The pen, at least according to playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton, is mightier than the sword but then I suppose eight-figure book deals didn’t exist in 1839 when he was busy jotting down that famous line.
Because pens, whether a badly chewed Bic or a Mont Blanc, might be powerful – but a humungous deal with the world’s largest publisher is even mightier still.
Currently, in some secretive computer drive protected by a password only marginally stronger than that protecting the nuclear codes, is the manuscript of Prince Harry’s memoir. Reportedly set to be released before the end of the year, the author himself has promised that he would be writing “not as the Prince I was born but as the man I have become”.
And that man he has become? Well, that man looks like he has quite the ax to grind, with new clues suggesting his book could be even more of a Buckingham Palace-rattling doozy than previously thought.
The question that has started to take shape is this: Is Harry about to ‘betray’ the Queen once and for all?
Since bailing on palace life to swan around California in hulking four-wheel drives and to pay energetic lip service to the notion of service, Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex have obviously done their darnedest to become the loudest and most vociferous critics of the royal family since the English Civil War.
But still, even in the face of all that, some ties with the monarchy mothership, and especially with Her Majesty, have held. After all, the Sussexes were there, albeit in the literal and figurative second row, back in June for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and they paid the 96-year-old a quickie visit back in April when they were on their way to the Netherlands.
But that was then and this is now.
As the clock ticks down to the launch of Harry’s book, will – or even can – this fragile tie hold once his autobiography lands with a thud?
‘Nothing is sacrosanct’ in Harry’s memoir
For months now there have been reports speculating about what revelations and criticisms the Duke might have been busy scribbling in his ‘My First Tell-All’ notebook.
Tom Bower, in his newly released Revenge: Meghan, Harry And The War Between The Windsorsmakes the case that “nothing and no one” have been held “sacrosanct” by Harry in writing his book.
Uh oh … let’s hope the corgis and doorgis haven’t learned to read.
Rewind to February 6 this year, Her Majesty’s Accession Day, when the Queen made the unexpected announcement that it was her “sincere wish” that her daughter-in-law Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall would be crowned alongside her son Prince Charles.
Bower writes that in the wake of the Camilla news, “any doubts about Harry’s antagonism towards his country and family were dispelled by his stony silence” on the matter and that his “refusal to acknowledge the Queen’s decision foreshadowed the problems to come.”
According to Bower: “Occasionally, [Harry] seemed willing to betray every value he formerly held dear. No one realised how his hostility had grown during his conversations with John Moehringer, the ghostwriter of his memoirs.”
“To earn the estimated advance of about $US20 million ($A28.8 million), Harry would be expected to give Moehringer emotional confessions and secret details. These would settle his scores with his family and friends.”
“Among the targets besides William, Kate and Charles would be Camilla. Meghan had identified her as racist.”
In RevengeBower writes that the Duke of Sussex was “[edging] towards betraying” some of the people he had been closest to.
“To secure vast sales and recoup the huge advance, the publishers had encouraged Harry to criticize his family in the most extreme terms possible,” Bower said. “Easily persuaded, Harry edged towards betraying his father, Camilla, the Cambridges and even the Queen. And then, the dead was done. To earn out the publisher’s advance, nothing and no one had been sacrosanct.”
It is that last sentence that is the most ominous.
If what Bower reports is correct, then it sounds like the Duke of Sussex’s book could go even further than the denunciations of the monarchy and his family that he and Meghan have wheeled out thus far. (You know, the sensational charges of palace racism, “total neglect” and a callous disregard for the wellbeing of The Firm’s most vulnerable members.)
Who is in Harry’s firing line?
Meanwhile, elsewhere, the Daily Mail‘s very well connected Richard Kay has reported that “there is considerable anxiety in Buckingham Palace circles that Harry, 37, will use the memoir to settle perceived scores with family members and senior courtiers.”
“It is the disintegration of the bond between him and William over the past three years which has so alarmed courtiers.”
One person who has routinely been named as a possible target of Harry’s literary ire is Camilla.
According to Kay, “Five years ago, long before he had thought about writing a book, Harry invited friends of his mother to share memories and private photographs of her.
“One at least had a lengthy discussion with him about Camilla.”
“It was pretty clear that he did not have a high opinion of her,” Diana’s friend later told Kay. “He wasn’t very complimentary about her and I very much doubt he forgot what we talked about that day.”
Blow to the heart of the monarchy
If you take Bower and Kay’s claims together, then it is looking like the seemingly perma-disgruntled Prince will be pulling no punches on the page when it comes to his family and the monarchy.
And what that means is that, even if he only writes in the most glowing and affectionate terms about his grandmother herself, his memoir could be an abject betrayal of Her Majesty.
Should Harry spend a chunk of his book taking aim at particular family members and various pinstriped staffers who run the royal dog-and-pony show, that would still constitute a strike against the woman who is the head of both the House of Windsor and institution of the monarchy.
Anything that humiliates or generals the monarchy indirectly humiliates or generals the Top Lady (as Diana called her mother-in-law).
Or to quote Louis XIV, “l’etat, c’est Moi,” which translates to “the state is me”.
If Harry does go down this route, then it would be a watershed moment, the sort of line to which there is a very clear ‘before’ and a different ‘after’.
In this scenario, it is hard to see how he could ever go back in any sense.
In early 2021, Harry appeared on James Corden’s Late Late Show in a dignity-defying appearance (who could ever forget him asking a complete stranger if he could use their loo?) and revealed that the Queen had given the Sussex family a waffle maker for Christmas. This year, will any household appliances be winging their way from Windsor to California?
So, so much is on the line with this book and it might turn out that in 2022, a huge cheque might end up being the mightiest force of them all.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.