Spare us Prince Harry's 'literary memoir'

20 July 2021

9:22 PM

20 July 2021

9:22 PM

However you look at it, ‘freedom day’ turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. So thank goodness for Prince Harry who managed to squeeze in some good news to cheer us all up. His formerly-royal highness is to publish his memoirs. It’ll be an ‘intimate and heartfelt’ account no less, written, he tells us, ‘not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become.’ I can’t be the only one barely able to contain my excitement.

One tantalising question is what more Harry still has to reveal. Having spent a tempestuous couple of years desperately seeking privacy in between pouring his heart out in a series of podcasts and high profile interviews, is there really anything about Harry we do not already know? From the moment of his birth, the facts have been well documented. And, more recently, every feeling, every moment of emotional turmoil, every ounce of mental pain, has been dished up for our gratification. What on earth does he have left to say?

Clearly he has found something. Harry has, apparently, been working on his book for almost a year now. This means he picked up his pen shortly after leaving the royal family. That would be in between signing deals with Netflix, becoming a father for the second time, taking on the role of chief impact officer at mental health-focused tech start up BetterUp, joining the Aspen Institute think tank as commissioner on media disinformation and delivering inspiring speeches on the need to save the planet. Never mind his memoirs, I wish Harry would write a guide to time management – clearly this is an area in which he has some expertise.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that the Duke’s book is not being billed as an autobiography.

He is said to have joined forces with Pulitzer Prize winning ghostwriter, JR Moehringer. Hopefully this means we might, perhaps, be saved from the woke word salad that has become Harry’s signature prose. But neither is the forthcoming tome a biography – which might lead readers to expect some grounding in chronology and a focus on events. No, this is a memoir; a literary memoir no less. We can expect reflections on lessons learnt in among the rhetorical flourishes.

Whoever gave Harry the ‘literary memoir’ label deserves a medal. He might seek to reassure us that his account is ‘accurate and wholly truthful’ but his chosen genre allows for the fallibility of memory. The more Harry stresses the veracity of his tale, the more we recall Oprah’s killer question to his wife, Meghan:

How do you feel about the palace hearing you speak your truth today?’ 

Just as we have facts and alternative facts, in the world of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, there is truth and ‘my truth’. Or, as Buckingham Palace put it on behalf of the Queen: ‘Recollections may vary’.

Harry’s promise to tell the truth, the accurate truth and nothing but what’s wholly truthful might be aimed at his grandmother and The Firm. No doubt royal high-ups are steeling themselves for the revelations to come. But, more likely, the truth-claiming is yet another swipe at the troublesome press. Despite what he might have said at the time, it has long been clear that what Harry and Meghan have sought is not privacy but control of the narrative. They want to be in the public spotlight but on their terms. And what better way to achieve this than through a literary memoir? You get to tell your story, as only you see it, at great length and entirely unencumbered by awkward questions or contrary points of view.

The Duke promises readers:

‘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.’

Oh spare us, please. Here’s my truth. Harry, you were born into privilege most of us can barely imagine. Far from having ‘more in common’, you have only just stopped being subbed by your father – the future King of the United Kingdom. Sure, things have happened to you – some good, some bad – that’s life. And we’ve heard more than enough about yours already.

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