Reflections on what Prince Harry shared in the final stretch of his memoir, as well as the complicated, competing feelings I have after reading it.
I think one thing many in the press are intentionally ignoring is Harry’s clear death wish/death drive. From childhood the reckless play, the desperation to go war and be in the thick of it, having no fear of death since 12 and then meeting Meghan and realising he wants to live. It upends the persistent narrative that all was fine and dandy until Meghan the witch came along. We almost lost him! He says it to bryony gordon. We all could’ve lost Harry while people were treating him like a jester. I love that he found Meghan and wants to live and feels he has things and people to live for. And it fills me with pure rage that people would take that away from him or wish him to lose it, to lose her, just because they have an irrational hatred of her. It’s like because they hate her, they believe he is not allowed to love her. And not only not allowed but he must not actually be in love with her but under her spell. I’m glad he’s fighting for their relationship.
I listened to the book while on vacation. As a Canadian and one who lives about 20 minutes from where H&M came to on Vancouver island (which by the way is not at all a remote island) I have some complicated feelings. Lots of people knew they were here. A friend ran into Meghan hiking with Archie, I saw H at the airport. And I remember a lot of griping because the Canadian government was paying for their security while they were here. This wasn’t discussed in the book.
I’m so glad they have each other and a new life. I do think it’s time to rethink the whole constitutional monarchy. I don’t like that my country is headed by someone in another land, even if the king has no direct involvement in our government. I know I’m not alone. I also think that though harry says he wants to reconcile with his family, this feels so remarkably unlikely. But I think any therapist willing to take that lot on better come equipped with plenty of skills. They seem like a nest of vipers.
Will and Kate have come off a bit of a pedestal for me and I feel cringy even following their fashion. It’s been a big rethink for me!
So beautifully summarized, as usual, Elizabeth.
I’ve been thinking about the difference between how Harry prepped Meghan for meeting his father vs how he didn’t prepare her for situations. I think it speaks to his disconnect around the importance fashion (& in general) - plays for royal women. When she was meeting his father, that was meeting his FATHER, just like when the rest of us meet the future in laws for the first time. So he was more attentive to that (tho I agree with you, his fashion tips were eww but I mean at least he was trying to set her up for success? But still, double eww). But there seemed to be a disconnect for him when it was meeting the public. To us, it seems odd given that his mother was one of the most exalted fashion icons in the world, but he was NEVER thinking about clothes. They even highlight that in the doc when, for their first public appearance after the engagement was announced, she was running around pulling tags off clothes & he was oblivious.
There were so many things that he seemed sort of not aware of in royal life - maybe bc he was busy trying to survive as a young boy/man in deep trauma & certain things like women’s fashion were not important to him; he really didn’t prep her, bc he simply wasn’t aware. I mean I am STILL reeling over the fact that he didn’t know the story of Aunt Margo! Come on, Harold! lol
I’m also still stuck on when William said, "it’s not what's done here in Britain" to Meghan. Whew...that felt SO emotionally loaded. You're not one of us. You'll never be one of us. Othering her. So dismissive. So condescending, patronizing & arrogant. If I close my eyes & play that scene out in my head, it is really infuriating. He is really trying to put her in her place. If that really was his vibe, then I think it speaks volumes. That is not demeanor of someone trying to help someone acclimate to an entirely new *realm*. I mean, also, who SAYS that, in these 2020’s? “That’s not what’s done here in Britain”. It just sounds so ridiculous on one hand; is he speaking for ALL of Britain? It’s just so arrogant & entitled & gross.
The other thing that I’ve been sitting with (you're’ rubbing off on me, EH. I actually used that phrase on a Zoom call recently! I sounded so smart! lol) is, if Kate had all of these issues with Meghan, why did they need to have a summit with their husbands? Why couldn't Kate just call her up & sort it out directly, woman to woman? Why did Kate need to have William speak on her behalf? Again, we only have Harry’s version of all of this, but that scene with Kate gripping her armrest & while William is defending her. Ugh.
There was just something about that whole scenario that left such a bad taste in my mouth. When Kate said, “You hurt my feelings'”, I thought, why didn’t she have that conversation directly & privately with Meghan. Why did she need to do it with backup…esp given the tension btw the brothers…which would only exacerbate the situation. It felt like a bullying tactic. And again, I am someone who has long been a fan of Kate’s (my profile photo is literally a photo I took of K&W when I traveled from CA to NY to see them in person). But - and again, I am going on Harry’s version of the facts, bc that is all that I have - I feel like there is this sort of mean girl, passive aggressive vibe to her that just really bums me out. And I just can’t shake it.
TBH I have real concerns about H&M attending the coronation. I think they will be darned if they do & darned if they don’t. If they go, the narrative will be (it already is), “Aren’t the RF so gracious to invite those ingrates”; if they don’t go, it will be, “Those ingrates, how rude”.
