The past fortnight since the death of Queen Elizabeth II should have been one of dignified mourning. But instead, it became an excuse for worthless individuals masquerading as journalists and pundits to unleash their pettiness, jealousy and racism on Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan. And one of the most pejorative expressions used on auto-repeat by these supposedly impartial commentators was “The Heir and The Spare” in reference to William and Harry – an expression that was popularised after Princess Diana gave birth to Harry at a time when media became truly global.
It rhymed. It dominated newspaper headlines and is glibly used by all and sundry without ever considering just how damaging it is to the child referred to as “A Spare” from birth everywhere he went – nursery, elementary school, army, country tours, wherever. He was brought up to know that he was expendable in essence. Thus his 10 years in the Army and two brutal tours in Afghanistan were okay because if he died, it wasn’t as important as William coming to harm. Therefore, William had the protected duty of being a helicopter rescue pilot within UK shores whilst Harry was in the Afghan Warfront fighting for Queen and Country.
Nobody referred to Princes Andrew and Edward or Princess Anne as “Spares”. Neither Charlotte nor Louis is constantly referenced thus. But all his life, Harry has been referred to as a literal spare tyre – daily reduced to nothing.
Nowadays, women who go out with married men are referred to as “Side Chicks”. It is a deserved derogatory term.
But what did Harry do to deserve this pejorative term from the minute he was born? It is cruel. If it was applied to any other human being, there would be an uproar by the very same people using it to abuse him.
In the 38 years since Harry was born, the term “Air Hostess” was retired. “Mad” was changed to “Mental Health Challenge”. To call a fat person “Fat” is called “Fat Shaming”. A Hollywood actress who wore a terrible dress to an awards ceremony complained that she was being “Costume-shamed”! The UK even retired “Wife” and “Husband” and replaced them with “Partner”! So many terms deemed to be demeaning, damaging or pejorative to individuals or groups, whether right or wrong, have been removed from our everyday lexicon.
But why is Prince Harry not given this simple consideration? Why is it alright to daily refer to him as a Spare – A Nothing?
Harry is not a Spare. He is a full human being, created in God’s image, with his own God-given likes, dislikes, talents, hopes, desires and destiny and he is entitled to forge a dynasty of his own. If the British people ever decide to do away with the Monarchy, only Harry would have an independent means of livelihood.
In our culture, no parent refers to his children as “Spares”. We all know that the first son inherits the Homestead and is usually given a larger share of the inheritance than everybody else. But the rest of us, whether male or female, are encouraged to excel in any field God gave us talent in and to create our own new lines of succession. But no other child except Harry is reduced to rendering themselves worthless and denying all their own desires and hopes which God Almighty put in them in order to help the first son rule over them with the wealth and power he will inherit.
Harry cannot complain about the use of this pejorative term – it would only result in the same media unleashing more vitriol and abuse on him and his wife.
But today, I ask everybody to put themselves in his shoes. Would you wish to be forced to abdicate everything that God put inside you that makes you who you are in order to do nothing but wait hand and foot on your older brother, knowing that the only time your life would have meaning is if your older brother and his entire family are wiped out? I don’t think so.
So let us stop using that term for any child and instead, recognise Harry for the brave soul that he is. Because it is not an easy thing to break free from the prison that such a powerful establishment has put you in, but he did; and for this, he deserves to be applauded.
By doing so he proved that he is not a Spare. He is God’s child, created in God’s image to do the works that God put inside him to do during his own sojourn on earth.
• Ambassador Lilian Onoh writes from Enugwu-Ngwo.