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Subsequent to the leak of an English-language copy to The Guardian, and the “accidental” release–a week before its scheduled date–onto Spanish bookshelves of Prince Harry’s autobiography Spare (known in Spain as En La Sombra—In the Shadow), the revelations have fallen thick and fast:
- Prince William once shoved Harry into a dog bowl, causing Prince Harry (whose wife claims the Palace “Human Resource Department” wouldn’t let her seek psychiatric help because it would “look bad for the family”) to immediately phone his apparently on-call therapist.
- His assertions that the royal family’s animosity towards Meghan stemmed from jealousy and their conviction that she was a “novel and resplendent” royal who would steal the limelight from the others and “dominate the monarchy.” (Hang on. Wasn’t it only last month that Harry and Meghan were slamming the British public in general, and the royal family in particular, as a bunch of racists who never gave the bi-racial Meghan a chance? By George, I believe it was!)
- The cocaine and marijuana-fueled parties during which he once had a conversation with a trash can in Courtney Cox’s bathroom. (According to a Daily Telegraph translation of the Spanish language edition: “I stared at the bin. It stared back. Then it became… a head. I stepped on the pedal and the head opened its mouth. A huge open grin.” I expect he’d never had to work a pedal bin by himself before. Previously, I bet the royal footman (see what I did there) did it for him.
- The twenty-five Taliban he claims to have killed during his second Afghanistan tour. First: kudos to him for serving on active duty. Second, let’s leave aside the question of whether this is PTSD speaking, and let’s consider the strict practicality of whether it’s really wise–especially for a man who’s made such a fuss about what he claims are constant threats to his family’s security–to elevate his profile–almost ten years after the fact–with the Taliban, who’ve already responded sharply to this story, calling Harry a war criminal, at the same time as many former members of the British military have criticized his foolishness in bringing this up, especially when the royal family itself (the real one) is already a prime target for terrorists and this sort of thing only can only encourage them.
- His conversations with his father, during which (then) Prince Charles is supposed to have said, “who knows if I am actually your father?” while laughing uproariously. I have to believe that the contemporary stories that Harry wasn’t Charles’s son, but that he was the by-blow of one of Diana’s several paramours, must have been hurtful, either at the time, or when Harry first became aware of them. How sad it is that–at the age of almost 40–he thinks to revive it, to give it the imprint of legitimacy (there I go again) by including discussion of it in his “official” autobiography, and–thereby–passing along to all the possibility of pondering whether his own children are, biologically-speaking, not members of the royal family, either. Good grief.
- Harry’s resentment that William and Kate lived in a lovely home filled with priceless antiques and walnut furniture, while he and Meghan had to make do with IKEA lamps and seating arrangements purchased with Meghan’s credit card from a place called “sofa.com.” (No mention, I bet, of the $3.2 million of British taxpayer money that went into renovating the ten-bedroom Frogmore Cottage for the two of them to live before their son Archie was born. After they moved to the States, they were required to repay the money, but Frogmore remains–at the pleasure of Harry’s father, King Charles–their home base in the UK.)
- Harry’s mental trauma when, at the age of 28, he moved out of Clarence House (his father’s residence), only to return at some point to discover that Camilla had turned his bedroom into her dressing room. “I tried not to care. But especially the first time I saw it, I cared.” My God. Talk about first-world problems.
- His fury that William at first refused to go on a pre-wedding “walkabout” with him the night before Harry’s marriage to Meghan and that then, rather than spending the night with Harry, William chose to return home to his wife and three children, the youngest of whom was about a month old at the time.
And on and on and on, page after page, grievance after sad grievance from Babybraingate to Balmoralgate, Paranormalgate, Baldiegate, and beyond. Who knows how many, and how much, of any of it is true? It’s not as if Harry and Meghan don’t have form when it comes to gilding the lily and embellishing the facts, or in making what seem like rather pedestrian and obvious circumstances, and rather normal family spats into something unique, special, and all about them. And it’s very easy to wonder when reading of or about some of this stuff if Harry is quite all there, or if he’s somehow lost the plot. (These sorts of musings are not helped by Harry’s claims that he’s being kept “physically and mentally strong” by a phalanx of energy practitioners, life coaches, yogis, therapists, Pilates coaches, personal trainers, acupuncturists, fitness consultants, and chiropractors. It’s possible, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might say, to hold in one’s mind at the same time both the thought that one should respect the efforts of another to live a healthy and normal life, and some dismay that this many people might be necessary in order to help a person simulate one. That’s separate and distinct from wondering about the sort of advice that Harry’s counselors seem to be giving him, and if it’s really helping him or not.)
