For a word frequently used to describe Prince Harry by the Royal Family and British media since his birth 38 years ago, it’s ironic that the same two groups had the most outrage about the Duke of Sussex’s decision to name his forthcoming memoir SPARE.
“Royal sources” (aka anonymous palace aides), media pundits and newspapers wasted no time sharing breathless outrage after publisher Penguin Random House revealed the tome’s title, steely-faced cover and January 10 release date. “Malevolent”, “cruel”, “playing the victim once again”, and, quelle surprise, “all Meghan’s doing”, were just some of the angered reactions.
Of course, calling the book SPARE - a decision made by Prince Harry early on in the process - shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. It’s a punchy choice, but for a word that has trailed the prince like a shadow, being the spare was one of the most defining aspects of his royal existence. Leaning on the derogatory moniker for a title is Harry finally owning the term after a lifetime of being called it.
For the family business, Harry’s position as the heir’s spare saw him take on the compulsory role of royal support act at an early age. With no real defined job, The Firm mostly needed one thing from him: to support his more important older brother, Prince William. It’s a bizarre and somewhat cruel existence — the outcome of a system built on hereditary privilege. And in many cases it’s also a curse. Princess Margaret’s life as the Queen’s spare was riddled with drug abuse and alcoholism, and Prince Andrew’s life… well, the less said about that, the better.
A spare also carries a purpose rarely acknowledged by any royal or palace official — the resident scapegoat to protect the Crown and higher ranking family members. Collateral damage when blame or distraction is needed. To those who have followed the royal beat closely enough, the coincidental timing of certain revelations or stories about Harry have already highlighted this. It’ll be interesting to see how SPARE — which doesn’t shy away from this specific burden — describes these moments.
So far, only the smallest official details about the book’s 416 pages have been released by the publisher. They describe SPARE as a title written with “raw, unflinching honestly”, a book that is filled with “insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom”. I’d expect nothing less from prolific ghostwriter JR Moehringer, who is famous for encouraging his subjects to switch on the lights in the darkest parts of their story.
Among those who have already had sight of the book’s manuscript, Harry’s journey of being the spare, plus that difficult decision to change his destiny and start a new life elsewhere, serve as significant parts of the book. Filled with the prince’s trademark cheekiness, this memoir also tells a surprisingly relatable life story. Sure, its opulent royal backdrop is far beyond a world any of us will ever know, but themes explored in SPARE should resonate with readers from all backgrounds.
Coping with grief and the tragic loss of a parent, the struggles of accepting oneself, sibling rivalry, and falling in love with a person your family doesn’t accept are all part of the duke’s very human story.
Although overlooked in coverage, SPARE dedicates its largest sections to other key elements of the duke’s life. Readers will hear moving anecdotes from the frontlines of Afghanistan and his time in the military, plus honest insights into Harry’s quest to find purpose and why he chose to commit to a lifetime of service. A spokesperson for the book—which will be released one month after the Sussexes’ forthcoming Netflix docuseries drops—adds that the intimate memoir will also “share the joy he has found in being a husband and father”.
For all the tabloid reports about Harry supposedly “trashing” his family (spoiler alert: he doesn’t), the book actually offers a more sympathetic look at the realities of their near-impossible existence. There were also no last-minute rewrites or edits after the Queen’s death. SPARE’s manuscript was completed almost five months before the monarch’s passing, a detail that will be acknowledged in a note at the start of the book.
No matter how carefully Harry shares the parts of his story involving others, there is still the very real risk of serious blowback from the institution and family. Palace aides recently told me about the “genuine fear” amongst senior members that this book will cause irrevocable damage to reputations and relations. But, for Harry, SPARE’s larger intention appears to make that risk worth taking. “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,” he has said.
Hundreds of journalists, including myself, have written versions and fragments of the duke’s story over the years. It’s a story that, as a working member of the Royal Family, he has long been unable to tell himself. Now, having created an independent life away from the confines of the royal institution, Harry finally has the chance to set often-inaccurately reported records straight. The freedom of speech. And no matter how you may feel about the man, it’s hard not to agree he should have the right to that.