The younger prince
BOOKS | Young men can find lessons in Harry’s difficult life story
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Younger brothers have rebelled against the privileges of older brothers since Biblical times. Jacob, for instance, turned to deceit. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and former third in line to the British throne, has settled on a memoir.
Harry has his critics, but it’s hard not to sympathize with him. God created us all equal, and our parents are supposed to treat us equally. To have one brother designated “the heir” and the other “the spare,” by accident of birth order, seems wrong. Yet that’s how monarchy works.
The reader’s sympathy only grows reading the first third of Spare (Random House 2023). We see his parents’ ugly divorce; his mother’s death, made worse by a royal approach Harry remembers as cold and uncaring for a young boy; and his mates and their mistakes, dabbling in a life of pubs and drugs. By the end of the opening, you just want to give Harry a hug.
In young adulthood, he finds his tribe: the army. Trained first as a combat air controller, then as an Apache helicopter pilot, he did one (short) tour in Iraq and two longer tours in Afghanistan. He deployed to forward bases, living in conditions far different from Buckingham Palace, and you admire his grit, patriotism, and compassion for his brothers-in-arms. By the end of the second act, you want to give him a high five.
In the final third, we get Meghan, his American crush turned princess. As Harry tells it, no matter how hard they tried, Meghan was never accepted by the Family. Vicious leaks, double standards, and deep wounds from ages past all drove them apart. So eventually the pair quit the Family, or the Family quit them. Either way, they ended up in America.
The book has its downsides. A little more royal propriety would have been helpful, especially on the topics of sex, drug use, and a certain instance of distressingly located frostbite. The book also has its bad guys—first and foremost the hated paparazzi. Secondary villains include Camilla and Kate, who stole away his father and brother and failed to embrace Meghan in at least a figurative sense. Granny, i.e., the queen, and Pa, i.e., Charles, come in for mixed reviews; William less so. Doubtless they have their own sides of the story.
Harry has traveled some rough roads. Perhaps unintentionally, his memoir testifies to the transformative power of military service and marriage. The first gave him purpose, order, and fellowship. The second added joy and love. For young men struggling with addiction, loneliness, and a lack of meaning, Harry’s story offers evidence that work and family are powerful antidotes. By the end, the reader can only hope Harry has found the peace and happiness he so desperately craves.