After months of anticipation and a blanket publicity blitz, Prince Harry’s autobiography “Spare” went on sale Tuesday as royal insiders hit back at his scorching revelations.
The royal family led by King Charles III and Harry’s elder brother Prince William have maintained a studied silence as painful details from the book and a round of pre-publication TV interviews have piled up.
In “Spare”, Harry portrays his father, 74, as emotionally crippled, the victim of brutal childhood bullying.
But among the many contradictions in the book, Harry also characterises the king as a doting father, who favours strong French aftershave and conducts headstands in his underwear to alleviate polo-induced back pain.
“He never forgot that I didn’t like the dark, so he’d gently tickle my face until I fell asleep,” the 38-year-old Duke of Sussex recollects of his childhood.
But palace insiders quoted in the UK press said Harry had crossed a line in attacking Queen Consort Camilla, Charles’s second wife following the death of Princess Diana, William and Harry’s mother.
“He has been kidnapped by a cult of psychotherapy and (wife) Meghan,” one royal source told The Independent newspaper.
“It is impossible for him to return (to Britain) in these circumstances,” it said, as other sources accused Harry of betraying both his father and brother.
The book opens with an epigraph drawn from US author William Faulkner — which Harry writes he found on the website BrainyQuote.com.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” it says, setting the stage for 410 pages of ghost-written prose dominated by Harry’s trauma over Diana’s death, score-settling with his family and hatred of the British media.
– One-person queue –
Some UK bookshops staged Harry Potter-style midnight openings for the biggest royal publication since the late princess of Wales collaborated with Andrew Morton for “Diana: Her True Story” in 1992.
But there was none of the initial clamour and crowds that greeted the sales of J.K. Rowling’s popular adventures of the boy wizard.
At the head of a small queue outside one shop at London’s Victoria train station was Chris Imafidon, chair of an education charity, who said he wanted to hear about Harry’s life “from the horse’s mouth”.
Staunch royalist Caroline Lennon, 59, was the only person in line outside another London bookshop before it opened on Tuesday — outnumbered by a scrum of reporters.
“I love the royal family, all of them, but I like Harry too,” the Londoner said.
“I don’t like this war thing going on between them and I want to hear what he has to say.
“I also bought the audiobook so I will be able to listen to his voice,” she added, as both the print and audio versions topped Amazon UK’s sales chart.
The publication has been accompanied by four television interviews in the UK and the United States, where Harry now lives with Meghan.
In one with US network CBS, Harry described Camilla as “the villain” who waged a “dangerous” campaign to win over the press herself after Diana’s death in a Paris car crash — which he blames on the media.
In his latest interview, published Tuesday, Harry told People magazine that the tome “and its truths are in many ways a continuation of my own mental health journey.
“It’s a raw account of my life — the good, the bad and everything in between,” he said.
– Popularity plunge –
As well as giving insights into palace life, the book contains an explosive claim from Harry that William physically attacked him as they argued about Meghan.
It also gives an account of how he lost his virginity, an admission of teenage drug use and a claim he killed 25 Taliban fighters while serving in Afghanistan with the British military — which earned him a rebuke from both the Taliban and UK veterans.
The book comes on the back of the six-hour Netflix docuseries “Harry & Meghan”, in which the couple again aired their grievances with the royal family and the British media.
A YouGov poll on Monday found that 64 percent now have a negative view of the once-popular prince — his lowest-ever rating — and that Meghan also scores dismally.
They may also be straining public interest in Meghan’s homeland, according to the New York Times.
“Even in the United States, which has a soft spot for royals in exile and a generally higher tolerance than Britain does for redemptive stories about overcoming trauma and family dysfunction, there is a sense that there are only so many revelations the public can stomach,” its former London correspondent Sarah Lyall wrote.