I’ll begin by letting you know that I am neither a huge ‘royalist’ nor am I anti. I tune in when there is a royal wedding or some other royal event that monopolises the nation; I felt great sadness watching the funeral of our former Queen, and unusually proud with the ‘Britishness’ of all the ceremonial pomp and circumstance. But I don’t read the news or magazines that ‘gossip’ with soap-style details of the Royals or display the latest fashion trends set by Kate or Meghan Markle.
For precisely the reason Prince Harry talks about. It is fake news, created purely with intent of making money and brainwashing its readers.
So, I am a person who only acknowledges something when it comes from the ‘horses’ mouth’. Rightly or wrongly, I believe what comes from Harry’s mouth, because it is his own words and relays his perception of things. Of course, there are always two sides to a story, but if he is brave enough to speak out and share his story, I’m going to believe him over the press.
The reason this subject has caught my attention, is (unsurprisingly), because I wrote a memoir myself. It is not a life-history, reveal-all type of memoir, it merely focuses on the events of 2019 when I broke my back during a serious mental health episode. It details both my mental and physical recovery. (Catch Me if I Fall).
I wrote my memoir to make sense of what happened to me that year. It was a way to share my mental health episode and remove stigma, whilst helping others that suffer at the hands of poor mental health. More importantly, I wanted to clear up the fact that I never ‘jumped’ from the roof – it was not a suicide attempt (as some seemed to think), but a complex set of circumstances during a psychotic episode that resulted in my falling from a roof.
So, how could a brave memoir that was supposed to be about myself cause such ripples amongst my own family? It received nothing but positive reviews and kind comments from those in the mental health profession, and huge praise from others that found inspiration from my story and the trauma of a spinal cord injury. So, how did it upset my own family who chose to ostracise me when I published it?
Unlike Harry, who talks about his issues with family (both good and bad), I avoided going into any details about my somewhat dysfunctional family background. It was not a ‘reveal all’ about my life but merely focused on a particular episode in my life. I briefly mention what brought me to living in Norfolk – since it was relevant, and yes, it hints at family discord – which was a gross understatement. But, it seems, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t in this world!
I’ve come to realise that, sadly, we are infected with something in today’s world that would explain this. Negative bias. There is a tendency to focus on the bad, look for the detail that will confirm your negative beliefs about someone, rather than see the good. It is like having a bad day in the office, whereby you relay all the things that went wrong, such as the photocopier breaking down, and the colleague who made a disparaging comment, rather than all the things that went well that day.
This is made worse still if you are the targeted ‘scapegoat’ in a family (I have written previous blog posts on this matter). My editor warned me that there may be ‘trolls’ in the world who would take steps to criticise or discredit my hard work with negative reviews. I steeled myself to be ready for this, but had never expected it come from family members! However, I would not change a thing.
I admire Harry for many reasons. One of these, is for having the guts to face his family and make the decision to step away and put his own wife and family first – not easy to do when you are the ‘spare’. Yes, it goes against royal protocol, but he didn’t ask to be born. We only get one chance at life (depending on your religion), and he has as much right to live his ‘best life’ as any of us.
I also admire how brave Harry is to share details of his truth, despite knowing he would probably be pulled apart. Of course, the press were always destined to pull out extraneous content to make a headline – but Harry would have known that.
Straightening the record
Harry has spent a lifetime being portrayed as the ‘naughty, rebellious’ one. He has lived with a false identity that must have been extremely frustrating for him. We all (well most of us) spend our lives working out who we are, what our place and purpose is in this world. I see his revelations as him doing exactly this.
Harry has reached a point where he knows himself, he understands who he is and merely wants to share this with the world to put the record straight. He has lived with a ‘forced identity’ and been labelled however the papers see fit on a particular day. Would you not want to write a ‘reveal all’ if you were being misrepresented? I know I would, and will, perhaps, write another memoir one day! I have very real experience of being misrepresented causing great harm and detriment to myself and others, so understand why Harry would want to set the record straight.
What makes a memoir?
Before writing my memoir, I researched what constitutes a good memoir. There were many aspects, of which one stood out clearly… to become ‘vulnerable’. Don’t hold back and reveal only the bits you are comfortable with, be truthful and authentic and dig deep! Harry has certainly achieved this in his memoir which is brilliantly written. I will add here, that I was disappointed to learn he employed a ghost writer. However, I trust the memories and words within are all his own. I purchased the audible version of Spare which he reads himself and this makes it feel even more authentic.
I will write a full review when I’ve finished ‘Spare’ (it’s a very long book), but here are a few thoughts so far.
Harry reveals how intrusive and warped the tabloids are which is eye-opening, and the only part of his book where I suspect he may be a little avenging (understandably). The intimacy with which he details his family relationships could be received badly, and I would presume those he mentions to be unhappy with the revelations (based on my own experience).
However, if you look deeper behind his words, he is desperate to be ‘heard’ and understood, which is quite sad. He wants nothing more than acceptance for the person he has grown into today. Whether or not his close family can understand this, or even interpret his comments in this light, is up to them. He certainly has not set out to cause them harm which many say he has.
There are details in the book that are very intimate – such as Harry talking about his willy (no, not his brother!) At times, this made me feel uncomfortable. However, I’m sure some people found the details of my bowel care and catheter issues a tad too much! But these issues are relevant and necessary as part of the bigger picture.
The detail with which Hary talks about his life and certain relationships may make some feel uncomfortable, but it’s a sign of a true and authentic memoir and gives the book balance. I take my hat off to him. He is in a position of freedom, where he no longer fulfils royal duty, so why not show his true self – warts and all?
Why spare us the intimate details?
My mother-in-law (from a different generation – I know!) said to me, ‘but why would someone want to talk about their intimate and personal details that should remain private?’ My response is: because we live in a time where we have freedom of voice, and have the right to exercise that. If a person is brave enough to bring out their demons and share their inner-self publicly and it helps them in some way – let them have their voice. Silencing people is just wrong.
Will you enjoy Harry’s memoir?
In my opinion, if you are not a fan of reading memoir, this book may not be for you – even if you are unbiased with your thoughts about Prince Harry. Memoir, by nature, takes you very close to the writer and the intimacies of their thoughts and feelings – which isn’t for everybody – especially the prudish!
Secondly, if you already see Harry in a negative light, I don’t believe his memoir is going to convince you otherwise. No doubt the places with uncomfortable detail or information you may deem unnecessary, will be the focus of your review, rather than the humorous, heartbreaking, and frank telling of his story.
Personally, I say well done for coming through everything Harry, and becoming the well-adjusted and ‘real’ person that you are today. Well done for breaking out to save not only your own mental health, but others’ too. Clearly, your intent is to dedicate your life to humanitarian issues, and it takes a special kind of person to do that, but above all, one who is ‘human’.
Thank you for sharing your voice.