Why Our Reaction to Prince Harry’s Memoir May Reveal How We Actually Feel About Our Own Families

Royal Families

You may have been busy the last four years, but then again, maybe the global pandemic slowed things down enough to allow you to pick up a few tidbits of celebrity news. Either way, chances are high that the couple, Harry and Meghan, have made it into your news feed. He, a son of the now King Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

The world’s younger brother, fun-loving, and red-haired, one who broke the stiff upper lip of the royal mold even as a child, sticking his tongue out at the press. She, a biracial, divorced actress, of divorced parents, in whom he finally met someone willing, and perhaps able, to deal with the behemoth that is the British (and global) press.

Of course, from the outset, there was speculation about Meghan, her intent in the relationship, bets on how long it would last (ongoing), and how the other members felt about her joining the Windsor clan.

via moha_doha

Four years later, they are telling their own stories, in their own words, without the rules and regulations that traditionally govern palace life, having stepped back as ‘working’ members of the royal family.

For me, as a writer, the British royal family, has always held some allure, perhaps because of how much their history is intertwined with European history – a subject I loved as far back as high school. From Elizabeth I to Victoria, and beyond, for better or worse, the British royals have helped shape the course of modern society through their vast empire.

I got further mixed up in it all when I specialized in postcolonial studies for my Ph.D. as a child of Indian expats. The last British Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten (Harry’s great uncle), royally f@cked up the Partition of India (and that’s putting it very mildly).

All this to say, when Lady Diana Spencer entered the scene, I, like much of the world, perked up. I remember watching her wedding with my parents as a young girl and thinking she could do anything she wanted. She seemed so beautiful, so powerful, so full of attention. Later, in college, a friend woke me up with the news of her fatal accident, and I was somewhat bemused. Diana – dead? In her 30s… it seemed so strange.

“There wouldn’t be this much hype about Mother Teresa passing,” I said when the global grief continued. When the (in)famous nun did pass away a few days later, the sadness compounded.

Because Harry’s mother broke the royal mold in many ways; she exuded warmth, crouched when speaking to children, touched the sick and dying, didn’t tolerate her husband’s affairs, and had many of her own. She spoke about her pain publicly, and she turned her back on royal life. When she was struck down in the back of that car, she was trying to figure out what was next. She needed money to keep up that glamorous, high-maintenance lifestyle, and Dodi, she was known to say, “had all the toys.” Plus, the Fayeds knew her worth – something she craved but never got from The Firm.

Anyway – as a writer, I spent a decade writing a novel every November. 1600 words a day, thanks to National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. This is how I came to write nine novels back to back. You spend a month creating a manuscript and then seven months editing it.

When I came to the end of the planned projects about life in the Middle East, there was one more story I wanted to tell. About a fractious family who all agreed on the importance of duty — and a prince who wasn’t quite sure he wanted to be one.

Writing About Families

But when I started writing The Princely Papers, it wasn’t just his story that was interesting. It was his mother’s. So the back and forth, from mother to son, created in alternating chapters. At the time, the real-life couple was just dating, and there was much speculation about where the relationship would go.

But a big question throughout my fictional story was: would Albie make a break for it? Because the material was there, even back then, for how someone who experienced the media’s pain and scrutiny, firsthand, via their mother’s misery, would react when he himself became a husband and father.

In 2018, we got a real-life hint: Harry released his own statement about the media’s hounding of Meghan, describing her as being straight out of Compton, despite having grown up in LA. With the palace’s habitual silence around girlfriends, his naming and shaming of the British press hounding the new girl’s friends, family, and colleagues. Here was the first sign this was a prince who was not going to play by the book.

The Trouble With Families

And that’s how we got to an interview with Oprah Winfrey, a Netflix docuseries, and now Spare, a tell-all memoir. People speculate it’s Meghan pulling the strings, but the signs have always been there that Harry has wanted to talk all along.

The story is so familiar, it can take on any ethnicity or nationality; women come into families that think they’re too good for her. She is the one who has to bend. If she doesn’t, there are consequences. (Usually for her.) Usually, the husband lets her down.

That’s what makes Wallace Simpson, Diana Spencer, and Meghan Markle, both relatable and fascinating. They won’t fall in step like Kate Middleton; they can’t stop being themselves.

Lucky for Meghan, her husband can’t either.

Because Harry isn’t just breaking royal taboos, he’s ‘airing dirty laundry’ and talking about his family in public – areas off limits to Southerns and South Asians alike.

I do hope he and Megan are taking care of themselves as the relentless media onslaught since his father’s coronation seems to take delight in celebrating any downfalls – like the recent announcement from Spotify that there won’t be a second episode of the Archewell podcast. For me, the best way to rid myself of toxicity, familial or otherwise is through mindfulness. Couldn’t we all use more of that these days, celebrities, royalty and commoners?


Connect with Mohana on Facebook and Twitter. Learn more about her work here.

To learn more about life in the Arabian Gulf, check out the Crimes In Arabia series!

How to find Justice

Not By Chagall
Not By Chagall

This is part 3 in an ongoing series by a special contributor who is taking us behind the scenes of her life as a rape survivor.

We heard about how rapists are not always strangers.

How people w know can go too far.

And today, how she, like most survivors, are left to pick up the pieces, and difficult questions.


