Prince Harry has been in the headlines a lot this last week – whether it was an analysis of how his family interacted (or didn’t!) with him at the Coronation, what lip-readers thought he said, or whether Princess Anne’s feathered hat was a deliberate move to obscure him from view. But today’s headlines have gone from petty, to pettier to desperate and untrue. Did you get tricked by them?
You may have seen the headlines.
In the wake of all the media coverage on King Charles’ Coronation, royal news seems to have shifted to the new big story of the hour: Prince Harry’s ghostwriter has shared what it was like to write his tell-all book, Spare.
The only problem is, most of the headlines have got the story entirely wrong.
‘Prince Harry’s Spare ghostwriter J.R. Moehringer reveals their biggest fight’ shouts the headline on today’s write up in the NZ Herald. ‘Spare ghostwriter recalls how he shouted at Prince Harry Over Zoom,’ reads the Stuff headline.
Overseas, the headlines aren’t much better: Page Six has gone with: ‘Prince Harry’s ghostwriter shouted at royal over Zoom’, while the Daily Mail (sigh) has: ‘I was exasperated’: Prince Harry’s ghostwriter J.R Moehringer tells of tensions between them while working on Spare and reveals their relationship became so fraught that he shouted at the royal in row at 2am’
Earlier this year, I got really pissed off about the coverage of Harry’s memoir – mainly because it seemed that everyone who was writing about it (especially, it seemed, the folks writing the headlines) obviously hadn’t bothered to actually read the book.
Which is exactly what has happened here all over again.
Today, Harry’s ghostwriter has written a first-person piece in The New Yorker, largely about what a lovely guy (or dude, as J.R. calls him) Harry is, how wrongly he has been treated (by both his family and the media) and – ironically – how incredibly frustrating it has been to see things he has said taken wildly out of context, or just made up entirely.
Because today’s headlines aren’t at all what his story is about and have been taken – yes – wildly out of context.
I mean, I get it. It’s a long piece he has written – it’s more than 6,800 words, and much of it, particularly the middle section, isn’t particularly juicy stuff as it covers the writer’s other work, including Andre Aggassi’s book and what it’s really like to be a ghostwriter. So maybe people couldn’t be bothered reading past the first 100 words where it sounded like there was a moment of friction between Harry and his ghostwriter?
But if they had of, they would have understood what J.R. was actually trying to talk about.
See, yes, J.R. starts off the piece writing about an incident where he and Harry were talking through one of the anecdotes J.R. thought didn’t belong in the final edit, but Harry passionately did.
It was ultimately a story about Harry’s mother. How, while he was in the military, he went through a training exercise which saw him captured by terrorists (pretend of course, but it also still saw him going through the grueling challenges of “being hooded, dragged to an underground bunker, beaten, frozen, starved, stripped, forced into excruciating stress positions by captors wearing black balaclavas”).
But things took a turn, and all those involved agreed it was taken a step too far, when, while the ”terrorist” choked and screamed insults in his face, he then made a vile dig at Princess Diana. It crossed the line.
Harry wanted the story in. Mainly because he immediately had an incredible comeback that he threw back in the person’s face (we’ll apparently never know what that comeback was), but J.R. thought the story didn’t fit the narrative he was creating and that Harry’s motives for wanting the story in the book weren’t aligned with his.
Personally, I think Harry obviously quite desperately wanted people to hear his retort and know that he stood up for his mother. That he always stands up for his mother. But what he conceded to J.R. was the reason, was that even when he was broken down in one of the toughest scenarios imaginable, he still had his wits about him. He’d been run down all his life about his intellect and he wanted to show that he wasn’t an idiot – even under fire.
After a short, heated discussion, he understood what J.R. was saying and let it go. They remained tight – trusting each other implicitly, and, obviously still liking and respecting one another a hell of a lot.
So no, not quite, or at all, the ‘fall out’ that the headlines have been exploding with.
J.R. is yet to make any statement about how his article has been construed – maybe he’s ignoring those ones that got it wrong, because, to be fair, there have been many stories written, where the journalist has obviously actually read the entire article (The BBC’s headline is ‘Prince Harry’s ghostwriter recounts frenzy around memoir’, The Telegraph went with ‘Prince Harry’s ghostwriter takes aim at TK Maxx’s ‘monarchist’ press office’ and The Independent chose ‘Harry’s ghostwriter describes how Meghan made him feel comfortable at their home’).
But if J.R. has read the others – particularly the ones coming out from this corner of the world – I imagine he’ll be frustrated as hell that what he had intended to service as a take-down of the media and the companies who have twisted Harry’s words (and his!), has instead just created more fuel for more misleading headlines.
In his piece, titled ‘Notes from Prince Harry’s Ghostwriter’ he talks about the horror of watching on as the media went into a frenzy after the book was leaked, making up bizarre tales, or twisting his words.
“Facts were wrenched out of context, complex emotions were reduced to cartoonish idiocy, innocent passages were hyped into outrages—and there were so many falsehoods,” writes J.R.
He goes on to tell the story of how one British newspaper chased down Harry’s flight instructor who was referred to in the book, and then ran the headline: “Prince Harry’s army instructor says story in Spare book is ‘complete fantasy.’ ”
But, as J.R. tells, it was all entirely made up by the newspaper. “Hours later, the instructor posted a lengthy comment beneath the article, swearing that those words, ‘complete fantasy,’ never came out of his mouth,” writes J.R. “Indeed, they were nowhere in the piece, only in the bogus headline, which had gone viral. The newspaper had made it up, the instructor said, stressing that Harry was one of his finest students.”
And there’s plenty more tales where that came from in his lengthy New Yorker piece (including a dig at TK Maxx who rubbished one of Harry’s innocent little anecdotes about shopping at their stores during sale periods. J.R. points out that TK Maxx also just happen to have a long-standing partnership with Prince Charles and his charitable trust. Hmmm.)
He then tells of his own run-ins with the media, particularly when he was hounded after it was revealed (against his wishes) that he was the ghostwriter of Spare – with paparazzi following him and his children one morning in a threatening manner. It drove him so mad, he wondered if he should have been even harsher to the media in what he wrote about them in the book.
“One morning of what Harry had endured since birth made me desperate to take another crack at the pages in Spare that talk about the media. [But] Too late. The book was out,” he writes.
Among the royal headlines today, another caught my eye – a lip reader has apparently worked out what Prince Harry muttered to his Jack Brooksbank (the husband of his cousin, Princess Eugenie), during the Coronation.
“I’m fed up with the way they treat me,” he allegedly said.
He could have been talking about the media, or his family, but either way, my God I bet he is fed up.
And quite rightly so.