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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Caroline Davies

So, Prince Harry’s memoir is done – but what’s likely to be in it?

Prince Harry arrives with the Duchess of Sussex at the UN headquarters in New York last week.
Prince Harry arrives with the Duchess of Sussex at the UN headquarters in New York last week. Photograph: Michael M Santiago/Getty Images

The manuscript is, reportedly, written; the ink now dry. Publication is said to be on course to capitalise on the lucrative Christmas market.

Few crumbs, if any, of the contents of the Duke of Sussex’s much-anticipated memoirs have so far emerged. “It’s juicy, that’s for sure,” one source told the Page Six website, with another adding: “There is some content in there that should make his family nervous.”

From the prince, the palace, the publishers Penguin Random House, and the Pulitzer prize-winning ghostwriter, JR Moehringer, there has been silence.

Yet royal observers expect it to be a serious book, and one not easily dismissed.

Novelist and journalist Moehringer, who ghostwrote the autobiography of former world No 1 tennis player Andre Agassi, “is a powerful and psychologically exploratory writer, so we can expect a powerful and psychologically exploratory book,” said the historian and royal biographer Robert Lacey.

The Agassi book “is profound, serious, a forensic demolition of his parenting, which goes beyond the normal ghostwritten books,” added Lacey. “ It makes me think there is no point in even speculating what skeletons he’s going to uncover because he is a skeleton exhumer. He is going to do the business”.

A publishing source told the Sun: “The manuscript has been finished and gone through all of the legal processes. It’s done and out of Harry’s hands. The publishing date has been pushed back once, but it is on track for the end of the year.”

Harry has only said, on announcing his literary memoir last year, that it will be “the high and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned … a first-hand account of my life that’s accurate and wholly truthful”.

But hints of what may emerge are in the Oprah Winfrey and other interviews he has given. He told Dax Shepard in the Armchair Expert podcast, for example, of the “genetic pain” of being raised in the House of Windsor, and that Prince Charles had treated him “the way he was treated”. Lacey wonders if Moehringer’s pen can be detected in those words.

“One would anticipate a book that sets new standards in royal analysis. I am hoping [Moehringer] will be analysing the institution as well. On Agassi, he not only demolished Agassi’s parenting and upbringing, he had a hard knock at the world of professional tennis. Therefore, one would anticipate the same sort of dual attack in what he writes about Harry and the monarchy,” said Lacey.

“He does not write books that can be easily dismissed as scandal-seeking, They have substance.”

Moehringer’s intense interviews with Harry will probably have mostly been conducted before the Sussexes’ public reconciliation with the royal family over the platinum jubilee, “at just about peak rage, with the chapters getting locked up some time ago,” said Lacey.

“So Harry himself may regret what he discovers he has said – given that the Sussexes appear to have dialled back on their hostility to the family.”

No members of the royal family are understood to have seen the manuscript. But it can be assumed, anything considered defamatory – especially in light of racism accusations levelled by the couple – would undergo strict legal processing before publication.

Royal observers expect it to cover the controversial areas of his parenting, his mother’s death, his reportedly less than easy relationship with the Duchess of Cornwall and the emotionally fraught exit of Harry and Meghan as working royals with all the tensions with the palace guard at the time. The couple’s version of the bullying allegations against Meghan may also be touched on.

“But we can also expect absolute respect and deference to the Queen, This will demonstrate his loyalty to his grandmother and the monarchy, and that will be his line of defence, I should imagine, and then everyone else on the field of battle is a legitimate target,” said Lacey.

He hopes it will shed light on the Queen’s role as foster mother to William and Harry after Diana’s death. “I would also be fascinated in what Harry feels he got from his uncle and aunts – [Diana’s siblings]– at this difficult time,” said Lacey.

If publication is on course for the autumn, Harry would find himself going head to head with Michelle Obama’s new book.

Harry has said he is writing the book: “not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become”.

Buckingham Palace is unlikely to comment in detail about any allegations contained in it unless absolutely necessary. One indication of how it may handle any fallout can be found in the Queen’s famous statement after the couple’s Oprah interview, in which she said: “recollections may vary”.

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