I’ve stayed away from all social media & news about the royals lately (except for this lovely community) so I don’t know what the sentiment is towards them in the UK right now, but if it’s anything like what it’s been like online over the past few months, I’d be concerned for their safety. I keep thinking about that woman, during the walkabout after the Queen died, who physically recoiled & practically sneered at Meghan as she approached her. It’s one thing to post nasty things about someone online; it takes a whole other level of hate to basically come face to face to them on a global stage & behave like that. So I just worry. I really do. I think about how traumatized & anxious Meghan looked throughout the Queen’s funeral week. I don’t think that was just due to the solemnity of the event. I think she was genuinely on edge based on the energy that was being directed toward her by the press, the public & perhaps, the family.
There is a cynical part of me - esp given that the leaks about them being invited to the coronation came out, if I am remembering correctly, on the day part 2 of the doc dropped - thinks the invitation is just a set up; to make the RF look like the “rise above it” gang, when they know full well it puts H&M btw a rock & hard a place, for the reasons I mentioned above. Are we to believe that if they aren't actually speaking to Harry these days, they are truly, sincerely happy to have him attend? As Harry said, they are more interested in how things look than how things really are. My gut says the leaks about the invite is just PR spin.
As for me, a royal watcher/historian/blogger of 45+ years, whose interest started primarily around the HISTORY of it all, which means I’ve never been blind to the many problematic truths around this (and most every) monarchy, I find I am at a crossroads with this family.
With Her Majesty gone (I keep thinking about that amazing post - or was it a story - that Elizabeth did about QEII after her death & how she sort of took on different versions & perceptions of femininity that we were able to project upon, in the end being the grandmotherly figure that made her beloved by all, even anti-royalists) & in a way that made her immune to any criticism. That was such a good piece, EH!) & as I’ve watched the saga of H&M unfold in real time, in the documentary & in SPARE, I find my sentiments towards the Family have changed, bc Harry has done something no one other than his mother has done: given us a glimpse of who they really might be, behind closed palace doors. Again, all I have to go on is what I’ve seen, surmised & then heard, according to Harry & Meghan. I believe every word. I've no reason to doubt him. and nothing the RF has done since, is leading me to think waver in that belief. The fact that they never issued a statement about JC's vile column seemed to just put an exclamation point on the final chapter of SPARE.
And so for me. I’ll be ringing in the reign of King Charles with the same enthusiasm that I fold my laundry.
Well said Elizabeth! The one point I slightly differ from you on (and I say that because I hear your point) is the interactions between Kate and Meghan before the wedding. When someone says something to me that ruffles me or hurts my feelings, I like to recenter myself by reflecting on their intent.
My interpretation of Meghan making a reference to baby brain was her trying to dispel tension from a miscommunication and as an American woman… my girlfriends and I often make baby brain jokes about ourselves and with fellow moms (ugh I’m sorry I completely forgot—baby brain moment!) While I understand why this rubbed Kate the wrong way and it was definitely a culture clash moment, it doesn’t sound like it was said with any malice. Meghan was right to apologize, but also right to ask Kate to tell her herself if she ever hurt her feelings.
The bridesmaids dresses on the other hand… I struggle on finding good intent with that exchange. She has a team of people she could have brought this to help problem solve (including having someone else bring charlotte to the fitting if she hadn’t recovered enough from the birth to go herself). her handling was beyond misreading the room and IMO seriously poor taste. There’s a reason the palace actively avoided correcting that story.
I’ve loved following Kate and her style. I followed her style religiously in college and woke up at an ungodly hour to watch their wedding on the floor of my dorm. I get so excited when I find a dress style she’s worn on the real real or Poshmark. But after reading Spare, I think the shiny veneer of her public persona is starting to feel a little too cool.
I hope in addition to emulating some of the changes to royal wardrobes Meghan spearheaded, Kate also begins to take a more hands on approach to her engagements (and I don’t mean picking up a couple of tins at a food shelter and putting it in a cart) and shares a bit more of her personality (less scripted speaking moments please!) I loved the new approaches to Royal charity work that Meghan did with the cookbook and partnership with Nonoo. I’m sure many fellow Royal fans (including myself) would go bananas over similar projects Kate got involved in
I enjoy reading your thoughts. My thoughts on Spare are straight forward, “It’s Not About Me and What I Think.” Life is messy and complicated, the fact that he could sit with a superb ghost writer and recall moments in such detail is amazing. I have no commentary on how he sees his life, period. I appreciated him sharing it with the world.
As an American who is culturally Black and Ethnically African and Indigenous I am not a fan of imperialism, but I respected the Queen’s personal commitment to what she believed in, yes even though I disagreed with what her.. I know social discourse would have us believe that you can’t disagree without being disagreeable, but you can.
