A version of this story appeared in the October 28 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
There has been no official statement from either of the palaces about Prince Harry’s upcoming memoir and we don’t expect one, but we can safely assume it’s the source of plenty of chatter behind palace walls – and a certain degree of dread about its contents.
That dread would have been compounded Thursday when the publishers dropped the book cover revealing a raw, untouched close-up of Harry’s face accompanied simply with his name and the title “Spare.”
It is a clear reference to a nickname the duke lived with while he was growing up. He was the “spare heir,” the second child of royal parents, with a duty to step in for his elder brother but unlikely to ever take the throne. Other “spares,” whose place in the line of succession slipped further following subsequent royal births, include the Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret, and Prince Andrew.
If there was any doubt that this book would look back rather than forward and risk exposing royal life, it evaporated with the accompanying press release that read: “With its raw, unflinching honesty, SPARE is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.”
The word “revelation” will be ringing in royal ears, as will the fact it goes right back to the most sensitive time in modern monarchy – the death of Harry’s mother, Diana – when there was a fierce public backlash at the way the family responded.
“SPARE takes readers immediately back to one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow—and horror. As Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest, billions wondered what the princes must be thinking and feeling—and how their lives would play out from that point on,” the press release continues.
“For Harry, this is his story at last.”
This book will be the duke’s truth, his perspective, his experiences without a filter. This freedom is something both he and his wife have repeatedly expressed a desire for. Meghan touched upon it in her recent VARIETY interview, saying: “I think feeling understood and seen are really important.”
And many people will want to learn from Harry’s experience. Publisher Penguin Random House suggests it will be an inspirational read rather than a take-down. Chief Executive Markus Dohle said it was a “candid and emotionally powerful story for readers everywhere.”
Prince Harry “shares a remarkably moving personal journey from trauma to healing, one that speaks to the power of love and will inspire and encourage millions of people around the world,” he added.
The question for the wider family is how closely that tallies with their perspectives of shared family history, and how it might affect the institution the new King is trying to build.
Harry never criticized his grandmother when she was on the throne. Are the gloves off now that she has passed? At this point, nobody knows apart from the duke’s inner circle and a handful of publishing heavyweights. No one else, as far as CNN is aware, has had a preview.
Of course, there may be nothing contentious in the book at all. It could be a very focused personal reflection of being the spare heir – a notoriously tricky and undefined royal position that sees a family member’s chances of acceding to the throne diminished, and yet they are still left to face all the intense expectations that come with being a Windsor.
It’s the not-knowing that will be unsettling the palace, which was hoping to focus its efforts on establishing Charles as King and building up to the coronation in May, and instead has a potential bombshell book looming on the horizon. “Spare” hits bookshelves worldwide from January 10, 2023.
NEWS OF THE WEEK
The first image of a British monarch and their new prime minister is always historic. Add to this the fact that King Charles III is only a month into his reign and he’s already receiving PM number 2. And then remember that Rishi Sunak is the UK’s first prime minister of color. It all adds up to a lot of symbolism in a single photograph that has struck a chord with some here.
The image speaks to what the King wants to achieve with his reign – ensuring that he is representative of the nation today regardless of background or belief, as he vowed in his first address.
Journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera never thought he would see a British prime minister of Asian descent. “When I grew up, Brown people weren’t even allowed to become teachers in Wolverhampton. There were protests,” Sanghera told CNN. “That’s the environment that Rishi Sunak’s parents and my parents arrived in. To go from that to a Brown prime minister is a massive, massive thing. There’s been a huge change in attitudes in British society. It’s amazing.”
His best-selling book “Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain” urges Britain to confront its colonial history, which continues to reverberate through contemporary British society. Sanghera said seeing the image of the King with Sunak felt “quite natural” despite being unprecedented. “Charles has a really long history of interfaith, interracial community relations. He’s done loads of really good work in bringing communities together,” he said. But, the writer says, that doesn’t mean Charles doesn’t have some work to do, adding that he hopes the King will use his role as head of state “to bring people together.”
