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On the 410th — and last — page of Prince Harry’s memoir, he thanks readers for wanting to know his story in his words. He says he’s “so grateful” to have been able to share it thus far.
But as much as Spare gives the 38-year-old the chance to tell that story, the book and the media swirl around it have spawned a host of questions — for the Duke of Sussex himself, the Royal Family and the institution of the monarchy.
“In terms of the soap opera, yeah, Harry’s a guy in pain. He wrote his memoir,” royal author and historian Tessa Dunlop told the TBEN’s Margaret Evans in London.
“The problem is, that’s breaking royal protocol. Where does that leave the trust within the family? Where does that leave the family? And the institution is the family.”
WATCH | Sales records set as royal memoir released:
Harry’s book was published Tuesday, landing amid a media frenzy that came a month after the release of the six-part Netflix docuseries about him and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
This time around, headlines latched on quickly to many of the more personal revelations, including Harry’s recounting of an altercation that turned physical with his elder brother, Prince William, and how Harry begged his father, now King Charles, not to marry Camilla, now the Queen Consort.
It is, in ways, the latest retelling of familiar themes for Harry — particularly how and why he despises the tabloid media — and offers a relatively rare glimpse into life behind palace walls.
But in telling his story, there could be peril for the prince. Even as the book set a sales record for its publisher, a poll in the U.K. suggested Harry’s popularity is at an all-time low.
“There’s clearly a saturation point to how much of the public is interested in Harry’s recollections,” said Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris in an interview, noting how he and Meghan have spent much of the last couple of years going over past events and sharing their frustrations from their time as senior members of the Royal Family.
Now that they have all this public attention, Harris suggested, Harry and Meghan will have to decide “what are they going to do with this? Have they said their piece, and will they move on to other things? Is there anything more left to be said?”
WATCH | Harry sits down with TV journalists to promote his book:
Certainly, Harry has a lot to say in Spare. Aspects of the book have come across to some observers as myopic, petty and salacious, and an effort to vent grievances against others without taking responsibility for his own actions. There are also compelling, sympathetic and poignant accounts of events that have clearly had a profound impact on him, particularly the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales when he was just shy of 13.
“There’s a very strong preoccupation with death and remembrance that comes across, and that’s not simply because of Diana’s passing,” said Harris. She noted his references to the death of a childhood friend and how he was advised to update his will before he left as a soldier for Afghanistan.
“There’s long been a perception of Prince Harry as being this … cheeky prince. And he does talk about how much he liked to make other people laugh and how that sometimes contributed to some of the poor decisions that he made. But the tone of the memoir is definitely not a lighthearted one.”
Harry also spends considerable time recounting his military training and service. Some revelations have drawn criticism from enemies and allies alike, particularly his assertion that he killed 25 Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
Harry’s book is only the latest in a long line of royal memoirs, and has among its goals one that has been at the forefront in other retellings of royal lives dating back centuries, Harris suggests.
“Royalty have always wanted to shape their image in the public eye,” she said.
“It’s clear that Prince Harry wants to shape the narrative about himself…. He’s not just trying to get his own side across so that his father and his brother might read it, but … he’s concerned about what the public might think about him based on what the press has stated over time.”
In the days since the book’s publication, some media attention has focused on errors or apparent inconsistencies with events on the public record — for example, Harry is not, as Spare says, a direct descendant of King Henry VI.
“Harry admits early on that memory can be a struggle for him,” said Harris. “And yet at the same time he insists his memories are every bit as valid as objective truth.”
Throughout the book, Harry reveals a number of personal interests. He talks of how, for example, he wanted to be a ski instructor or a safari guide.
“Many readers have felt that those scenes where he’s in South Africa or in Lesotho — the narrative really comes to life,” said Harris. “So perhaps including more about those experiences where Harry’s speaking with confidence, rather than royal history, which is clearly an uncomfortable subject that he never excelled in — that might have been an approach that would have avoided some of the controversies.”
Buckingham Palace has remained silent on Harry’s book. For Charles and William, it was business as usual on Thursday as they carried out public engagements with nary a mention of the recent turmoil or direct response to questions about Spare.
One question looming large over the book — and the future of the Royal Family — is the fate of the relationships Harry has with his father and his brother.
“I think there can be a reconciliation somewhere, but not till much further down the line,” Vanity Fair royal correspondent Katie Nicholl told the TBEN’s Adrienne Arsenault.
Nicholl thinks there are two reconciliations to consider.
“The first will be with the King. I think we’re going to see him extend an olive branch. I expect we will see him invite the Sussexes to the coronation. This idea of a rift at the heart of the house of Windsor is not what he wants,” she said.
With William, however, Nicholl expects any reconciliation will be harder to achieve.
“I think William has been deeply hurt, a great sense of betrayal. William … simply cannot understand why Harry left and how he left, and Harry can’t understand why his brother isn’t on more of his wavelength, so there is a real divide.”
