Is 2022’s best-selling book already determined? This morning, Prince Harry announced that he’ll be penning his memoir with the intent of releasing it next year. In a world where every minuscule thing Harry and his wife Meghan Markle do is labeled “breaking tradition” by one publication or another, it feels like an understatement to say that this is actually breaking tradition. In fact, memoirs and autobiographies written by high-level members of the royal family are so few and far between, they’re practically non-existent. The only major historical precedent was a memoir released in 1951 by the Duke of Windsor, the man who abdicated the throne to marry an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. Although that tome, Memoirs of a King, is widely acknowledged to have been ghostwritten and chiefly meant as a source of income.
Harry clearly has higher aims for his book.
"I’m writing this not as the prince I was born, but as the man I have become,” the Prince said in a press release. “I’ve worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope is that in telling my story—the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned—I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the course of my life so far and excited for people to read a firsthand account of my life that’s accurate and wholly truthful.”
A portion of the proceeds of the book, to be published by Penguin Random House, will also be donated to charity.
The publisher describes the book as a recounting of “his lifetime in the public eye from childhood to the present day, including his dedication to service, the military duty that twice took him to the frontlines of Afghanistan, and the joy he has found in being a husband and father.”
The key term “in the public eye,” however, may indicate that some moments of his life will be off-limits. Certainly, none of the official statements portend the juiciest of royal tea-spilling memoirs, but we’re sure every page will be pored over for any hint of family drama. Still, Harry and Meghan’s public brand, including their work through mega-deals with Netflix and Spotify, paints them as tellers of inspiring, empowering, and uplifting stories. We’d be surprised if Harry wasn’t aiming for the same with this book.
Whatever kind of book we get, it will still receive a special place on the bookshelf. Aside from Harry and Edward, the closest recent relative of the royal family to publish a memoir was Margaret Rhodes, Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin and childhood playmate. Her autobiography The Final Curtsey was published in 2011.
Outside of the Windsors, royal memoirs are slightly less rare. Russia’s Catherine the Great famously wrote her own memoirs (and, among other things, implied that her child’s true father was not her husband). Queen Marie of Romania was also a prolific memoirist.
Of course, Harry’s mother Princess Diana never did write her own autobiography, but after her death, it was revealed she directly cooperated with Andrew Morton on writing his book, Diana: Her True Story.