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You don’t need to be blessed with a particularly brilliant memory to recall that when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they were leaving the royal family, they said that they were motivated in large part by a desire for greater privacy.
Indeed, on one of the temporary websites they set up to keep their fanbase apprised of their transition, they spoke of their wish to remove “the supposed ‘public interest’ justification for media intrusion into their lives.”
One has to wonder how Harry and Meghan are able to resolve the tension between that stated desire and the incredibly high profile they have maintained ever since their departure from the royal family, culminating in the news Monday that Prince Harry is to publish “an intimate and heartfelt memoir.”
Harry has said that all the profits from the book—and the signing fee is likely to be well in excess of $10 million—are to go to charity, and that he was motivated by a desire to “show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think.”
That doesn’t mean, however, there is no indirect financial upside to the book, which is already apparently nearly finished. Speculation about the forthcoming memoir will ensure Harry remains an attention-worthy asset until its publication next fall.
The big question, of course, is what the memoir will say.
The choice of ghost writer is intriguing in this regard: J.R. Moehringer. Moehringer’s own memoir, The Tender Bar, was a well received account of his life as an alcoholic reporter and his journey to sobriety, he also wrote Andre Agassi’s page-turning biography Open as well as Nike founder Phil Knight’s memoir. Both Knight and Agassi explored their lives in addiction and recovery in those books; it will be interesting to see if Harry, who recently hinted at problematic drinking and drug use, will explore the subject further with Moehringer’s assistance.
In his interview with podcast host Dax Shepard, Harry, while ostensibly asking the host about his own drug and alcohol use, said: “For you it was your upbringing and everything that happened to you—the trauma, pain and suffering.
“All of a sudden you find yourself doing a shit load of drugs and partying hard. Look how many other people do that as well. They wouldn’t have the awareness at the time.
“I certainly wouldn’t have had the awareness when I was going wild. It’s like why am I actually doing this? In the moment it’s like, ‘This is fun. I’m in my 20s—it’s what you’re supposed to do.’”
Within the royal family, the news that Harry is to publish a memoir is likely to be greeted with appalled resignation. (Buckingham Palace did not return a Daily Beast request for comment.)
Family members accept that they have no sway over the increasingly lurid headlines that Harry and Meghan seem intent on generating as they spill the intimate and private details of their lives, but that doesn’t mean they like it.
But this is the way things are now, and it seems certain this new tome will contain juicy insights into royal life; as Duncan Larcombe, the former royal correspondent at the Sun who wrote a biography of Harry, told the Daily Beast: “The truth is, to keep selling, he has to talk about the royals, because no one will be paying vast sums of money for Harry’s theories on the nature of compassion. There has never a been royal memoir, and this is the stuff of nightmares for the palace.”
In their statement promoting the book, the publishers say Harry will recount the “experiences, adventures, losses, and life lessons that have helped shape him” which sounds very much like a hint we may be in for the most revelatory insight yet into the intimate details of the death of Princess Diana. Will Harry describe the unfolding of events through his 11-year-old eyes at Balmoral and London in September 1997?
Harry has frequently criticized the way he was obliged to walk behind his mother’s coffin. For example, he told Angela Levin in an interview with Newsweek magazine: “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don't think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Although he has as yet never directly indicted his father for his role in the Diana funeral choreography, one big question is whether he will now let rip on Papa. What will he say about brother Prince William, their relationship, what was said about Meghan and how it was said, and the state of their relationship now? What will he say about royal parenting, and the institution itself? What will he say about Meghan, their marriage, relationship, and their exit from their senior royal roles and new life?
It seemed pretty clear on his Oprah interview that Harry holds his father in very low regard: he had a faintly disgusted look when he told Oprah: “I feel really let down, because he’s been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like…I will always love him, but there is a lot of hurt that’s happened. I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try to heal that relationship.”
There are any number of revelations that Harry could make that would completely dominate the news agenda—the identity of the royal racist springs to mind—and the palace are likely to be hugely concerned that advance leaks from the book, due to be published in the fall, could significantly overshadow the queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations, which will reach their zenith with a four day bank holiday in the U.K. in early June next year.
Harry said: “I’m writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become. I've worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope is that in telling my story—the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned—I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the course of my life so far and excited for people to read a firsthand account of my life that’s accurate and wholly truthful.”
That, of course, is a dig at the media, who Harry and Meghan claim misrepresent them so parlously; the “truth,” however that is defined in his mind, is Harry’s to tell, he believes. Expect there to be a lot of criticism of the media; it will be interesting to hear, in Harry's voice and analysis, about the roots of that, presumably dating back to his childhood and the treatment his mother received. He has spoken about this before—paparazzi flashbulbs still traumatize him—but the memoir will likely, as it will in so many areas of his life, go into greater depth than any previous interview he has given.
The publisher said of the book: “In an intimate and heartfelt memoir from one of the most fascinating and influential global figures of our time, Prince Harry will share, for the very first time, the definitive account of the experiences, adventures, losses, and life lessons that have helped shape him. Covering his lifetime in the public eye from childhood to the present day, including his dedication to service, the military duty that twice took him to the frontlines of Afghanistan, and the joy he has found in being a husband and father, Prince Harry will offer an honest and captivating personal portrait, one that shows readers that behind everything they think they know lies an inspiring, courageous and uplifting human story.”
That may be true. But given the amount of bombshell revelations and accusations that Harry and Meghan have unleashed in previous interviews, the expectation will be on the memoir to tell more, and go into greater depth about the royal family, and any suffering, trauma, happiness, and other emotional experiences Harry has gone through—things the public does not yet know, or know much of.
The memoir will be expected to go there, and to be—at least in Harry’s eyes—emphatically definitive. And with the prospect of more revelations comes yet another extension to royal family tensions that will be reignited in both the run-up to the memoir being published and the inevitable shockwaves that will follow.