Spare has been a mainstream media sensation — that much is for sure. Anyone who’s seen it artfully displayed beside Bella Mackie’s How to Kill Your Family in a bookstore window knows that it’s also been a treat for social media. If you haven’t yet looked up from your phone and said to the nearest person, “Did you hear about Harry’s frostbitten todger?” then do you even count as chronically online?
And yet, amongst all this noise, we were forgetting the most damning detail. Sure, he lost his virginity when a horsey older woman told him to mount her like a stallion in an open field behind a pub. Of course Kate and Will also laughed when he put on the ill-advised Nazi costume. Of course Camilla leaks to the right-wing press and who hasn’t thought briefly of their mother while applying Elizabeth Arden cream to their genitals? But let’s get to the heart of the story here, the seventh circle of hell from which the truthfulness of all of this can be gleaned: TJ Maxx.
TK Maxx — known in the US as TJ Maxx, and as a Brit living in the US, I am Maxx-agnostic: use whichever brand name makes the most sense to you — is a discount clothing store. If, like me, you have no money and hate yourself, you’ve probably been in there before. It’s not set out like a branded clothing store, with soft lighting or alluring displays. TJ Maxx knows you are not here to be wooed. It knows, instead, that you’ve come crawling back. You’re here because you spent too much this month. You overindulged at Christmas. You lost your job and your extremely rich family cut you off.
Harry knows that feeling well.
“For my everyday casual clothes I’d go to TK Maxx, the discount store,” he wrote in Spare. “I was particularly fond of their once-a-year sale, when they’d be flush with items from Gap or J Crew, items that had just gone out of season or were slightly damaged. If you timed it just right, got there on the first day of the sale, you could snag the same clothes that others were paying top price for down the street! With two hundred quid you could look like a fashion plate.”
Now, I don’t pretend to know what a “fashion plate” is, but I enjoyed this story. The idea that Prince Harry was scouring the aisles of TK Maxx looking for “slightly damaged” castoffs from J Crew — J Crew! The store where I bought a shirt last week for $15 — which was less than what I subsequently paid for a sandwich! — did give me a laugh. However, in a Shakespearean twist, the very store that Harry professed his love for was about to betray him in the cruelest way.
“Whilst we’re delighted Prince Harry is a big fan, we thought we should explain we don’t actually do sales,” a spokesperson for the brand told Express not long after Spare was published. “Instead, we offer great value, style, and savings all year round.”
And there it was! The smoking gun! Surely the proof that he could be trusted for nothing! Because if a man lies about a TJ Maxx sale, what else is he capable of? Never mind the stuff about racism, the tender descriptions of addressing his grief in therapy, the tale of two brothers torn apart by their mother’s death and an ancient institution hell-bent on beating any emotional resonance out of them. Never mind which member of the royal family openly wondered what color Harry’s children might be if he had them with Meghan and what that might mean. Never mind that Meghan told Oprah she considered suicide after being sequestered inside for months because she was, apparently, “overexposed”. The message is clear: If he was going to complain about his wife experiencing racism, Harry should’ve checked when TK Maxx does its reductions first!
And look, I get it. It’s hard to feel sorry for Prince Harry. We’ve all been asked for a little bit too long now to get out our handkerchiefs for him and Meghan, two obscenely rich people living in a mansion in California. First there was the Oprah interview, then there came the podcast, then the Netflix show, and now the book, in a very short space of time. I can understand if people might be getting a little sick of it all. I can understand if, during a cost-of-living crisis and inflation going wild, people might not feel too sorry for the bloke who says he went to TK Maxx for normal clothes because he only got a clothes allowance from Daddy that allowed for formalwear.
But let’s not pretend that everyone hasn’t enjoyed watching these moneyed assholes rip chunks out of each other. Even the people who at the same time love to shake their heads and wonder out loud what poor Diana might’ve thought of all this.
And unfortunately, it does bear saying: Racism and misogyny are real. The royal family are problematic. Their very existence should be on the table for discussion (not in a “get out the guillotines” way, but in a “do these people need to take taxpayer funds and drive up housing prices across Britain by hoarding land or should we reconsider?” way.) Whether or not TK Maxx does a sale at the exact time Harry thought it did is immaterial. This isn’t a “gotcha” moment so much as an out-of-touch bloke not quite understanding that Harry, TK Maxx IS THE SALE.
Is the former prince walking round in torn-up denim from Gap that he found in a discount store? I don’t care (much.) But I know that I care about systemic prejudice and terrible uses of public funds (and, to a lesser extent, why Queen Victoria’s obsession with her family line led to every male in the family being circumcised.) I also care about how the army desensitises people to the extent that they see their kills as “moves on a chess board”. All of this is worth a passing discussion.
And the idea that one’s deep knowledge of TJ Maxx’s stock removals negates all of that is, quite frankly, absurd.