Prince Harry’s resentment of William makes ‘Spare’ a real tragedy

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Maybe «Megxit» was never about Meghan Markle. Perhaps he was always driven by Prince Harry, who, in his American wife, found the catalyst he so desperately needed to leave a family in which he could never get over the feeling of second best. The replacement against the heir.

This is not simply my opinion. It’s the central theme and story of «Spare,» the prince’s wildly animated new autobiography. I read the book this week, in one sitting. He’s made headlines for his various gossip nuggets: Harry takes a dive into William’s hair loss! William hits Harry! And he easily switches from sincere and introspective to mean and naive. But to my surprise, I shed a tear for the lead at the end. Because I think what the book really reveals is an ultimately complicated man who has been truly traumatized by the predetermined details of his birth order. He is a man motivated less by higher principles, perhaps, than by sincerely felt insecurity. That insecurity has haunted and shaped his psyche, from childhood to adulthood. And the last chapter of his life with Meghan only confirms a lifelong regret.

Harry tells us that there hasn’t been a moment since his birth when he hasn’t felt left out.

The term «spare» is used in these memoirs literally dozens of times. Harry tells us that there hasn’t been a moment since his birth that he hasn’t felt left out. Even his birth is diminished because, he learns from him, his father Charles feels that now that he has a spare, his parental duties are over. “I was twenty years old when I first heard the story of what Dad supposedly said to Mom on the day I was born,” Harry writes. “Marvelous! Now you have given me an Heir and a Spare: my work is done. A joke. Presumably.»

Harry says he felt like the spare as a kid because Prince Charles and William were never supposed to be on the same plane, so if one died, the other would survive. But no one cared which plane Harry was on. He felt like the spare when it was suggested that William walk behind his mother’s coffin without him (that didn’t happen). And he says he believes the British tabloids singled him out because of his vulnerability as a second child, calling him a «public sacrifice of the spare.»

In fact, Harry’s resentment of William colors many moments in the book; even his recollection of sensationalized reports of him dressed as a Nazi are tied to this insecurity. Why didn’t he focus on his brother, who was wearing a “skin-tight” leotard?

But there are also advantages to being overlooked.

William, Harry says, believed his younger brother took advantage of his «leftover» status to curry favor with «Granny» the queen, when he asked him to break army rules and wear his beard at his wedding. “You put her in an awkward position, Harold! She had no choice but to say that she did.»

And, there’s that tense and desperate moment when, inside Nottingham Cottage, Harry says that William adorned it out of frustration with the new duchess’s apparent inability to fit in. «She is rude. She is abrasive. She has alienated half the staff,” William says, reportedly. The real motivation for the physical altercation, according to Harry? “She was dutifully playing the part of the spare part,” he writes.

You have to admire his honesty, and it’s kind of impossible not to feel sorry for him (even if the repetition gets tedious).

You have to admire his honesty, and it’s kind of impossible not to feel sorry for him (even if the repetition gets tedious).

This side of Harry, a man prepared to take at least some responsibility for much of the drama that the English media, in particular, has hitherto blamed on Markle, is new.

In television interviews, with Oprah Winfrey in 2021 and in last year’s Netflix series «Harry & Meghan,» Harry cast himself as a culture warrior who diligently supported his wife’s battle against the systemic racist bigotry of the outdated institution that was his family. He was a man who had seen the light.

Even in recent promotional interviews, Harry has often considered his aeration of royal clothing noble. At least he says so on record, he says, while his family members use anonymous mouthpieces to leak trash about his relatives.

But in «Spare,» a smaller, sadder truth is written big on page after page. The details paint a much more complex picture of «bad guys,» precisely because the author’s vision is clearly restricted by his feelings about the circumstances.

Reading between the lines, King Charles is loving, not remote or anachronistic. He calls Harry «my darling boy». He takes Harry to see Shakespeare. He leaves Harry at Sandhurst to begin his time at the military academy. Before Charles gets too old, he plays tag with his son. He bonds with Meghan over Chopin. The king is not perfect, but he is decent.

Also, despite all of Harry’s resentment, he appears to be his brother. William stays by Harry’s side the night before Harry’s wedding, only leaving to spend the night with Kate and her children. (And that Harry envy him that last moment, which he does, he feels mean.)

The main villain is Camilla, who, according to Harry’s account, becomes the main leaker to protect herself. She rarely mentions Camilla without also mentioning how she usurped her mother from her.

The runner-up villain is Kate. But on this subject, Harry’s resentment gets the better of him. In the way he describes her interactions with his sister-in-law, he clearly wants the reader to choose Meghan over Kate. Informality over formality. The spare wife over the heir’s. But in the end, I don’t think the readers choose. They’ll read «Spare» and see that, personalities aside, the main culprit for Harry’s lifelong resentment is the unfortunate primogeniture law.

Until he met and married Meghan, aside from when he was in the military (another escape), Harry struggled to find meaning in his life. But his wife, an American, presented him with the chance to do something he says he’s always wanted: break free of his family and make a statement. Even in his teens, Harry felt that one day he would break the mold. He writes: “Part of me really wanted to do something totally original, something that would make everyone in the family, in the country, sit up and say: That-?»

Well, with his marriage to Meghan, his exit, and «Spare,» he did it. Hopefully I can finally find some happiness.

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