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Prince Harry's revelation opens up old wounds in the British royal family

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A version of that story appeared in the Dec. 10 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch that brings you the inside scoop on the British royal family. Sign here.
Prince Harry’s memoirs have officially arrived in bookstores in the UK and around the world. Here in London, several retail chains opened their doors at midnight to allow eager readers to grab their copies before sunrise.

There have been plenty of leak revelations in the run-up to last week’s chaotic “Spare” release, but the sensational and sometimes inflammatory headlines lack the context of the full book. What is clear now is Harry’s years-long frustration with playing second fiddle to his brother. Memoirs of him reveal the full extent of his desperation in playing the royal replacement for William and his treatment by certain family members and the institution at large.

Harry’s version of events is a revealing revelation of a real experience that might be perceived externally as luxurious and privileged, but for him it was also traumatic and heartbreaking. Publisher Penguin Random House had promised “raw, unflinching honesty”. There certainly was that and more.

The Duke of Sussex holds almost nothing holds back as he dismantles the public’s perception of him as the fun-loving, carefree party prince, delving into the devastating impact of his mother’s death, experimenting with drugs as a method of coping with grief, and his struggles to find love.

It is at points scathing and hypercritical of several family members, who are not defending themselves because the palace is not responding to the claims, and it reveals deeply personal conversations, despite Harry’s earlier criticisms of the media for invasions of privacy.

The royal establishment may be internally horrified by Harry’s decision to expose the family’s dirty laundry to the world, but externally there has been a wall of silence, with Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace repeatedly refusing to comment.
The 410-page tome isn’t just scandalous bombshells about toxic family dynamics, however. Princess Diana is a looming presence throughout the book—what would she have thought, how might she have handled a situation, or the repercussions of her death on the boys.
A selection of the front pages of various UK national daily newspapers on January 6th.

A selection of the front pages of various UK national daily newspapers on January 6th. Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Another theme is the lifelong sibling rivalry between Harry and William and how their positions as “heir” and “spare” have driven them apart. Parts of the book feel like a jab at William, but Harry has stated that this is not his intention. He seems to be trying to show that his brother is partly the product of a dysfunctional institution, where distrust and competition have been built into the culture. He recounts instances where things got heated – both verbally and physically – but he also comes to his brother’s defense.

Harry remembers how the “newspapers were full of stories about Willy being lazy”, which he characterizes as “obscene” and “grossly unfair”. William was not only “busy with having children and raising a family”, Harry writes, but “he was still indebted to Pa (as King Charles is referred to throughout the book)”.

“He did as much as Dad wanted him to, and sometimes it wasn’t as much because Dad and Camilla didn’t want Willy and Kate to get too much publicity,” adds Harry. “Dad and Camilla didn’t like Willy and Kate taking attention away from them or their causes. They had openly berated Willy about it many times.”

The Duke of Sussex’s hatred of the sensationalist press is also present throughout the book. He often details the invasive methods used by the paparazzi before dramatically claiming that some of the “companies” have provided negative stories to the media in efforts to cajole journalists into their own favorable coverage. He specifically names his stepmother Camilla as one of the people he believed was involved in such practices.

CNN Correspondent Looks at Prince Harry’s Latest Accusation

Some commentators are picking up on some notable omissions from the book, particularly the furor that erupted after Harry and Meghan told Oprah there was “concern” within the family over the color of their son Archie’s skin.

When asked by Anderson Cooper why he was not mentioned in the book, Harry said the comments were misinterpreted by the British media. “None of us believed that that comment or that experience or that opinion was based on racism. Unconscious prejudice, yes,” replied the prince. “The keyword was ‘concern’ rather than ‘curiosity.’ But the way the British press, what they made it, was not what it was.” He and Cooper then discussed how he had also said at the time that he would not discuss the matter further and moved on.

Harry may not want to expand on this issue any further, but many observers have criticized the Duke for not clarifying things earlier, especially when he criticized his own family for not correcting inaccurate headlines in the tabloid press.

Some might say they aren’t interested in the British royal family drama or are getting tired of it, but “Spare” shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list upon its release. There was no rush at bookstores Tuesday morning, but retailers told CNN they had stacks of pre-orders ready to ship. As of Tuesday afternoon, its publishers claimed it was the best-selling non-fiction book of all time, with 400,000 copies sold in hardcover, e-book and audio formats, Britain’s PA Media reported.

“We always knew this book would fly by, but it’s surpassing even our most optimistic expectations,” said Larry Finlay, managing director of Transworld Penguin Random House.

One thing is for sure: the Sussexes are becoming increasingly divisive characters and each new release or interview has bolstered supporters and critics alike.

