It has been one year since Prince Harry’s long-awaited memoir, Spare, hit the shelves and became one of the top-selling books of 2023. Spare was just one step of a series of moves made by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, to establish a brand and improve their reputation despite their many critics throughout the world. However, as 2023 unfolded with Spare in their rearview mirrors, many of Harry and Meghan’s apparent goals with the release of the tell-all book appeared to go unmet, and their year was riddled with dramas and criticisms fit for… well, a king.
Stuck Between A Rock and a… Palace?
The innate privilege displayed by Harry in his memoir, Spare, ghostwritten by J.R. Moehringer, and released on January 10, 2023, was evident to many readers who had eagerly awaited the prince’s tell-all book. His life story is ripe with elite preparatory schools, drug use, extravagant trips to remote parts of the world, visits with Elton John, and hanging out with ‘Monica from friends’ during weekday parties in Hollywood. Also, let’s not forget that flippant comment Harry made about having to scramble to get the money for a down payment on his 14.5 million dollar Montecito mansion, which made him distinctly unrelatable to the average person.
Despite his unreliability, his appeal for sympathy throughout the book was clear. Harry is a normal person, just like you and me, who traumatically lost his mom at a young age, was subjected to years of heinous bullying (to the umpteenth degree by the British tabloid press), and fell in love with a woman his family disapproved of due to her heritage and profession. His appeal for sympathy was then heightened by the candor with which he spilled his family’s secrets and tossed digs at his family members.
While his unconditional love for Meghan is evident in Spare, the pedestal on which he places her in his book as a cool, calm, and independent American woman, hinders the reliability of his testimonials about his wife and his family. This is a man who will, admirably, do anything for the woman he loves, a man who is traumatized by the premature death of his mother and who has felt ostracized for years by a class system that seeps its way constantly into his family’s daily life. It is reasonable and commendable that he would do anything to make his life for his growing family a more positive, healthy existence.
However, the positive aspects of Harry’s loyalty to Meghan and his condemnation of his family have not been met with the sympathy that he so eagerly sought in his bestselling memoir. Instead, throughout 2023, Harry and Meghan continued to be in the spotlight in a negative scope, seen as whiny and opportunistic by many, and even labeled as grifters for their halfhearted (and highly hypocritical!) attempts at the promotion of green living. Meanwhile, their counterparts, William and Kate, received sympathy and a surge in approval ratings that continued to climb throughout 2023.
This approval towards the Prince and Princess of Wales is despite Omid Scobie, a former royal correspondent, who met the release of his 2023 book, Endgame, in the Netherlands with an instant retraction. The Dutch version of his book had illegally named the two people to have had concerns over Harry’s son’s skin color (first referenced in that infamous Oprah Winfrey interview), as King Charles and Kate Middleton. However, this negative press hasn’t seemed to matter, as Kate is currently the most popular royal, while Harry and Meghan’s approval with people in the U.S. and the U.K. has steadily declined since the release of Spare.
The release of Spare is not only significant to the relationships the royal family has with each other and the public but also to the monetary impact it has had on Harry and Meghan’s lives. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, despite having left their lives in England due to the media, make a large portion of their money from media deals, having made deals with Netflix and Spotify – the latter of which was recently axed – as well as the book releases of Spare and Meghan’s children’s book entitled The Bench. Notably, the author name used for The Bench was Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, while for Spare it was Prince Harry. Read into what you will, but the use of royal monikers could appear to be a blatant continuation of using class privilege for monetary gain (to the extreme).
One of the largest focuses of Spare, as well as of the Netflix docuseries on Harry and Meghan’s time in the royal spotlight, was the constant torment, stalking, and humiliation of the Sussexes, particularly Meghan, by the British tabloid press. While paparazzi are a rampant part of Hollywood life in America, the British tabloids are notoriously aggressive, particularly to members of the royal family – a topic which is prevalent in particular when discussing Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.
Say Hello To Hollywood, Royals!
In his book, Harry was candid in his proclamation that the lack of additional protection provided to his wife was a large factor in his family’s decision to flee England in 2020. However, in the aftermath of Spare, the paparazzi have continued to harass the couple. It was reported in May 2023 that the couple were subjected to a two-hour paparazzi chase after leaving an event in New York City. The couple’s spokesperson said, “While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety.” However, to the average person, the Sussexes appear to want all the benefits of fame and fortune – enough to continue promoting their royal brand and monikers – while constantly condemning the negative effects of their fame in the press.
After reading Spare, the question of whether the monarchy is even necessary feels extremely rhetorical, as over the last century their presence in government has declined to almost nothing, and their lives have become media farces, ripe for public consumption and criticism. Its impacts throughout the past year on the Sussexes and their estranged family, both positive and negative, have led to larger questions about media access to people’s lives, the morality of the paparazzi and those who consume their work, and even the institution of the monarchy itself. Their privilege is innate and comparing the royals and the children of Hollywood seems completely fitting in today’s society.
Harry’s and Meghan’s hopes of using Spare to utilize their position as the ‘down to Earth’ ex-royals who are just like you and me, just didn’t convey. Reflecting on Spare a year later means reflecting largely on Harry and Meghan themselves, who have built a brand around their titles and are using their footholds in Hollywood to continue living their luxurious, star-studded lives, while still failing to make any significant impact for the greater good.
How did you feel after reading Spare? Has it changed how you view the royals or the institution of the monarchy or the modern media over the last year?
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