I was 13 when Princess Diana died.
The entire world followed the tragic story playing out across the pond, shocked and dismayed at the violent death of such a gentle soul. It’s probably the first big news story I remember being fully aware of: the wall-to-wall cable news coverage; how the adults talked constantly about it; the headlines on newspapers and grocery store checkout lane tabloids.
But truthfully, it’s not Princess Di I identified with that August.
It was her 12-year-old son, Harry.
Prince Harry is just a few months younger than I am, born within hours of my husband. In 1997, looked like he could have been one of my junior high friends: ears a little too big for his face, limbs a little too lanky for his frame—just another awkward pre-teen stumbling through the chasm bridging childhood and adulthood. Except, of course, he was a prince.
I’ll never forget watching him in his mother’s funeral procession.
What must he be thinking? I wondered as he trudged somberly alongside his older, stoic brother, William. What must that feel like?
Today, we’re getting some of those answers, and they’re heartbreaking.
Harry’s highly anticipated memoir, Spare, just released—and it’s generating a lot of buzz for its no holds barred glimpse into the former Royal’s world. The Duke of Sussex writes about his mother’s death and how, for years, he struggled to accept it was real. He opens up about his wild, drug-laced past; his complicated relationship with his famous family; his marriage to Meghan Markle, and the couple’s subsequent exit from official Royal duties.
There’s a lot to unpack in Spare‘s 416 pages.
The book (as with anything Harry and Meghan) is bringing out strong opinions from basically everyone‚—most of them negative.
Prince Harry and Prince William aren’t exactly close as brothers, but does he need to share the sordid details?
Harry and Meghan said they wanted privacy, but they did a Netflix documentary last month so . . .
What would his mother say?
But the more I learn about Harry’s book and the relational drama and the estrangement from the Royals and just . . . everything, the more I wish I could give 12-year-old Harry a hug.
Because underneath it all, I bet that boy whose world changed when his mother died is still there, still hurting, still aching to be heard.
I still see him.
It’s a funny thing, being an adult. We’re the “grown-ups” in the room, the ones raising kids, attending class reunions, taking serious looks at our retirement plans and daily vitamin intake. But don’t you sometimes feel like the younger, not-quite-grown, a little insecure version of you is still there, wondering when everyone will notice you don’t know what the heck you’re doing?
Maybe that’s why, when it comes to Prince Harry, I can’t summon anything but empathy, details be darned.
I don’t know if I’ll read Spare or not; I’m not an Anglophile (I haven’t even watched The Crown!). It doesn’t really matter. The work of healing hurts and mending fences has nothing to do with any one of us picking up a copy of a book or watching a documentary, and they’ll have to sort that out themselves.
But in the coming days as Harry holds court in the headlines, I’ll remember that little boy who will never be King and offer him the only thing I can: a little grace.
“Spare” is available in print, electronic, and audiobook formats, with Prince Harry narrating the audio version.
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