Spare by Prince Harry is the fastest non-fiction book in the UK since records began. And it was a preorder birthday present for me. It’s a popular choice for this prompt.
What it’s about?
It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow—and horror. As Princess Diana was laid to rest, billions wondered what Prince William and Prince Harry must be thinking and feeling—and how their lives would play out from that point on.
For Harry, this is that story at last.
Before losing his mother, twelve-year-old Prince Harry was known as the carefree one, the happy-go-lucky Spare to the more serious Heir. Grief changed everything. He struggled at school, struggled with anger, with loneliness—and, because he blamed the press for his mother’s death, he struggled to accept life in the spotlight.
At twenty-one, he joined the British Army. The discipline gave him structure, and two combat tours made him a hero at home. But he soon felt more lost than ever, suffering from post-traumatic stress and prone to crippling panic attacks. Above all, he couldn’t find true love.
Then he met Meghan. The world was swept away by the couple’s cinematic romance and rejoiced in their fairy-tale wedding. But from the beginning, Harry and Meghan were preyed upon by the press, subjected to waves of abuse, racism, and lies. Watching his wife suffer, their safety and mental health at risk, Harry saw no other way to prevent the tragedy of history repeating itself but to flee his mother country. Over the centuries, leaving the Royal Family was an act few had dared. The last to try, in fact, had been his mother. . . .
For the first time, Prince Harry tells his own story, chronicling his journey with raw, unflinching honesty. A landmark publication, Spare is full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief
What I think:
My overall feeling about this book was sadness.
Family life for the Royal Family is not what regular people experience. They have to make appointments to see each other, and their calls go through secretaries. The adults are busy, and the children are cared for by nannies and boarding schools.
Prince Harry divides his story into three board sections – his childhood, the army, and his relationship with Meghan.
The childhood section is incredibly sad. After the death of Princess Diana, Harry is lost and angry and does not seem to get much support from his own family. Prince William is not the caring older brother we have been led to believe he was, often not speaking to annoying younger sibling. Barely getting through A levels, Harry is directionless and, like many young people, making bad decisions.
The army is, for a long time, a place where he finds a sense of self and purpose. But it is also traumatic and challenging. Like far too many veterans, he does not receive the support he needs when he leaves his struggles with PTSD and panic attacks are combined with public duties and a series of failed relationships.
Throughout these sections, it is clear that the press is a constant source of concern and disruption to his. Cashing in on the interest in Princess Diana, Harry is hounded, lied about, and his life is even put in danger by articles. So much of what he does is secretive to avoid reporters that there is a huge impact on his relationships and mental health.
The section about Meghan is less revealing – particularly following their documentary series, which covers most of the revelations. What is clear is that the British press is undeniably racist – something anyone who lives in Britain could tell you. And when called out for their behaviour they attack in other ways.
The rivalries among the Royal Family for positive publicity mean that different households are constantly competing and that they need the support of the press. As the ‘spare’ Harry is someone who could be sacrificed in favour of positive publicity for Charles and Camilla, William and Kate.
I felt that the two people in his life that Harry seems to resent the most are his brother and Camilla. He seems to blame Camilla and her staff for a lot of the press leaks and makes the point that there are very few stories about her children in the newspapers. Her son works for the Mail on Sunday.
He is also resentful towards William. He presents the jealousy between them as hampering his own desire to support the monarchy and serve in a proactive way. Some of their arguments , while trivial and normal in most families, take on unwarranted significance because of the systems of communication and relationships between households.
This is, of course, only one side of the story.
Harry does reveal things about his life that the public probably never needed to know! The book is ghost written, but having seen the documentary series, there is a similar voice that comes through. Harry does accept responsibility for some of his own mistakes, but he still has a long way to go if he is going to find his own happiness.
It is clear that whatever the future holds for Harry and Meghan, the Royal Family needs to do better when it comes to the ‘spares’ and the role that they play as they grow older.
Overall, this was just a really sad glimpse into the life of the Royal Family. To say I enjoyed it feels wrong, but it was certainly an interesting read.