I adored the love story, but I’m a Rom Com fan! I wanted more, I selfishly want him to continue to work with his ghost writer and give us a romance novel series.
I am the founder and CEO of an impact company that will become an official Benefit Corp this year. I believe in being a humanitarian which is why Harry and Meg are my faves.
I think Harry’s comment about an “equal partner” was about his desire to find a good partner, the way Will had, and that they could work together as a foursome. I did not read it that Harry ever hoped to be equal in royal stature to his brother, which he knew was not possible.
I love your thoughts and agree on most points made. Where I PERSONALLY ”disagree” (if you want to call it that) is on the altercation with William. I think this is two brother who have always had their struggles, to most of our surprise, but I have a feeling that they have had many knock down, drag out ‘fights’ through the years, and I have a feeling Harry has been equally ill-tempered through the years. This is pure speculation on my part, but I think that painting a picture of William as ‘Violent’ with only one side of the story is unfair. Just my opinion.
I loved this newsletter from top to bottom, Elizabeth! I especially liked when you delved into the other spares throughout history and the reflection on their relationships with the parent who married in (!) This piece of writing is a credit to SMT, waiting to read the book and the time you took to reflect. I also feel that you had a special and needed perspective as a mom. Your thoughts have felt nuanced, generous and grounding in a sea of emotional and vitriolic commentary.
Great thoughts, Elizabeth, of such a complex book. I too have such conflicting emotions. But one thing that will be incredibly interesting is if Harry does attend the coronation. Somehow it will seems so strange if he does attend (and pledges loyalty to the King?). On the other hand it would be so strange if he doesn’t. How does a son miss such an event? So again I say there’s so many conflicting emotions but I’m so glad we had this glimpse into his life
Your read, insightful and empathic, Elizabeth. You make it clear why this narrative of a life, its despair, and the love that saved Harry and Meghan should be read—even with a story of this sort, fueled by fame and exploitation. Well-done, Elizabeth!
I finally finished the audiobook last night and loved hearing Harry read it. I agree the last section of the book felt rushed and very "let me quickly tell my side of the story about the recent Drama for the record." One part that stuck out to me was William wanting to go to therapy because he thought Harry was being brainwashed. From personal experience this sadly happens when people start to establish boundaries and prioritize their needs - disrupting a toxic family dynamic. Some fun takeaways from the book - Harry is an unapologetic stoner! Also I have a fantasy that when the family repairs it's relationship, the cousins visit Montecito and George goes surfing!
This is just an Elizabeth Holmes appreciation comment - this piece was FANTASTIC. Thank you!
I think you nailed it with your yes... and thoughts. Particularly when it comes to Harry’s continued full support of the monarchy as an institution. I think the “yes and..” vibe across the documentary, his interviews, and the book is precisely what is driving down his and M’s popularity in the polls particularly in America. As Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote in Hamilton “If you stand for nothing what will you fall for?”
Standing for less toxic treatment of those born into a hereditary monarchy by the British tabloid press? You can’t argue with that, seems gross the whole arrangement but .... it isn’t really standing for anything.
I have loved getting to fill my cup of royal wonderings with your thoughtful analysis and reader discussions, thank you! I found myself questioning what would’ve happened if H&M had stayed a little longer as working royals? Because hasn’t it been for some time now that Charles, as Prince, had wanted a slimmed down monarchy when he became King? Even if H&M had stayed on, say maybe moved to Canada and been working royals there without the implosion that occurred, wouldn’t they have been ‘slimmed out’ anyway? Didn’t Charles want to limit the line, wasn’t that something he had been advocating for, for some time? Because we’re seeing that now aren’t we? He wants a more streamlined version of the monarchy - so if Harry and Meghan had been working royals, once Charles took his place as King weren’t they going to be phased out anyway?
Thank you, Elizabeth! Your commentary has really enhanced my whole “Spare” experience. I am the same age that Diana would have been and have a son who is 35, married with two young children. A grown up but not fully mature. I was struck by all of Harry’s stories and how he won’t truly understand his life so far until he has several more years under his belt. I do wish I could give him a big hug! My only big “are you kidding me?” part of their whole story is that Meghan never googled Harry and allegedly didn’t know anything about him even after several dates. The above son could meet someone at Starbucks and in two hours find them on FB and know a lot about them. I followed Meghan on Suits and the Tig way before she met Harry and she is very social media savvy. Thank you again 💖
I'm still reading, so don't have a lot to say just yet. However, Elizabeth reposted her thoughts on the 1st Half of Spare & I just finished writing there...specifically in regard to "Harry's Memory Wall" & "BRF Family Affection".
(I apologize in advance if there's a way I can link it. I'm a tech dingbat.) So if you want to read it, great! If you're exhausted, I totally get it!