Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, is not only his opportunity to share his story, the book serves as a permanent vehicle to set the record straight for posterity. He has been mischaracterized and flat-out lied about in the press. This book is his chance to finally tell the truth–his truth.
About the Title
It is a reasonable assumption that the concept of “Heir and Spare” is something that the British media created. While William is most certainly the Heir, the thought that an actual family would think of their second born child as a “spare” seems cruel. Upon reading Spare, it turns out that Harry’s birth order hangs over his head in his daily life. (While an impending crown hangs above Willy’s.)
This wasn’t merely how the press referred to us–though it was definitely that. This was shorthand often used by Pa and Mummy and Grandpa. And even Granny. The Heir and the Spare–there was no judgement about it, but also no ambiguity. I was the shadow, the support, the Plan B. I was brought into the world in case something happened to Willy. I was summoned to provide backup, distraction, diversion and, if necessary, a spare part. Kidney, perhaps. Blood transfusion. Speck of bone marrow. This was all made explicitly clear to me from the start of life’s journey and regularly reinforced thereafter.
Losing his mother, Princess Diana, at the tender age of twelve imparted a trauma onto Harry that he spends the rest of his life sorting out. Initially, he lives in denial that she is dead.
Her life’s been miserable, she’s been hounded, harassed, lied about, lied to. So she’s staged an accident as a diversion and run away. The realization took my breath away, made me gasp with relief…Mummy isn’t dead! She’s hiding!
Harry, whether he intended to or not, utilized magical thinking as a way to cope with his mother’s sudden, tragic death. He couldn’t believe that the beautiful and youthful Diana had died. He secretly created a narrative in his own mind that she was hiding because the press had made her life unbearable. Heartbreak, trauma and mental health all collide in this moment and continue in Harry’s life for years to come.
It wasn’t until Harry was twenty-three years old that he came to terms with the reality that his mother was not in hiding, as he had convinced himself for the past eleven years, but that she was actually dead. He traveled to Paris for the first time for the Rugby World Cup. He requested that his driver take him to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel where his mother died in that fateful crash. Harry also requested that the driver go precisely sixty-five miles per hour, the exact speed the police reported Diana’s car had been going at the time of the crash.
We zipped ahead, went over the lip at the tunnel’s entrance, the bump that supposedly sent Mummy’s Mercedes veering off course. But the lip was nothing. We barely felt it…Is that all of it? It’s…nothing. Just a straight tunnel…I’d told myself I wanted closure, but I really didn’t…Instead that was the night all doubt fell away. She’s dead, I thought. My God, she really gone for good.
This passage is breathtaking to read. After Harry realizes his mother is in fact dead, he goes to a pub to drown his sorrows, picks a fight with his bodyguards and later sneaks out of his room and walks alone on the Seine smoking a cigarette. He later calls Willy and learns that his brother had driven the tunnel too. It’s a rare moment in the book where the brothers bond. It’s regretful that this singular moment of unity concerns the circumstances of their mother’s death. Alas, at least they have each other, even for only this moment in time.
Harry Needs More Family Than Firm
Whether it’s due to his early life trauma or perhaps its just his nature, Prince Harry’s emotions are always bubbling just below the surface. Someone with that temperament needs emotional connection. To a certain extent, all humans need emotional connection. When Diana died, Harry lost the person who outwardly showed him love. Although the Royal Family obsesses over heritage and birth order, they are more connected to duty and obligation than love and affection.
There is a famous story about Mummy trying to hug Granny. It was actually more a lunge than a hug, if eyewitnesses can be believed. Granny swerved to avoid contact, and the whole thing ended very awkwardly, with averted eyes and murmured apologies…I wondered if Pa ever tried…When he was five or six, Granny left him, went off on a royal tour lasting several months, and when she returned, she offered him a firm handshake. Which may have been more than he ever got from Grandpa.
This exemplifies Diana attempting to make a connection with the family and it not going well. The story details other examples of Charles not receiving physical love from his parents, alluding to him not extending that to Harry. Even behind the scenes, the Royal Family is formal and distant from one another. It’s sad to think of a boy not only losing his mother, but also losing the one person who was outwardly affectionate with him. Charles grew up only knowing the aloofness of his parents. Harry had a sensitive, loving parent and then lost her.
Spare is Shakespearean
Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer is the ghostwriter that Prince Harry chose for Spare. As such, the memoir is filled with lyrical meditations on royal life. The book’s opening evokes none other than William Shakespeare; Harry awaits his father and brother at the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore, where many of his forebears are buried. The three men have agreed to a parley after Prince Philip’s funeral, a last-ditch effort to resolve some of the family conflicts that drove Harry from his ancestral home.
I turned my back to the wind and saw, looming behind me, the Gothic ruin, which in reality was no more Gothic than the Millennium Wheel. Some clever architect, some bit of stagecraft. Like so much around here, I thought.
When his father and brother do arrive, they wander through the cemetery, and find themselves, Harry remembers, “more up to our ankles in bodies than Prince Hamlet.”
Much like a Shakespearean play, Spare is segmented into three parts with a mixture of comedy and tragedy. Moehringer does a beautiful job of channeling Harry’s voice and organizing the prose into a well-written masterpiece. Harry’s father, King Charles III, is well-known for being an avid consumer of the works of Shakespeare. It is therefore both poetic and prophetic that Spare is given a Shakespearean treatment.
Closure (In Summation)
If you think you know everything about Harry’s story and haven’t read Spare, think again. The Oprah interview and the news outlets who release clips from the memoir lack the nuance and totality of reading the entire 400+ page book. The Royal Family’s motto of “never complain, never explain” results in a lot of murky conjecture and lack of clarification for posterity. Harry, who stepped away from being an active working royal and moved to America, is both complaining and explaining, but also telling his story. Spare is Harry’s record of his life (thus far), his correction of the inaccuracies that have been reported about him, a love letter to Meghan and his children and a message to his father and brother. Charles requested letters rather than phone calls from Harry while he was in the Army. William, the Heir, was often disconnected from his brother and enjoyed pulling rank whenever he could. Well, Pa and Willy, Spare is Harry’s story, laid out in Shakespearean format, titled by his secondary ranking within the family, for you, and all, to read.
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