family on high moral ground.
Has he managed to damage the Royal Family and the monarchy's reputation? The Queen was the most outstanding head of the monarchy who withstood all the family peccadilloes with dignity, but now it may no longer remain the same.
So what happens to Harry from here onwards? Why is he telling us this? Yes, it's brave of him but reckless, not just to his family or the monarchy but to himself. Often it is advised that to deal with trauma, one must write down events in order to take control of those feelings. But this kind of commercialised catharsis, celebrity expose of the tabloid world that Harry condemns, may in the future, become a regret for him.
(Nabanita Sircar is a senior journalist based in London. She tweets at @sircarnabanita. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)