Spare us from more of this Royal self-pity with your new book Harry, Duke of Sussex - Christa Ackroyd

On my bookshelf is a beautifully bound little blue book bearing the title A King’s Story. I have to admit I haven’t read it. I kept it because it belonged to my late father and his name is written inside in his beautiful handwriting, so I could never throw it away. But the very fact that he bought it in the first place, surprises me.

A King’s Story is the autobiography of The Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward the VII, who famously abdicated to marry a divorcee and then lived a life abroad on the outside of Royal circles and from what I understand never stopped moaning about losing his place in the family he had ditched. (Sound familiar ?) So why did my father keep that little book alongside his Queen’s Police medal in his bedside cabinet ?

I know my father loved a good biography. So much so that on my parent’s first wedding anniversary he bought my mother the six volume biography of Winston Churchill. He even wrote ‘to Phyl on our wedding anniversary’ inside that too, which always makes me giggle, the old romantic. And no I haven’t read them either. But dad, like so many of his generation, was a complete unquestioning Royalist. Among his most treasured photographs, which again I still have, was a picture of him and Her Majesty The Queen when she came to open the brand new headquarters of West Yorkshire Police in Bradford, The Tyrls, now long since demolished, where dad, as Head of Community Relations had curated the police museum. That picture was always on display in our house growing up. I can see it now without looking. Dad, ram rod straight and The Queen resplendent in orange hat and matching coat. It was a big day for Bradford and a big day for him. So why was he drawn to the story of her Uncle and his decision to leave not only his country for the woman he loved but his job, his destiny even? I can tell you one thing he would not have approved of the abdication. Duty and service were dad’s way of life. So what he would have made of the latest Royal book I can hazard a pretty good guess. He would have been horrified.

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As regular readers of my column will know I have always given Harry and his wife the benefit of the doubt. I have always said it is their lives to live and if they can’t live within the undoubted confines of the Royal Family then they were right to get away. I have, quite often, trotted out the damage caused to him and to his older brother when, as no more than boys, they were forced to walk behind their mother’s coffin. The Oprah interview made me uncomfortable but it didn’t anger me like so many. I just found it sad that here were a couple locked away living what appeared to be a life of luxury, who still felt the world was against them and were still unhappy with their lot. I have even said that we as a nation cannot have it both ways. We can’t complain about him going and then complain about him making money to keep his family safe and secure. But this week I lost my faith in Harry, Duke of Sussex. And it was not because of a book he has written, which let’s face it we haven’t even read yet. I don’t need to read a word to know the tone of what is written inside. The title ‘Spare’ says it all.

Christa AckroydChrista Ackroyd
Christa Ackroyd

It is obvious where the title came from, the old adage that the Royal family, not now but in past generations, were always expected to produce an heir and a ‘spare’. But in choosing that, or as I suspect more accurately, in allowing it to be chosen as the title of a book I may even at one time have bought, was deliberately provocative and tells me all I need to know about what it contains. If he had called it Harry we would have know what it was about. But Spare is wrong on so many levels. That he can’t see that worries me. And I truly believe in years to come he will live to regret it. Because, whatever the book contains, it surely puts an end to any hope of real reconciliation with his father and his brother and in doing so will further his sense of isolation, for which I am sorry but he now only has himself to blame.

In this country there are many people who feel forgotten or ‘spare’. There are those struggling to put food on the table who feel frightened for their future. There are many fighting their own demons who cannot get help because of the appalling lack of mental health support in this country. There are those who are estranged from families because of addiction. There are others who just feel alone and surplus to requirements. I myself growing up often felt a sense of being ‘spare’ having been adopted at birth by wonderful parents but who also felt deeply a sense of being different having been given away at birth by someone I have never met but whom, if am being honest, for a long time I never quite forgave. But forgive I had to because to not do so damages you as a person. Your birth doesn’t define you, it is up to you to make your way in this world and Harry, whatever he has gone through, could give so much to others, could use his life for so much good, and could right now stop whinging that life somehow isn’t fair. It isn’t fair for so many people who now are losing patience with a young man living a privileged life with a family he is lucky to have but seems hell bent in destroying.

It is said that Harry wrote his book for himself because he couldn’t keep trying to make his family happy that he chose his ‘own happiness‘ over theirs. Well how selfish is that? Harry wrote his book and plans to write two more for money. End of. The book has been described by publishers as coming from a place of ‘raw unflinching honesty’ and filled with ‘insight, revaluation, self examination and hard won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief’. Poppycock. If Harry had ‘insight’ he would not be pouring more grief on his father The King who, by the way, very pointedly expressed his ‘love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas’ in his first address to the nation. If Harry had ‘wisdom’ he would have written a coffee table book of photos from his past and present which would have still sold and he would have demanded the title be changed to reflect a more positive vision of the future he could and should have made for himself and his young family without this constant navel gazing about the past. Harry and Meghan are fast becoming a sideshow and sadly that means they will become sidelined. They could have had all the world at their feet without trampling over the feelings of others on the way. What is even more sad is that they are becoming boring and worse still irrelevant in a world which has far more to worry about than their latest whining.

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As for the title Spare, spare us more like. Spare us from yet more airing of your dirty linen in public. Spare us from the poor me attitude which will eventually destroy your lives if you let it. And above all spare us from your whinging about how tough you have had it. Count your blessings, of which you have many, and spare a thought for millions of people in this country and elsewhere who are really having it tough but have no option but to get up each day and get on with it