The publication of such a frank and revealing account is a near-unprecedented event in the centuries-old history of Britain’s royals, who as Harry has pointed out double as both a family and national institution. The book has led to questions over whether it could deal lasting damage to the monarchy, even asking whether its future existence is now less certain.
The monarchy’s overall popularity rating has halved from plus 44 to plus 18 since September 2022, according to new figures from the British polling company YouGov released Tuesday.
“There may be some lasting damage to the reputation of the royal family — but not to the extent of undermining consent for a monarchy,” Suzannah Lipscomb, a Professor Emerita at the University of Roehampton and a royal historian, told NBC News. “In terms of public opinion, I suspect it is Harry’s popularity itself that will be most greatly diminished.”
Almost two-thirds of the British public now hold a negative view of Harry, with just a quarter expressing a positive view, according to the YouGov poll. This means that Harry’s net favorability rating is minus 38, the lowest it’s ever been and a far cry from 2011, when he had a score of plus 65.
Meghan’s popularity has fallen to minus 42, YouGov said. Although she remains slightly popular with 18- to 24-year-olds, her support even among this group has fallen sharply.
Harry’s confessions and accusations may have hurt his reputation in Britain — just as his mother, Princess Diana, was criticized for sharing details of her divorce from Charles in a famous BBC interview in 1995.
But that criticism might not be the case in his adopted homeland, Lipscomb said.
“Harry comes across as deeply troubled and aggrieved, and there is a sense that he has stepped over a line: Discretion is still valued on this side of the pond, and these revelations have nearly exhausted public sympathy. My sense is that U.K. public opinion is that Harry has gone too far,” Lipscomb said.
In writing such a searing account of his life, and granting a flurry of interviews during which he openly discusses the deep rift with his father and brother, Harry could be mirroring the stereotype of the emotionally open and uncomplicated American — an image that clearly appealed to him even before he met Meghan.
Harry describes how he had been warned from childhood that Americans were “Too loud, too rich, too happy. Too confident, too direct, too honest,” but that he felt differently. “‘Nah,’ I always thought. ‘Yanks didn’t beat about the bush, didn’t fill the air with polite snorts and throat clearings before coming to the point. Whatever was on their mind, they’d spit it out, like a sneeze, and while that could be problematic at times, I usually found it preferable to the alternative.’”
He also describes how he fell quickly in love with Meghan Markle after seeing her picture on a friend’s Instagram.
“This woman stopped the conveyor-belt. This woman smashed the conveyor-belt to bits. I’d never seen anyone so beautiful,” Harry wrote.
“There was an energy about her, a wild joy and playfulness,” he added. “I’d never had a firm opinion on that burning question: Is there just one person on this earth for each of us? But in that moment I felt there might be only one face for me.”
The book follows the couple’s Netflix series, which aired many of their grievances over the course of six hours. Harry has also sat down for high-profile TV interviews to promote the ghostwritten memoir. The royal palaces have declined to comment on the memoir and interviews. The Sussexes, through Archwell, have declined to comment on the record.
Harry has said that he still wants a reconciliation with his family and believes one is possible, but asked whether he had burned his bridges with his father and brother, Harry told ITV in an interview conducted in December that aired on Sunday: “I’m not sure how honesty is burning bridges. You know, silence only allows the abuser to abuse, right? So I don’t know how staying silent is ever going to make things better.”
He has also spoken to CBS’ “60 Minutes” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and he will appear on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
His family had gotten “into bed with the devil” to gain favorable tabloid coverage, he has said.
While Harry has waged war against the British media and its intrusion and negative headlines, the saga has been a huge boost for the British papers — which have enthusiastically covered every twist and turn, including the publication of his much-anticipated book.
“The only winners here are the press who are feasting over the corpse of a once-loving fraternal relationship,” said experienced royal commentator and former British newspaper journalist Emily Andrews.
“I don’t think Harry and Megan’s public image is repairable in the U.K.; I think it’s gone beyond that,” she added.
The end of the book details the days leading up to the public and surprising break with the royal family, as Meghan and Harry took their small family first to Canada and then the U.S. He says that the queen, under pressure from her household, rescinded an invitation to meet and, he hoped, discuss the ongoing familial tensions.
Regardless of the danger he felt his family was in, and the disappointment with his family, Harry said he would “forever support my queen, my Commander in Chief, my Granny. Even after she’s gone.”
“My problem has never been with the monarchy, or the concept of monarchy. It’s been with the press and the sick relationship that’s evolved between it and the palace. I love my mother country, and I love my family, and I always will.”
In going to war with the media and turning his version of events into prime-time viewing, and certain bestsellers, Harry has also squabbled publicly with his family. Only time will tell whether this rift is irreparable.