Whew chile!!! If this book wasn’t one of the most anticipated releases for 2023, and I fell into the excitement and pre-ordered this back in the fall! By the time it was eventually released, I would be lying if I didn’t ask myself if I still wanted to read it…So, let me tell you, I put the other books down in order to read this one, this week on the blog, I share my thoughts on Prince Harry’s autobiography, “Spare”.
Queen Elizabeth II
King Charles III
We all know by now, just the announcement of this book caused waves, written from his very own perspective and as he states himself, his own memories, which he accepts can be one sided or through his own perspective, but that’s what an autobiography is isn’t it? Prince Harry, speaks of his life growing up as a one of the oldest monarchies, his struggles being the “spare”, his turmoil with the British press and his struggle with dealing with the untimely death of his beloved mother at such a young age. This book is groundbreaking for so many reasons, as it offers insight on a family which has always endeavoured to keep themselves at a distance and to keep tightlipped about any of their personal lives, Harry blows that all WIDE open!
Everything I’d been taught, everything is grown up believing about the family, and about the monarchy, about its essential fairness, it’s job of uniting rather than dividing, was being undermined, called into question. Was it all fake? Was it all just a show? Because if we couldn’t stand up for one another, rally around our newest member, our first biracial member, then what were we really? Was that the constitutional monarchy? Was that a real family? Isn’t “defending each other” the first rule of every family?
Break It Down:
LISTEN!!! While some people hopped real quick to give this a review, I have to admit that I needed this to marinate a bit longer for me! I have always been interested and interigued by the royal family, not necessarily fan girling, but definitely their role in history and their relevance to this day. That being said, my mother was a huge Princess Diana fan and I can remember where I was when I learned of her death and our household coming to a stop to watch her funeral on tv. I would be lying if I said there was 0 royal influence in our house. One of the 1st souvenirs I bought for my mom when I visited England was a tea towel and a William and Kate momento. But this book, broke me open, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling I had while reading this book, was sadness. I felt like Harry has felt some if not all of the emotions we all go through, but on a more magnified scale. His family’s inability to show and express emotions is what struck me as the most heartbreaking. He recounts his choppy memory of when his father broke him the news that his mother had in fact been in an accident and she didn’t make it. The fact that his father came to break the news, but never held him, never left space to discuss or simply- to console his 11 year old son whose life has been shattered. I was never team Charles, but yikes- I’m not sure that gave him any positives on my side. The fact that this is a family full of resources and connections and in many ways so many privileges available to them and the one they seem to lack is that of compassion and genuinely love for each other, is also sad. Harry writes about wanting to simply have a hug from his father or grandmother, for them to show affection or express it and it simply wasn’t something they did. Ever.
I also found it interesting that so much drama and focus was spent on Meghan and in some ways we expected this poor woman to come and dismantle a system/structure and family/institution who are and have always been beyond resistant to change, let alone have dialogue. What I find funny is that the rupture came from the inside, from one of their very own and in NO WAY, can we discount Harry’s experience because he almost couldn’t be any closer to the crown if he tried. It’s almost as if they didn’t see or can’t see the damage they cause and unfortunately saw Meghan as the threat to their institution and not Harry. Blindsided, is the word that comes to mind, but I am also greedily eating it all up. I do think that it’s unfortunate that Meghan bore the brunt of the negative visceral, the level of hate and in my opinion anger towards a couple who simply wanted to live their lives without being chased or harrassed on the back of one member having residual trauma from that, I don’t think is too much to ask. For the people who are upset at they decision to leave, their decision to be public about why and then the same people who are confused as to why they would want this is head scratching, as if we can’t see for ourselves quite clearly why they would want a sort of emancipation. We wouldn’t stay amongst toxic members of our family, what makes them different?
I couldn’t help but smile wholeheartedly when the book finally got to the section about Harry & Meghan, not only because I really do like them as a couple, but also because I would love for someone to speak about me the way he worded how his emotions overtook him when he 1st saw Meghan. Through the book, you can tell just how much he truly loves her and if there is anything we can take away from the book, is the fact that his core, he really just loves his wife and family.
