The Real Princes and Princesses of Buckingham Palace

In June 2017, Prince Harry spoke to Newsweek about the need for the monarchy to retain its mystique. Yes, he told them, he wanted a normal, uninhibited life. But he knew that for his job as “prince” to work, there had to be some of that allure left too. “It’s a tricky balancing act,” he said. “We don’t want to dilute the magic… The British public and the whole world need institutions like it.”

Over the last 24 hours, the magic has been hard to come by. Harry’s memoir, Spare, leaked before its release date—unearthing an avalanche of sensational and extremely personal claims along with it. Some examples: Harry and William got into a physical fight, Prince Harry had a formative sexual experience with an older woman behind a pub, Kate Middleton may or may not have wanted to share her lip gloss. Page Six alone published over a dozen stories about the book this morning—including one about Prince Harry’s erm, unfortunate, frostbite location at his brother’s wedding.

Despite the tabloid headlines, it’s probably incorrect to summarize the book as a tawdry tell-all: Spare is written by Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer, the man behind the critically acclaimed biographies of Nike’s Phil Knight and Andre Agassi. He has an astonishing ability to plumb the depths of his subject. (“He’s half psychiatrist,” Knight said of Moehringer. “He gets you to say things you really didn’t think you would.”) The more salacious anecdotes being splashed across headlines probably feel less eye-popping in the context of the narrative that unspools across the book’s 416 pages. Indeed, a People excerpt that described Harry driving through the same Paris tunnel where his mother died, at the same speed, is a nuanced narrative of grief and its endless longevity. The Duke of Sussex, inarguably, has a story worth telling.

Yet the way Spare was introduced to the world felt explosive and, well, almost comically dramatic: many of the leaks are attributed to the book inexplicably being sold early in Spain. Fittingly, wry commentary on Tiktok and Twitter abounded, with many joking about how it will all be fodder for an eventual season of The Crown. In fact, joke probably isn’t an accurate term. Peter Morgan’s Emmy-winning series frequently lifts its plot points from real-life events, with season five chronicling the messy public breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage. It’s easy to imagine the past three years being recreated sometime in the future with little-to-no dramatization, with all of us watching for our own entertainment and saying, “Yep, I remember when that happened.”

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