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It broke the record for the fastest-selling nonfiction book ever despite a week of leaks in the lead-up to its release. Prince Harry’s Spare book revealed intimate details of a shockingly dysfunctional, sometimes even physically violent, British royal family.
Released on January 10, 2023, some news outlets gained advanced access to the Duke of Sussex’s fiercely protected autobiography, discovering how Harry’s relationships with certain family members, including his brother Prince William, had severely broken down after the younger prince’s marriage to Meghan Markle.
The title, Spare, derives from the aristocratic phrase “the heir and the spare” which refers to Harry’s position as the second boy in what is ultimately a patriarchal monarchy. In her now-infamous interview with the BBC’s Martin Bashir in 1995, Harry’s late mother Princess Diana said she felt “enormous relief” when she learned her first baby was male, even more so when she had a second. “Fortunately, it was two boys… William, his future being as it is and Harry, like a form of a backup in that aspect.”
Selling 3.2 million copies worldwide in a week, Harry is said to be “very happy” with its commercial success and has “no regrets”. Attending his neighbor Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s surprise wedding vow renewal in February 2023, sources told Page Six that “he said he had no regrets about any of the revelations, and he’s relieved to have got his story out into the world. There’s been an amazing reaction to it.” Whether he’ll be invited to his father King Charles’ coronation later this year remains to be seen. Here are all the shocking details from Prince Harry’s Spare autobiography.
Harry claims his ‘beloved brother’ and ‘archnemesis’ William physically attacked him
In one of the most explosive sections of the book, obtained by The Guardian, Harry detailed a confrontation with William that took place in his London home in 2019. William called Harry’s wife Meghan “difficult”, “rude” and “abrasive”, the prince wrote, which Harry dubbed a “parrot[ing of] the press narrative” about his American wife, as countless media headlines accused Markle of such things with quotes anonymous royal insiders and unidentified palace staff.
Harry said he expected his brother to be better than repeating the press’s narrative, but the two men ended up shouting at each other. The exchange escalated further in aggression and Harry, seeming to want things to cool down, gave his brother a glass of water and allegedly said, “Willy, I can’t speak to you when you’re like this.” Then, Harry wrote: “He set down the water, called me another name, then came at me. It all happened so fast. So very fast. He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog’s bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out.”
William apparently left but returned shortly after “looking regretful and apologized,” adding that William said: “You don’t need to tell Meg about this.” “You mean that you attacked me?” “I didn’t attack you, Harold.” Harry wrote that he didn’t immediately tell his wife but he did call his therapist instead. “We’d had a million physical fights in our lives, I told her,” he wrote. “As boys we’d done nothing but fight. But this felt different.” Meghan eventually noticed the “scrapes and bruises” on his back and Harry came clean about their scuffle. She “wasn’t surprised and wasn’t all that angry,” Harry wrote, but “she was terribly sad”. It’s little wonder that in Spare, Harry refers to William as both his “beloved brother” and “archnemesis”.
Harry claims William “mocked” his anxiety
Harry also discussed how William allegedly made light of his brother’s deteriorating mental health. In a Spare excerpt published by Us Weekly, Harry wrote: “I was an agoraphobe. Which was nearly impossible given my public role. After one speech, which couldn’t be avoided or canceled, and during which I’d nearly fainted, Willy came up to me backstage. Laughing,” the Duke of Sussex claimed. “‘Harold! Look at you! You’re drenched.’”
Harry said he “couldn’t fathom” his brother’s reaction. “Him of all people. He’d been present for my very first panic attack. With Kate [Middleton]. We were driving out to a polo match in Gloucestershire, in their Range Rover. I was in the back and Willy peered at me in the rearview. He saw me sweating, red-faced,” he continued. “‘You all right, Harold?’ No, I wasn’t. It was a trip of several hours and every few miles I wanted to ask him to pull over so I could jump out and try to catch my breath.”
Harry recalled William had known “something bad” was going on with him mentally, adding “He’d told me that day or soon after that I needed help. And now he was teasing me? I couldn’t imagine how he could be so insensitive.” But Harry admitted he “was at fault too” when it came to the brother’s crumbling relationship. “Both of us should’ve known better, should’ve recognized my crumbling emotional and mental states for what they were, because we’d just started to discuss the launching of a public campaign to raise awareness around mental health.”
Harry once “snapped” at Meghan during a heated, alcohol-fuelled fight
During one particularly heated fight with Meghan, Harry detailed how he’d become “disproportionately, sloppily angry” with her over something she’d said. “Maybe the wine went to my head. Maybe the weeks of battling the press had worn me down. For some reason, when the conversation took an unexpected turn, I became touchy,” he wrote.
