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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have, between them, accused the monarchy of many wrongs in recent months. From accusations of racism to allegations of ignoring Meghan’s pleas for assistance with her mental health when she felt suicidal, the couple has criticized the royal family as both institution and in very personal terms.
Now, Prince Harry has given notice that he intends to launch another salvo next year in the shape of his unprecedented, tell-all memoir, the publication of which was announced Monday and which he has apparently already largely written, with the, ahem, assistance of his ghostwriter J.R. Moehringer.
Exactly what revelations the book will contain remains a matter of speculation, but his publishers Random House are unlikely to have stumped up what could be as much as a $20m advance without a series of highly newsworthy revelations.
Simply observing Harry’s anger at his father in his recent round of media appearances, one would be forced to conclude that Prince Charles will be among the members of the royal family most anxiously waiting to see what fall 2022 brings to one’s local bookstore.
And while Harry’s anger may be so extreme that he might even fantasize about fulfilling his mother’s publicly stated musings on dislodging Charles from his place in the line of succession, he is likely to know that this is not going to happen under the British constitution.
A far more achievable goal, however, if one were seeking revenge on Prince Charles, would be to attempt to turn the public against his stepmother Camilla Parker Bowles, and prevent her ever becoming queen.
Charles has said that Camilla will only be known as “Princess Consort.” However, The Daily Beast has been previously informed by reliable sources that Charles fully intends to declare her queen when he ascends to the throne. Within the palace this objective is so well known it is considered an open secret.
However, declaring Camilla queen has always represented a huge gamble for Charles. Camilla, with a 36 percent approval rating, is even less popular with the British public than the not-much-liked Charles (45 percent) is—although Harry (31 percent) and Meghan (32 percent) now trail both of them. Harry scrapes in one place ahead of Prince Andrew, who, for reference, has a 10 percent approval rating in YouGov polls at the moment.
Intriguingly, on Tuesday, Dan Wootton, the journalist who first revealed that Harry and Meghan were planning to leave the U.K., quoted a source as saying that the working assumption was that Charles would “take another kicking from Harry” in the book—but that Charles’ office were particularly concerned about what he might say about Camilla. He quoted the source as saying: “Let’s be honest, Harry has never been close to the Duchess of Cornwall. If he documents their fraught relationship in the book it could be very damaging at a time when Charles is laying the groundwork for her to become queen.”
Penny Junor, the royal writer who was historically close to Charles’ camp and has written biographies of Charles, Camilla and Harry, told The Daily Beast: “I think there is a very good chance he will talk about his feelings for Camilla and his relationship with her. He was a child when he learned about everything from his mother. There were ‘three of them in the marriage,’ as Diana said, but it was a very complex situation which some narratives like The Crown have managed to make very two-dimensional. I suspect that Harry sees it as equally two-dimensional.
“Harry seems to me at the moment to be very angry and hurt and trying to find himself in some sort of way, but yet again, here is Harry getting it all out there at the expense of his family.
“I just hope he doesn’t say things in this book that he regrets later. What scares me is the money that it is being suggested is being paid. Penguin Random House are going to want some revelations for their buck.”
But can those revelations really hurt the royal family? They have been hit so many times by Harry and Meghan in the past few months that one would assume the royal family would be punch-drunk; instead, they appear to a remarkable degree to have soaked up every blow thrown at them. Quen Elizabeth has never been so popular with her subjects.
After the stunning initial shock of the Oprah interview, the royals seem to have sustained precisely zero damage—domestically at least; the royals seem fine with Harry and Meghan more resoundingly commanding American affections. So one has to wonder whether Harry really has the goods to truly rock the monarchy the same way his mother did.
“To some extent we have heard it all before at this stage,” says Junor, “and a lot of people in the U.K. are bored stiff of Harry. But it could still damage the royal family, because there are all sorts of stories that Harry will have that everyone is dying to hear.
“He could talk about the day his mother died and how Charles broke the news to him, for example. That is incredibly personal and we have no idea if Charles did it well and sensitively or not. He could talk about walking behind the cortege. He has said he was made to do it and shouldn’t have been made to do it, it’s his truth and that could be very damaging. The description of the family’s reaction to him falling in love with Meghan and his perception of that could be damaging. He could name the person who made the remark which he interpreted as racist. There is a lot of stuff there that could get picked up and swirl about in the ether forever.”
Christopher Andersen, the author of bestselling biography Diana’s Boys, told The Daily Beast that the news of the memoir represented the termination of any hopes of familial reconciliation.
“Obviously Harry has decided that his relationship with his brother and the rest of the royal family isn’t going to be mended any time soon—certainly not now that he has thrown this new hand grenade into the palace. Royal recollections have been notoriously problematic over the years. In his authorized biography, Charles called his parents aloof, cold, and distant, among other things. The queen and Prince Philip were deeply wounded, and in the queen’s case I’m not sure those wounds ever really fully healed.
“Harry must know how upset his father and his grandmother will be, but it looks like he's going ahead and publishing anyway.
“The Sussexes are really crossing the Rubicon this time—the royal family will almost certainly see this as a whole new level of betrayal. There will be no turning back now.”
Harry, however, has a more profound dilemma. He can continue to produce ever more shocking revelations about the royals, keeping himself in book deals and interviews until the day he dies. The public could become inured to this surprisingly quickly; if he keeps doing it, the law of diminishing returns will swiftly kick in.
Also, if revelation upon revelation becomes Harry’s stock-in-trade it would force him to accept that what he is actually selling is not what he cheerily promotes as inspiration or hope or compassion, but the very thing he spent the best part of his adult life complaining about so vociferously: salacious, life-ruining, privacy-invading royal gossip.