Spare reviews: Prince Harry’s royal memoir reveals anger and betrayal

Back in December, the furore surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix documentary was all-consuming enough, said Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. Now, just when it seemed to be calming down, Harry “barges into the narrative once more, tootling on his trumpet of ongoing anguish, simply impossible to ignore”.

And this time, in his memoir Spare – and the various TV interviews he has given to promote it – the “grudge-toting manbaby really has thrown all his toys out of the royal pram”. In the past week, we have learnt about everything from his fractured relationship with his brother (“Willy” to his “Harold”) and the negligence of his father, to the danger posed to him by his stepmother: a “villain” in the public eye who redeemed her reputation by sacrificing him “on her personal PR altar”.

Some of Spare is intensely moving, said CNN. Harry recalls that following his mother’s death, when he was 12, he shook the hands of mourners outside Kensington Palace, and found that they were all wet. He had been unable to cry, but these strangers had been weeping. He is haunted by thoughts of the paparazzi who photographed Diana while she lay dying in a Paris underpass. And for years, he says that he fantasised, or dreamed, that she was not dead, and would be coming back to him.

But what really comes across is his anger, said James Marriott in The Times – most of which is reserved for the press. He blames it for his mum’s death, and for every bad thing that has happened to him since then, from revelations of his drug-taking to the break-up of his relationships.

He is scornful of the royals who play the media game, yet he craves being the centre of attention himself, and he is particularly touchy about his status as “spare”. William has the bigger bedroom at Balmoral; William’s apartment at Kensington Palace is furnished with priceless antiques, whereas he and Meghan must make do with Ikea furniture. He is gleeful about William’s hair loss, and delighted when, at his passing out parade at Sandhurst, William is obliged to salute him.

Harry is not the first royal to air the family’s dirty linen in public, said The Observer. When he was a child, his parents gave tit-for-tat TV interviews after the tabloids published lurid stories about their failed marriage. Now, we are seeing the full effects on the prince of “that complex trauma”.

Having felt silenced for years, he “appears to have become besotted by truth-telling”. His account of the row in which William shoved him, breaking his necklace, was headline-grabbing; but more shocking still was his decision to publicise the grim details of his first sexual experience (behind a pub, with an older woman who treated him like a “young stallion”), and the tally of lives taken in Afghanistan. He says he killed 25 Taliban militants, whom he regarded as “pieces on a chessboard”. That last pronouncement was particularly ill-advised, said The Sun. At one stroke, Harry alienated many of his fellow Army veterans, and increased the security risk to himself and his family.

Reading Spare, you do wonder if Harry thought to run it past a friend, said Janice Turner in The Times – or anyone who had no financial interest in it. They might have warned him that talking coldly about killing people of colour could play badly with his liberal-minded admirers in the US. And that even if he doesn’t mind the world knowing about his “todger”, he shouldn’t breach William’s privacy by revealing that they are both circumcised.

Alas, Harry has no self-awareness, said Jennie Bond in The i Paper. He accuses the Palace of failing to defend his wife from media attacks, and yes, perhaps it should have done more. But when his interview with Oprah Winfrey set off a hunt for racists in the royal family two years ago, he let his relatives hang out to dry: only now has he clarified that neither he nor Meghan had ever thought the family was racist, only perhaps guilty of “unconscious bias”. 

The overall impression is of a man who feels perpetually sinned against, said Camilla Tominey in The Daily Telegraph. He even blames William for his decision, aged 20, to wear a Nazi uniform to a party. Still, Harry is right about one thing, and that is the viciousness of our media landscape, said Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. Against his father’s advice, he bravely took on the tabloids, by launching a series of lawsuits against them, and they’ve retaliated with a torrent of bile.

He claims that his family has conspired in this, said Sean O’Grady in The Independent, and uses that to justify spilling their secrets. It’s hard to know if that is true: leaks may come from gossipy courtiers, not individual royals. But either way, his book makes one thing clear, said Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. As a traumatised child, Harry was badly let down by his family, and by a rigid and unfeeling institution. This isolated, damaged man should have had help a long time ago.



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