Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

The Spare Speaks

By Miriam R. Kramer

“He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

Lennon/ McCartney


Harry the Spare. William the Heir. The former a young man floating angry, purposeless, and bemused in his gilded cage; the latter distant, walking a straight line, fulfilling endless rote duties to the public while carrying the weight of an ancient monarchy on his shoulders. In writing the book Spare, Harry, Duke of Sussex, has given people all over the world a look at his inner workings of the monarchy, a world shrouded in secrecy despite a rabid, lying paparazzi creating controversy with splashy headlines and stolen pictures. Harry delves into his worship of his mother Diana, his undiagnosed and life-changing trauma at her death, and his complex, troubled relationship with his family. He also reveals the path he trod and the therapy he experienced to find his raison d’être.

Harry sketches himself as a lad traumatized repeatedly by a ravenous paparazzi paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for pictures of royalty. As a young man he re-lives the memory of his mother’s fate at the hands of tabloid journalists over and over, searching for his purpose and goals despite the emptiness he feels from her loss and his highly unusual role within British culture.

He reveals his difficulty in losing his early memories of his mother after she died, and his bout with magical thinking. Until he was 23 he believed on some level that his mother was alive and had disappeared to escape the press, with the intention to come back some day.

Down for Eton from his birth, Harry detested its emphasis on a rigorous education and longed for something more suited to his strengths. During an official visit, Harry’s transformation came in part when he discovered a love for Lesotho and Botswana, where he delights in nature and gets away from the constricting world he inhabits. In founding a charity in Lesotho, he began to make a mark on the world. He also found direction through the military, where he went to Afghanistan and gradually learned to fly a helicopter. In supporting the Invictus Games for disabled veterans, he provided men and women a return to some normalcy. He delivered a project of worth, growing up and creating a place for himself in the world outside of the monarchy as well.

The Duke of Sussex wants to be known for who he has become. His cold upbringing and emotional separation from his family did not help him find purpose or manage his trauma. There is certainly some self-pity in this memoir, but not enough to stop a reader from moving through it. It slows down at times, but is mostly absorbing because he has a distinct and compelling voice. I think we could all have done with him talking less about his trip to the North Pole and his “frost nipped todger,” though.

If Harry has any faults, they may come in airing his many grievances against his brother and father for their coldness and for treating him as a less important sideline. I am not sure if these are only faults, though. They make his memoir more honest, absorbing, and relatable.

It is important to remember that we only see his perspective. His relatives are still trapped in the monarchy’s public relations machine, and will provide few to no honest reactions to this memoir. It seems believable, though, that he and his brother grew apart over time because of their different roles and upbringing.

After getting out of the army, Harry lounged around, wearing clothes from discount stores, living on palace lands where he binge watched Friends and did not leave the house often. One day on his friend’s Instagram he saw a picture of Meghan Markle, an actress on the legal TV series Suits, and found her gorgeous and appealing. When they met, he was completely enamored. He was looking for someone to help fill his emptiness and potentially be a wife he could respect, one who could handle royal duties and the ensuing attention.

According to Harry, Meghan helped him mature as he grew to love her intelligence, independence, dedication to women’s causes, and lack of pretense. In taking her to Botswana for their first getaway, he offered her his heart, and soon after she offered him hers.

There are multiple themes in Spare, and one is Harry’s contempt for the way Rupert Murdoch makes money through the vicious tabloid press, which descended like jackals upon the biracial Meghan, infusing a healthy dose of racism into their typical coverage of the royals.  When she became overwhelmed and suicidal at the constant attention, the paparazzi chasing her and bumping her in their cars, Harry made a momentous choice. His mother had died because she was chased by paparazzi through a tunnel in Paris. He decided that he would never let them hound Meghan to death.

The Duke also despises the complicity of courtiers with the press, and how individual royal communications teams turned members of the royal family against one another. One might secretly collude on a negative story about a royal to help make another look better in comparison. Harry hated being at the mercy of the tabloid press, a press that in his mind killed his mother and continues to keep his family isolated from and suspicious of one another.

When Harry talks about his early pain, and being constantly deluged with paparazzi, I sympathized completely. I can hardly fathom how awful it would be. One must not forget, however, that he has had access to traveling the world, visiting Botswana and other places mostly because of his status. In the book he hobnobs with Elton John and David Furnish. Tyler Perry loans him and Meghan a house after they stepped back from being working royals. His background now allows him to make a lot of money. These days it is good to be the Duke of Sussex.

Most readers not living in someplace like the South Pole know how Meghan and Harry moved to California to escape the constant unwelcome attention. It makes sense that this memoir is Harry’s way of exposing the many lies the press wrote about him along the way, rather than an attempt to live a completely private life. Both Harry and Meghan like attention, but on their terms. Harry loves being on talk shows and is obviously comfortable chatting with anyone from Stephen Colbert to Anderson Cooper. He seems so charismatic, straightforward, and unpretentious, however, that I have found all his appearances moving and compelling.

He and his wife struck a deal with Netflix and created a series, Harry & Meghan, that not only aired but also made them millions of dollars. He tells his story only after negotiating a $20 million dollar contract to write four books, this being the first. So he now lives in a world where he has to make his way. He no longer is prevented from making a normal living, so who can blame him and Meghan for seizing these opportunities? He was lucky to inherit millions from his mother as well.

Although he is flourishing financially, I cannot envy him. I feel lucky to have had my mother for so long, and I think he would trade all of his money if he could have prevented Diana from dying.

From Harry’s viewpoint, King Charles comes across as a charming but limited man who wants people to think well of him. He depends on the press to reach that goal. William seems an enigma, someone Harry resents for his sense of superiority. The Duke says little about his grandmother, who was reputed to consider him her favorite grandson.

This casual Bildungsroman is a roaring bestseller. The global public finds the Duke’s words delicious, fascinated that they can identify with his dysfunction and struggle to become himself even though he grew up in an awe-inspiring, globally renowned fairytale. They gobble the anecdotes he doles out in multiple interviews on American and British TV.

What possibly fascinates me most about his memoir is that it is a screen for people’s projections. Of course all book reviews are, but this one tells you much about people from their reactions to it. Do they sympathize more with his family? Are they Team Harry and Meghan? Are they journalists who look down their noses at it?

I am not a monarchist and do not follow royalty as a rule. Yet I watched the weddings of Charles and Diana as a young child in 1981. I got up early to watch William and Kate get married in 2011 and Harry and Meghan in 2018. Why? I too grew up reading fairytales, and wanted to experience the celebration and joy those ceremonies offered, even if I knew that the surface probably differed sharply from reality. Harry’s journey to love and personal fulfillment continues to evolve. His story may be biased, part fairytale, and part expose, but I am still here for it. He is nowhere near being a nowhere man anymore.

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