There was one particular moment in Prince Harry’s 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper on Sunday night where the prince felt compelled to set the record straight. When Cooper said that the family dynamics of the royals sounded like “Game of Thrones without dragons,” Harry first said that he has never watched the HBO show.
“But there’s definitely dragons,” the prince added, “And that’s, again, the third party, which is the British press.”
Afterward, Harry said a few sentences that sound a bit like a statement of purpose for the lengthy media tour accompanying his memoir, Spare, which will officially hit stores on Tuesday. “Ultimately, without the British press as part of this, we would probably still be a fairly dysfunctional family, like a lot are,” he said. “But at the heart of it, there is a family, without question. I really look forward to having that family element back. I look forward to having a relationship with my brother. I look forward to having a relationship with my father and other members of my family.”
It might seem a little strange that he hopes that spilling some of the family’s dirty laundry would help him get back in their good graces, but earlier in the interview, Harry offered some insight into his logic. The royal family reads the tabloids at breakfast, he explained, and he’s putting his message out where they can’t miss it. “Now, trying to speak a language that perhaps they understand,” the prince said, “I will sit here and speak truth to you with the words that come out of my mouth, rather than using someone else, an unnamed source, to feed in lies or a narrative to a tabloid media that literally radicalizes its readers to then potentially cause harm to my family, my wife, my kids.”
For the last few years, Harry has been going on a journey into media criticism, from his collaboration with the online activist group Color of Change in 2020 to his 2021 tenure on the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. During Harry & Meghan, last month’s Netflix docuseries, he spent some of his time as a talking head explaining the relationship between the palace, its inhabitants, and the Royal Rota, the press pack that covers them. Now, in the media tour for the book, he’s applying some of the information he learned in those roles to his own life.
For Harry, coming to understand the motivations of the news media helped him understand why Meghan’s time in the royal family went so wrong, but also illuminated some of the reasons why his relationships with his family were dysfunctional even before she entered the picture. In his conversation with Cooper and in his 90-minute sit down with Tom Bradby, which aired in the U.K. earlier in the day, he criticized both Queen Consort Camilla and William for their relationship with the press for different reasons. Camilla, Harry claimed, spread information about him in an attempt to improve her own reputation. William, he told Bradby, never took the chance to get to know Meghan Markle because he was too distracted by the stories about her in the tabloids.
Spare apparently begins with a description of the night that Charles told Harry that Princess Diana had died, and in his interview with Bradby, he said that he has some trouble remembering things that happened in his life before that. In both interviews, he recalled hearing that the events leading up to his mother’s death were like a “bicycle chain,” a series of interconnecting factors putting an event into motion. “If you remove one of those [links] the end result would not have happened,” he explained. It’s also clear from his in-depth discussion of his pilgrimage to the tunnel where she perished and his close observations of the paparazzi’s crash scene photos, that he has chosen to regard the media as the one link on that chain he can actually do something about.
By focusing on that link, it seems like he’s trying to find a way to forgive his family, internally, for not supporting him in his time of need. As for whether or not it will work, it’s too soon to tell, and when Harry told Cooper that he didn’t think he would ever return to royal life, he was admitting that he didn’t have too much hope. So think of his return to the spotlight this month as a little bit of catharsis for Harry himself, an attempt to show off some hard-fought personal growth.
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