Fleet Street's reaction to Spare shows Prince Harry is his own worst enemy

Duke of Sussex's memoir is front page news in UK but does little to help his cause

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

There are few things the British media loves more than a royal drama.

With his memoir Spare, Prince Harry has given the members of what used to be known as Fleet Street a deluge of material to fill their newspapers, websites and TV screens.

Friday's front pages lay out the highlights after a handful of copies, mostly in Spanish, were grasped by correspondents and pored over in detail. Fighting with his brother makes for fascinating reading but it seems doubtful that it will do anything to help Harry's cause — other than boost his bank balance.

As is the way with British newspapers, they do not stick to just facts and reportage, but frequently editorialise in their tone. It was perfectly clear which papers were truly appalled by the prince's revelations and which were simply loving a new scandal.

The Daily Telegraph, which has an older readership and is staunchly royalist, focuses on Prince Harry and his brother Prince William's feelings towards their father's second wife, Queen Consort Camilla. In his book, the prince writes that they were willing to accept their relationship but “begged” their father, the Prince of Wales at the time, not to marry Camilla, fearing she would become a “wicked stepmother”.

Prince William and Prince Harry through the years — in pictures

The Daily Mail leaves no room for doubt that it is unimpressed with his revelations. The paper has been caught up in a long-running legal battle with the Sussexes and has been the most outspoken in its dislike of Harry and Meghan's opinions or decision to leave the UK.

It starts its 17-page “truth bomb special” by screaming “Oh Spare us!” as its splash headline, referring to the “millions who will groan” at his hypocrisy. It highlights columnist Jan Moir's opinion that the prince is a “grudge-toting manbaby” and uses a picture of the prince in Afghanistan with the headline “Astonishment as he declares: I killed 25 Taliban fighters'. Inside, its royal editor Rebecca English suggests readers should “let this sink in”, as the prince had “stooped to revealing a private remark from his grieving father at Prince Philip's funeral”, a reference to King Charles pleading with the siblings to call a truce and not make his final years a misery.

The Express, another royalist publication with its feet firmly in the Team Charles camp, asks how the prince's desire for reconciliation can happen, saying “you sold your soul, Harry”.

While other publications might not show quite so much vitriol, they do have blanket coverage.

The Times described the most devastating royal revelations for more than a generation, while the Mirror declared “It's all over now”, with a picture of the brothers as children.

With “Put your dukes up”, The Star focused on the altercation between the brothers in the kitchen at Kensington Palace, while The Sun honed in on the prince's admission that he took cocaine and anger at his claims he killed 25 Taliban while serving in Afghanistan.

With his memoir, Prince Harry has given members of what used to be known as Fleet Street ad infinitum material to fill their newspapers, websites and TV screens.

The Guardian, which usually likes to steer clear of royal events, had set the ball rolling by being the first to get hold of a copy of the book. It used its front page picture to point out Harry's accusation: “William attacked me”.

The BBC and Sky News were equally enthralled, providing rolling coverage and live blogging events. At one point, Sky's main news was “Sky News has obtained a copy of Spare” as it dashed to publish paragraphs. They also lined up a number of mental health workers to suggest the prince is still traumatised by his mother's death, and that treatment so far has failed to deal with it successfully.

Being seen to be believed, as the late Queen Elizabeth II used to say, means it is important for the royal family to stay in the headlines, but having its dirty laundry aired in public in this way is a PR nightmare.

There is no doubt the royal family will be hurt by the allegations and concerned at the damage the claims are doing to its reputation.

But Prince William having a punch-up with his brother may even endear some people to him more as they might see him standing up for the monarchy.

Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex through the years — in pictures

From the allegations which have been published so far, it is Prince Harry himself who risks the most damage.

There is a genuine concern that by revealing his “kill list” of 25 during his time in Afghanistan he has broken a soldier code, undone the good feelings many in the UK had towards him for fighting for his country, and caused potential consequences for the military.

While some, particularly those of a younger generation, may believe it is his right to tell “his truth” and believe he has been treated harshly by a family focused on succession, others may find his sharing of personal details around his sex life and drug-taking unnecessary.

The hashtag “shutupharry” was trending on Twitter at one point.

With the passing of Queen Elizabeth in September, the royal family's position as a bedrock of life in Britain is no longer quite as secure as it was once. King Charles no doubt wishes his second son would put family first and keep his thoughts out of print.

However, as agonising as it must be for the Windsors to be dragged through the mud in this fashion, there is no new incendiary accusation such as racism that could do real damage.

The prince has continued to churn out his mantra that his own family has treated him unfairly but there is little to change the minds of those who have already decided if they are pro or anti Harry.

Published: January 06, 2023, 1:43 PM