How safe from legal jeopardy is Prince Harry over his memoir?
27 January 2023 | 2 minute read
This article was originally published in The Times on January 26, 2023.
“A taste for truth at any cost is a passion that spares nothing”, wrote Albert Camus, the French philosopher.
In his emotional blood-letting, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has spared none of his nemeses in seeking to tell “his” truth. But in opening his own veins, his excoriating pen has eviscerated the private lives of others, laying bare confidential communications, confided conversations and familial secrets. That none of his victims will sue is almost certain — but could they?
Harry beckons us into his father’s bedchamber, where one finds Charles doing headstands that were “prescribed by his physio" as “the only effective remedy for the constant pain in Pa’s neck and back”. We hide in the bushes at “a secret meeting” revealing a private plea from father to sons: “Please, boys — don’t make my final years a misery.”
Harry reveals that his brother, William, now Prince of Wales, was “confused . . .tormented . . . felt tremendous guilt for having done nothing, said nothing sooner” about the “other woman”. We eavesdrop on whispered confidences at the graveside of grieving siblings, “Willy” confiding to “Harold” that he felt his dead mother with him, setting him up for life.
Text messages over bridesmaids’ dresses were likely to have been written by Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, only for the eyes of the bride-to-be, not as entertainment for the public. Yet while not produced by Harry verbatim, they are shared in Spare, causing not dissimilar distress to Kate, one imagines, as his wife Meghan complained was caused by the publication of her renowned “Dear Daddy” letter.
Meghan’s successful suit against the Mail on Sunday concerned communications “about her private and family life, not her public profile or her work” in respect of which she enjoyed “a reasonable expectation that [they] would remain private and not be published to the world at large”. There are potential parallels between the privacy invasion caused to Harry’s wife and those caused by Meghan’s husband.
These disclosures in Spare sit alongside forays into Harry’s first sexual experience, his frost-bitten penis, his inconsolable grief, alcohol and drug use. The duke may be confident that he is not thereby unravelling his own privacy pullover, perhaps relying on the judgment in Meghan’s case, that “the starting point is a person has the right to exercise close control over particular information about her private life: to decide whether to disclose anything about a given aspect of that life and, if so, what to disclose ,when, to whom”.
Having now bared his soul, it’s likely the media will rely on these disclosures should Harry bare his legal teeth again in privacy litigation.
Spare lambasts the “tell-all” memoir of Diana’s former butler as “merely one man’s self-justifying, self-centering version of events”. While those attacked in Harry’s tell-all memoir may not sue, perhaps they will console themselves similarly.