Book Review: ‘Spare’ by Prince Harry

Prince Harry’s Spare caused an expected uproar when it was released. Now that some time has passed, it’s worth looking at again and considering what it actually is underneath all of the buzz. There has been so much discourse around this man and his family. He has evidently been on a quest to tell his own story, on his own terms. It makes sense since the tabloids are intent on trying to tell his story for him. As a whole, this memoir provides interesting insight into the mind of a man who’s been raised in the spotlight. 

Let’s get a few things out of the way before we talk about Spare. First, this review will not address anything related to Meghan Markle, except to examine the fact that she was clearly so incredibly under-prepared for the firestorm that engulfed her once she became a member of the British royal family. There will be no tolerance for any form of racism, which has surrounded any discussion of her and her family. It’s also important to note that this writer, as a Canadian citizen, is a firm anti-monarchist. Any conversation regarding the British royal family is had through this lens. 

Spare is written pretty in a fairly accessible style. The chapters are short anecdotes. Harry makes no attempt to presume the thoughts or feelings of others. He also notes that his memory is fallible, and makes no claim that his recollection of events is the definitive perspective. Instead, he has clearly spent a lot of time getting in touch with his emotions, since this is what he speaks to when recounting events from his life. While his thoughts on certain events may be flawed, he only ever presents his perspective as his own. 

It’s clear from the way that the book is written that this is a man who is fairly insecure about being perceived as unintelligent. This makes sense since Harry mentions several times throughout the book that he resents being referred to by the press as “Prince Thicko.” At times, the language is a bit too flowery and reads as someone who is so desperate to be seen as not smart. It’s clear that Harry isn’t the dumbest person alive, despite what the tabloids would have had people believe. On the other hand, not everyone has to be super smart, however. It’s okay to speak in a language with which one is comfortable. 

Throughout his memoir, Harry does this thing where he acts as if he is the first person to discover systemic societal issues. Did you know war is bad? Racism? If you’re just hearing about these things now…that says a lot. It’s certainly a testament to the bubble that Harry was raised in, and arguably still continues to inhabit. 

On this note, there’s an expected lack of self-reflection on a lot of the people around him. Specifically, when he talks about his great-grandmother, it’s clear that he sees her as a nice old lady. There’s no commentary on the horrific things she said throughout her life. Harry also makes clear several times throughout Spare that he ultimately wholeheartedly supports the monarchy, and sees them as a force for good. Millions of colonized people around the world would like several words. 

Harry’s comments on his own military service are troubling, to say the least. However, it has to be said that so much of the tabloid pearl-clutching was at least over-blown. Harry says it himself, what did everyone imagine he was actually doing in Afghanistan? Whether or not you agree with the war (and there is plenty to criticize), this is the reality. It’s a tragic commentary on our society that soldiers are trained to dehumanize anyone who might oppose them. 

Harry’s personal vendetta against the media is understandable, if not entirely justified. Of course, he would want to hold people to account who spread blatant falsehoods about himself and his family. He obviously wanted to combat every single untruth that was ever printed. The reality is though, that by doing so, this would have fuelled the rumour mill even more. There will always be consumers ready to believe literally every lie they are presented with. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay for the tabloid media to operate as they do. The sad fact is that pushing back against every single lie in real-time is an ineffective way to tackle this bloated beast of a system. 

Additionally, it’s frankly bizarre that the “Spare” to the British monarchy is at all interested in Rupert Murdoch’s media monopoly, and how it impacts our democracy. The fact that this is deeply dysfunctional dynamic has real-world consequences for the purportedly democratic world isn’t in dispute. What is curious is why someone who is not only a part of the monarchy, but a vocal supporter of it, cares at all. From his memoir here, it’s clear he has more reading to do on the subject before having an informed opinion. 

Finally, it’s true that his relationship with Meghan Markle is incredibly sweet. For those who said that they clearly lied about being married before their televised ceremony, Harry does reference this. Beyond this, Harry bears at least some of the responsibility for woefully underpreparing Meghan for the storm that is the British tabloid press. His anecdotes about his relationship are sweet, but they’re also the kind of stories couples tell literally everyone else, thinking that their relationship is the centre of the universe. Finally, the anecdote about a certain body part should serve as definitive proof that Meghan was in no way involved in the writing of this memoir. 

The most sympathetic part of Harry’s story is his experience of grief after losing his mother. It’s evidently taken him many years to get in touch with those emotions. One can’t help but feel for him immensely, particularly since he was never given a venue to process this loss. Diana was so loved by the public. Harry provides insight into what her loss meant for him as a son. Although so many thought they knew her, obviously very few actually did. 

Spare is an imperfect look at an imperfect human being. Harry never claims to be what he isn’t, and he deserves credit for that. Unfortunately, his blind spots and lack of insight hinder him from fully doing the work to confront and correct his own biases. This isn’t work with an endpoint. Instead, it’s a lifelong process to commit to doing better. Hopefully, Harry will get there one day. 

Spare is available now. 

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