There are serious things happening all over the world right now. For example:
Does Putin have terminal cancer and, if so, what will happen in both Russia and Ukraine when he dies? If he doesn’t die soon, how much longer will the Russian population let him continue to wage his savage and unjustified invasion of Ukraine? Russians have a track record of successful revolutions.
Is the Chinese government concealing the truth about the spread of the new XBB.1.5 Omicron Covid-19 variant and thus acting irresponsibly by reversing its zero-Covid policy and re-opening its borders for international travel, both in and out? Are we on the verge of another pandemic?
Will Kevin McCarthy succeed in his bid to become House Speaker following Nancy Pelosi’s resignation and thus unlock the current almost unprecedented paralysing operational deadlock in the US Congress?
A growing unease about the global effects of climate change on a host of factors such as more endangered animal species, wider extremes of weather behaviour causing drought, flooding and wildfires, crop failures causing famine, and an overall sense of foreboding, especially for future generations.
Closer to home, there are concerns about the continuing rise of the cost of living, energy in particular; the impact of the never-ending series of strikes in the UK; the parlous state and fragility of the UK’s NHS service; the constant flow of illegal immigrants coming in flimsy and sometimes treacherous craft from the coast of northern France and causing wide-spread ‘invasion’ concern among the indigenous British population.
Amidst all this doom and gloom, you would expect some of today’s papers to offer front page insight into problem analysis and possible solutions to at least one of these issues but no, it’s not meant to be. With one exception, today’s headlines are dominated by the seemingly never-ending saga of Harry and Meghan. Note: I don’t need to specify who Harry and Meghan are. Even those of us who vehemently claim they have no interest in or never read anything about H&M, as I call them, cannot deny knowledge of their existence. They have become the most famous celebrity couple on the planet, surpassing the fame of Posh and Becks and The Kardashians.
Today, four days ahead of the official publication of Harry’s autobiographical book, Spare, the UK newspaper editors have succeeded in obtaining a copy of the book accidentally released to a Spanish book chain, Casa del Libro. And, boy oh boy, do we have a feast of revelations! What’s of interest to me is how each national newspaper chooses to headline and sub-headline their individual takeaways on the contents of Spare. Let’s start with the so-called heavies and then work our way through the popular tabloids down to the irreverent and sometimes jokey sensationalistic tabloids.
The oldest and most respected UK ‘posh people’s’ newspaper, The Times, leads with a headline that uses devastating as an eye-catching adjective to describe the memoir accompanied by a sober photograph of the brothers back-to-back to indicate the scale of animosity between them. Two of the three subheads – William called an arch-nemesis by Harry and William’s alleged physical altercation with Harry – reinforce the animosity; the third, revealing Harry’s claim that he killed 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, also merited a subhead mention. I find the death-count claim an odd choice of subhead given that The Times is a champion of the British monarchical establishment and there are alternative revelations that would have further revealed the implied damage to the present Royal family.
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph chooses to single out Harry’s (and William’s) pleas to their father not to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, suggesting that she will become ‘a wicked stepmother’ (à la Lady Tremaine?). The eye-commanding photograph shows Harry in the background looking stern and scowling between a perplexed-looking Charles and straight-faced tight-lipped Camilla. I wonder if the photo is a composition or whether it was taken at some event where the photographer just happened to catch the three players with just the right expressions suggesting dissent?
Subheads along the bottom of the page draw attention to Harry’s ‘I killed 25 Taliban’ claim, Meghan’s ‘baby brain’ taunting of Kate, and Harry’s admission to having taken illegal drugs during his younger days.
The left-wing-ish Guardian, which often relegates stories about the Royal family to the inside pages, moves the story to the lower half of the front page and, like The Times, headlines the animosity between Harry and William, this time choosing a photograph of the brothers shooting eye daggers at each other. The Guardian is not a supporter of the British monarchy and probably relished the opportunity to highlight the ‘crisis for royal family’ on their front page.
Moving on to the popular newspapers, starting with the Daily Mail, we see a slightly different emphasis.
Headlining a plea to ‘Oh Spare Us!’ the Daily Mail chooses to pick out Harry’s 25-Taliban-killed claim accompanied by a gun-toting Ray-Ban-adorned gung-ho photo of Harry that will probably serve as his entry into Hollywood-style war movies and which, in my opinion, will make him an open target for any wannabe Islamic jihadist similar to those who targeted Salman Rushdie after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses. Like the Daily Mail, I am astonished at this particular public admission and I wonder who advised Harry to include this claim in his book, and why.
Jan Moir, a long-term columnist and opinion writer for the Daily Mail, uses the term manbaby in the teaser headline for her article inside the paper. She’s done this before and, as you might expect from the headline, she is no supporter of Harry. If you have the time and the inclination, you can read her article here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-11604491/JAN-MOIR-Big-Willy-really-did-push-Little-Harold-one-understand-why.html It’s quite acerbic and funny at the same time.
