A mere week ago, a member of the British royal family’s willing appearance on the cover of America’s most respected celebrity magazine would’ve been shocking. As a fairly close Windsor-watcher, I would have eaten it up. But when People dropped its new cover on Tuesday morning, and its star was—you guessed it—Prince Harry, I not only didn’t care, I was annoyed. The over-exposure of Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, which Jezebel predicted in December, has come to fruition head-spinningly quickly. In the last few days alone, Harry (and his press team) have managed to make me never want to hear from this clueless man again, no matter how many dirty royal secrets he says he’s airing.
His memoir was officially released Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. (for hardcore fans and, more realistically, journalists), but so many secrets leaked last week that by Friday, it was hard to keep track of them all. Here at Jezebel, where we do not shy away from a juicy royals story, we were already so exhausted by the deluge that we put every remaining revelation in a single post and moved on.
The book was somehow already on sale in Spain, and various news outlets said they’d also gotten their hands on an illicit copy. (There were no official review copies given to the media.) After the tepid response to Harry and Meghan’s Netflix docuseries, which was released in December, the cynic in me suspects that these leaks were not accidental; pre-release drama can really help get people to shell out $30. Plus, Harry has spent much of his promotional interviews talking about how his family members and their staffs play the media like a fiddle—seems like a skill he very likely also picked up.
These interviews have all hit the same notes: Harry blames the British tabloid press for Princess Diana’s death; Harry thought, for years, that Diana maybe faked it so she could have a fresh start; William was mean to Harry in school (this is just called having a sibling, my dude); Harry doesn’t think the royal family is racist, they just have a lot of “unconscious bias” (despite Meghan’s previous reveal to Oprah that someone in Harry’s family was worried about how “dark” their son’s skin would be, which is unequivocally racist); awful coverage in British tabloids is both the cause and effect of Harry’s family’s trauma; therapy helps, a lot.
ITV’s own Tom Bradby, whose interview with Harry was the first to air (on Sunday evening, British time), copped to the similarities in a Monday hit, saying, “Whether or not you watched my interview with Prince Harry or anyone else’s over the last 24 hours, you cannot have missed the impact of his claims.”
I agree with Bradby’s point here, though not in the way I suspect he intended: “Some may have been sympathetic, others angry,” he said. I, simply, am exasperated. A mega-high-profile press tour that hits the same emotions and anecdotes over and over ruins the impact of those notes, however powerful they may have been the first time. The interviews were boring—not the fault of interviewers Bradby, Anderson Cooper, or Michael Strahan—but because Harry adopted the message discipline of a career politician. When his talking points were challenged, Harry appeared rather affronted, as if he’d assumed these would all be softball interviews.
Harry sees the trauma and pain he’s experienced—something I’m in no position to question, nor would I want to—above all else. He’s unable to see himself as we see him: a literal prince, the embodiment of material privilege and the outdated social mores that still, bizarrely, guide much of society. So when he bristles at a journalist asking “why not give up your titles if you hate the royal family so much” (I’m paraphrasing here, but only slightly), and responds, “what difference would that make,” what comes across is that this poor little rich boy still thinks he is deserving of that station.
I am far from the first writer to say that Harry—and Meghan—want to have their cake and eat it too, but it’s that tension that is so uniquely exasperating about this rollout cycle. If they’re seeking a certain reaction, they need to at least attempt to look at themselves from an outsider’s perspective, and this press tour has proven that Harry is capable of anything but that.