In an interview published Friday in the U.K. newspaper the Telegraph, Harry said he did not include everything that had happened between himself and his brother and father in his memoir.
Harry said he had enough material for a second book and that it was impossible to tell his story without including revelations about the other members of his family.
“There are some things that have happened, especially between me and my brother, and to some extent between me and my father, that I just don’t want the world to know,” he said in the interview.
“Because I don’t think they would ever forgive me. Now you could argue that some of the stuff I’ve put in there, well, they will never forgive me, anyway.”
Beyond any possible effect the book will have on Harry’s relationships with Charles and William, there is the sense that what it has revealed could offer inspiration for change within the Royal Family itself.
Harris sees a potential impact out of Spare that is linked to its title, and the reference to the person who is the younger sibling of the heir to the throne.
“I think the lasting impact of this memoir will be prompting these larger discussions about what the role of the spare should be,” Harris said.
“For King Charles III and for William and Catherine looking forward, they’re going to be looking to what roles will Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis play … in a streamlined Royal Family.”
Waiting for coronation details
It will likely be shorter than the last one. And fewer people are expected to attend.
But less than four months before the coronation of King Charles, few details beyond the date — May 6 — have emerged about the ceremony at Westminster Abbey in central London.
That lack of detail around the latest iteration of a tradition steeped in 1,000 years of history may have a rather pragmatic root.
“It … is taking so long because understandably, I think, the King didn’t whilst Prince of Wales want to be seen to be planning his own coronation while his mother was still alive,” Bob Morris, a member of the honorary staff of the constitution unit at University College London, said in an interview.
Still, there are a few indications of what to expect for the ceremony that culminates with the placing of the St. Edward’s crown upon Charles’s head.
“The ever-growing closeness [of the date] means that some options have been foregone anyway,” said Morris. “There is obviously not going to be … a temporary annex bolted onto the side of Westminster Abbey, as there was in 1953 and in the coronations post-George IV.
“That means that there’s going to be a much smaller congregation … not 8,250, probably more like 2,000 or a bit [more], which is the normal capacity of the abbey seating.”
That fact largely dictates who will be invited, Morris said.
“I suspect that the balance will turn away very much from parliamentarians…. And I suspect that what [Charles] may well have in mind is the sort of thing we and a number of other commentators had been suggesting for some years — that the audience needed more to reflect the way in which our civil society has developed.”
While the coronation for Charles’s mother, Elizabeth, was a three-hour affair, his ceremony is likely to be much shorter.
Morris expects the religious part will be much the same, but sees potential for trimming when it comes, for example, to the involvement of peers doing homage — or paying their respects — to the monarch.
“I suspect that that will be considerably curtailed. There’s a problem about the royal dukes, too …. because not all of them are available, to put it politely.”
Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, no longer carries out public duties. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is living in California, although there is considerable speculation around whether he will attend.
Beyond the specifics of the coronation, there are also broader considerations around the message such an event might send, both to the wider world and within the U.K at the moment, particularly given the current economic strife.
“The government will be acutely sensitive about the cost of the event. So will the King,” said Morris. “He’s already made it quite clear that he doesn’t want to see lavish expenditure.”
Canada and the King
Environmental issues were on the agenda when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and King Charles spoke on the phone last week.
The conversation on Jan. 6 included a discussion of last month’s COP15 biodiversity conference in Montreal, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“They exchanged ideas on tackling climate change and protecting the environment moving forward,” the spokesperson said in an email Thursday, noting that Trudeau is also looking forward to the King’s coronation in May.
Canadians will also see Charles on postage stamps sometime this year.
Canada Post has confirmed that the country’s “first definitive stamp” to honour Charles will appear in 2023. No further details were available from Canada Post this week. (Charles’s late mother was on more than 70 Canadian stamps, dating from her time as Princess Elizabeth.)
Whether Canadians will see Charles himself in the country this year is not clear. There has been no public indication of any visit by the King in 2023.
Media reports suggest France will be the destination for his first official visit outside the U.K., with a trip there expected in late March.
“I will do.”
– Prince William’s response in Liverpool Thursday when a woman waiting to talk with him during an engagement said, “Keep going, Will, Scousers love you.”
Royal reads and listens
To kick off the 23rd season of TBEN’s Under the Influence with Terry O’Reilly, the radio show host looks at how Queen Elizabeth’s death affects the marketing world. More than 600 companies had been granted a royal warrant by Elizabeth, giving them prestige and enviable marketing power. But with the monarch’s death, all royal warrants become null and void. It’s now up to King Charles to honour them — or not. [CBC]
The queen of Denmark has opened up about the “difficulties” and “hurt” in the Danish royal family following her decision to strip four of her grandchildren of their titles. [The Independent]
A man who made anti-monarchist comments at a proclamation ceremony for King Charles has had charges against him dropped. [BBC]
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