Finally, if you do not plan to buy the book but thirst for more disclosures and confessions, the Daily Mail offers a 17-page Truth Bombs special inside the newspaper. Best rush out and buy your copy before they appear on eBay for an outrageous price.
Arguably the Daily Mail’s biggest rival, the Daily Express chooses to go fully pictorial with the same eye-dagger photograph used by The Guardian, overlaid by a ‘… you sold your soul, Harry’ big-fonted white-on-black contrasted headline. There’s no doubt where this newspaper’s sympathy lies.
The subheads offer a five-point summary of the Express’s takeaways: drug taking, arch-nemesis, 25 Taliban killed, ‘don’t marry Camilla’, and ‘baby brain’ taunt. Nothing new there if you’ve looked at the other front pages.
The left-wing Mirror invites us to compare and contrast a photo of a pre-teen schoolboy Harry adorably looking up at older-brother William sidelined with a cropped insert photo showing the now-familiar adult brothers scowling at each other and with the headline ‘It’s all over now.’ There’s no mistaking the no-way-back intention of the pictorial spread.
Subheads communicate the now-familiar takeaways but adds the salacious extra disclosure of how Harry lost his virginity (whatever that means – penile-vaginal penetration or some other sexual deed that qualifies as male ‘lost virginity’?) in a field behind a pub. Great stuff, and more to come on that subject, I suspect – see later.
The compact can-be-read-on-a-crowded-bus mostly-apolitical tabloid newspaper incongruously named I, alerts us to the ‘crisis’ facing the monarchy accompanied by a composition photograph of a worried-looking Charles in full military garb (portrays authority, geddit?) backed by his two sons, Harry in civvies, note, both with expressions of concern on their faces. Subheads include comment on the new crisis – the biggest since Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 followed by the 1992 separation of Diana and Charles – that has left the Royal family reeling, and Charles’ ‘poor taste’ joke about ginger-haired Harry’s possible paternity, a reference to Diana’s 5-year 1986-91 affair with ginger-haired Cavalry officer and riding instructor, James Hewitt. Uh-oh, I wondered when that speculation would raise its head above the parapet but don’t forget; Harry was born in 1984, two years before the affair is alleged to have begun and the ginger-hair gene can be traced back through the Spencer family.
Moving on down to the The Sun and the Daily Star tabloids that specialise in sensationalism based on the antics of media, sport and pop music celebrities and sparsely decorated with small doses of serious journalism, we finally get the real dishing of the dirt. Take a look.
Harry did coke and weed shouts the headline in The Sun. My goodness, what are we to make of that? Should he be stripped of all his titles – unprinced and deduked – and banished to a remote island in the Pacific? And what about the further revelations in the subheads – sex at 17 in a field behind a pub (could have been worse; sex behind the bike shed at Eton?) – and an alleged negative response from ‘the Army’ about his 25-dead-Taliban boast, later revealed to be ex-army officer colonel, Richard Kemp. The photo shows a slightly-worse-for-wear photo of a youthful ‘Party Prince’ Harry which, judging by the slight smirk on his face, was taken just after the sex in the field incident. More on this event later.
The Daily Star has had a long battle with the Harry and Meghan Road Show, dubbing them the world’s shyest couple who do everything they can to avoid publicity and media persecution, and blocking out their eyes in photographs to preserve their anonymity, a pictorial redaction. Using terms such as ‘Royal Rumble’ and ‘Put your Dukes up’ (nice double entendre), the paper concentrates on the rift between the brothers. The text also alludes to the revelation that he ‘had nookie in a field with an older woman who smacked his arse’, referring to the woman as a ‘cougar’ (defined to be a sexually mature middle-aged woman who seeks out a younger man for companionship and, usually, a sexual relationship – think Demi Moore, Joan Collins and Madonna). I have no doubt whatsoever that within the next six months we will see the publication of at least three books from three different women each of whom will claim to be that woman and describing in great detail what went on that field – Foreplay and Frolics in the Field, Fieldcraft with Harry, or Educating Harry in the Rough. Mark my words.
Well, there you have it. That is how the great British press have treated us to front-page summaries of the contents and repercussions of this year’s first best seller, Spare. We can look forward to more revelations and reactions until the story has run its course and the papers get back to serious issues. But, wait. Earlier, I said there was one exception to the avalanche of headlines about Harry’s book. Here it is, the no-nonsense pink broadsheet known as the Financial Times.
I have scoured the text of this front-page screen grab and there is nothing about Spare and its contents, not even in the very small print or advertisements. Congratulations to the editor of the Financial Times for resisting temptation. From now on, this will be my paper of choice.
Final comment. I wonder what Harry and Meghan think about the UK’s press coverage of the book. I would love to be a fly on the wall when they discuss how the book has been received but, then again, I have a busy day ahead watching some paint dry.