The long-anticipated memoir of The Duke of Sussex is due for publication tomorrow, January 10. Ahead of its release, a series of television interviews were scheduled, including one with Tom Bradby on ITV, Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, Michael Strahan on Good Morning America, and Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. Three of the four are now completed.
In-between the dropping of interview trailers, however, the memoir was accidentally released ahead of schedule in Spain, allowing journalists to get their hands on advance copies and resulting in a media firestorm over the last few days that was sparked by a scoop in The Guardian that began picking out the most salacious details from the book.
Based on what we have learned from the anecdotes shared thus fair, I will say that the book is meatier than I was anticipating, particularly after the final packaging of the six-part Netflix documentary. Personally, I found the latter incredibly boring – to the point that I considered writing a post on it and then couldn’t really be bothered. The issues were the same – inconsistencies in their narrative, zero accountability, and a similar re-hashing of complaints against the British press and Palace staff. All of which we’ve covered before.
A frequent criticism of Harry and his wife, The Duchess of Sussex, throughout all of this has been how vague their criticism as been. It’s “they” and the “Palace” and “certain members of the family” – in Spare, as far as we can tell thus far, that issue has been somewhat rectified, for better or for worse. Entire conversations between Harry and members of his family are re-hashed and we are finally receiving a cohesive, if one-sided, narrative of what happened between Harry and The Prince of Wales, and between Meghan and The Princess of Wales.
I will dig into isolated incidents in more detail after the book’s been released (so, over the next several days as I work my way through it and compare/contrast with contemporaneous and current media coverage), but in the meantime, here are what I consider the most relevant details that have been shared:
- In early 2019 there was a physical altercation between William and Harry at Nottingham Cottage that is described by Harry as William attacking him and then apologizing and requesting that he keep the incident from Meghan. The issue under discussion was Meghan’s behavior.
- Catherine and Meghan did get into an argument over the bridesmaids’ dresses for the 2018 Sussex wedding due to fit, not tights (apparently). In a row over scheduling a fitting, Meghan accused Catherine of having “baby brain” so soon after the birth of Prince Louis, which offended Catherine and resulted in Meghan crying.
- The “fab four” held a summit in William and Catherine’s home at Kensington Palace after the Sussexes returned from their honeymoon post-wedding in an attempt to alleviate tension. The result was William and Meghan getting into a tense back and forth as William attempted to defend Catherine over the “baby brain” comment. Meghan, meanwhile, was offended because William put his finger in his face.
- In a meeting post-The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in 2021, King Charles, William, and Harry met near a gravesite at Frogmore that resulted in yet another unproductive confrontation between the brothers. William reportedly grabbed Harry by the collar while telling him, no, he didn’t understand why Harry had left. Charles asked his sons to not make his final years a “misery.”
- The Sandringham Summit in early 2020 resulted in a shouting fest on which the late Queen Elizabeth silently looked without interference.
- William was livid that Harry was able to wear a beard at his wedding, while he had been made to shave his own years earlier.
- Prior to King Charles’s 2005 wedding to Queen Camilla, William and Harry reportedly requested that their father not marry her. Instead, they wanted him to keep her as a long-term companion.
- In September, as Queen Elizabeth was dying, the plane carrying William, The Duke of York, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex took off without anyone inviting Harry along. The result was that he was not able to say goodbye to his grandmother, and this came after he had texted William asking how he and Catherine were planning on traveling to Balmoral.
- King Charles, when breaking the news to his younger son that his mother was dead in 1997, didn’t hug him.
- William did, on multiple occasions, express concern about Harry’s relationship with Meghan based on its speed and how difficult he thought her incorporation into the family would be.
This is, of course, the story according to Harry and only Harry. And maybe Meghan. But, as we well know, “recollections may vary.” My first glance at these facts – and, granted, without having yet had a chance to read the full book – are that there are some glaring omissions here that are, at best, self-interested.
Which I suppose brings me to my larger point – Harry continues to operate in a victimhood loop in which he is so stuck on how he’s been wronged he can’t bring himself to give any grace to the closest members of his family. The idea that they may well have had their own grievances, or that their differences of opinion may not have been malicious, goes both unacknowledged and unexamined.
Then there is the fact that Meghan’s father has been blacklisted by the couple due entirely, as far as we’ve been told, on the fact that Thomas was regularly giving media interviews while simultaneously refusing to communicate with the couple directly and negating their efforts because they couldn’t trust he wouldn’t betray them. Thomas’s actions, to many, seemed abusive – threatening language held over the Sussexes’ head that if they didn’t give him what he wanted in their personal relationship, he would just keep going in public because, to him, he was speaking “the truth” and thus entirely in the right.
I would argue that behavior *is* abusive, only now it’s Harry’s turn at the wheel.
Harry’s articulated position during these promotional interviews is that he would like to reconcile with his family, but that reconciliation is premised on their need to apologize to him and his wife. So, in his world, he stands firmly on the moral high ground and it’s up to the Windsors to crawl their way to him, hats in hands. And my feeling on that is this: there are two parties in every relationship and very rarely is one the saint and the other the villain. As such, if you have fortified yourself in absolutism then it calls in to question your grasp of reality. A question that is then strengthened by how many times the narrative put forth by Harry and Meghan can be picked apart by outsiders with relative ease.
Unfortunately for the Sussexes, the kernel of justified anger at the heart of all of this keeps getting lost in the mess they continue making for themselves. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say I have a mixture of sympathy and agreement on the following points: how the loss of Diana, Princess of Wales played out for Harry was horrific and he should have been given more support; British tabloids have legitimately wronged him and the people he has loved throughout his life; some of the commentary faced by Meghan in both traditional and social media was racist and sexist; there is a credible argument to be made that the Royal Family should have navigated the introduction of its first biracial member to the public with greater care.
All of that may well be true, but it skips the foundational issue: Harry always wanted out. Long before Meghan showed up on the scene, he resented his position in the family and resented William. In other words, so much of what’s been shared by Spare, and which has long been backed up by the credible reporting and books written on these issues over the last couple years, is more of an own goal than anything else. Zooming out from all of the anecdotes and private moments offered up to the public on a silver platter, there is only this: The Windsors were never going to be able to satisfy Harry within their matrix because he fundamentally questions the justice of the matrix.
Harry told Tom Bradby last night, “There comes a point when silence is betrayal.”
But then again, what do we call all of this?