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In TV interview, Prince Harry says his book is a bid to 'own my story'

A person at home in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, watches Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, being interviewed by ITV's Tom Bradby during "Harry: The Interview," two days before his controversial autobiography "Spare" is published, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
Jane Barlow
/
AP
A person at home in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, watches Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, being interviewed by ITV's Tom Bradby during "Harry: The Interview," two days before his controversial autobiography "Spare" is published, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

LONDON — Prince Harry defended his decision to publish a memoir that lays bare rifts inside Britain's royal family, saying it's an attempt to "own my story" after 38 years of "spin and distortion" by others.

Harry spoke to Britain's ITV and CBS's "60 Minutes" to promote his book, "Spare," which has generated incendiary headlines with its details of private emotional turmoil and bitter family resentments.

In interviews broadcast Sunday, Harry accused members of the royal family of getting "into bed with the devil" to gain favorable tabloid coverage, claimed his stepmother Camilla, the queen consort, had leaked private conversations to the media and said his family was "complicit" in his wife Meghan's "pain and suffering."

Harry said Camilla had to rehabilitate her image with the British people after her longtime affair with his father and that he was one of the victims of her efforts for better coverage in the tabloids.

"That made her dangerous because of the connections that she was forging within the British press," he told CBS. "There was open willingness on both sides to trade information. And with a family built on hierarchy, and with her, on the way to being queen consort, there was gonna be people or bodies left in the street."

He repeated his claim on ITV that there was "concern" in the royal family about his unborn child's skin color after he married biracial American actress Meghan Markle, and said the British monarchy should address its attitudes to race.

Harry and Meghan first mentioned the incident during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021. They have not identified the family member who expressed concern.

Harry said the episode was an example of unconscious bias rather than racism, adding that the royal family needed to "learn and grow" in order to be "part of the solution rather than part of the problem."

"Otherwise unconscious bias then moves into the category of racism," Harry said. He said that "especially when you are the monarchy – you have a responsibility, and quite rightly people hold you to a higher standard than others."

He said a recent incident in which a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II asked a Black British woman where she was "really" from was "a very good example of the environment within the institution."

"Spare" explores Harry's grief at the death of his mother in 1997, and his long-simmering resentment at the role of royal "spare," overshadowed by the "heir" — older brother Prince William. He recounts arguments and a physical altercation with William, reveals how he lost his virginity (in a field) and describes using cocaine and cannabis.

He also says he killed 25 Taliban fighters while serving as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan — a claim criticized by both the Taliban and British military veterans.

Harry told ITV that he cried only once after his mother's death — at her burial. He said he feels guilt about not showing emotion when he and William greeted crowds of mourners outside Kensington Palace, Diana's London home.

In the book Harry blames his family's stiff-upper-lip ethos, saying he had "learned too well ... the family maxim that crying is not an option." The Associated Press purchased a Spanish-language copy of the book in advance of its publication around the world on Tuesday.

"There were 50,000 bouquets of flowers to our mother and there we were shaking people's hands, smiling," Harry told ITV journalist Tom Bradby. "I've seen the videos, right, I looked back over it all. And the wet hands that we were shaking, we couldn't understand why their hands were wet, but it was all the tears that they were wiping away.

"Everyone thought and felt like they knew our mum, and the two closest people to her, the two most loved people by her, were unable to show any emotion in that moment."

Harry told "60 Minutes" that it took him over a decade to accept that his mother was dead. He and his brother often discussed the notion that she had gone into hiding and would reappear later.

"I had huge amounts of hope," he said.

It was only after reading the police report of his mother's death, seeing photos from the scene and later — at the age of 23 — following the same route into the Paris tunnel where his mother died when her driver crashed while evading paparazzi that her death became a reality, he said.

"Spare" is the latest in a string of public pronouncements by Harry and Meghan since they quit royal life and moved to California in 2020, citing what they saw as the media's racist treatment of Meghan and a lack of support from the palace. It follows the Winfrey interview and a six-part Netflix documentary released last month.

In the ghostwritten memoir, Harry, 38, describes the couple's acrimonious split from the royal family in early 2020, after their request for a part-time royal role was rejected.

Harry contrasts the withdrawal of the couple's taxpayer-funded security with the case of his uncle, Prince Andrew, who was removed as a working royal over his friendship with the U.S. sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Last year, Andrew settled a lawsuit from a woman who accused him of sexually abusing her while she traveled with financier Epstein when she was 17. Andrew paid an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement, but didn't admit wrongdoing.

Harry alleges that no one considered removing Andrew's security despite the "shameful scandal."

The TV interviews are just two of several given by Harry that are set to heap more pressure on the royal family. He is also appearing on "Good Morning America" and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

Royal officials haven't commented on any of the allegations, though allies have pushed back on the claims, largely anonymously.

Veteran British journalist Jonathan Dimbleby, a biographer and friend of King Charles III, said Saturday that Harry's revelations were the type "that you'd expect ... from a sort of B-list celebrity," and that the king would be pained and frustrated by them.

In the "60 Minutes" interview, Harry denied that his description of his brother's "alarming baldness" and fading resemblance to their mother as he aged was harsh and said his book was not intended to hurt his family.

While he said that he hadn't spoken with his father or brother in a while, he hopes to find peace with them. Harry told ITV that he wants reconciliation with the royal family, but "the ball is in their court."

"They've shown absolutely no willingness to reconcile," he said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press