He points to next year’s coronation as an opportunity to talk about one divisive subject: the Koh-i-noor diamond – a precious stone unearthed in central southern India before ending up in British hands in 1849. “That’s the perfect opportunity to talk about the legacies of colonialism, which is what the world wants to talk about. India wants to talk about it. But we just have our heads in the sand.”
So while Sanghera feels the moment between Charles and Sunak was “inspiring,” he hopes it will be a springboard for a broader conversation on imperialism which “is not going away – it just gets louder and louder.”
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
The first pressed King Charles III portrait 50-pence coins in circulation at The Royal Mint Ltd. in Pontyclun, UK, on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. Coins featuring King Charles III are set to enter use before Christmas in the UK, where they’ll circulate alongside existing ones depicting Queen Elizabeth II.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Anne shocked by tragic fire at school she was set to visit.
The Princess Royal was left “shocked” by a fire at a school for visually impaired children in Uganda days before she was set to visit. Anne has been in the country on a four-day visit this week and had been due to visit the Salama School for the Blind in Mukono District as part of her role as patron of the charity, Sense International. A fire broke out in the early hours of Tuesday, killing 11 pupils, the charity said on Twitter. “I was shocked to hear the news of the tragic loss of life,” Princess Anne said in a statement. “The work of Sense International across many countries is hugely appreciated, working with such a vulnerable group of children. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and staff.”
First birthday cards from King and Camilla set to arrive.
The first birthday cards from the King and the Queen Consort have been delivered to hundreds of people celebrating their 100th and 105th birthdays, according to the website of the British monarchy. Several WWII veterans were among the recipients of the new cards. The move continues the well-known tradition started by King George V in 1917 of paying tribute to individuals on their milestone birthdays. During Elizabeth II’s reign, around 1.3 million cards were sent to mark birthdays and anniversaries across the UK, realms and British overseas territories. The new cards feature a photograph of the King and the Queen Consort taken in the summer of 2018.
Princess of Wales becomes patron of polar expedition.
Catherine, Princess of Wales, has become patron of a British Army officer’s expedition which hopes to make her the first woman to cross Antarctica solo. Kate’s royal backing of Captain Preet Chandi’s journey across Antarctica, which is set to travel more than 1,000 miles in November, is the latest in the royal family’s long history of supporting polar expeditions. “My aim for this expedition has always been to inspire people to push their boundaries. I want to bring people on this journey with me, to help them believe that nothing is impossible,” Chandi said in a statement released through Kensington Palace. “It is an absolute privilege to have the Princess of Wales as the Patron,” she added. Chandi became the first woman of color to reach the South Pole solo in January 2021. The custom of royal patronage of daring feats of travel began in 1901, when Edward VII sponsored Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery expedition – the first official exploration of the Antarctic.
DID YOU KNOW?
Over the years, the British public came to know and love many of the Queen’s quirks: her corgis, her wave, her hats. But it was only as the nation gathered for her funeral that they witnessed one of the lesser-known fixtures of her life: her piper.
The Piper to the Sovereign was a role established by Queen Victoria, after she and her husband became enamored by the sound of bagpipes on a trip to Scotland. Elizabeth II continued the tradition, being woken each morning by the piper beneath her window.
And this week we got our first glimpse of him since the Queen’s funeral – with Pipe Major Paul Burns playing on the grounds of Clarence House for the first time since Charles became King. Read the full story here.
The new monarch’s appearance on British restoration program “The Repair Shop” was broadcast in the UK this week. The special episode was filmed back in September 2021 and in March, when Charles was still Prince of Wales. The show saw the royal ask the specialist team to restore a Wemyss Ware ceramic made for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee that had seen better days and an 18th bracket clock that had been hastily repaired in the past and lost its chime.
Charles warmly welcomed the craftspeople to Dumfries House, his stately home near Glasgow in Scotland, where he was able to showcase some of the education programs set up on the vast estate as part of his Prince’s Foundation. He spoke at length to host Jay Blades about the importance of maintaining heritage craft expertise, the value of apprenticeships and how lives can be changed when you support people through technical skills training.
Back in 2018, we were invited to the property as Charles used his milestone 70th birthday to highlight his work and passions. Take a look here.