Brother, Can You ‘Spare’: Prince Harry and his dumb, selfish memoirs

prince harry

On the evening before the long-awaited publication of his memoirs, Spare, Prince Harry – a royal title he wants to keep, but only if he gets his own way by whining through the process – drank tequila shots with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show and got mocked by his host for the privilege. The mocking made sense, as everything that Harry has been since his marriage to Meghan Markle has been worth its poking of fun. But the talk of drinking seemed cavaliere and weird, another awkward show of wanting to seem deeply human while desperately clinging to regal lineage.

“I was royal, and in their minds royal was synonymous with non-person,” writes Prince Harry in Shakespearean tones of the paparazzi and press who long hounded his family and tore down his mother, Princess Diana, until her untimely passing. “Centuries ago, royal men and women were considered divine; now they were insects. What fun, to pluck their wings.”

Faux Shakespeare verse. Shows of military might. The spectacular theater of royalty – and the royalty of spectacle – for the better and worst (“Being royal, it turned out, wasn’t all that far from being on stage” wrote Harry about his time at Eton and being cast in a school production of Much Ado About Nothing). The desire to be seen like a real boy while remaining wooden. All of this is stuffed within the pages of Prince Harry’s Spare and its pleas to tear down the Queen and lift up his own frail, so-called humanity, all while maintaining celebrity status of Netflix employment, private planes and friendship with Oprah Winfrey.

Harry may be a spare and proud, but have no doubt: he’ll always be treated differently than most. Which in Hollywood terms, isn’t necessarily bad. If one works hard for labor’s fruits, the deserve to get paid and benefit from whatever they choose as its spoils.

That Harry was handed this right – a role he swears he’d trade for more humanity – by some Monty Python-esque declaration is the probably the dichotomy that people hold as problematic; the “divine right” of “exploitin’ the workers — by ‘angin’ on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic an’ social differences in our society…. Where strange women lying in ponds distributing swords… in some farcical aquatic ceremony.”

To be more Python-succinct, “if I went around sayin’ I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!”

My view of royalty is not that of divine rights or better-thans, and was formed by my year of living in London. To the Britons around me, Queen Elizabeth was as much “Lizzie” as she was their sovereign, a “good old girl” who had her people in her sights and in her heart in something of a shared experience. I’m not saying that the Queen was running down the high street drinking in pubs or kneeing soccer balls, but Elizabeth was as real as she was regal. Or in Downton Abbey terms, hers was a life “of benefits and burdens.”
The Prince Harry of Spare doesn’t seem to have benefitted from that duality or suffered really that much from its burdens, despite wanting to be viewed as a regular Joe. Instead, Harry dwells on something he cannot change – being the brother who isn’t, and can’t be, deigned as the next in line to be king. Harry is torn down by William at every regular brotherly turn with every normal sibling tease being a withering wound to be his robin’s breast. The littlest details and minor hurts become the biggest moments in Harry’s memoir – one that the BBC called “the weirdest book ever written by a royal… part-confession, part-rant and part-love letter” and feeling like “the longest angry drunk text ever sent.”

And to this long text’s lifetime of so-called trauma from his family and from the press, Harry is in a needy, eternal spiral of healing. And with that healing, he’s brutishly and brat-ily striking out against everyone who ever came in contact with him. Pouring out his emotions and hurt feeling like water in a broken fishbowl, Spare is one long, silly therapy session without being willing to assume blame or truly remove himself from the high horse of celebrity. Harry is eating his cake and making the royalty choke on its crumbs.

There is also a slew of goofy stories in Spare that keep the narrative fun – a frost bitten penis and its specially sewn pillow, the loss of his virginity behind a pub, his love of Friends and his identifying with Chandler, a surprising number of psychedelic drugs and self-medicating himself from panic attacks with mushrooms.

There are also betrayals in Spare that go far beyond Harry dissing the truly Royal We for their so-called tear downs of their daughter-in law – supposed insults that have never truly been given opportunities to be commented upon by Princes Charles or William. One of the greatest betrayals comes at the expense of his comrades in the British Army and the breaching of its unwritten code: soldiers do not count the notches on their rifles in fear of putting the Army and the Royal Family in danger. And yet, Harry crows about his kills – 25 Taliban fighters – in what is a dose of macho braggadocio and a child’s need to exonerate himself from his crimes while creating a healing psychic salve for no one but himself.

With that, Spare is simply a look at how a man bathed in privilege in every way, in the past and the present, deals with his own selfish aims.
    • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

      A.D. Amorosi is an award-winning journalist who, along with working for the Philadelphia Weekly, writes regularly for Variety, Jazz Times, Flood and Wax Poetics, and hosts and co-produces his own SoundCloud-charting radio show, Theater in the Round for Pacifica National Public Radio station WPPM 106.5 FM and

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