Spare: Prince Harry and the media
Daisy Leeson considers the wider implications of Prince Harry’s explosive memoir Spare, beyond the headlines and controversies, considering the relationship of the Royal Family to the media.
It has been impossible to ignore the launch of Prince Harry’s revealing memoir, Spare. Within a week of release, it sold almost half a million print copies in the UK, becoming the fastest selling non-fiction book since records began. From the mundane (what the King likes to eat), to the somber (how many people he killed in Afghanistan), and the gossipy (family feuds abound), no detail seems too small or personal to be revealed in this book. Everyone seems to have an, often very strong, opinion on the situation. But, how will the book, and its revelations affect the royal family? And what does it reveal about the relationship between us, the royals, and the media?
Harry and Meghan had already caused a lot of controversy within the media, both here and in the USA. Their departure from the UK and request for privacy from the media seems to have overshadowed any other royal story, including the revelations about Prince Andrew. It seems unclear quite why so many people dislike the couple, from both sides. Many Royalists are angry at Meghan’s supposed inability to integrate into the royal family. On the other side, many people believe it is hypocritical of the couple to leave royal life but keep their titles of Duke and Duchess.
In revealing everything, the media will latch onto this book for a month before losing interest.
This latest venture also seems to highlight hypocrisy. After asking to be left alone by the media, the couple released a documentary and now a book, in what some see as a move of betrayal against his own family. Much of the dislike of Harry seems to be based on his personality, releasing a book that criticizes his family seems distasteful and ungrateful of the benefits being a royal bestowed on him. However, it can also be seen as a clever marketing strategy. In revealing everything, the media will latch onto this book for a month before losing interest. Then there will be nothing left for the media to report that has not already been revealed in Spare, leaving him to go back to his life in the US.
However, this does not mean the rest of the royal family will not still be reported on. As of September 2022, just after the death of the Queen, YouGov tracked boosts in popularity for the royal family across a number of measures. Harry and Meghan were only just above Prince Andrew in terms of popularity. However, the rest of the royals all had a positive reception, with Harry’s brother William being the most popular. Furthermore, many believe it is hypocritical of Harry to renounce the royal family but continue to profit from stories about them. Thus, even if Harry has revealed these things about his family, it does not seem that public opinion will drastically change. I believe that, if anything, Harry’s seeming spitefulness towards his family will make them more well liked. Despite the personal and positive things Harry revealed, about his family, about his mother, about the military, people will focus on the negative.
Any other celebrity memoir would not have gained this attention, thus showing the hold the monarchy still has over the British public, and, in turn, its politics.
Finally, this story reveals an interesting relationship between the media and the royal family. Despite the fact that the royal family is supposedly only symbolic, any story about them seems to dominate the news. If this symbolism were true, Spare would be treated as a book that is essentially just the memoir of another rich celebrity. This is clearly not the case. Excerpts of the book were spread across the news and social media before the book was even released. Even those who claim to hate Harry, for whatever reason, were unable to avoid the titbits and the memes. It is clear that the royal family are still very present within our media, with the ability to impact it greatly and overshadow other news stories.
This is especially true with the ubiquity of social media reporting, that values what will get clicks and views when producing their media. The monarchy is often a point of contention, but I believe this media obsession with it shows the ever-present politics of the situation. Any other celebrity memoir would not have gained this attention, thus showing the hold the monarchy still has over the British public, and, in turn, its politics. Even supposed unbiased media is showing its values and partialities by headlining the story over other news that is perhaps more pressing and more important for the majority of people.
Thus, whilst it is impossible to predict the effects this will have on the monarchy in the long term, it does not seem likely it will harm them. Instead, it shows the hold the monarchy still has over the British psyche. The interest in Spare will die out, but the media will be ready to report the next royal story, and the people will be ready to listen.