How Prince Harry's Book Has Weakened the Sussexes' 'Core Support'

Prince Harry's "raw" and "unflinching" memoir Spare was released on January 10, causing an international media frenzy that has translated into millions of copies sold. It has become the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time.

The prince's first literary output has proven to be a commercial phenomenon but, as discussed in a new episode of Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast, it has come at the cost of weakening his core support base among the American public.

Following the results of a Newsweek exclusive survey undertaken by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, which revealed Harry and wife Meghan Markle's popularity in the U.S. has tanked since the release of Spare, chief royal correspondent Jack Royston provided an assessment of how the book has contributed to the change in attitude towards the couple, particularly among their core support base of 18- to 24-year-olds.

Prince Harry Meeting Crowds
Prince Harry photographed greeting crowds in Dusseldorf, Germany, September 6, 2022. The prince has seen his public support decline in the wake of the publication of his tell-all memoir. Karwai Tang/WireImage

One topic from the book used to illustrate a turning point in the way Harry has been perceived by the public, is the revelation that he experienced penile frostbite after a trek to the North Pole and used a lip cream favored by Princess Diana as a home remedy for this.

The excerpt was quickly picked up and spoofed by a number of high-profile comedians, including Chelsea Handler and Jimmy Kimmel.

"This, for me, felt like it came on the back of an era where there were some smaller tell-tale signs that some people in America were starting to view Harry and Meghan a little bit differently and maybe a little bit less sympathetically," Royston said on The Royal Report. "Maybe, still ultimately supporting them but perhaps asking more questions than there had been in the aftermath of Oprah."

Royston added: "One of the big things after the Netflix documentary in December was that some major publications, like Variety for example, were questioning whether Harry and Meghan needed to leave their royal story behind and start saying something new, creating a new brand that had nothing to do with the life they left behind.

"Now, take that position and throw in a couple of major revelations from the publicity that Harry did around the book—including him saying that he and Meghan never accused the royal family of racism—and I can fully believe that there might be a contingent of the softer support that Harry and Meghan had in America, that might have been starting to waver before this Elizabeth Arden cream frostbite story came about."

On this subject, Royston added that the frostbite story has made the prince a figure of ridicule, giving comedians and critics almost license to mock the royal in a way that might not have previously had mainstream public appeal.

"What appears to have happened since that story emerged was that Harry became a figure of ridicule," Royston said.

"He has been mocked by a wide variety of people, including Jimmy Kimmel several times, Jimmy Fallon and others as well, including at the Critics' Choice Awards live on stage, and the end result appears to be that maybe some of those people who were wavering before and unsure whether their support was starting to ebb and flow away, have turned against Harry and, it would seem, Meghan, too."

This trend translates across all demographics, according to polling, including the key 18- to 24-year-old group, which has been the couple's core support basis and to which many of their outputs since leaving the royal family have been targeted.

"Where does this leave them?" Royston asked of the Sussexes. "It seems that this trend exists across all age groups, so includes their core support of 18- to 24-year-olds, which is where so much of their content has been aimed. It also exists across gender lines.

"Meghan, obviously her Archetypes podcast had a very strong feminist message. She really branded herself for many years as a feminist activist and campaigner, but she is no more likely to be seen positively by women than men."

"It's not that they don't still have a base of people who support them," Royston concluded. "They absolutely 100 percent do, but they also have a big contingent of people who have swung against them. That creates an interesting position for them reputationally."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Awards Ceremony
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle photographed at a New York awards ceremony, December 6, 2022. The couple's support among the 18- to 24-year-old demographic in the U.S. has declined in recent weeks. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Gala

Where the couple go from here is as yet unclear. There is one large-scale media project yet to be released, which will take the form of a docuseries centering around Harry's Invictus Games tournament.

Titled Heart of Invictus, the series will look at the inspirational stories behind the ex-armed forces servicemen and women who take part. The couple were being filmed for the show during the 2022 Games in the Netherlands, and though no official release date has been announced, the series could come out in conjunction with the 2023 Games in Düsseldorf, Germany in September.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek's royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek's The Royals Facebook page.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email royals@newsweek.com. We'd love to hear from you.