While not a British royal super fan, I’ve always been interested in them. Queen Elizabeth’s corgis were part of the reason I got a corgi of my own. I thought I knew the broad strokes of Harry’s early life; trouble in schools, some drugs, partying, two stints in the military, and then he seemed to come into his own as an adult. In recent years, I’ve followed the royals much more closely due to the excellent coverage from Elaine (Lainey) Lui at Lainey Gossip. So when Spare was announced, I was instantly interested.
Harry, like any child, just wanted to be loved. But when Diana died it seems all physical affection disappeared from his life. The House of Windsor is not affectionate. They do not hug, a firm handshake or hand on the shoulder is the closest they get to a warm touch. Queen Elizabeth wasn’t physically affectionate with Charles and Charles wasn’t with William and Harry. Elizabeth was always Queen first and being a Granny was a distant item further down the list. That attitude came down the line. Life was always proper and formal. There was real anxiety when Harry and Megan accidentally ran into the Queen and Megan was given a hasty etiquette lesson for how to greet the monarch. William and Harry may have had tenderness between them at points in their life but as internal palace politics drove them further apart their relationship became more formal too.
According to WebMD, regarding touch starvation, “We bond through physical touch. Skin is the largest organ in your body and sends good and bad touch sensations to your brain. When you engage in pleasant touch, like a hug, your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin. This makes you feel good and firms up emotional and social bonds while lowering anxiety and fear.” “Long-term touch starvation could even trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” While there are multiple possible reasons for Harry to develop undiagnosed, until adulthood, PTSD from his mother’s death, lack of touch certainly did not help the child who was struggling with acceptance of parental loss. At some point one has to wonder if that lack of tactile affection has fed into the devolution of their relationships.
Being the “Spare” has meant that Harry has been easy fodder to throw to the press to deflect negative attention from William or Charles. He’s also been used to create sympathy for Charles. The palace refused to refute the drug allegations because Charles being a single father, dealing with a difficult child, created public sympathy for Charles. When it was reported that Megan made Kate cry before Megan’s wedding, the palace wouldn’t disprove the story despite it being the other way around because it would have made the future queen of England look bad. The book is full of examples of how the palace has refused to refute lies in the tabloids and feeds stories to the beast to push agendas. The palpable frustration of Harry when he wasn’t allowed to sue the tabloids was infuriating.
Parts of the book that I found especially fascinating was Harry talking about his love of and time spent in Africa. I will admit to being downright jealous of the number of times he’s done river cruises and safaris in Botswana. I also appreciated learning about his military service. I didn’t realize how in the thick of it he was, how he had to fight to do a second tour of duty, the work involved in becoming a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, and that both tours were ended due his location being leaked by the press and insurgents specifically targeting him (endangering everyone around him).
Reading Harry’s personal account of his life and how everything has gone down was chilling and gave me new levels of compassion for him. It definitely has me looking at some members of the royal family with a lot of side eye. The other side of that though is, would there be less competition and in fighting if they were allowed to behave like normal people, giving each other hugs and other tactile forms of affection? Who can say? But at this point it seems that irreparable damage has been done.
If you have an interest in the royal family this is definitely a must read book. If you’re curious about how such a brouhaha came about over Harry marrying Megan, this is for you.