“I was also just over-sensitive that night. I thought: ‘Why’s she having a go at me?’ I snapped at her, spoke to her harshly [and] cruelly,” Harry wrote of his wife, whom he married in May 2018. “As the words left my mouth, I could feel everything in the room come to a stop. The gravy stopped bubbling, the molecules of air stopped orbiting. Even Nina Simone seemed to pause.”
Markle was said to have disappeared into their bedroom for 15 minutes before emerging. “She was calm but said in a quiet, level tone that she would never stand for being spoken to like that. I nodded. She wanted to know where it came from,” Harry recalled in Spare. “I don’t know. ’Where did you ever hear a man speak like that to a woman? Did you overhear adults speak that way when you were growing up?’ [She asked]. I cleared my throat, looked away. ‘Yes.’”
King Charles made “sadistic” jokes about Harry’s “real father” and planted stories about royal family members
As the second child of Princess Diana, Harry grew up with rumors that his true father was her former lover, Major James Hewitt and not of the now-King Charles. In Spare, Harry accounted how his father appeared to enjoy making jokes about Harry’s parentage. “Pa liked telling stories, and this was one of the best in his repertoire. He’d always end with a burst of philosophizing … Who knows if I’m really the Prince of Wales? Who knows if I’m even your real father?” per Page Six.
“He’d laugh and laugh, though it was a remarkably unfunny joke, given the rumor circulating just then that my actual father was one of Mummy’s former lovers: Major James Hewitt. One cause of this rumor was Major Hewitt’s flaming ginger hair, but another cause was sadism.”
Charles never spoke with Harry directly about the rumors, but the prince speculated in Spare that gossip fiends loved the idea that Charles was not really Harry’s dad. “Maybe it made them feel better about their lives that a young prince’s life was laughable. Never mind that my mother didn’t meet Major Hewitt until long after I was born,” he added.
Harry also claimed Charles had planted stories about William and Kate’s family, about which the older prince was “seething”. Apparently, a “gung-ho” member of Charles’ communication team had “devised and launched a new campaign of getting good press” for Charles and Camilla, but that came “at the expense of bad press” for the two boys. “They’ve done this to me for the last time,” William was said to have told Harry during a phone call. He “wasn’t going to take it anymore.”
William went to see Charles and Harry accompanied him as “moral support”. Charles did not appreciate it. “Pa instantly got upset. He began shouting that Willy was paranoid. We both were,” Harry wrote. “Just because we were getting bad press, and he was getting good, that didn’t mean his staff was behind it.”
Harry claims William and Kate told him to wear the infamous Nazi costume
When Harry was 20, he made headlines worldwide for wearing a Nazi costume to a party, his arm emblazoned with a swastika band. The photo, published by The Sun (see the front page here), was taken as a “native and colonial” theme shindig that William also attended.
In Spare, Harry claims William and Kate, who in 2005 were six years away from marriage, encouraged him to wear the costume. According to an excerpt of the autobiography, obtained by Page Six, Harry detailed: “I phoned Willy and Kate, asked what they thought. Nazi uniform, they said… They both howled [with laughter]. Worse than Willy’s leotard outfit! Way more ridiculous! Which, again, was the point.”
Although the former Duke called the incident “one of the biggest mistakes in my life,” one senior publishing source who read Harry’s book told Page Six: “It’s strange as you would think that Harry would take ownership of this and just move on and not drag his brother into it, but he makes it clear that he feels strongly about William’s role in the scandal.”
Harry details how he lost his virginity “in a grassy field behind a pub”
For good or bad, everyone remembers their first time. Prince Harry clearly members a few details about losing his virginity, as described in Spare, according to Us Weekly. His first sexual encounter, he wrote, was an “inglorious episode with an older woman”.
He continued: “She liked horses, quite a lot, and treated me unlike a young stallion. Quick ride, after which she’d smacked my rump and sent me to grace,” he wrote. “Among the many things about it that were wrong. It happened in a grassy field behind a busy pub.” OK, then.
Harry urged Charles not to marry “wicked stepmother” Camilla
In Princess Diana’s now-infamous tell-all interview with the BBC, she said of Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Prince Harry has never spoken publicly about their affair or his now-stepmother, but in Spare, he revealed he and William urged his father not to marry her in 2005.
