Dhave 127 by J.Crew Hamlet and Memoirs of Prince Harry finally fell. He had to. I feel like I’ve had babies for which I was less organized than this particular arrival. It’s fair to say that there have been a thousand or two pre-release spoilers for Spare, each of which many people have unwittingly consumed. There’s something about all of this that’s happened over the year that reminds you to eat nothing but Christmas food for days and days and days. After about a week, you find yourself yelling, “I don’t ever want to see that thing again!” Can we please, PLEASE have a Chinese or a curry? That said, I still have a box of mince pies and a royal reveal left, and I think we both know I’m going to be okay. It’s called duty – look at it.
Anyway, let’s get to the reaction. As I type this, Harry’s entire house in Montecito is under evacuation amid the floods, some will no doubt choose to view them as biblical. We can only guess how the book got down to Windsor Elsinore. Some feel Harry has opened up a hail of literary gunfire on a royal family whose courtiers constantly stress they are limited in how they can retaliate. Maybe it’s a metaphor. As one of the most catchy passages in Prince Harry’s book reveals, during the conflict in Afghanistan he killed 25 Taliban fighters out of his $50m helicopter, a form of warfare that even the most obnoxious Taliban among us always had to admit was a bit asymmetrical. Again, the Taliban won in the end, so we should definitely consider the possibility that the monarchy will be the last one standing in the rubble when Harry’s barrage ends.
But will it ever end? Hard to say. When it comes to the Marvel franchise, we could only be in phase two of Harry and Meghan. The joking option would obviously be for the four Windsors ahead of the Duke of Sussex in the line of succession to now abdicate en masse, leaving a note for King Harry and Queen Meghan stating: ‘Good – you both do. . ENJOY!” Failing that, perhaps Prince Edward could lighten the national mood by staging It’s A Royal Knockout 2, the highly anticipated sequel to his own. accidental attempt to kill the franchise in 1987.
As for Harry’s book itself, it’s a bit of a prince’s egg. The genuine, heartbreaking pain and isolation of this bereaved child mixes with chewing bonkbuster landscapes, hammy woo-woo and palace quarters, so much so that he begins to feel like Harry and his ghostwriter have invented a whole new genre: tragic camp. One minute you read more unspeakably sad evidence of needless harm to a troubled child; the next day, you’ll take a tongue-in-cheek dive into the princes’ circumcision/frozen penis status that might as well have been subtitled It’s A Royal Cockout.
Fair play to the ghostwriter, however, who has done the best job of accelerating the production of the prince since the art teacher who said she did her A-level written lessons for him. I think he got a B, which feels here too. The general mood is Succession, but during a writers’ strike. It must be said that there are top notes of Paul Burell sometimes, however, the comparison might irritate Harry, who uses a bit of Spare to remind himself of how appalled he was by Burrell’s own memoir of life with the Royal Family. Let’s just assume that only princes are allowed to write books when they have had a great experience, not servants.
When it comes to the vast retinue of interested parties that make up the royal money ecosystem, spare a cackle at Netflix, which somehow paid a grossed $100 million at the Sussexes and ended up with a rather boring documentary series, while CBS and Oprah won the historic interview in 2021, and Penguin Random House took the lead with this book.
Elsewhere, large numbers of marching riders took the opportunity to splash each other, ranging from Caroline Flack Publicist to the so-called pet Pen Farthing, which said he had to evacuate from Kabul after Harry’s Taliban murder revelations dropped. (How many times can this guy evacuate from Kabul? Hope he gets some air miles.) Or consider veteran BBC royal Nicholas Witchell instead. Witchell is arguably the second most damaged creature of all. Openly hated by the family whose lives he covers so obsequiously, it even now seems that he considers it his duty to visit various studios and grimace about the disservice to a king who is literally on camera saying of him, “I can’t stand that man…He’s so awful, he really is.”
And don’t forget the thousands of readers in it all, who either love it or love it, hate it. Above all, they read it. Harry’s stories topped the ratings on the Guardian’s website all week, not to mention the rest of the press, which took both a kick and countless millions from the Spare-fest of the last week. “I didn’t care about the politics of Rupert Murdoch,” Harry wrote at one point in Spare, “who was just to the right of the Taliban.” I think Murdoch has a lot more helicopters than the Taliban, both real and metaphorical, so this particular chess piece is likely to stay on the board.
Ultimately, however, people decided what Harry’s book says about him, one way or another. But surely the biggest unanswered question after this latest tide of revelations is: what does it say about us? What does it say about Britain that this fractured and painful lot is our first family? On an immediate level, the past week presented another way for the UK to appear crazy, weird and chaotic on the world stage.
Yet, regardless of the Republican minority, British public opinion seems to have divided the King and Queen consort, his sons and their wives into two categories: “obviously tortured, damaged and miserable, but enduring all their lives out of duty” (good) and “obviously tortured and damaged and miserable but saying it out loud and at length” (bad). What a sad situation it seems, though it’s always fun to read foaming online comments from people whose personal understanding of duty extends to liquor tax.
Above all, this period saga reminds us that there’s more than one way to look at that creepy term for the monarchy, “the institution.” We might pity the inmates and escapees of the facility, or be horrified by them, or turn a blind eye to the coldness and cruelty inherent in their existence. But we are, at the dawn of 2023, part of the society where the majority think this is probably the best place for them.