Will Prince Harry’s memoir live up to the hype? Readers find out today

Will Prince Harry’s memoir live up to the hype? Readers find out today

After weeks of hype and days of leaks, readers got a chance to judge Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, for themselves when it went on sale around the world on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The book was billed by its publisher Penguin Random House as an account told with “raw, unflinching honesty” and filled with “insight, revelation, self-examination and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.”

The memoir’s title is an apparent reference to Prince Harry’s being a royal “spare,” not the first in line to succession. William, Prince of Wales, is next in line.

The 416-page book was published in 16 languages worldwide. It is being released in Canada by Random House Canada. Prince Harry also narrated the audiobook, which was released on the same day.

Bereaved boy, troubled teen, wartime soldier, unhappy royal — many facets of Prince Harry are revealed in Spare, often in eyebrow-raising detail. Running throughout is Harry’s desire to be a different kind of prince — the kind who talks about his feelings, eats fast food and otherwise doesn’t hide behind a prim facade.

It is part of a campaign by Harry and his wife, Meghan, to share their story. They gave an Oprah interview, which among many other revelations included Meghan’s declaration that an unnamed senior member of the Royal Family had worries about the colour of the skin of their first child before he was born. And, more recently, they participated in a six-episode Netflix documentary about their lives, their romance and their departure from the Royal Family.

WATCH | Prince Harry promotes memoir with sensational interviews:

Prince Harry promotes memoir in series of explosive interviews

Ahead of its official launch, Prince Harry’s memoir is already an international best-seller thanks in part to a number of explosive interviews. Some are questioning whether he’s airing ‘dirty laundry’ and palace officials have yet to publicly comment.

A book filled with revelations

From accounts of cocaine use and losing his virginity to raw family rifts, Spare exposes deeply personal details about Harry and the wider Royal Family. Even Americans may flinch when he confides that a trip to the North Pole left him with frostbitten genitals that proved most irritating during his brother’s wedding to Kate.

The book opens with a famous quote from William Faulkner, bard of the American South: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Harry’s story is dominated by his rivalry with elder brother Prince William and the death of the boys’ mother, Princess Diana, in 1997. Harry, who was 12 at the time, has never forgiven the media for Diana’s death in a car crash while being pursued by photographers.

The loss of his mother haunts the book, which Harry dedicates to Meghan, children Archie and Lili “and, of course, my mother.”

The opening chapter recounts how his father Prince Charles — now King Charles III — broke the news of his mother’s accident, but didn’t give his son a hug.

Harry reveals that years later he asked his driver to take him through the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, site of the fatal crash, hoping in vain that it would help end a “decade of unrelenting pain. He also says he once consulted a woman who claimed to have “powers” and to be able to pass on messages from Diana.

WATCH | Diana’s death, 25 years later:

Princess Diana’s legacy 25 years after her tragic death

Twenty-five years after Princess Diana’s death in a Paris car crash, her legacy of compassion lives on.

Harry adds that he and William both “pleaded” with their father not to marry his long-term paramour Camilla Parker-Bowles, worried she would become a “wicked stepmother.”

Harry also is tormented by his status as royal “spare” behind William, who is heir to the British throne. Harry recounts a longstanding sibling rivalry that worsened after Harry began a relationship with Meghan, the American actor whom he married in 2018.

He says that during an argument in 2019, William called Meghan “difficult” and “rude” (the kind of insults an upper class Englishman might reserve for Americans), then grabbed him by the collar and knocked him down. Harry suffered cuts and bruises from landing on a dog bowl.

Harry says Charles implored the brothers to make up, saying after the funeral of Prince Philip in 2021: “Please, boys — don’t make my final years a misery.

Neither Buckingham Palace, which represents King Charles III, nor William’s Kensington Palace office has commented on any of the allegations.

Admiration for Queen Elizabeth

Harry writes with admiration and some affection about Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. He remembers Phillip’s “many passions — carriage driving, barbecuing, shooting, food, beer,” and above all how he “embraced life,” as did his mother. “Maybe that was why he’d been such a fan” of Princess Diana, Harry recalls.

Meanwhile, he acknowledges being intimidated at times by his grandmother, if only because she was the Queen. She is no more helpful than anyone else in containing the media leaks, but she is often seen as sympathetic to his wishes, never more so than when she approved of his marriage to Meghan.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 18: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Harry attend at the annual Chelsea Flower show at Royal Hospital Chelsea on May 18, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Simmonds – WPA Pool / Getty Images) (Julian Simmonds/Getty Images)

Harry also sees her as an engaging, even humorous person beyond her otherwise proper bearing. Reflecting on her death last year he remembers whispering jokes into her ear or convincing her to participate in a widely seen promotional video of the Invictus Games, in which she one-ups the Obamas in a sparring contest.

“She was a natural comedienne,” he writes, calling her “wicked sense of humor” a prized confidence between the two. “In every photo of us, whenever we’re exchanging a glance, making solid eye contact, it’s clear. We had secrets.”

Reflecting on his party prince reputation

The memoir suggests the media’s party-boy image of Harry during his teen and young adult years was well-deserved.

Harry describes how he lost his virginity at 17 — in a field behind a pub to an older woman who loved horses and treated the teenage prince like a “young stallion.” It was, he says, an “inglorious episode.”

He also says he took cocaine several times starting at the same age, in order to “feel different.” He also acknowledges using cannabis and magic mushrooms — which made him hallucinate that a toilet was talking to him.

The young prince notoriously wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party in 2005, and claims in the book that William and his now-wife Kate encouraged the choice of outfit and “howled” with laughter when they saw it. He was recorded using a racist term about a fellow soldier of Pakistani descent in 2006, but says he did not know the word was a slur and that the soldier was not offended.