In an excerpt published by Page Six, Harry wrote: “Despite Willy and me urging him not to, Pa was going ahead. We pumped his hand, wished him well. No hard feelings. We recognized that he was finally going to be with the woman he loved, the woman he’d always loved.” He continued: “Fate might’ve intended for him in the first place. Whatever bitterness or sorrow we felt over the closing of another loop in Mummy’s story, we understood that it was besides the point… I remember wondering … if she would be cruel to me; if she would be like all the evil stepmothers in the stories.” He added: “Willy had been suspicious of the Other Woman for a long time, which confused and tormented him. When those suspicions were confirmed, he felt agonizing remorse for not having done or said anything before.”
The Palace fought over Harry’s wedding beard, the venue and Meghan’s tiara
Before his televised wedding to Meghan in 2018, there were many discussions about where it should take place, what it should look like and what royal jewels were to be on display. In Spare, Harry detailed getting the “green light” from Queen Elizabeth II to keep his facial hair for the ceremony, but William “bristled” at the thought, according to Us Weekly.
“He wouldn’t let it go,” Harry wrote. “At one point he actually ordered me, as the Heir speaking to the Spare, to shave. Are you serious?” Harry told his brother that his “opinion didn’t really matter” because he’d already got the tick of approval from grandma Lizzie. “Finally, I told him flatly and defiantly that his bearded brother was getting married soon, and he could either get on board or not,” Harry wrote. “The choice was to him.”
Then there was the question of venue. William told Harry that Westminster Abbey was out of the question because he and Kate had been wed there. St. Paul’s was “too grand”, plus it was Charles and Diana’s location. “In fact, we wanted to explore. Barefoot in Botswana, with maybe a friend officiating, that was our dream,” he wrote. “But we were expected to share this moment with other people. It wasn’t up to us.”
He continued: “While waiting for a decree from on high, from the nebulous upper regions of the royal decision-making apparatus, we went off on a traditional ‘engagement tour.’” The couple would eventually be married at St George’s Chapel in Windsor in May 2018.
With regards to Meghan’s jewels to be worn on the day, Queen Elizabeth II’s former senior dresser, Angela Kelly, apparently because “obstructive” when lending the Duchess-to-be an accessory for her wedding day. The bride was supposed to wear a tiara from the monarch’s personal collection, but on the day of the ceremony, Kelly was “unreachable”.
“Meg’s hairdresser had come in from France for the rehearsal and the tiara still wasn’t there,” Harry explained, alleging that he tried calling Her Majesty’s “dresser and confidant” several times with no success. She then appeared “out of nowhere” with the accessory. “I thanked her, though I added that it would’ve made our lives so much easier to have had it sooner. Her eyes were fire,” the prince alleged, adding that he could “read in her face” a “clear warning.”
Charles allegedly told Harry there “wasn’t enough money” to go around
As a working member of the royal family, Harry wrote in Spare that it was his father’s duty to support him and his brother William financially. “Pa didn’t financially support Willy and me, and our families, out of any largesse,” he observed, “that was his job. That was the whole deal. We agreed to serve the monarch, go wherever we were sent, do whatever we were told, surrender our autonomy, keep our hands and feet inside the gilded cage at all times, and in exchange, the keepers of the cage agreed to feed and clothe us.”
But his father once said “there’s not enough money to go around” to support Meghan while the then-Prince was “already having to pay” for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Soon though, Harry suspected it wasn’t about money at all. “Pa might have dreaded the rising cost of maintaining us, but what he really couldn’t stomach was someone new dominating the monarchy, grabbing the limelight, someone shiny and new coming in and overshadowing him,” Harry wrote. “He’d lived through that before, and had no interest in living through it again.”
When Meghan and Harry stepped down as working members of the royal family, their financial support was cut off. “I’ve got what my mom left me and without that, we would not have been able to do this,” Harry once said during an interview with CBS.
Meghan Markle was “reprimanded” for saying Kate, pregnant with Prince Louis, “must have baby brain”
Rumors of a rift between Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, and Prince Williams’s wife, Kate Middleton, have swirled for years. In Spare, the Duke of Sussex confirmed there is truth to the row, detailing how in the lead-up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding, Meghan told Kate she “must have baby brain because of her hormones”.
According to a source quoted in the Daily Mail, Harry wrote “that there was a discussion about the timing of the wedding rehearsal and the flower girl dresses and Kate was very upset. Meghan said that Kate must have ‘baby brain’ because of her hormones.” The comment “caused a huge row because Meghan was told that she wasn’t close enough to her sister-in-law to discuss her hormones and it wasn’t the way people spoke to each other within the Royal Family.” The source continued that “the book makes clear that Meghan felt the fall-out wasn’t her fault, but it doesn’t exactly make her look very good either.”
When Oprah asked if reports were true that she had made Kate cry during the couple’s bombshell interview in 2021, Meghan replied saying “the reverse happened.” She added: “It made me cry and it really hurt my feelings. It was a really hard week of the wedding and she was upset about something but she owned it and she apologized.”
