Prince Harry’s Spare (book review) and a CMIO’s reflection

Prince Harry’s autobiography is an enjoyable listen. For all the swirl about the Royal family, I almost never follow the Royal Family in the news. I was curious about Harry and Megan’s leaving the Royals and moving to Los Angeles, and so I was intrigued. And, I saw him on Late Night with Stephen Colbert. Here are the bare bones of salient facts:

  • William and Harry are sons of Princess Diana and Prince (now King) Charles
  • Diana died in a car crash after divorcing Charles, pursued by paparazzi
  • Paparazzi behavior, driven by newspaper and tabloid money in England, ultimately funded by the British public’s insatiable interest in the Royal family, is nearly unbelievable, and replete with examples of criminal behavior, as recounted by Harry and others.
  • Being in a Royal fishbowl can be intolerable and could and does prompt members to turn on each other.
  • Under the spotlight, everything is magnified: simple individual actions (or even inaction) can be interpreted as super popular or super villainous. Whatever sells papers.
  • Human behavior and relationships are difficult in any family. Under the public microscope it can be unimaginably difficult

The narrative on its own is an enjoyable listen. Harry narrates his own story from childhood growing up in the castle, losing his mom, being the Queen’s favorite, through a rebellious adolescence, into the military, training and flying missions as an Apache pilot, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, meeting Megan, courting her, and ultimately leaving the Royal family.

I will not judge him for his actions or his writing. We all have limited skills in our relationships, coping skills for our pressures, joys in our pleasurable moments, grief in our catastrophes. It is too easy to ‘look over there’ and critique someone else’s life, not knowing the back story.

Too, it is easy to read an autobiography, adopt the authors views, and sense that everyone else must be evil.

CMIO’s take? I have lots of conflicting emotions about this, and find lots of parallels working with and leading humans in a large organization. I notice that my reactions are a litany of emotions, and less an intellectual response. And yet…

  • Most everything said is a viewpoint. Take them with a grain of salt
  • It is too easy to judge. Turn the judgement back on yourself when you feel it. Do you really know, for example, what it is like to live in a castle pursued by drone-wielding and motorbike-riding paparazzi, and loved ones suicidal from the aggressive hounding, having lost your mother, whose death was directly related to being pursued by those same individuals? What traumas are we each seeking to leave behind, ourselves?
  • The range of human experience is astounding. Sometimes just appreciating that is enough
  • What lessons on egotism can I learn from this? What lessons on brotherliness? On parenting? On collegiality? On grit? On grief? On anxiety? On empathy? What blind spots does this bring up?
  • Prince Harry is the Spare, the denigrating term for the second son who is not ‘The Heir’. This microcosm of an extreme situation, even if written as a grievance, an explanation, can tell us so much about ourselves, about myself.
  • For this, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, I am grateful.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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