Try to find Prince Harry’s forthcoming memoir on Amazon and every royal book but his comes up. These biographies are all “explosive”, it goes without saying, and packed full of “royal bombshells” about the put-upon Duke. Either that or “intimate”, “real”, “inside” stories. Yet the most “intimate”, “inside” story that could possibly exist – the one due to be published by Penguin Random House in “late 2022” – doesn’t figure at all. Not even with a blank cover, not with a working title or a disclaimer that the “release date is not yet known”.
It’s a strategy, of course. You don’t spend $20 million on a book about “one of the most fascinating and influential global figures of our time” (Penguin’s words) without putting together a shrewd pre-publication campaign strategy. And, although the publication of By Royal Disappointment (one of my working titles) was allegedly delayed, according to publishing insiders “the manuscript has [now] been finished and gone through all of the legal processes”. Which means Penguin is going for a “shock drop” game plan that, like a firework finale against a clear night sky, will involve a tantalising radio silence… followed by a bombardment of Hazza revelations so breathtaking that consumers will be dazzled into spending £16.99 on Yet Another Royal Opus (how’s that for a title?).
There’s a problem with this strategy, highlighted by a report in this paper at the weekend about the string of “insider accounts” being rushed out between now and the publication of Harry: Fear And Loathing In Kensington Palace (possibly my favorite fantasy title, with the Nora Ephron-derived I Feel Bad About My Royalty a close second.)
The tone has been set by Tom Bower, the author of last month’s headline-grabbing Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors, and in a fortnight’s time bestselling writer Catherine Mayer will publish an updated version of her Prince Charles biography – Charles : The Heart of a King – promising readers “previously unpublished details” around “Harry and Meghan’s exit”.
In September, another esteemed journalist will provide new insight into the Duke’s last period of royal life. Valentine Low broke the story about the Duchess of Sussex being accused of bullying staff while at Kensington Palace in 2018 (Meghan’s team have always vigorously denied the accusations) and her sources in Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown are likely to be impeccable .
In November, comes a double whammy from two well-known royal experts. Katie Nicholl will publish a forensic examination of the firm in The New Royals, while Angela Levin will publish a biography of the Duchess of Cornwall. Again, both are expected to include versions of Megxit and, given Levin’s criticism of the Sussexes and rumors that Harry’s autobiography (My Journey to Me-Ville) will contain criticism of his stepmother de ella, hers is unlikely to be favorable in their regard de she.
It’s enough to make me feel a stab of pity for the prince. Imagine having “your truth” drowned out by a load of other people, all telling different versions of that truth, all collectively prompting Harry Fatigue? And what if the other versions are – whisper it – more compelling? It wouldn’t be fair. Your own story should always be the most colorful and entrancing one out there, surely. But it’s also not beyond the realms of possibility. After all, the prince does now behave as though someone has suctioned every last vestige of charisma out of him with one of those nasal aspirators for babies. And the problem with worthiness is that it’s terribly boring to read about.
It’s true that Harry’s ghostwriter, US novelist JR Moehringer, is highly respected and that, as a first-hand account of the prince’s life, Me, Myself and I: A Journey Into Narcissism is guaranteed a certain amount of success. But the emphasis on it being a “literary memoir” is concerning, as is the prince’s sell. “I’m writing this not as the prince I was born, but as the man I have become,” he has said, which is a bit like Mick Jagger promising to tell you exactly how he makes the green juices he relies upon today – oh, but there won’t be any details about the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll years. I hate to break it to you, Harry, but the prince part? That’s the sell.
Then there’s the national mood to consider as we head into autumn and the cost-of-living crisis really begins to bite. I can’t talk for other countries, but how many Brits – short on disposable income – will be willing to dig deep in their wallets for Harry: My Life In Whinges?