I went to the police station after I told my parents. I had to relive my assault over and over again, in gruesome detail.

“Do you want to press charges?” The police officer asked.

I was still figuring out what happened to me. I could barely respond.

“He drove hours just to do this to you. You don’t have to press charges, but he could do this to others.”

It was the first time I realized that rape had been his intent the whole time. He was going to do that to me with or without my consent.

That’s when I decided yes. I was going to press charges.  My night got longer.

I had to go to a victims’ advocate unit. I was lucky they had one — most people have to go the hospital and wait.

I was able to go to the Center and talk to the detective.  Then came the nurse to do a rape kit. They were moving offices and that most of their stuff was boxed.

I went with the nurse. I had to tell my story again, and answer all her questions — no matter how uncomfortable.

Because their adult room was boxed up, and I used the children’s room. I was left alone in a room with a safari mural and many stuffed animals. To a child these were probably comforting. To me it seemed like a joke.

I was swabbed in every area — embarrassed and demeaned all over again.

Although this time I understood the reason behind it.

I was then prescribed medicines: pills to help protect against STDS, antibiotics and also the morning after pill.

I didn’t know who I was.

I had to see the detective. I told my story once again. I was sick of hearing it: sick of talking about it.

I was given options as to what came next.

The first was a one party consent call where I would confront my rapist over the phone. But the night before, I deleted all I had from him, thinking I deleted him from my life. I told them I would get in touch if I changed my mind.

I had to keep going. I went to my college orientation. For my scholarship I was required to be in the honor program and that’s when I learned how difficult this was going to be. They said it was the program was going to be extremely hard, and they didn’t even know all I was dealing with. I wanted to break down. I had to keep going, to keep trying, and that’s when I decided to do the one party consent call. I ended up doing it while taking classes, it also happened to be my birthday.

I walked back into the office with the detective. I would call the rapists and try to get information — hopefully a confession.

Hearing his voice took all the air out of me. I said what was written by the detective.

To me it seemed like he confessed: he said he did it. That he raped me — that he assaulted me. Hearing him say it, hearing him admit it, I almost broke down. I was feeling so many things I couldn’t comprehend them all.

But he only spoke in small words saying “it” and “that.” Not naming the act.

I celebrated my birthday eating cake with my family, not letting them know what I had gone through an hour earlier.

I heard nothing, not a word. I focused on school, on life, on anything that could keep my mind occupied.

I didn’t hear back for months.

I lost my scholarship. I couldn’t keep my grades up.

I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t adapt. I couldn’t cope. I was destroyed.

College was one more thing he took away from me.

I ended up working at a fast food restaurant. When a person came in that resembled my attacker I got angry and upset.

A year passed since my assault. I got a call. My detective told me that my case fell through the cracks for a while but he stayed on it and found John Doe who had said our intercourse was consensual. I was so mad to hear this, to hear him lie.

The case would now go to lawyers in my district and they would decide if they would prosecute.

Anatomy of a Rape: Part Two

by Devon Buchanan

This is the second part in a series about companion rape. Women are more often attacked by those closest to them than the stranger in the parking lot.

We need to speak out against violence against women and hold our legal systems accountable for light prison sentences.


The date was awkward as first dates go – made more awkward by the fact that he told me he loved me. I felt so strange. We had only known each other for a little over a month and during this time, one meeting in person and one phone call. A lot of texting.

I didn’t know what to say.

“I need to go to the bathroom.” I went to clear my head.

“I want to go home. I’m going to call my parents,” I said when got back to the table.

“I can take you home.”

I told him I would get a ride from my parents, but he insisted.

It’s a ride from my boyfriend I thought I can’t kept rejecting him. I’ll be the girl who couldn’t let a guy do a nice thing for me. A 10 minute ride. I shouldn’t inconvenience my parents.

2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. We went to his car. He turned on the air and we sat there.

“Let’s let the car cool down,” he said. He started kissing me. He kept kissing me despite me moving back. Part of me thought this is okay. Only a kiss or two. I felt a little uncomfortable but everyone kisses.

Then he started moving his hands to my pants.

I immediately told him no. I asked him to stop.

He kept going. Kept reaching into my pants. I pushed him away. No matter what I did he wouldn’t stop. I froze, terrified. If I did what he said, when he’s was done, when he’s got what he wanted I could go home, he would let me go home. It would all be over.

After it happened I felt so numb and confused. I was quiet.

As we drove on, I told him how horrible that was. I had no clue what happened and that I didn’t feel right about it. He told me it was going to be okay, to not tell anyone, especially my parents.

That night when I got home I could barely eat. I ate a few bites of food only to try to keep my parents from finding out what happened.

I couldn’t keep it from everyone. I ended up telling my brothers. They were the ones to tell me to call what happened rape.

I didn’t think that was what it was. It couldn’t have been. Rape was something done by a stranger. Someone following you late at night. Not someone you considered a boyfriend. I told my brothers I would get over it. This was something I would eventually get past and deal with. But it wasn’t a cold or some bad mood.

And that night my older brother convinced me to tell my parents. I felt so ashamed, like I failed them, like I failed everyone I knew. My parents, my grandparents, my friends my family, and even my high school teachers who thought so highly of me.