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Prince Harry had second thoughts about his memoir Spare after UK visit

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the Invictus Games in 2018

The Duke of Sussex wanted to cancel the publication of his memoir during his visit to Britain last summer, a US publishing source has claimed.

The team working on Spare, the duke’s memoir, were believed to have been told: “He’s pulled it. He doesn’t want to do it.”

Harry is understood to have had second thoughts about going ahead with the book, for which he was paid a multimillion-pound advance, when he was in the UK for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June.

With his father at another Invictus Games, in 2014

Insiders at Penguin Random House speculated that the royal family told him that if the book were published while Queen Elizabeth was alive there would be “no way back”.

The publishing source, who was involved in the publication of Spare, said: “The book was all ready to go but visiting his grandmother he had second thoughts.

“That was such a dark day. Everyone had been working so hard on this project in utmost secrecy — and with the expectation this would turn out to be one of the biggest and most historic books we would ever get to publish.

A shop in London advertises the official release date. The book’s contents were revealed to the world early because of leaks and Spanish bookshops selling copies before the proper release


“And then, just after Harry’s last trip to London, the boss walked in and said: ‘He’s pulled it. He doesn’t want to do it.’ I can’t tell you — it is an enormous and expensive operation getting a book like this ready and everyone involved was devastated.”

Although Harry changed his mind again in favour of publication, his hesitation could shed light on his mixed feelings about writing such a devastating memoir.

The decision not to publish was taken two weeks after the duke and his wife had visited London to attend the jubilee celebrations. Although no definitive reason has ever been given, there were rumours within his publishers at the time that Harry had been given an ultimatum by the palace.

"The rumour was that during the visit it was made clear to him that if he published while the Queen was still alive there would be no way back. Obviously that all changed with the monarch’s death in September.”

The revelations will likely put a further strain on William and Harry’s relationship

The source also described how the book had to be translated from American English into the British tongue.

“It was extraordinary. A member of the royal family describing everything as ‘awesome’ and using phraseology like: ‘We had gotten ourselves into a difficult situation’ — we had to go through the whole manuscript to make it sound like he was actually English.”

Spare, ghostwritten by JR Moehringer, opens with an account of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in September 1997 and Harry’s description of his feelings as he walked with his brother and father behind the gun carriage that bore his mother’s coffin.

The source said: “It’s a very wellwritten book which is both heartfelt and convincing. Much more so than the Netflix documentaries which can feel repetitive and one-dimensional.

Greeting the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015

“Spare is a fleshed out memoir which provides the historic context for all his feelings. He feels he grew up in a closed and dysfunctional institution which he holds at least partly responsible for the death of his mother. It’s very hard to disagree he has a case.”

Details of the memoir’s fraught production process have also emerged. The duke is said to have signed a $20 million, four-book deal with Penguin Random House in 2021. Early meetings were conducted during the pandemic under the strictest security.

During one Zoom call the young children of a senior publishing executive accidentally walked past his computer screen and a furious Harry demanded that he be removed from the project. “Prince Harry’s whole thing is about control,” the insider said. “He feels he’s never had it — but boy did he demand it with this book.”

The source said that contrary to speculation there were no significant revisions made after the Queen’s death.

“Be in no doubt though, there will be some who read Spare and think he’d better continue cultivating that American accent. For Brits especially, they may feel there is no way back.”

Oliver Kamm: Honesty about therapy will help remove its stigma

It’s hard to feel affinity with a man born to wealth and privilege who denounces his close family. Yet when you strip the invective from the Duke of Sussex’s complaints, there remains a vital point. Harry has suffered mental disorder and he shows real character in acknowledging it.

The shock of losing his mother was, according to Harry, never given a chance to ease, and he sought solace in drink and drugs. He says his experience in combat caused him post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he accuses his family of showing “total neglect” of his mental health. It rings true that a man of the King’s generation might see the remedy to mental disorder as lying in stoicism and resilience. Yet it is not weakness for feelings of grief to be a trigger for a mood disorder such as depression.

It is a real illness with known symptoms, often taking the form of feelings of worthlessness, low mood and recurrent thoughts of death. The same is true of PTSD, which was formally recognised as a mental disorder only a generation ago but whose symptoms have been charted since the 19th century and termed “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”. It is an anxiety disorder brought on by proximity to physical danger.

Headlines of Harry’s testimony are dominated by an alleged physical altercation between him and his brother. According to the duke, Prince William pressed him not to speak of it to Meghan. Harry did contact his therapist and says he has been in therapy for four or five years. Harry disclosed in 2021 that he had sought help in a technique called eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). This involves the patient recalling the traumatic event and typically then focusing on an external stimulus that requires rapid eye movement.

There is little hard evidence from controlled studies that EMDR is effective. But, like other variants of psychotherapy, it is born of a generous impulse and the mere fact of talking to a sympathetic personality when recounting mental disturbance may be of benefit in itself. And by recounting his experience of therapy, Harry can help dispel stigma. There is nothing shameful in seeking professional help for mood disorders. Perhaps depression or anxiety will eventually go away of its own accord but the human costs are severe and it isn’t necessary to suffer in silence. To imagine the solution lies in an effort of will is as futile as supposing that a broken limb can be restored by the power of prayer.

There is nothing shameful in seeking professional help for mood disorders, as Prince Harry has done

It is likely, given the unhappiness he has experienced in his family relations, Harry has received psychodynamic therapy. The idea is to explore the various factors (or dynamics) that affect a person’s life. It often involves examining the patient’s memories, possibly dating back to early life. The evidence for its value in treating mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders is mixed but it is widely used in treatment of personality disorders and forensic psychiatry, and in group and family therapy. In Britain, notably, these therapies have been influenced by object relations theory, which stresses the importance of human contact and relationships. To people who may never have had a positive relationship in their lives, it can be of immense value.

My own experience of severe clinical depression, for a full year, in which I could barely function and was consumed with feelings of guilt and yearnings for death, was addressed by cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It involved no trawling of my childhood memories (which were happy) but got me to interrogate the grounds of my belief that I was worthless and evil. I was lucky to find an expert clinical psychologist but CBT can be done online and without a skilled practitioner. It not only helped me recover completely but permanently improved the quality of my life.

Harry’s personality will not appeal to all but his openness on matters of the mind can only do good.

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