The Trouble with Those Resurrected Memories…

Despite the maelstrom of controversy swirling around it, Prince Harry’s bestselling memoir, Spare, remains a valuable peek at the behind-the-scenes life of the British royal family. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke writes

Some decisions just have to be taken. For Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, one of those decisions—an unavoidable one after the uproar that trailed his “stepping down” from royal duties—is the writing of his controversial autobiography, Spare. In the 471-page memoir, which has been officially on the bookstands since January 10 and, according to CNN, chalked up a record sale of 1.4 million copies in its first day of publication, the 38-year-old prince, so to speak, tells his “own side of the story.”

And why would his side of the story be deemed necessary in the first place? Consider that Prince Harry—the second child of the late Princess Diana, the ex-wife of the reigning British monarch, King Charles—has been in the public glare since his boyhood. Isn’t it obvious that most of what is known about his public and private lives comes from the media? So, in a crazed world where no one seems to care about man’s true purpose of existence, trivia like the “glitzy world” of the royals is deemed a front-burner issue. Of course, there are often attempts to blur the true motives behind the intrusiveness, scandal-mongering, and outright slander with the phoney justifications that taxpayers need to know how their money is being spent. But then, cleverly distorting facts to give them wrong meanings to the detriment of the hounded subjects remains a reprehensible act before the laws of natural justice. 

Now, doesn’t this explain why this otherwise beautifully written narrative, a compelling read by all standards, sometimes reads like a litany of complaints against the paparazzi, who seem to delight in chasing, hunting, and haunting him? This is when the reader is not being reminded, albeit tangentially, about the fact that fate—a “fate etched in stone,” as he calls it—had assigned him the role of a “spare” to the “heir.”

Talking about being a “spare” (a word that gave the book its title), he brings this fact early in the narrative to the reader’s attention in his riveting description of his room at Balmoral Castle, a residence of the British royal family in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. “My half of the room was far smaller, less luxurious,” he writes. “I never asked why. I didn’t care. But I also didn’t need to ask. Two years older than me, Willy was the Heir, whereas I was the Spare. 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 judgment 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.”

Yet, Prince Harry’s circumstances of birth—for the average man, accidental but by no means so in reality—are ones that millions would wish to trade places with him for. Indeed, much of his experiences—both substantiated and unsubstantiated moral injuries inflicted on him by the media—arise from a lack of understanding of the true purpose of man’s earthly existence and the circumstances surrounding it. If the earth-dwelling creature has become blind to reality outside his bodily senses, it is due to millennia of the frantic pursuit of material possessions. Even though it is enveloped by material coverings, his true essence, the spirit, whose existence is sometimes vehemently denied or derided, is blindly groping about in this dense material realm. It is for this reason, especially owing to his inability to make sense of his physical reality, that he deems such things as the circumstances of his birth accidental.

Undeniably, the narrative documented in the memoir’s three parts, which are labelled with lines borrowed from the classic by 19th-century English poet William Ernest Henley—interesting given that Harry isn’t the bookish type—revolve around Harry’s paying the price for being royal. The relentless harassment by the paparazzi, his rivalry with his older brother Willy (which climaxed in the latter knocking him to the floor during an argument), the palace staff’s wily schemes, and his father, the then-Prince of Wales, who seemed to lack compassion and would not stand up for his “darling boy,” are but a few examples of this. Should it come as a surprise, then, that the darkening and toxicity of his immediate ethereal surroundings were to blame for his renunciation of royal duties? 

Of course, the story offers moments of psychic reprieve from all this toxicity. His brief stay in Australia and the frequent periods he spent “in Africa,” a general term that ignores the reality that he is referring to a whole continent with 54 countries, are examples of these experiences. Talking about “Africa”—specifically, Botswana—it is often depicted as an epicurean haven of refuge, where he feels safe from the harassment of the paparazzi and protected from the vitriol trailing his frequent, albeit unintentional, faux pas. One of his more obvious faux pas is his controversial donning of a Nazi costume in 2005 during a “native and colonial” theme party in London, which was feasted upon by the UK tabloid, The Sun. About the scandal, which he later apologised for and described as “one of the biggest mistakes in my life,” Harry blames it on the encouragement of his brother and his wife, Kate. “Well, what next?” the censorious British scandal-mongering public seems to wonder. Since being revealed as a drug addict, the prince appears to have a habit of hopping from one scandal to the next. 

Still on psychological reprieve, the Afghan war provides a perfect escape, which is probably why he apparently begged for a second deployment. Ditto his excursions to both the North and South Poles.

Then, there is Meg (Meghan Markle), who has phenomenally survived the intrigues of the British establishment and the raging storm stirred by its media. This is after the flames of Harry’s previous relationships were extinguished by the latter. It is gratifying that despite the maelstrom, she became the mother of two healthy babies: Archibald and his sister, Lillibeth. 

Meanwhile, the memoir, whose dedication reads: “For Meg, Archie, and Lili… and of course, my mother,” has been called out for factual accuracies, which, among others, include inconsistencies in the circumstances surrounding his “Gan Gan’s” (great-grandmother) death and his allegedly getting an Xbox for his 13th birthday in 1997 from his late mother before she died when the device was invented in 2001 and didn’t get to Europe until 2002. 

All of this does not, however, take away from the worth of the book, which was released by Penguin Random House. 

It also doesn’t matter that it was purportedly ghostwritten by J. R. Moehringer, who CNBC said had previously penned two other best-sellers.

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