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Spare: Controversial New Memoir Puts British Royal Family in the Spotlight

The memoir of Prince Harry (ghostwritten by J. R. Moehringer and published by Random House) was published earlier this month. It has become the fastest-selling nonfiction book in the UK since records began. It was selling almost half a million copies during its first week on sale as of January 17th. The pre-orders for the book were also the largest on record, with Waterstones “delighted with its sales”. The book has also gained much popularity in the United States, selling more than 1.4 million copies on its first day of sale. So many copies that the US publishers of the book had to go and reprint more books immediately. 


The memoir has also been translated into fifteen different languages and a 15-hour audiobook that Prince Harry himself narrates. The memoir focuses on the entirety of Prince Harry’s life. The title comes from him being seen as a ‘spare heir’, not the main heir to the throne. Still, a secondary one, and how it affected how he viewed himself and the actions the royal family took towards him. 


The popularity of the memoir is likely also due to the media attention given to Prince Harry himself and his wife, Meghan Markel, in recent years. The website for the memoir describes it as a world swept away by the couple’s cinematic romance and rejoiced in their fairy-tale wedding.” The wedding, which occurred in 2018, gained an array of both positive and negative attention from the press. The relationship is also being seen as widely controversial within the United Kingdom. 


Harry’s wife, Meghan, is the second person of American heritage and the first person of mixed-race heritage to marry into the Royal Family. These facts are likely reasons why large amounts of press attention were brought upon the royal couple. The focus on Meghan is believed to be, in part, due to structural racism. Their presence has been a buzz for all those following the royal family. Although, perhaps to the point of irritation, considering news headlines such as Meghan closes a car door” made the rounds on international news sites. Regardless of who you were, it seemed like all eyes were on Harry and Meghan. This led to many either loving or hating the couple. 


The press won’t leave Harry and Meghan alone, even five years after the wedding.


A new documentary about their life after marriage was also aired recently, Harry & Meghan, released on Netflix. Nominally, about the couple’s intent to depart from the royal family as an institution. Demonstrating how the international press media evidently can’t get enough information on the royal couple. 


Spare delivers an overview of Prince Harry’s life from the death of Diana in 1997, his service in Afghanistan up until the present day and his plans to leave the United Kingdom and head to the United States. 


Reviews of the memoir have ranged from calling it “scandalous” and a story with no heroes”

Others have called it the weirdest book ever written by a royal” and “like the longest angry drunk text ever sent”. Others still have called it “just good literature”, comparing it to “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “About a Boy”

Reviews from the general public have been just as varied. The book currently sits at a 4.1 on the website Goodreads as of the time of writing. With 45% of reviews being five-star reviews. 


One reader, “Shannon”, refers to Spare as “Heartfelt and vulnerable” and something unmissable for “fans of Harry or Meghan”. However, another reviewer “Laura” who gave the book one star, mentioned the memoir as having “florid prose” and a “waste of time and money”, believing Harry’s point of view to be unreliable and hard to believe. 


However, the book has also stoked controversy, especially around the entitlement of Prince Harry as well as around the idea that the Prince has overshared information about himself and the royal family. It has also convinced some of the UK of the negative aspects of the royal family as a whole. 


Readers who had made their statements to ‘The Guardian’ newspaper have highlighted their changed viewpoints. Pratik Samant states that: “I had no view of the royal family before. The news I’ve heard about Spare (I have not read it myself) seems to have confirmed what in retrospect should be obvious: telling a specific family that they were chosen by God to rule over the rest of us is completely insane”. Whereas Peter Gray states: “They’re trapped – they’re under the cosh from those who want a monarchy but don’t care about the people, I consider it to be like an abusive relationship.”


Despite the plans to leave the idea of being a member of British Royalty behind, it is evident that the press still has all eyes on Prince Harry’s endeavours. There is no doubt that Harry himself wanted to capitalise on the attention he had earned over the five years of paparazzi to promote his memoir. Perhaps the memoir would have never appeared on bookshelves if the press hadn’t been so adamant about detailing the royal couple’s lives in the first place. Leaving the royal family as an institution was perhaps not to get away from scrutiny but to change the lives led by Harry and Meghan drastically and have the press, in turn, follow. 

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