By Vivian Blevins
Have you read Spare by Prince Harry? I have, but before I share my assessment, I want to indicate my sense of the Royal Family, and know that my perception has changed little since I read the memoir.
Camilla should have divorced her husband, and Charles should have found the courage to marry her instead of betraying an innocent girl in a deception that garnered world-wide attention which ended with Diana’s death in a tunnel in Paris on August 31, 1997. The mores of the Royal Family have always been violated, so a decision for the heir apparent to marry a divorcee would just be added to a list of those who have already violated the conventions. These people are royal but they are human with all the frailties that are a part of being human.
In terms of Spare, let’s start with a little clarification in two areas starting with the Nazi uniform. Harry chose to rent it after carefully considering two options and was the main player in the choice: William and Kate just affirmed it via telephone afterwards and in a pre-party demonstration. All the public hype about it should be considered in terms of what Harry reports in the book.
The uproar about Harry’s kills in the Afghanistan War. Harry devotes dozens of pages to his military service, including the challenges of learning to fly an Apache helicopter. He also demonstrates astute pragmatism in terms of explaining his killing of two dozen plus Taliban, and most military persons reading my column today will affirm his stance: “It was really just simple math. These were bad people doing bad things to our guys. Doing bad things to the world. If this guy I’d just removed from the battlefield hadn’t already killed British soldiers, he soon would. Taking him meant fewer young men and women wrapped like mummies and shipped home… .”
Now on to my sense of the book and why he needed to write it. Page after page he details his sense of his inadequacy from his school work to the scandals in which he has been involved. He admits his drug use: marijuana, cocaine, mushrooms. Additionally, he reports that he was regularly ingesting a heady amount of alcoholic drinks. As one psychiatrist told him, “Well, I’m rather surprised you’re not a drug addict.”
Yes, he details conversations with his psychiatrist as he attempts to come to terms with his mother’s death as she and her boyfriend were attempting to escape from the paparazzi on that night in that tunnel in Paris. Harry was 12 at the time. He is candid in telling the reader that for years he didn’t believe his mother had died in that crash, that she had run away and that at any moment she would reappear in his life. And his hatred for the paparazzi and its obscene and dangerous intrusion into his life and the lies concocted by the scandal- searching “news” groups is evident throughout most of the book.
Memories of Diana resurface periodically in the volume. Another of the themes in the memoir is his search for a partner, a woman who could share his life amid all the public attention. Another is his quest for affection, attention, advice, support from his father and his brother William. Still another is his search for a suitable place, employment, work for himself both before and after the military.
As I read about his relationships with various women, I thought Megan would be disturbed by the candid recounting of these relationships until I read about the joy, the pleasure he immediately discovered in his relationship with her. That love, that joy, became so troubled that he was led to behave in an unseemly way toward her at one time, behavior she indicated she would not tolerate. Overt dehumanization of Megan, Megan’s father’s betrayal, death threats, and her suicidal behavior eventually led to a negotiation with Charles and William over the couple’s decision to leave England as he feared that Megan would become a victim of the paparazzi as his mother had.
At Harry describes his decision to depart from an active role in the Royal Family, the reader gets a sense of that family as a business: the hierarchy, the policies, and the deceit as he was thrust into an option with virtually no discussion and certainly no power on his part. As he writes about Megan using her credit card for various expenses, I finally understood Harry’s dependence on Charles for his finances and his absolute control over his adult son’s life.
Throughout the memoir, Harry acknowledges not remembering the specifics of his life, and the fact that absolute dates are missing indicates that this book was not preplanned but rather resulted from his psychological need to confess to his own shortcomings and to the dysfunctionalities of his family writ large over which he had no control.
As he takes his readers through the psychological minefield of his life, he connects current moments with glimmers of past moments, using vulgarities on occasion that shock and are not necessary and bringing up subjects such as a frostbitten very private part of his anatomy. He renounces false tabloid stories and is ever alert to who is undermining him with suppositions as to their purpose in doing so. In his words, I see a middle-aged man who has pinned a confessional as well as a plea for family and the British Commonwealth to read his account of his life from his perspective, It’s an easy read at 400 plus pages but difficult in terms of Harry’s self- deprecations and self-loathing.
Apparently, others are as interested as was I as there has been a rush to purchase the book. I ordered my hardback copy from Amazon for $22 on the day it was released, and it was delivered to my house the following day.
Can we expect more? In the last line of Harry’s acknowledgements, he writes, “And to you, the reader: Thank you for wanting to know my story in my words. I am so grateful to be able to share it thus far.”