#SheReviews Spare by Prince Harry

February 21, 2023

     Prince Harry – Often Misunderstood and Misrepresented in Life

Hazily observing the much-feted British royal family from these intrinsically laid-back Antipodean shores in the 1970s (my childhood years), I viewed Queen Elizabeth II and her family as being ethereally beautiful, almost perfect, and full of mystery and intrigue. Not to mention fabulously wealthy, living an unhindered life of privilege and unfettered opulence.

Fast forward to 2023 and we now know the royal family have their undeniable intractable bugbears and sorrows in life. And that life in the ‘gilded cage’ is far from utopia, and is at times a revelatory nightmare.

Such stinging home-truths are stunningly explored and delivered to us, the readers, consistently and at-times gut wrenchingly achingly in Prince Harry’s sterling memoir, Spare. 

Captivatingly informative in Spare is Harry’s time at Ludgrove School in country Berkshire and Eton. Harry fondly describes these elite schools that cater to the wealthy and well-connected and the highjinks he got up to at them. Both are boarding schools, and Harry talks lovingly of the matrons at Ludgrove, particulary important in Harry’s life after Diana’s death. In addition he proves he is (almost) one of ‘us’ by watching Neighbours and Home and Away at Eton with his mates.

Pivotal in Spare, and an often-repeated theme throughout the book, is Harry’s loss of his eternally iconic mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. Near Spare’s opening pages, we are taken back to that fateful morning at Balmoral (the Queen’s summer residence in Scotland) in August 1997, when Harry (12) is woken by Charles to inform him that Diana has died in a car accident in Paris. So begins unrelenting grief and inner pain in Harry’s life. Heartbreakingly searing in the book are the scenes where Harry is seeing a therapist in London many years later, and (we are told) pleads with the therapist “What I need……is to be rid of this heaviness in my chest…I need….To cry. Please. Help me cry”. ( Harry has barely cried since Diana’s burial).

Is the pain Harry carries a catalyst for him joining the army and being so keen to fight in Afghanistan? (He did two tours there, the first time having to be pulled out as an Australian magazine ‘leaked’ to the world the fact he was in Afghanistan).

Often having been portrayed by glossy magazines and tabloid newspapers as living in an unparalleled ‘Camelot’, Harry, Prince William, then Prince Charles (Pa), the Queen (Granny), the Duke of Edinburgh (Grandpa) and other royals are in fact living a highly orchestrated and often fraught life in Spare. Their ‘strings’ being tightly held and controlled by palace staff (courtiers, palace aides and palace office staff). Appearance is everything. Thus, staff in the palace ‘feed’ stories to the press. Some highly flattering and others downright slanderous. Jealousies run high and, according to Harry, stories putting him down (and in latter years his wife, Meghan) have sprouted from and been aided by ‘palace sources’ (including some family members).

The press also have their own agenda, and have and continue to make up ghoulish lies and falsehoods about Harry, Meghan and certain factions of the royal family. The lies printed about them and talked about on radio and television are extremely distressing for Harry and Meghan in the book, and at one stage the stress of dealing with newspapers (one printed a letter Meghan wrote to her father) causes Meghan to miscarry.

Harry loathes the British press in particular. They, and the paparazzi in general, has made a lot of his life a living hell (Harry mentions being on a skiing holiday with Charles and William as a child, and having to pose for 70 photographers with his family before being ‘given’ an hour of peaceful skiing time). Harry and Meghan (both separately and as a couple) have also been severely harassed by the paparazzi. Being chased down the street has been common, as is being ‘spied on’.

Harry poignantly reflects at one stage in the book “How would I be remembered by history? For the headlines? Or for who I actually was?”

Spare is a supremely intelligent, thoughtful, wise, insightful and illuminating read. Harry shines a light on the distinctly unenviable life of a British royal. They may have, to we ‘commoners’, a top-tier and fairytale life in some respects. However, the price paid (particularly for Harry, Meghan and their family) is no privacy, no anonymity. Despite having officially left the royal fold, Meghan and Harry are written about more than ever.

I loved Spare. It gave me a frank and heartfelt insight into Harry’s life. There has been more suffering for Harry than I realised. Yet also an abundance of wisdom, level-headedness and down-to-earthness in his nature.

Bravo Harry! You have been incredibly brave to write this account of your life in the royal “fishbowl”. I wish for you Meghan, Archie and Lilibet much happiness and peace. I also wish for you peace with you and your other family members. Your mother would be proud of you.

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