Allies of Britain’s royal family pushed back Saturday (Jan 7) against claims made by Prince Harry in his new memoir, which paints the monarchy as a cold and callous institution that failed to nurture or support him.
Buckingham Palace hasn’t officially commented on the book. But British newspapers and websites brimmed with quotes from unnamed “royal insiders,” rebutting Harry’s accusations. One said his public attacks on the royal family took a “toll” on the health of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September.
Veteran journalist Jonathan Dimbleby, a biographer and friend of King Charles III, said Harry’s revelations were the type “that you’d expect … from a sort of B-list celebrity,” and that the king would be pained and frustrated by them.
“His concern … is to act as head of state for a nation which we all know is in pretty troubled condition,” Dimbleby told the BBC. “I think he will think this gets in the way.”
Harry’s book, Spare, is the latest in a string of very public pronouncements by the prince and his wife Meghan since they quit royal life and moved to California in 2020, citing what they saw as the media’s racist treatment of Meghan, who is biracial, and a lack of support from the palace. It follows an interview with Oprah Winfrey and a six-part Netflix documentary released last month.
Harry is not the first British royal to air family secrets – both his parents used the media as their marriage fell apart. Charles cooperated on Dimbleby’s 1994 book and accompanying television documentary, which revealed that the then heir to the throne had had an affair during his marriage to Princess Diana.
Diana gave her side of the story in a BBC interview the following year, famously saying “there were three of us in this marriage” in reference to Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
But Spare goes into far more detail about private conversations and personal grievances than any previous royal revelation.
In the ghostwritten memoir, Harry discusses his grief at the death of his mother in 1997 and his long-simmering resentment at the role of royal “spare,” overshadowed by the “heir” – older brother Prince William. He recounts arguments and a physical altercation with William, reveals how he lost his virginity (in a field) and describes using cocaine and cannabis.
He also says he killed 25 Taliban fighters while serving as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan – a claim criticised by both the Taliban and British military veterans.
Spare is due to be published around the world on Tuesday. The Associated Press obtained an early Spanish-language copy.
Harry has said he expects counterattacks from the palace. He has long complained of “leaks” and “plants” of stories to the media by members of the royal household.
In an interview due to be broadcast on ITV on Sunday – one of several he has recorded to promote the book – Harry says people who accuse him of invading his family’s privacy “don’t understand or don’t want to believe that my family have been briefing the press.”
“I don’t know how staying silent is ever going to make things better,” he said.