But by far, the oddest revelations in Spare (or at least in the heretofore reported portions from reputable news sources, as reported by The Guardian, or as translated from the many available Spanish copies) are those that center on Prince Harry’s penis. (I was thinking of calling it “Prince Harry’s Willy,” but–given another of the revelations in the book–this would introduce yet another unnecessary and baffling level of incoherence.)
As an increasingly elderly, and reasonably genteel woman, I will say that I could have quite happily made it to the close of my life without knowing anything at all about Harry’s meat and two veg. I mean, really. It’s a subject that no normal man of my acquaintance feels compelled to keep bringing up at great length. And–if it’s something he finds it hard to ignore–it’s a subject on which I hope he limits discussion to either his sweaty mates in the locker room, to his service buddy next to him in the trench, or while he’s on the couch talking to his psychotherapist.
But the book is not even in widespread release yet, and I can’t turn on any news broadcast, or check in to any news site without learning that:
Harry lost his virginity to an older woman behind an English pub when he was sixteen or seventeen. He describes it as a “humiliating episode with an older woman who liked horses a lot and treated me like a young stallion…I mounted her quickly, after which she spanked me on the backside and sent me on my way.”
The opportunities for mockery here are endless, and perhaps best expressed in a Telegraph article by Guy Kelly:
The inquisition now begins into who exactly the equestrian cherry popper was, if she hasn’t disappeared across the plains and into the forest…But henceforth, it ought to become a mandatory question for all women who find themselves in the middle of a Venn Diagram featuring circles labelled “older than Harry” and “Know Your Way Around A Horse.”
Then there’s the disclosure that Harry was circumcised as an infant. As with much else, the story is couched in resentful terms: Harry appears to think that the majority of the world’s people were deeply invested in contemporary reports speculating that his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, did not believe in circumcising male infants and that the procedure had not been undertaken as a result.
There were countless stories in books and papers (even The New York Times) about Willy and me not being circumcised….
I guess I missed them. All.
(I have to confess, too, that I wasn’t exactly sure if the phrase “Willy and me” indicated that Harry regards his penis as a separate entity and friend with which he has regular chats (I have known such people), or if he was referring to his brother, but then (thankfully) he cleared it up by saying):
I was snipped as a baby.
TMI. I mean, good to know.
Then there’s the Tale of the Frosty Todger (channeling Beatrix Potter), Harry’s frostbitten penis, which he tells us he was carrying around with him at William and Kate’s wedding (an event at which he asserts that his documented, on-camera role as best man was a “complete lie.”)
It appears that the catastrophe occurred during Harry’s four-day stint on a charity trek to the North Pole to raise money for wounded servicemen. (Worthy.) Apparently, Harry and his father (then Prince Charles) had a discussion about the experience at William and Kate’s pre-wedding dinner:
Pa was very interested and sympathetic about the discomfort of my frostnipped ears and cheeks, and it was an effort not to overshare and tell him also about my equally tender penis…
I’d not have thought the concept of “oversharing” is one which ever enters Harry’s head, so I’m not sure what to make of this.
Eventually, Harry sought medical assistance for his “todger,” telling the doctor that sitting and walking were “difficult,” and that sex was “impossible.” The doctor told him it would heal with time, an opportunity (imagine my surprise) for Harry to observe that “that hasn’t been my experience” as it relates to his mother’s death.
I’m not going to speculate on what on earth compels Harry to share such specific, personal, and inappropriate reminiscences with the world, although I’ll say that–generally–his memoirs seem to be motivated by two underlying grievances: The first is the jealousy and resentment he appears to feel towards his brother because he wasn’t the firstborn, and the second seems to be his sense that his wife is in some way a reincarnation of his mother. It’s all deeply weird.
I doubt that any scion of the House of Windsor has ever stood as high in the affections of his people as Prince Henry Charles Albert David, the much-loved younger son of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales. The mischievous imp. The young schoolboy. And, in an image seared into the minds of anyone who saw it and is old enough to remember, the desperately unhappy little boy walking behind his mother’s coffin.
And I don’t recall a moment of such royal and public joy as the moment when Harry announced that he’d met the love of his life and was going to marry, Meghan Markle. (Beloved as Kate is, the preceding “Waity Katie” decade of her relationship with William made the eventual announcement of their engagement rather anti-climactic.)
And yet, five years later, here we are.
Sometime last year, when Harry announced that he was writing a book, he said:
I’m writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become.
While I doubt the veracity of many of the “revelations” in this self-serving, oversharing, and often cringeworthy autobiography, I’m sure the above statement is absolutely true.
This is the man he has become.
And–although it hasn’t been fully told yet–that will very likely be the saddest story of all.Published in