Prince. Soldier. Humanitarian. Ginger. All excellent ways to describe Prince Harry of Wales, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and son of the Prince of Wales. This week, I’ve been working my way through Penny Junor’s recent biography of the prince, Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son. As promised on Twitter, here’s my quick review of the book!
You can sort of divide Junor’s biography into two sections: the part that’s about Harry, and the part that’s really more about his parents. The first half of the book or so is devoted to recapping the tempestuous marriage and divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales. If you’ve read anything by Penny Junor before, you know precisely where her sympathy lies: she’s very pro-Charles and largely anti-Diana. And although there’s an effort to see some of the War of the Waleses through Harry’s young eyes, the book doesn’t really discuss much of his experience in these years. There’s a lot of well-trod territory here, and no real revelations about Harry’s early years.
The second part of the book, which covers Harry’s time at Eton, his military career, and his charity work, is more compelling. I really liked reading about the roots of some of his best-known charity projects, including Sentebale, Walking with the Wounded, and the Invictus Games, which is discussed at the very end of the book. Interviews with some of the household members who work closely with the princes gave an extra dimension to Harry’s character. And the book also addresses some of Harry’s scandalous past behavior, including those notorious Las Vegas photos, and discusses his romances with Chelsy and Cressida.
By the end of the book, you get a picture of Harry as a man with a clear sense of purpose and duty: someone who longs for a “normal” life but understands his position and all of the privileges and drawbacks that come along with it. I realized as I finished up the biography that the book I really want to read about Harry can’t yet be written: I want to read the biography that’s composed after he’s had a larger role in public life, with a longer legacy of work and a clearer royal role. The public is clearly fascinated by Harry, and he’s definitely inherited his mother’s rapport with the people he meets, but I’m curious to see what his life becomes.
Of course, another twenty years will need to go by before I can crack that book open. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a book on Harry, Junor’s biography covers much of the known territory of his life so far. If you’re hungering to read about Harry — and you don’t mind reading about some of the tales you’ve heard before — this book might tide you over.