January 17, 2023. A bright, sunny day with temps in the low to mid-40s, dropping down into the low 30s by mid-evening. Otherwise dry as a bone; no precipitation, no “snow.” Remember snow? Out west, our friend Paige Peterson staying with her mother on the isle of Belvedere outside San Francisco, called to say that the rain had stopped and the Sun came out yesterday. It sounds like the “storm” is “almost” over. In the meantime many of the local reservoirs which were very very low are filled up to the brim; so that’s the good news.
Me, I’m reading the Prince Harry memoir. It’s real. He’s a compelling character/storyteller. The book was written “with” another man, a writer who did a similarly successful book for Andre Agassi which was very well received.
I had no specific impression of Harry as a person. I’d seen him on the streets of Manhattan and know others who’d run into him and even had a brief conversation with him. The impression he made was always favorable. Friendly, down-to-earth; pleasant and on his way. Serious. This was all before he met Meghan and now had someone else in his life.
Having been engaged in “co-authoring” a book myself (for Debbie Reynolds in the late ’80s — Debbie: My Life), I was firstly curious to see what a non-writer would turn out. Would I get a strong sense of the personality and the real thoughts of the person Harry?
Working with Debbie, I interviewed her for about 100 hours over a period of about eight months, and recorded it all on tape. I then transcribed the tapes and when I sat down to “write” the book (Debbie did not “write” the book and actually never saw the work until it was finished and never changed a word), I pulled much of it word for word of hers so there was no sense of another writer involved. It was her language articulating her thoughts.
When she read the final copy she was moved to tears at the end — so authentically credible was it to her. I, on the other hand, had fashioned the entire story around her memories, employing “her words” almost entirely throughout the book so there would be no sense of a “writer” putting it together.
So this writer approached Harry’s memoir and his “writer’s” work with that in mind. I had no other specific information about the man other than the tabloids which focus on tabloidal reporting which often has little if any credibility to me because they are mainly “impressions” of people who have already got a particular prejudice in mind. I did see part of the Oprah Winfrey interview with him and Meghan.
My impression of him had been — aside from my own analysis of his (public) personality — that he was a nice guy who made a profound impression on others all over the world as a member of The Royal Family. I had met other members — in passing at events — and most were brief and distant, as if they were mainly uninterested or disinterested in wherever they were but were expected to be present representing their family.
This is not surprising for their titles were their attraction and otherwise there was not much sign of personality. I don’t attribute that to the individuals so much as their sense of responsibility to their “role” in public. Although for those who actually knew/spent time in the company of members of the family, the personality descriptions varied as it does with any family. I’d also met individuals who were or had been members of the Royal Household staff who spoke of them in real terms. They loved the Queen and were really crazy about the Queen Mum. The least-impressive (nothing insulting) were, from what I could gather, were Prince Philip and his daughter Princess Anne as individuals as they were not particularly warm and casual with others.
But, as we have seen over the past ten or fifteen years, Prince Harry’s image was that of being an important ambassador of his country and, indeed, his family. And he was. That interview with Oprah apparently was the beginning of the public objection to what he and his wife were saying about his and their experience with the Royal family in general. After that most of the headlines in the Post and the Daily Mail were quite negative about the man and his wife.
I tend to be dubious about tabloidal reports but the public loves them and often believes them entirely. Par for the course. Bad, bad and more bad.
Because of that, I haven’t followed the drama in the media about him and Meghan and the family. I’m always amazed when I hear others talking about him and his family as if they are in the room with them. Making judgments about Harry’s behavior (in a variety of ways). The entire story is mainly an opportunity to think about something that’s relatable and stressful but controllable (and not your problem).
So I wondered what the book would be like with all that obstreperous backstory. The book, however, is a good read. Because I don’t know him, he’s only a figure I’ve seen in still photographs. It’s an expressive smiling. He looks like a nice guy, whoever he is. The book has the same effect, and impression.
I hadn’t given a thought to the title, but of course it makes perfect sense. Until his brother William (whom he refers to as Wills and/or Willy) became a father of a boy, Harry was the “Spare.” Spares are very important. Queen Elizabeth’s father George VI was a “spare” for his brother David who briefly became King Edward VIII until he abdicated to marry Mrs. Simpson. And their father George V had been a Spare to the heir of their father Edward VII when his first born heir died in his 20s. So it runs in the family.
But when you think about it, being second-born in a royal family is like being not quite good enough, and not important in the eyes of the world. Families with brothers know the story. The author of this memoir, we soon learn, is his own man but he’s relatable. I’ve never given much thought to the realities of members of the Royal family in terms of identity and inner satisfaction.
The whole point, it would seem, would be to consistently look good to the world outside the palace. Look the part. The part of being a member of the Royal family, close member.
The problem, the challenge for Prince Harry, it would seem, is making a life for oneself that is self-satisfying. It’s the same for most of us. I’ve only read the first 150 pages of this 400 page tome. He’s a thinker and he is naturally challenged. It’s interesting, this trip he takes us on in his memoir.
You see the Royal experience not through your imagination but through his eyes, the real story. Right there at the very center. Where he’s not the center — except in his own life, like the rest of us, He IS. It’s really a good book about a family and what it’s like and what it does to its members. It’s issues are universal; as are all families; different and the same, good, bad, high, low, and fascinating because you can relate even when you can’t. Like families.
And if you read the book, as I do in spurts of free time, you will be looking forward to it when you are away from it. When you finish you will have a much clearer picture of what it is like to be a member of the British Royal Family, one of the very few such families left in a world where royal families had presided over the much of the world for several centuries.