Spare’s review, by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex


In 2013 Hilary Mantel wrote, “Pandas and royals alike are expensive to preserve and not well suited to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at? Some people love them.” Some pity them for their precarious position; everyone stares at them, and the enclosure they live in, no matter how airy it is, is still a cage.

Now suppose one of the pandas tries to leave his cage in search of fresh bamboo. So begins the journey of Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, who is technically still a prince and duke and still fifth in line to the British throne, but has turned his back on the monarchy for the sake of the woman he loves. An old-school gesture that puts him right up there with his great-great-great uncle Edward VIII, only the way he’s gone about it is 21st century: a self-justifying, multi-stage pilgrimage – Non Mea CulpaIt Can Be Called — which has turned from an Oprah sit-down into a Netflix documentary series and which now ends — or, more likely, gathers steam — with a new memoir, “Spare.”

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The title, in case you’re wondering, is a nickname given to Harry in infancy. He was to be a second-born “spare” for his older brother William, the future Prince of Wales, “heir”. “I was the shadow,” he now writes, “the support, the plan B. I was brought into the world in case something happened to Willie.” And if you ever suspected that this was a recipe for resentment, here are over 400 pages to correct you.

Prince Harry’s memoir attacks a family he wants to change. He has no comments.

Like Harry, the book is good-natured, sarcastic, humorous, self-righteous, self-deprecating, long-winded. And every time, a surprise. There are more answers about the prince’s baby than you could ever imagine. (It’s circumcised, and it almost froze to death at the North Pole.) And if you’re wondering who Harry lost his virginity to, it was an older woman who “loved horses, and Treated me not unlike a young man. Horses. Fast ride, after which she patted my tail and sent me out to graze.”

Written and almost certainly advanced by J.R. Moehringer, who helped make Andre Agassi’s memoir so memorable, the book is filled with behind-the-scenes vignettes of the royal family (the Queen dressing salads, Charles pouting in his boxers) and their generous Tells about help. Woo-woo: Botswana leopards, an Eton fox and a Tyler Perry painting have Princess Diana’s spirit variously turning up and even finding a way to mess up Charles and Camilla’s wedding plans. There’s no question that his mother’s The 1997 death still scars Harry’s 38-year-old psyche, and the book’s most affecting passages show his 12-year-old self struggling to grieve in public view. He cried only once, at her grave, never again, and spent years clinging to the theory that she had simply gone into hiding.

He developed into an indifferent student and a recreational drug user, being referred to as a “prankster” and a “nerd”. (What was he thinking when he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party? “I wasn’t.”) The two struggles gave him a measure of confidence — “this endless the Truman Show In which I almost never took money, never got a car, never got a house key, never ordered anything online, never got a single box from Amazon, Almost Never traveled on the underground. Whatever relationships he forged, he could not escape the full-court press of tabloid “paps” who stalked his every move. “Royal fame,” he concluded, “was fancy captivity.”

Enter, as you know she must, Meghan.

So far, the stages of their affair are available to anyone who cares: the Instagrams viewed, the dinner dates, the week in the Botswana tent. So, the maligning Markle at the hands of the British media is a toxic brew of racism and misogyny that, as Harry often says, went unpunished by Buckingham Palace. No wonder, because Palace staff were either planting stories or actively luring journalists to follow them. “Pa’s office, Willie’s office,” fumes Harry, “enabling these rascals, if not directly aiding them.”

“Dear boy,” his father advised, “just don’t read it.” Not an option for Harry, who was, by his own admission, “undeniably addicted” to reading his own media coverage and being furious. But when she decided to step away from royal duties, the wrath turned back on her: William, according to an already well-publicised anecdote, grabbed her by the collar and wrestled her to the ground. Stripped of their royal allowances and eventually their security detail, Harry and Meg fled first to Canada before settling in America, or, as Harry sarcastically put it, “the undiscovered country from which no traveler returns from birth.”

Meghan and Harry took a fairy-tale getaway. They still seem stuck.

So meet them in their current iteration: still gorgeous, parents to two beautiful children — and at the same time, the authors tactfully admit, drawing on “corporate partnerships” to tell “stories for causes we cared about.” To tell those we found important. And to pay for our safety. In a more sadistic vein: “I love my homeland, and I love my family, and I always will. I wish they both were there for me in the second darkest moment of my life.

Yet, in a perverse way, they were There for him, and he for them. The brand that he and Meghan have so carefully nurtured is in complete disarray on the brand that they publicly rejected. With every morsel of palace scandal they lob in the news cycle, they feed the beast they saddle, and it will never end, and, for the Windsors, can do Never ends because that would mean we have lost interest in them. Almost longing for the days gone by when royals just poisoned each other or waged civil wars. If nothing else, he got it out of his system.

Lewis Baird is the author of “The Pale Blue Eye” and “Jackie and Me”.

by Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex

random House. 416 pp. $36

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