I have to confess I love a good memoir. I love to witness people’s stories. They fascinate me. The things we learn from others’ lives touch my soul. I am so grateful to glimpse even the smallest insight into their experiences of life as a human on this amazing roller coaster ride we call life so that maybe I too can learn something from their experiences.
I have now finished the book ‘Spare’ by Prince Harry. I was enthralled and I miss it. I listened to it as an audio book. (I spend many hours as a Mum’s taxi!) Hearing Harry speaking the words himself added a depth to the story that I loved. At times you can feel his pain and sense his anger. You can also sense his humour.
I recently saw it described as ‘A chilling memoir of royal family trauma and dysfunction.’ I feel that to be an accurate summation, at least in relation to stories he tells of his family life.
What also interests me is people’s intense reactions around this book. Phrases that I have heard are petty, vain, status obsessed, selfish, spoiled, ungrateful. Some of my friends and family are refusing to read the book. When I mentioned it to my parents their reactions around it were also scathing. Others are not interested in the royal family at all and yawn. And yet it is a number 1 global bestseller. Someone must be reading it!
The negative reactions worry me a little. Firstly, as Harry mentions throughout the book,the media has ‘spun’ his persona as the ‘naughty one’ and the ‘Thicko Prince’ who can’t think for himself. I question….. have these negative beliefs arisen due how the media has ‘spun’ Harry’s persona? If so, why do we believe the media stories to be true? Do we trust all that is written? Should we trust it? Some of us may even say things like ‘We don’t believe what is written in those trashy magazines’ and yet, like an all pervading smell, the overall narrative that is adopted around an issue, or a person does seem to be swayed by what we read and are told by the media.
I think we can now all agree it’s been the same with women’s inequality and racism issues. It’s been so all pervading that half the time we don’t even realise we are in fact exacerbating the problem with how we speak and think.
Harry also writes about the venom that was spewed by the media at his wife Meghan. This is not a new story and indeed Harry cites that this argument was one the Palace used in its decision not to defend Meghan from the onslaught. “It’s happened to them all in the past, Diana, Kate, Camilla.” But surely the fact that it has happened previously does not make a valid excuse for letting terrible things continue in the future? Should we not learn from our mistakes? Try and do better? Demand change as Harry appears to have wanted?
I have also seen the ‘venom’ spouted from girlfriends’ lips who believe Meghan is evil. How have they reached this conclusion? From the media vitriol?
The media coverage of the break up of Prince Charles and Diana was unusual, because usually women are depicted as the ‘one in the wrong’ during break ups. (Amber Heard and Johnny Depp spring to mind, along with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.)
Harry certainly seems to love Megan. He outlines stories about the love she has shown to people in her life. Do we trust him to know his own heart or are we just reverting to the age old line ‘the woman is the evil one and the man is under her spell?’ I call bollocks on that!!!! I feel we need to be very careful in treading this patriarchal path of reasoning and media manipulation.
Secondly, let’s talk about money. Are we divided because Harry apparently received between $20-40M for writing the book? Surely that is one of the goals of all authors? To make money from writing their story? And yes, it is a huge sum of money but, we are talking about a person, who’s security budget was quoted at $6M a year. Security that he needs for himself and his family due to the fact he was born a Prince. He is a target of death threats because he is a Prince and also quite possibly, because of the negative spin the media has decided to take about him and his wife.
Also, as Harry describes it, he was ‘cut off’ by his father, King Charles. He even acknowledges how sad it sounds that a 30 year old was supported by his father, however that was the royal way he was born into. There were terms and conditions as with any employment and Harry decided he no longer wanted to work for ‘the firm’ Surely, we all have the choice to choose our employment. Why should a Prince be any different?
Maybe the media wants us to take sides so that we all buy more newspapers and magazines? It’s something to consider. Also consider that the paparazzi are being paid huge amounts of money for photos. Is it ok for them to stalk, harass, scare and even potentially kill (eg Princess Diana) their prey? Where do we draw the line? It’s little wonder Harry panicked and wondered if his wife would meet the same end as his mother.
Thirdly let’s talk about mental health. Are we divided over this book because we feel that Harry is ‘having a moan’ when really life as a Prince is not all that bad? Agreed. Harry has lived a life of intense privilege and education. He has also suffered his share of mental health issues ranging from unresolved trauma after the death of his mother, to post traumatic stress after his stints in Afghanistan through to panic attacks and anxiety when attending public speaking events during his role as a Royal. He talks about stage fright and panic attacks while having to appear in public; however he still continued to work. He did not shirk his duties, even though his mental health was not good. Not only that, after years of trying to fix his problems with alcohol and drug use and failed attempts at psychotherapy Meghan asked him to try harder and so he returned again to talk therapy to process his problems.
