Missing Mom, an Identity Issue, and the Press
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You know all the characters, right? Queen Elizabeth had four children. The eldest, Charles, was heir to the throne. Charles married Diana Spencer who provided Charles and the monarchy with two children, an heir and a spare, William and then Harry. Suffice it to say that Diana was wildly popular worldwide, which was problematic to the marriage and to various royals. Similarly problematic was Charles’ ongoing affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Ultimately, Charles and Diana divorced. A year later, Lady Diana died in a car crash while being pursued by paparazzi. The young princes were 15 and 12 at the time of her funeral. The world watched and wept as the two boys marched in the funeral procession behind their mother’s casket. The world continued to watch as the boys grew up and as William married Kate Middleton and Harry married American divorcee, Meghan Markle.
This brief history sets readers up for three recurring themes in Prince Harry’s book. Most important is the impact of the death of Prince Harry’s mother. Then there is the fact that Harry’s brother is heir to the throne, while Harry is merely the spare. And finally, there is the never ending and terrible burden of being sought after by newspapers in general and very specifically, by the paparazzi.
The death of Diana:
Moving beyond the loss of a parent at the tender age of 12 is a herculean task under the best of circumstances. In Harry’s case, not only was he not given psychological counseling, but he was immediately shipped off to boarding school. Indeed, he did not even believe that his mother had died. He thought she was in hiding from the paparazzi instead. In his early twenties, he asked to see photos of Diana’s accident. But even that did not convince him. The photos proved she had been in an accident, not that she had died.
An heir and a spare:
I have heard this phrase before and thought it was a cute way of saying that if the first born died, the second child stood at the ready to ascend the throne. But this quote from the book gives it a more horrific meaning: “The Heir and the Spare – there was no judgment about it, but also no ambiguity. I was the shadow, the support, the Plan B. I was brought into the world in case something happened to Willy. I was summoned to provide back up, distraction, diversion and, if necessary, a spare part. Kidney, perhaps. Blood transfusion. Speck of bone marrow. This was all made explicitly clear to me from the start of life’s journey and regularly reinforced thereafter.”
The burden of the press:
Of course, there is Harry’s sentiment that the paparazzi literally hounded Diana to death. When he viewed the photos of her death, there seemed to be a halo around her head. Eventually he realized this was the flashing of other cameras.
But there was another aspect to the press situation. Clearly, I am not a royal insider, but I always felt that a large problem between Charles and Diana was that she was popular and he was not. In my thought process, this caused immense jealousy for Charles – and for the rest of the royals. Harry validates this type of issue when he tells us that Charles and Camilla were jealous of the press that Kate and William got, so they pulled them back from the public eye. And then it seems Kate was jealous of the press Meghan got, so Meghan got the grief she got from the palace and the press. Many, many, many examples are given.
According to the internet, this book was ghostwritten by J. R. Moehringer. He did a great job of using these three main themes – repeatedly – to tie the book together and to make me feel sympathetic toward Prince Harry.