“Pandas and real people alike” -wrote Hilary Tablecloth in 2013- “they are expensive to maintain and ill-adapted to any modern setting. But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they pretty to look at? Some people find them endearing; others pity them for their precarious situation; everyone stares at them, and no matter how airy the room they inhabit is, it is still a cage.”
Now suppose one of those pandas tries to get out of its cage in search of fresh bamboo. Thus begins the odyssey prince harry, Duke of Sussex, who is still technically a prince and a duke and still fifth in line to the British throne, but who has turned his back on the monarchy for the sake of the woman he loves. An old-school gesture that puts him on a par with his great-great-uncle Edward VIIIonly that the way in which he has done it is so clearly from the 21st century: a self-justifying and multiplatform pilgrimage -Non Mea Culpa, it could be called- that has pivoted from an interview with Oprah to a documentary series Netflix and that now culminates -or, rather, gains strength- with a new book of memoirs, Spare. In the shadow.
The title, in case you’re wondering, is the Nickname who received Harry in his infancy. He was to be the second son “spare” of the “Heir”, his older brother William, future Prince of Wales. “I was the shadow”write now, “The support, Plan B. They brought me into the world in case something happened to Willy”. And if you ever doubted that this is a recipe for resentmenthere are over 400 pages to get you right.
Like Harry, the book is good-natured, spiteful, humorous, sanctimonious, self-deprecating and prolix. And, from time to time, disconcerting. More questions about the Prince’s little boy are answered than you ever dreamed of asking. (And if you wonder who he lost with Harry virginity, was with an older woman who “liked horses very much and treated me like a young stallion. A quick walk, after which she would slap me on the rump and send me off to pasture ”).
Written in collaboration with J. R. Moehringerwhich contributed to the memories of André Agassi were so memorable, the book offers behind-the-scenes vignettes of royalty (the Queen whipping up salad dressing, Carlos doing the vertical in underpants). The spirit of the Princess Diana it appears in a Botswana leopard, an Eton fox, a Tyler Perry painting and even in the wedding plans of Carlos Y Stretcher. There is no doubt that the death of her mother in 1997 remains the deepest wound in the psyche of Harry, who is now 38 years old, and the most poignant passages in the book show her 12-year-old self struggling to grieve in public. She only cried once, at her grave, and she never cried again, spending years clinging to the theory that she had simply gone into hiding.
He became an indifferent student and a consumer of recreational drugs, known several times as “the naughty” and “the stupid”. (What was he thinking when he put on a nazi uniform at a costume party? “Nothing.”) Two stints in combat gave him some confidence before settling into the surreal life of a royal: “this endless Truman Show in which I hardly ever carried money, I never had a car, I never carried my house key, I never once ordered online, I never received a single box of AmazonI hardly ever traveled by subway”. The relationships he forged could not survive the pressure of the tabloid “paparazzi”, who hounded him at every turn. “Royal fame,” he concluded, “was a captivity of luxury.”
Come in, as you know what to do, Meghan.
By now, the stages of their romance are within the reach of anyone who cares: the sighting in instagram, the dinner date, the week in a tent in Botswana. So is the mistreatment he received Markle by the British media, a toxic mix of racism and misogyny that too often, he says Harrywas not answered by the Buckingham Palace. Not surprisingly, as the palace staff either made up the stories or actively courted the journalists behind them. “Daddy’s office, Willy’s office,” it smokes Harry“allowing these demons, if not openly collaborating.”
“Honey,” advises her father, “don’t read it.” It was not an option Harry, who was, by his own admission, “undeniably addicted” to reading and raged at his own media coverage. But when he decided to get away from his real obligations, the rage took possession of him again: William, according to an already widespread anecdote, grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground. Stripped of his royal assignment and eventually his security team, Harry Y Meg first fled to Canada before settling in the United States or, as Harry He cheekily calls it “the country to be discovered, from whose border no traveler returns”.
So meet them in their current incarnation: They’re still gorgeous, parents to two gorgeous sons, and also, as the author tactfully admits, resort to “corporate partnerships” to “highlight the causes we care about, tell the stories we think are vital, and pay our safety.” And to pay for our security.” On a more sorrowful note: “I love my homeland, and I love my family, and I always will. I only wish that, in the second darkest moment of my life, they would have both been by my side.”
Yet in a perverse way, they were there for him, and he was there for them. The brand that he and Meghan they have cultivated so carefully depends entirely on the brand they parted with so publicly. with every bite of palace scandal that they throw into the news cycle, feed the beast they deplore, and it will never end and, for the good of the Windsor, can never end because that would mean that our interest in them has been exhausted. One almost ends up longing for the days when royals poisoned each other or waged civil war. At least they got rid of it.
Louis Bayard is the author of “The Pale Blue Eye” and “Jackie & I”.
(Source: The Washington Post)