Why the ‘truth’ defence isn’t working for Prince Harry’s book

Authenticity is key and I would never call into question someone’s truth, because it is theirs and theirs alone, but when your truth conflicts with ‘Googleable’ events, you cannot simply ignore it and hope nobody notices.

Prince Harry’s book Spare is sending the world into a spin and not all of the initial reviews are positive.

I watch celebrity autobiography book releases closely, not only because I love human stories but because my profession as a ghostwriter and writing mentor demands it.

How celebrities craft their stories and how deep they go with laying their lives bare often sets the tone for what my clients ask for when we work together.

I am a month older than Prince Harry and because every milestone resulted in him being featured in all of the women’s magazines, I grew up seeing him on newsstands. To me, he had a certain larrikin persona that placed him outside the rigidness of royalty and it endeared me to him.

The Duke of Sussex’s memoir Spare was leaked earlier than the official release date, despite the touted Harry Potter-esque security attempts to keep it locked down. Just one day after it’s scheduled worldwide debut, both Harry and his ghostwriter are already under fire.

Yes, a ghostwriter. We exist to help people to share their stories to become authors and someone like Duke of Sussex may not have the time or the inclination to want to sit down and write out every detail of his life. But, he could easily share his story with a ghostwriter, who could take his words and craft them into a powerful and engaging memoir.

Spare definitely fits the bill of powerful and engaging – just look at the hype! – so why the criticisms of the book?

Because there are some discrepancies between events that are on the public record and how they are portrayed in Spare.

I am a firm believer that authenticity is key when you write your story and sometimes that can mean that your interpretation or experience of situations can be different to those around you.

We’ve all heard the analogy that an event can happen with ten people in the room and every single one of those people would have a different recollection of how it unfolded. The details would never synchronise 100%.


Perception. We all have different ways of making sense of our world; some people focus on the sequence of events, others on the emotions they felt in their body. Some will focus on the physical senses like the smell in the air or the music playing in the background, while others will focus on the minute details in the environment around them.

Not only that, but we place meaning on what has just happened. Goodness, does that open another HUGE can of worms! This is guided by your past experiences, your beliefs and your way of thinking.

Put all of that together and there is no way that even ten people could recall a single event with 100% accuracy. This is why it is so important for aspiring authors to focus on their truth and their truth alone when writing their stories.

Harry and his ghostwriter are coming under fire because so much of Harry’s life is on the public record. One particular criticism of Spare covers Harry’s recollection of the moment he found out about the death of the Queen Mother.

An article I read on news.com says, “The duke, for example, asserted that he was at boarding school when he found out about the Queen Mother’s death in March 2002, with multiple reports setting the record straight. The then-teenager was reportedly on a Switzerland ski trip at the time with William and King Charles III.”

It is hard to be physically in two countries at the same time, right?

Now, as someone with a goldfish memory myself, I can empathise that Harry simply may have forgotten where he was. After all, it was two decades ago. However, it is the role of a ghostwriter to call these things into question.

Any ghostwriter worth their salt would have conducted extensive background research on a high profile client such as the Duke of Sussex and found this discrepancy in the public record. All it would have taken is a simple question.

‘Are you sure? Because according to this newspaper, you were skiing at the time.’

This opens up the opportunity for the client, in this case the Duke of Sussex, to give it some pause. He will either remember the trip and correct the story to reflect that, or double down on the fact that he was at boarding school and give a reason why the two don’t match.

While the ghostwriter was the first person to craft the Prince’s story, it is important to understand there are many gatekeepers of a book before it morphs into the version we get to read. There are layers of editors who would have been tasked with meticulously poring over the content to remove errors and… fact check.

By allowing historical discrepancies into the manuscript without prompting the Duke to address them, the integrity of the entire book is being called into question.

This is the worst case scenario for any nonfiction author.

It is vital to ensure that your authentic story aligns with anything that is on the public record and if it doesn’t, address it head on and share your version of events.

Publishing the unchecked content and falling back on ‘It’s Harry’s truth’, which is the defence the ghostwriter broadcast on Twitter, means that even the most poignant and shocking TRUE stories in the book will be called into question.

The seeds of doubt will always be there and this is enough to undo any potential good that could come from the Duke being so open and vulnerable in sharing some of the toughest moments of his life. All this disconnection serves to do is discredit him in the eyes of readers.

Authenticity is key and I would never call into question someone’s truth, because it is theirs and theirs alone, but when your truth conflicts with ‘Googleable’ events, you cannot simply ignore it and hope nobody notices.

Tackle it head on and show readers why your interpretation or belief is different.

If you are ready to write your story, enrol in the next Ignite & Write Workshop to build the strong foundations you need to tell your authentic story in a way that captivates and converts readers into fans of you and your business.