The Destiny of Spares
The literary work by His Highness Prince Harry Mountbatten-Windsor, Duke of Sussex has finally been published. Entitled “Spare”, it chronicles the life of a young boy who loses his mother at an early age and endeavors to do good for his country and humanity. Such a tale has been told many times. This time, however, it is told by a man who was the second in succession to the throne of the United Kingdom, hence the title “Spare”. It is a pejorative term used by mostly unfeeling parents or relatives of a child not destined to inherit great wealth or status. In this particular instance, the author uses the term to describe himself. This is the first indication that something is amiss but not the last.
Harry - the world is now on a first name basis with this individual - relates earth shattering stories of little dresses for bridesmaids that don’t quite fit, the premature balding of his brother, a physical fight between siblings (goodness gracious), his fiancés’ struggle to wear the tiara of her choosing for her wedding, and his feelings (feelings, feelings everywhere) about the death of his mother and the prospect of his father’s lover becoming his stepmother. Along the way, the Prince recounts how his father used to make unfunny jokes about his paternity mentioning the possibility of Harry being, in fact, the son of Captain James Hewitt, the now unclubbable former riding instructor to the Princess of Wales. Or was it Oliver Hoare, James Gilbey, Andrew Morton, Will Carling, Donald Trump (he has red hair), Bryan Adams? Enough - nausea has set in.
It is a book of frightful tales and unnecessary details. Few balanced individuals would write such an attack on their family even if they had cause to do so. It is, in essence, a one-way ticket out of whatever home exists.
All of this, all of it, has come to the fore since the marriage of His Highness to Meghan Markle in 2018, which might be a coincidence if you believe in coincidences. One need not be a psychoanalyst or psychiatrist to understand the motivation of the Duke of Sussex; he couldn’t save his mother but he can now save his wife from a cold and unfeeling establishment which she sought to enter. When he looks at his wife he sees “mummy” who needs his care and support whether she requests it or not. This, however, suits the Duchess who secretly, and now obviously, detests the institution she joined on her wedding day. Unable to bend to her will a monarchy born in the mists of post-Roman Britain, she thought that her husband, with her assistance, could destroy it.
Theirs is a symbiotic relationship that ultimately leads nowhere because their mutual goal cannot be realized.
Since their shared purpose is doomed and since King Charles has stated that he does not want his remaining years to be “misery”, now is the time for everyone to start behaving as adults. Yes, Your Highness, life is unfair. Kind people do not always become the CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations, little birds fall out of nests, old people become sick, and second princes rarely become kings. Unlike the lyrics from the musical “Chicago” you cannot always “like the life you’re living, you can live the life you like”. Most people adjust to the former and never experience the latter.
And this is not unique to Great Britain. We in the United States of America have our own spares; they are called Vice Presidents. Theirs is a lonely, frustrating, often forgotten role; mainly to attend the funerals of foreign dignitaries, and mind-numbing conferences. However, there have been a handful of cases when they have been called upon to occupy the highest office in the land, usually when the chief executive has died of natural or unnatural causes, the latter always the result of the use of a firearm. But, for the most part, life is unfair for Vice Presidents as well.
Not all spares fare badly. Harry’s own great-grandfather George VI was a spare though the is no record that he and his brothers ever thought of themselves as such. The Grimaldis of Monaco are a very old family not especially known for their fraternity. During the Middle Ages, one Grimaldi heir stabbed the ruling prince in the jugular during dinner. When the shocked servant standing behind the ruler’s chair shouted “The Prince is dead”, the attacker calmly continued his soup course and replied, “The Prince lives”!
Yet, these are exceptions that Prince Henry (for he is too old to be “Harry” any longer), will have to contemplate in the not-too-distant future. In addition, it is not seemly to continually bemoan one’s fate.
The former Edward VIII came to grasp this when he was Duke of Windsor after abdicating the throne in 1936 to marry the woman he loved. It was his choice, he loved her and the throne was the price he was willing to pay for married bliss. He, to his credit, stayed silent for decades, not out of shame but because all that needed to be said had been said. His great-nephew would do well to learn the same. The alternative is depressing.
In the film “The Lion in Winter” which depicts the end of the reign of Henry II in 1183, his three sons, Richard (the Lionheart), John (of Magna Carta fame) and Geoffrey (Duke of Brittany), conspire to make war against their father in an effort to depose him. He reminds them that they cannot all be king. Henry picks Richard as his heir. Geoffrey makes a late-night visit to John and in a secret meeting asks him to join in a plot against Henry and Richard. John is hesitant but Geoffrey reminds him, “We are extra princes now. Do you know where extra princes go?”
John pauses and grimly answers: “Down”.