And then there is Megan, who told her husband she was not sure she could continue to live due to the constant barrage of hate she was experiencing at the hands of the media and the public. Surely, we have come further, in this day and age, where we have more awareness around such issues, to take seriously anyone who makes this cry for help….even if you don’t fully believe them. Aren’t everyone’s feelings and experience valid even if we can’t see it or don’t agree there should have been a problem. Surely the way each of us experiences life is different. That is what makes us all so unique. How can we therefore judge the correctness of another’s experience when we are viewing it through our own personal lens?
Are we upset because Prince Harry titled his book ‘Spare’? It’s not hard for me to understand that both King Charles and Willy, as Harry affectionately refers to his brother, have no idea what being the ‘spare’ and feeling like the ‘spare’ might mean to Harry. They were never the ‘spare’ and so have never felt all of the subtle ways a sensitive child like Harry might have experienced this unique birth right.
To hear Harry mention that his body and body parts might be used to prop up the heir if needed was a little shocking however, it’s probably true. William and King Charles could never fly on the same plane together due to the line of succession but no one cared what the ‘spare’ did. I understand these may seem small slights in an otherwise very privileged life but isn’t Harry still valid in feeling his feelings around such hurts?
Fourth, let’s talk about family. Admittedly, this is a complicated family where the barriers between family and royal duty are very blurred. From a non demonstrative father and competition between two brothers, to never being able to hug a beloved granny because she is the Queen of England. Some of these experiences are not new themes? A son feeling unsupported by his less than perfect father and brother. A father and a brother that were also completely unsupported in their own needs and wants.
Consider that perhaps this story is playing out in full view as a part of the greater collective awakening? We all have old trauma we need to heal. Many of our old systems of dominance, hierarchy, patriarchy and racism surely need to be revamped. They are outdated.
Harry tells of his work with a psychologist to try and heal his trauma and mental health issues. His goal, like many of us, is to prevent the pattern of unresolved trauma being handed down to his own children. Shouldn’t this be the goal of us all? To try and do better?
I personally feel sad that the brothers are estranged. I can understand how William might feel abandoned by his brother. William, after all, has no choice but to be the heir and I am sure that has been very difficult for him at times too. Perhaps however this is the hierarchy’s fault? Perhaps this is an outdated model that can no longer prevail? Don’t get me wrong, I, maybe irrationally, like the idea of the Monarchy (as long as I don’t think about it too much!) but, I can see how these structures can put crazy pressure on two brothers where one is deemed so much more important than the other just because of the order of their birth!
Finally let’s talk about judging others. Do we feel Harry is not doing his duty? What is his duty? He had no control over being born ‘the spare’ just as William and King Charles had no control over their birth order either. Yes, Charles and William have stayed and continued to do their duty but is it so wrong for Harry to want something different?
Harry was born a Prince. He couldn’t help it! Does that give us the right to judge him and his actions? Do we have to view people as better or worse than the other? Can we just love and support people for who they truly are and for where they are right now in their life journey?
We all have choices in life. Sometimes those choices feel wrong or may inadvertently hurt others but as long as we are acting out of love and not fear, how can those choices be wrong?
Harry loves his wife Meghan. He loves his family. Is that wrong? Just because some have their opinions around whether Meghan is right for him or not, who are we to decide for him and why do we perhaps believe the media stories about her, over his love for her?
“It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine”
― Byron Katie
I believe every human’s story is wonderful and unique. I also feel that every human has the right to tell their story. I think we should have compassion for those who wish to tell their stories. It is brave. No one’s path is more right than another’s. No one’s journey of awakening is more right than another. No one is perfect and no one gets it right all the time. We are all human.
I also feel Harry has been a warrior in some regards. He no longer wanted to remain in the gilded cage. He did not want to stand for an organisation and a hierarchy that wanted to throw others to the wolves in order to make themselves look better. He no longer wanted to stand for outdated views and beliefs on race. He stood up for his wife and family and put them first. He stood up to his family and told them it was not ok for them to not accept her as he did.
I think Harry grew up and is continuing to grow up. He has educated himself, worked on himself, grown, changed. He has flown the nest and is striding out along his own path. One that he feels is right and true for him and his family. Isn’t that what all parents want for their children?
I feel this story is a way for us to show more compassion in the world. Stop before you pass judgement on others. Ask yourself why you feel so strongly about it? Why are you taking sides? Does someone really have to take the blame? Just be curious.