Controversial revelations about his time in Afghanistan

Harry offers extensive memories of his decade in the British Army, serving twice in Afghanistan. He says that on his second tour, as an Apache helicopter co-pilot and gunner in 2012-2013, he killed 25 Taliban militants. Harry says he felt neither satisfaction nor shame about his actions, and in the heat of battle regarded enemy combatants as pieces being removed from a chessboard, “Bads taken away before they could kill Goods.”

A person is seen inside a helicopter cockpit.
CAMP BASTION, AFGHANISTAN – DECEMBER 12: In this image released on January 21, 2013, Prince Harry makes early morning checks as he sits on an Apache helicopter at the British controlled flight-line at Camp Bastion on December 12, 2012 in Afghanistan. Prince Harry has served as an Apache Helicopter Pilot/Gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps, from September 2012 for four months until January 2013. (John Stillwell/Getty Images)

Veterans criticized the comments and said they could increase the security risk for Harry. Retired Col. Richard Kemp said it was “an error of judgment,” and regarding enemy fighters as chess pieces is “not the way the British Army trains people.”

“I think that sort of comment that doesn’t reflect reality is misleading and potentially valuable to those people who wish the British forces and British government harm,” he told the BBC.

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021, and Harry’s words have drawn protests in the country. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi called the Western invasion of Afghanistan “odious” and said Harry’s comments “are a microcosm of the trauma experienced by Afghans at the hands of occupation forces who murdered innocents without any accountability.”

A family divided

Harry shares painful words about his father and brother, but his real anger is directed at the British media, and at those within the royal circle who cooperated and otherwise stood aside. While Charles remains apparently indifferent to the press, the rest of the family is obsessed with media coverage, Harry writes, himself as much as any of them. He expresses despair over what he calls endlessly false stories about him, the racist caricatures of his wife and of the press’ unnerving knowledge of his whereabouts and private correspondence. “One has to have a relationship with the press,” he is told by the royal staff.

WATCH | Has Prince Harry taken his rift with the Royal Family too far?

Is Prince Harry’s relationship with the palace too far gone?

Vanity Fair royal correspondent Katie Nicholl explains what it could take to mend the rift between Prince Harry, his brother and father and why Harry’s allegations of stories being leaked to the press may be a little off.

Harry credits Meghan with changing the way he sees the world and himself. He says he was “awash in isolation and privilege” and had no understanding of unconscious bias before he met her.

Meghan and Harry cited the U.K. media’s treatment of the biracial American actor as one of the main reasons for their decision to quit royal duties and move to the U.S. in 2020.

The book gives no sign that Royal Family relations will be repaired soon. Harry told ITV in an interview to promote the book that he wants reconciliation, but that there must be “accountability” first.

In the final pages, Harry describes how he and William walked side by side during the funeral procession of Queen Elizabeth II in September, but spoke barely a word to one another.

“The following afternoon, Meg and I left for America,” he says.

Hype, but will it sell?

In Britain, a few stores opened at midnight to sell copies to diehard royal devotees and the merely curious. Many said they wanted to form their own opinion of the book after days of snippets and debate on news sites and television.

“I’m excited just to hear about Prince Harry’s life from Prince Harry,” said Sarah Nakana, a surveyor who bought the book at London’s Victoria station. “There’s so much misinformation, disinformation about Harry and Meghan.”

Pedestrians pass a bookstore window, with Prince Harry's memoir Spare on display.
Pedestrians pass a display in the window of a book shop in London, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

The book is already the top-selling book on Amazon’s U.K. site, which like many big retailers is offering it half price, and is expected to be one of the year’s biggest sellers.

John Cotterill, nonfiction buyer at the Waterstones bookstore chain, told trade magazine The Bookseller that Spare was “one the biggest pre-order titles of the last decade for Waterstones.”

Excitement is far from universal, however. Harry’s interview with broadcaster ITV drew 4.1 million viewers on Sunday — fewer than the 5.3 million who watched BBC drama “Happy Valley” at the same time.

Retail worker Caroline Lennon arrived at 6 a.m. Tuesday at a branch of Waterstones in central London to await its opening.

“I did expect a queue. Unfortunately, there’s no queue. I’m just by myself,” she said.

“I want to read (it) because I like the Royal Family and I don’t care what anybody says,” she said. “People will criticize that. I don’t care because I like the Royal Family, and I like Harry and Meghan.”

The Sussexes are now both authors

Meghan has also recently become an author. She published her first book, the picture book The Bench, in spring 2021. The book, which was illustrated by American artist Christian Robinson, was a celebration of fathers and sons. It was inspired by Harry’s relationship with the couple’s first child, Archie.

Their second child, a daughter named Lilibet, was born in June 2021.

The Bench is the second book Meghan has worked on.

In 2018, she worked on and wrote the foreword to Together, a cookbook compiling recipes from survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in London. In the aftermath of the fire, several women came together at the Hubb Community Kitchen to share recipes, find community and restore hope. Meghan became involved in the group, and the cookbook serves as a fundraiser for the kitchen.

Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie, meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu (not pictured) at the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2019. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Meghan married Prince Harry in 2018. They left their royal duties in 2020 and now live in Los Angeles.

Since ending their royal duties, Harry and Meghan have continued charity work, have signed TV and other media deals and launched a podcast in December 2020.

Meghan lived in Toronto from 2011 to 2017, while she filmed the TV show Suits.

— With files from CBC Books

VCCI calls for fewer inspections for vehicle energy consumption Previous post VCCI calls for fewer inspections for vehicle energy consumption
Next post This heavy-duty e-bike had me flying off-road, grinning from ear to ear