Maybe it’s a guy thing. Guys in America don’t grow up wanting to be princes. They don’t play with prince dolls. They don’t dress as princes for Halloween.
So I guess it’s no surprise if, once they become adults, American men have little interest in princes. And I confess, as an American man, I don’t. I have never cared much about the royal family. I don’t live in England. They don’t affect my daily life.
Still, it’s hard to avoid Prince Harry these days. The second son of Charles and Diana is everywhere in America. In a popular Netflix documentary series. In a new autobiography. In long, confessional, high-profile interviews.
In one such interview, I overheard where he once found his wife “sobbing” on the floor. I may not care for princes, but that struck a sympathetic chord. No husband wants to find his wife in a crying heap. What could have happened to make her so distraught?
So I looked into his book. And I discovered this horrible sobbing was caused by a tense disagreement with Princess Kate over …
The flower girls’ dresses for Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
And I went back to not caring about princes.
A funny way of staying private
Now, as a rule of thumb, it’s smart to avoid autobiographies by people in their 30s. They usually write them with the caveat “it’s time to tell my side of the story,” but older people know that your story is still unfolding in those years, and things you think are critical now may seem less important — or even trivial — further down the line.
Perhaps Harry, who is 38, will learn this as he ages. For now, he is smearing himself so completely and embarrassingly across the stage, that even if you don’t care about princes, it warrants a response, if only to try and establish some perspective.
Harry lacks perspective the way ants lack height. His biggest blind spot is a continual insistence that he and his former-actress wife’s lives are made miserable by all the attention they get, while simultaneously seeking endlessly more attention.
If you want privacy, you don’t sell your life stories to Netflix and sit in front of the camera for hours complaining about how hounded your existence is. If you want privacy, you don’t do “Oprah” or “60 Minutes.” If you want privacy, you don’t move to one of the richest towns in Southern California, where movie stars and paparazzi continuously orbit one another.
If you want privacy, you don’t keep unleashing damaging comments about your family that are sure to garner a response. What’s ironic about Harry’s book is that in it, he does to his family what he so endlessly whines about having been done to him: He reveals stories better kept private. He tattles. He accuses.
In other words, he seems to have learned nothing, other than a petulant child’s familiar refrain: I just want you to hurt like I do.
‘Spare’ a dollar for your story
Harry called his book “Spare,” a nod to the British expression “an heir and a spare,” used to reference the second son of a king or queen. But he comes across as jealous of the heir (his brother William) and resentful of being the spare, so much so that he walked away from any royal responsibilities, moved to the U.S. and promptly made a fortune by becoming a royal tattle, which is far less demanding and, apparently — if you believe the $100 million Netflix deal and $20 million book contract — pays better, too.
But here is what the young prince doesn’t understand. You lose claim to sympathy when you are peddling your woes, and that’s pretty much all Harry and Meghan do — when they’re not lecturing people on mental health or sensitivity.
Harry’s life offers little to suggest expertise. He had a slightly rebellious youth (read about his drug use in his book, he’ll happily tell you, or the time he lost his virginity “in a grassy field behind a busy pub,” a detail the world could have lived without.) He served in the British military, married Markle when he was 33, decided his family was mean to her and imposing on him and moved away. Not an uneventful life, but not one that suggests a perch from which he should tell others how to live.
In searching for why people are so fascinated with him (his book reportedly sold 1.43 million copies on its first day in the U.S., Canada and Britain) I keep coming back to his mother, Princess Diana. She was so supernova famous, and beloved, that even in death, her aura hangs over her children, draping them in empathy, not unlike John F. Kennedy’s children, who grew up as if being cradled by a nation.
Perhaps this is why people care about Harry, are curious about him or feel sorry for him. Even if he does his best to make you feel otherwise.
A better way to go about it
Losing a mother the way William and Harry lost theirs is horrific, and most of us could never comprehend the burden of grieving under such a microscope. But you’d think that might pull a family closer together.
Instead, the estranged Harry keeps firing away, sniping from across an ocean, laying claims of meanness, coldness and vague hints of racism against his relatives. Then, after all this, he yearns for reconciliation. It’s as if he wants to set Windsor Castle on fire, then run in and save everyone to prove his nobility.
An older person might tell him this is not how it works. A kinder person might tell him this is hurtful to his loved ones and scarring to their future together. A wiser person might suggest that at a time when the world’s economy, health and stability are all in peril, settling scores with your entitled royal relatives isn’t a priority — yours or anyone else’s.
Harry claims that he wants the truth to be known. But if he’d waited a few decades to write his book, he might have learned that there is always your truth, other people’s truths, and the truth in between.
At this stage, Harry, like other young princes, seems only interested in his own story. I’m not sure why anyone else is.
Contact Mitch Albom: email@example.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.