Family biffo, butt-slapping sex, a wicked stepmother and catfights over flower girl dresses. Harry’s much-awaited memoir, which hit shelves yesterday, certainly didn’t disappoint. With all the ingredients of a Succession-style saga, Spare even makes The Crown’s juicier episodes look dull by comparison. And like the world, I devoured every sordid detail. I’ve seen the Oprah tell-all, the docuseries, all four Harry interviews and now the Duke of Sussex’s 416-page tortured tome has landed thud-like on my desk, ready to be consumed over the weekend.
I’m not proud of my H&M obsession, not just because it’s wrong to feed on the raw personal details of other people’s lives, but for decades I’ve begrudged Australia’s ties to – and infatuation with – the British monarchy. Since my days living in London in the 90s, I’ve been a staunch, true-blue republican. Back then, I worked in a posh restaurant in Soho and the clientele were privileged members of the peerage who loved dishing disparaging snipes like, “You speak good English…for an Australian” or “So you have electricity in the colonies?” It was all good ol’-fashioned British sport and I took it on the chin. But I couldn’t shake the gnawing feeling that us loud, proud, optimistic Aussies were perceived as inferior or crass. Don’t get me wrong: I had the time of my life, dancing at all-night raves, going to Glastonbury, seeing every Brit band imaginable and drinking myself silly in dodgy West End pubs. I was living the 20-something dream, but I left London thinking, probably erroneously, that we were seen as lesser beings.
Personally, I have nothing against the royal family and the people who drive and support them. Like the world, I was sad when the Queen finally turned up her Anello & Davide toes. She was extraordinary, a magnificent matriarch of our time, and no-one can deny her immeasurable legacy. I suppose the real reason I’m so invested in Harry and Meghan’s unfolding saga is this. Spare’s truth-bombs simply reveal the fact the royal family is really just like us: flawed, floundering and a bit screwed up. Times columnist Helen Rumbelow likened Harry to Toto in The Wizard of Oz, pulling back the curtain to reveal a decrepit old man slumped on a stool, moving levers to maintain control via smoke, mirrors and lies. And that’s exactly what the Duke of Sussex has done: picked at the scab to show that the Windsors, despite all their pomp and ceremony, are human after all. Brothers brawling in the kitchen? Who hasn’t witnessed a bit of bro agro after a few beers during Christmas lunch? Scheming stepmother? Anyone with divorced parents has probably encountered WSS (wicked stepparent syndrome). Pre-wedding tension over dresses? Situation normal. So why do we place these people on a gilded pedestal and allow Britain’s king to be our head of state just because of his surname?
When H&M sat down for their first tell-all interview with Oprah, former PM Malcolm Turnbull rightly said it was time Australians considered becoming a republic. “Our head of state should be an Australian citizen, should be one of us, not the king or queen of the UK,” he told the ABC at the time. “We should be so proud of our country that we should insist an Australian be head of state.” And there’s the rub. While nationalistic fervour is something to be wary of, I absolutely agree we should be proud of Australia, warts and all, and therefore entrust the top job to a local. We’ve weathered the Covid storm relatively unscathed, we’re likely to avoid this year’s global recession, and our political situation has stabilised, with even pro-Libs conceding Albo’s doing a decent job. Meanwhile, the Brits – onto their third PM in three months – are shockingly visiting free communal “warm rooms” because they can’t afford to heat their homes. But I don’t want to pit one country against another – I have British blood running through my veins and my monarchist sister lives in London. Visiting her and rampaging around this wild, wonderful city is an annual highlight. But there’s no denying it’s time we put the republic back on the agenda, and Harry’s raw revelations have bolstered the movement both here and overseas.
So what’s the hold up? People loathe change; they say “don’t fix what ain’t broke”. But that’s not the point. Surely we can find a workable solution and retain the system of parliamentary government where day-to-day power is vested in the PM without the need of a king or governor general, just as other Commonwealth countries have done (Barbados chose to become a republic in late 2021 with Jamaica soon to follow suit). Some argue it’s a hassle to change names, titles, plaques and letterheads, yet bureaucracy and paperwork shouldn’t stand in the way of progress. I know it’s complicated and not the easy road, but we need to grow up and back ourselves. It’s not the 50s anymore.
Right now a group of NSW pollies are mobilising to fund a new pro-republic campaign and approaching ex-PMs for their support. “Why is it easier for Harry to leave the monarchy than us?” asked NSW treasurer Matt Kean last year. “This isn’t about whether we like the royals; it’s about us having a head of state in our own country focusing on us and only us.” Sign me up!
Even in Britain, the republican movement is gaining traction, with over half of 18 to 24-year-olds saying the monarchy’s redundant, according to a recent YouGov poll.
So I ask you: are we really going to let the patriarch of this feuding, dysfunctional family living halfway across the globe be our head of state? Are we happy to give this prized position to someone based on their surname rather than on merit? Spare me.