This isn’t a criticism of the book itself, but I felt bad for his family and how they would react to its publishing; knowing how private they are and how they are almost indoctrinated to believe the royal institution must remain in tack, this book could not have gone down very well. So I felt like this book was the definate rupturing of a family and in truth, no one wants to see that… On another note, the one negative I have to say I found was the fact that it lacked a general “flow” and some stories or recollections appear to be super short and almost a little bit random, but the same time- it’s not a work of fiction and I could almost feel like the memories flowed and hit Prince Harry sporadically and this is how he wrote it, which I don’t entirely hate. I think it should also be mentioned that Harry himself comes from a place of privilege and he has stated that he is working on his unconscious biases and will make mistakes, but sometimes throughout the book, I can heat the criticism of him sounding like a spoilt child and we can’t deny that he is on some level, we also cannot separate the fact that he was born into this institution and they created the dynamic for him and his brother to be completely co-dependant on “the institution”. So, can he be entirely blamed for it? Probably not, does it come across like a 1st world problem when he’s writing it? Yes.
Book Club Questions
Q: Let’s talk about the significance of Harry choosing ‘Spare’ as the title.
A: I think the title is actually a stroke of genius, not only was it the callous name his dad called him mere hours after he was born, but it’s almost an interesting dig at his birth order, what that means in terms of how he was/is treated by his family. It’s almost a way for him to kind of reclaim the name/title and step out of the shadow of the spare. It’s a great title.
Q: Did Harry do enough preparation to help Meghan adjust to royal life or do you think he should have done more?
A: I don’t think he did enough, but maybe that’s a part to do with his “ignorance” and privilege as well, the assumption that people just knew. But he also stated that he was enamoured by the fact that Meghan wasn’t aware of all of the pomp and circumstance and it made her much more genuine in some way. I do believe that in certain cases, he probably should have prepared her more because this might have spared her some of the push back or negative commentary. For example the fact that in North America, we can be touchy feely and give hugs, if you know that your family are very distant when it comes to physical touch, it would have been best to pass this on, because it didn’t go down well. Personally, I can relate to this so much, I lived in the UK for 8 years, and I was so used to hugging and double kissing people ( it’s what we do in MTL ), but I was never aware at the visceral reaction I would get by merely attempting to greet Brits in this manner, it didn’t go down well and I quickly stopped.
Q: While the press hoped that Harry, Meghan, William and Kate would become the “Fab Four,” reality was quite different. What was behind all the tension between the two couples?
A: No one can truly know what the root cause of the tension was, but from the outside it looks nothing more than jealousy and completion. I feel like Kate couldn’t relate to Meghan and in some ways maybe found her ease and confidence threatening. Again, being the future queen, there are many things Kate is simply not allowed to do; be it fashion choices or even simply speeches and charity work, so in some ways seeing what you are not allowed to do reflected right in front of you can be frustrating. Similar to the Willam vs Harry’s beard story, we also can’t discount the fact that Kate is William’s wife and will have residual feelings about it all due to her husband.
Q: Harry does not hide his disdain for Camilla. He suspects that she is the big leaker to the media. Let’s discuss his complicated relationship with her.
A: This sort of surprised me, but in some ways he doesn’t owe Camilla anything and I don’t blame him at all. I think we are all aware and Harry more so, of the impact Camilla’s presence has had on Charles and Diana’s marriage, and Harry himself states that William and him simply wanted their father to be happy. But, I feel like Camilla never attempted to try to build bridges with them and if she is in fact the one who amped up the press manipulation and leaking of stories, then I can definately see why he would be upset. If you and your wife are mentally tormented by the impact of fake stories about you and it’s coming from your step mother, wouldn’t you be pissed too?
Q: Was leaving behind the royal family the right move for Harry and Meghan?
A: I 100% believe they needed to leave, if for them this was the only path they say to mental and emotional freedom, then so be it. Who are we say any differently, we do not and have not lived their lives. But, judging by the level of toxicity from the British press ( trust me, I lived in the UK at the time and it was vile ) and from his family, I can’t blame Harry for leaving, they certainly didn’t make it any easier to stay…
Q: Did reading Spare change your opinion about Harry, Meghan, and the royal family?
A: None at all, I was always Team Harry/Meghan and that was before they became a couple, so you can only imagine my excitement when they did. I think if anything I felt extremely sad and heartbroken for them, that they felt they had no other way than to attempt to shake up the monarch in order for them to see some of the damage they are causing. It’s a shame that they are being seen as the villains when in fact we have proof of the calculating and damaging effect the institution can have on people. Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, Prince Edward…the list goes on.
Would I Recommend?
Yes! It’s hard to pick this book up and not in some small way, be influenced by the media or the narrative which surround Harry and his wife. So while it’s 100% impossible to give any commentary without being immensely biased, but by the time I got to page 50, I knew how I felt. If you have always been interested in the inner workings of all things royal, it’s defiantly worth a read.