Once upon a time, there was a princess named Diana who was lovely, troubled — and beloved throughout the world. She lost her life tragically in flight from the paparazzi that pursued her relentlessly. She was survived by two sons who had to soldier on sadly without their mother. They are now grown-up — real-life princes with families of their own – and live in very different ways with the deep wound of that early loss.
Older brother William has chosen to honor his duty to Crown and country. As heir to the throne after his father, Prince Charles, he has sacrificed what might be considered an everyday life to uphold the centuries-old traditions explicitly codified as his royal charge. In contrast, younger brother Harry followed in the footsteps of his great uncle Edward, who infamously abdicated the throne to marry the woman he loved – an American. Harry also married an American and has steadfastly refused to take on the duties and responsibilities associated with his station, choosing instead to move to the United States and pursue opportunities in Hollywood with his wife, an actor. And the landscape has been rife with opportunity.
Following his Emmy-nominated interview with Oprah Winfrey, alongside his wife, Meghan Markle, in which the pair aired their grievances about the family they fled, Prince Harry has just announced his tell-all memoir about the royals will be published next year. Functioning as a trailer of sorts, in advance of the book’s release, Prince Harry imparted:
“I’m writing this not as the prince I was born, but as the man I have become. I’ve worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope is that in telling my story—the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned—I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the course of my life so far and excited for people to read a firsthand account of my life that’s accurate and wholly truthful.”
Setting aside the narcissistic self-absorption required to pen a memoir in one’s 30s, the news of the imminent release was received with a notable chill by the Crown – or what Nigel Farage characterized as “a high level of disregard.” The official communique on the subject from Buckingham Palace was that “this is not something we would comment on.” But it seemed clear that the Oprah interview, replete with pointed accusations and indiscretions, acutely discomfited the Crown. Given that, a revealing book about monarchial life by the melancholy prince will undoubtedly be most unwelcome by the royals. The Queen has been a model of stately reserve for well more than half a century. To have that potentially rent asunder by an aggrieved millennial is a daunting prospect for a woman who must now rule alone after losing her husband, Prince Philip, this year.
It is important to remember that the scar left by losing one’s mother so young is indelible. Prince Harry should likely be afforded some latitude based on that defining tragedy. We should honor Harry’s service to his country in Afghanistan, and we must assume noble intentions in what appear to be his attempts to shield his wife from the kind of media frenzy that was instrumental in robbing his mother of her life. But the implicit egotism of discussing “the man I’ve become” undercuts what is framed as his selfless “opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the course of my life so far.”
Whatever you may feel about the practicality and necessity of the venerable British monarchy, does Prince Harry really need to throw back the curtain on it and expose his family to the spotlight and scrutiny it has always sought to eschew? Even so, he has announced that all proceeds from his memoir will be donated to charity, making this a cry to be heard rather than a bid to be personally enriched.
It’s complicated. Prince Harry is complicated. Maybe the book the Crown shudders to see published will untie that stubborn knot with what the Duke of Sussex describes as an attempt to be “accurate and wholly truthful.”
Read more from Pennel Bird.