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It has been clear for a long time that Prince Harry and Meghan want to have their say about their experiences of royal life. And when they sat down with Oprah earlier this year for a damning ‘tell-all’ interview, there was a sense that they had done just that: said what they wanted to before moving forward with their independent lives. However, the latest announcement that Prince Harry is writing an “intimate and heartfelt” memoir has thrown potentially the biggest grenade so far into the monarchy’s efforts to rebuild its post-Sussex brand.
On the face of it, the royal family has kept calm and carried on—continuing with their duties and saying very little publicly in response to Harry and Meghan’s comments or actions. But you don’t need to be an insider to figure out that there have been significant shockwaves sent through the royal household over the Sussexes’ willingness to repeatedly lift the lid on life behind closed doors. It makes sense that William and Kate would be wary of talking to Harry at length following Prince Philip’s funeral, but what about the more than three decades of talking the brothers did before that? Every encounter, every conversation, however fleeting, however equivocal, however personal, could now be in the running for public consumption. And it is Prince Harry in the editor’s chair.
This is significant because Harry has long been frustrated—furious even—at the lack of control he has often had over what is said or written about him. In a January Q&A with business magazine Fast Company, he described a “false narrative” surrounding him and Meghan that “became the mothership for all of the harassment.” He has spoken of hating what he sees as a destructive relationship between royals and the British media that leaves family members “trapped within the system.” Now he feels free. And this memoir is being billed as the “definitive account” from the man he has become.
But there can be no getting away from the fact that—just as the Oprah interview and many of his other comments have done—this book will also shape how others are seen. The man who hated other people editing his life story now has the power—and responsibility—to do just that for whoever he decides should make an appearance in his book. The Prince who has spoken often about the need for truthful reporting, will now have to make decisions about how he presents his facts, and which facts he chooses to present, in what is gearing up to be one of the most talked about autobiographies ever.
Family members—a Sussex spokesperson said Harry spoke with them very recently about the book—will be bracing themselves for the prospect that further details of personal disputes will be made public. But there is also something else at stake here. There can be no underestimating the damage done to the future of the monarchy should anything be published that turns public opinion significantly against senior royals.
Tentatively scheduled for publication in late 2022, the Prince’s memoirs could prove an explosive finale to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year. There are grand plans for a pageant, picnics, a service and a concert to mark her record-breaking 70 years on the throne. Coupled with the anticipated sense of celebration over COVID restrictions hopefully having eased, the central weekend in June has been designed to put the monarch at the center of a moment of great national and global joy. Depending on how Prince Harry tells his story, by the end of the year she could be at the center of something very different.
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