Early on in reading Spare by Prince Harry, I mused that his life sounded like a real-life version of the movie The Truman Show. If you haven’t seen that movie, you might want to view it. I was stunned when near the end of the book he summarized his life as being just that. I think if anything depicts the life of a Royal in the modern day, that seems to be it.
Spare is written in the first person by Harry, and how he remembers things. He admits early on his memory is faulty. Having suffered myself with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD myself, I sympathize. You don’t remember things in the right order all the time and sometimes you don’t get details right. Not only did his mother’s death and time in Afghanistan give him PTSD, but while reading this his whole life was predicated to suffering from that.
Harry spills what he knows, and many people aren’t happy about that. In particular, his details about the palace’s adversarial but cooperative relationship with the British tabloids are detailed here. He blames them for his mother’s death and for many other misfortunes. Again, near the end, he talks about how one of the women he briefly dated couldn’t cope with the attention from the paparazzi (or paps as he calls them), and although she broke off the relationship, she never recovered and ended up taking her own life. That is how serious the mental toll of these alleged “journalists” is.
Herry gives up every detail, including some of the most private things. He talks about his therapy sessions when Meghan finally pushed him into seeking therapy. He talks about getting frostbite on his nether regions just before William’s wedding to Kate Middleton. These are about the two most private things one can reveal about themselves, and Harry doesn’t shy away from it.
What’s got everyone in an uproar, though, is the portrait he paints of a very dysfunctional family that seems to be beholden to the British tabloids. Everyone has an office for dealing with them and they would cooperate with certain stories while getting others squashed. It seems that Harry (even before his relationship with Meghan Markle) was the one used to bolster everyone else. From an early age, his father jokingly referred to him as “Spare.” He didn’t take it as an insult, it was simply a matter of fact. He was always acutely aware of his place in the family. King Charles allowed the press to misrepresent Harry’s issue with substance abuse as more of a problem than it was, simply because it made him appear more sympathetic in the eyes of the press. All along, his advice to Harry was simply “don’t read it” rather than making any attempts to correct the narrative.
This was to be a pattern. Harry did read the newspapers and heard from his friends what was being said. In Spare, he will detail how things were reported in the press and tell readers that most of it didn’t happen or happen that way at all. Everything was made up. And yet his “family” was no help in dealing with it. They seemed content to let Harry be the diversion of “the bad one” while they attempted to lift their own images. Not only his father, but his brother too.
Harry was set up for a life of service, and was not much of a scholar. The Army seemed like a natural choice for him after completing his education. This part of the book is probably the most enjoyable as Harry really seems to come into his own while in the Army. He wanted to serve with his mates in Iraq and Afghanistan, but often was told “no.” The problem wasn’t him, per se, but the fact that his presence there would draw the attention of the terrorists they were fighting, including the Taliban. During one of his deployments, radio chatter was heard about “Red Fox” meaning Harry, and he was immediately removed from the area. Even if Harry was willing to risk his life (and he was), it wasn’t fair to put other soldiers’ lives at risk because he was there. He changes his MOS twice just to try to be able to serve more during the war and each time he ended up pulled due to security issues.
William was always jealous of Harry. There’s sibling rivalry and then there’s this. Much more was expected of William, so where Harry was told “No”, William was told that even more. William resents Harry’s involvement in Africa because that’s supposed to be his “thing”. Never mind that there are plenty of problems in Africa to go around, William resents Harry being there. Harry gets to trek to the North and South poles with soldiers – William resents that. Harry develops the Invictus Games for wounded soldiers – William resents that. Harry is told he can keep his beard for his wedding – William resents that. It goes on and on.
Harry had no negative feelings toward his stepmother, Camilla, and admits she makes his father happy and that’s all he cares about. In the beginning, although the two boys didn’t want him to remarry, the relationship between the four of them was good. At the same time, though, there are insinuations that her publicist and her office had a lot to do with the negative attention he received from the paps and the British press. He knows that someone close to the royal family is leaking details to them and he doesn’t make a direct accusation that it’s from her and her office (possibly in cooperation with his father’s and William’s) but he strongly hints at it. In particular, there’s a letter from Meghan to her father that’s leaked and only a few people saw it, including his father.
Meghan is where it really seemed to go off the rails for Harry and his relationship with his family. I don’t blame her at all. She’s a victim as much as he is. Being an actress, she seems to have come into the relationship with Harry thinking she could handle the paps. It was nothing like she ever experienced. To make matters worse, she would listen to royal advisors about what they told her to do, then she would be blasted by the press for it. All of her friends and family were targeted to “reveal all” and their lives were made living hell. She once had a close relationship with her father, and that was destroyed by his cooperation with the press. Her point of view isn’t here – although I’ve seen several interviews where she talks about these events – Spare is all from Harry’s perspective so he can detail what he saw and his reaction to it. After two long-term relationships fell apart, he was determined to make this one work and he is deeply in love with her.
The Palace Staff seems to not want her to marry him, though. They feed stories to the press – such as the alleged “furor” of a tiara – and create havoc. Harry and Meghan had gone to the Queen about selecting a tiara after she volunteered to loan Meghan one of hers, and then the Queen’s assistants put up all kinds of roadblocks to that until just before the wedding. Harry and Meghan would have been happy getting married barefoot in Botswana – the wedding was a formality for the sake of the Crown. There was also a story leaked about Meghna making Kate cry before her wedding when it was the other way around. Meghan was already overwhelmed with issues with her father having sold out to the press and allegedly having a heart attack, and here comes Kate complaining about the bridesmaid dresses. At first, Meghan is “well the dressmaker is here, bring Charlotte over” and then finally gives up arguing and tells her to do what she wants. Having gone through issues with toxic in-laws with my own wedding, I completely understand how something so minor can finally set you off.
The book was ghost-written by J. R. Moehringer who has written other biographies. It reads pretty well, although at times it seems halting and disjointed. There are a lot of abrupt sentences, that I think have a lot to do with Harry’s style. Reading this actually reminds me a bit of how my second daughter with attention deficit disorder handled her schoolwork. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of the reasons he struggled in school.
I recommend Spare to anyone who wants to hear what it’s really like to be a Royal. What the press prints are a complete distortion. It’s not an easy life by any means. To anyone who’s wondering why he wrote the book, the Palace pulled their security and it costs him and Meghan $6 million per year to maintain it. I’d write a book and tell all too if that were my only way to make money and keep my family safe, and that seems to be his chief concern.
Categories: Book Reviews