Generally speaking, here in the UK, there has been some incredulity about Harry’s stated desire to mend fences and that “nothing I’ve written, everything I’ve included is intended to harm my family”, as he told Cooper in a pre-launch interview, while releasing a book that criticizes them and casts the monarchy in an unflattering light.

A majority of Britons polled by Savanta on the eve of the book’s launch did not trust Harry to give an accurate description of their experience in the royal family – 53% said they did not trust Harry to do this in his book, while 39% said they did. in him.

Younger people (aged 18 to 34), those who said they voted for Labour, the opposition liberal party, in the last election, and those who described themselves as republicans rather than monarchists were more likely to say they trusted Harry.

2005 archive photograph of then-Prince Charles posing with his sons Princes William and Harry during a ski break in Switzerland.

2005 archive photograph of then-Prince Charles posing with his sons Princes William and Harry during a ski break in Switzerland. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

CNN’s royal historian Kate Williams says Harry’s account tarnishes the monarchy and raises questions about its structure.

“Although he says he supports the monarchy, he blames it for a lot of what went wrong,” she says. “We have a situation where one child gets everything and all the attention and the next child gets none. “

The family divide also threatens to overshadow the biggest royal event of the year: the coronation of King Charles III in May. In an interview promoting his book, Harry was non-committal about whether he and Meghan would attend.

Event planning should be well underway, with the big day fast approaching. It would go against the spirit of the occasion to exclude anyone, especially family members – be it the Sussexes or Prince Andrew, who was forced to step down from royal duties amid a sexual abuse scandal last year.

“It would help Charles a lot image-wise if Harry and Meghan were there,” says Williams. “It will be particularly bad for him if his son isn’t there because, of course, Harry is still very high in the line of succession to the throne, as are his children.”

She adds that “Charles wishes he was there, and Charles wishes Meghan was there” and recalls that many were thrilled to see the couple return for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last summer.

The Sussexes during the Queen's late Platinum Jubilee celebrations last June.

The Sussexes during the Queen’s late Platinum Jubilee celebrations last June. Credit: Toby Melville/Pool/Reuters

Nobody from the palace has said that the Sussexes weren’t invited, so it’s assumed they remain on the guest list for now. So it’s up to them to choose to come and celebrate with the new sovereign.

“I miss the UK, I miss my friends,” said Harry on his Netflix show. “I came here [the US] because I was changed. I have changed to the point of overcoming my environment.”

Does that mean he and his family won’t be back in May? Time will tell, but he also mentioned the lack of “the awkward family gatherings when we’re all gathered under one roof at certain times of the year”.

Add to queue: More real reads for your bookshelf

Need more real reveals to add to your reading list? Here are some titles most real reporters have in their home libraries:

To read: “Queen of Our Times: The Life of Queen Elizabeth II” by Robert Hardman (2022)

Hardman, one of Britain’s most acclaimed royal biographers, distills the Queen’s life into a study of dynastic survival and renewal as she guided the monarchy into the modern age.

To read: “The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser, and the Wardrobe” by Angela Kelly (2019)

Kelly worked for the Queen for 25 years, first as Her Majesty’s senior chambermaid, then as her personal adviser. In this book, filled with photographs and charming anecdotes, Elizabeth has given Kelly her blessing to share her bond with the world.

To read: “The Prince of Wales” by Jonathan Dimbleby (1994)

Dimbleby, the veteran British broadcaster and personal friend of Charles, wrote his biography of the future king in the early nineties. It details how Charles was preparing for the role of monarch, his split from Diana and his future vision of the monarchy.

To read: “Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words” by Andrew Morton (1992)

Diana was one of the first members of the family to speak openly about life within the institution. When this biography was first published, it shot to the top of bestseller lists and changed the way the public viewed the British monarchy.

To read: “Princess Margaret: A Life of Contrasts” by Christopher Warwick (2000)

Harry’s book is not the only memoir by a “spare” heir. Princess Margaret, sister of the Queen, was one of the most controversial royal figures of recent times.

To read: “The Final Curtsey: A Royal Memoir by the Queen’s Cousin” by Margaret Rhodes (1994)

In this autobiography, the Queen’s cousin details her life in the Scottish aristocracy. Born in a Downton Abbey-style house, Rhodes later served as the Queen Mother’s lady-in-waiting and was at her bedside when she died.

CNN style culture queue is an ongoing series of recommendations for timely books to read, movies to watch, and podcasts and music to listen to. Check it out here.

Watch: Anderson Cooper reflects on his interview with Prince Harry

Anderson Cooper joined “CNN This Morning” to talk about his one-on-one with Prince Harry for “60 Minutes,” in which Harry details coping with the loss of his mother, Princess Diana. Take a look:

Anderson Cooper reflects on his interview with Prince Harry