Harry also noted how his sister-in-law felt “forced to compete” with his wife Meghan. During their first “fab four” outing as Harry and Meghan, William and Kate, for the inaugural Royal Foundation Forum in London in February 2018.
“The audience was keen, all four of us were having fun, the whole atmosphere was hugely positive,” Harry recalled in Spare. “Days later, controversy. Something about Meg showing support for #MeToo, and Kate not showing support—via their outfits? I think that was the gist, though who can say? It wasn’t real.” He continued: “I think it had Kate on edge while putting her and everyone else on notice that she was now going to be compared to, and forced to compete with, Meg.”
There was also an “awkward moment” involving a lipgloss when Markle forgot hers and asked Kate if she could borrow hers. “An American thing,” Harry noted. “Kate, taken aback, went into her handbag and reluctantly pulled out a small tube. Meg squeezed some onto her finger and applied it to her lips. Kate grimaced.”
More cultural differences emerged between Meghan and William. Long known to possess that stereotypically ‘stiff-upper-lip’, William was taken aback by Meghan’s immediate familiarity with her new brother-in-law, hugging him upon their first meeting. [It] completely freaked him out,” Harry wrote in an excerpt from Spare obtained by Us Weekly. “He recoiled. Willy didn’t hug many strangers. Whereas Meg hugged most strangers.”
Meanwhile, when Meghan met the late Queen Elizabeth II for the first time, Harry said it was “all very pleasant” and the monarch wanted to know Meghan’s thoughts on President Donald Trump’s first term should he win the 2016 election—they met in July 2016 and Trump won in November. Since “everyone in the world” was talking about his running, Harry could understand why she’d be curious.
Meghan quickly steered the conversation to Canada, though, as she’d resided in Toronto while filming suits. “Granny looked pleased. ‘Commonwealth. Good, fine,’” Harry recalled in Spare.
Harry thought William was “gone forever” after his marriage to Kate
The oldest son of Diana and Charles’ and therefore heir to the British throne, William’s marriage to Kate Middleton was one of the most anticipated royal weddings since his parents tied the knot in 1981.
But marriage can change permanently alter the dynamics of those around the couple, something that Harry detailed in Spare. He described Kate and William’s marriage in 2011 as “yet another farewell under this horrid roof” and “another sundering” at Westminster Abbey. “The brother I’d escorted into Westminster Abbey that morning was gone—forever. Who could deny it?” he wrote in an excerpt obtained by Us Weekly. “He’d never again be first a foremost Willy. We’d never again ride together across the Lesotho countryside with capes blowing behind us. We’d never again share a horsey-smelling cottage while learning to fly. Who shall separate us? Life, that’s who.”
He continued that he didn’t remember much about the ceremony or being his brother’s best man—it’s “mostly a blank” in his mind—but “I recall Willy walking her back up the aisle, and as they disappeared through the door, into the carriage that would convey them to Buckingham Palace, into the eternal partnership they’d pledged, I recall thinking: ‘Goodbye’,” he wrote.
Harry recalled seeing his ex, Chelsy Davy, at Kate and William’s wedding. At one point, Harry thought she could’ve been The One but the pair called it off in 2010. “Whenever I worried that Kate was going to be the one to take Willy from me, I consoled myself with thoughts of all our future laughing fits together, and I told myself how great everything would be when I had a serious girlfriend who could laugh along with us. Maybe it would be Chelsy,” he wrote. Harry added that it was difficult “seeing Chels at Willy’s wedding” as he felt “a certain way” about the men trailing after her.
Harry watched his wife Meghan’s sex scenes in Suits and it “was a mistake”
Every member of a couple feels jealousy from time to time, but the difference in marrying an actor is that they’re frequently intimate with fellow actors on-screen, even if it’s totally fake. In his autobiography Spare, Prince Harry admitted to watching his then-girlfriend Meghan Markle in Suits, the show that launched her into fame.
In an excerpt obtained by Page Six, Harry wrote that he needed “electric-shock therapy” to get her sex scenes out of his head. Soon after they started dating, Harry said he’d made “the mistake of Googling and watching some of her love scenes online”. “I’d witnessed her and a castmate mauling each other in some sort of office or conference room. I didn’t need to see such things live.”
Meghan played the character Rachel Zane on the legal comedy/drama for seven seasons and apparently, William and Kate were fans of the show. In Spare, Harry wrote “Willy and Kate explained that they were regular—nay, religious—viewers of Suits,” and was not expecting them to “barrage” him with questions about her. “All this time I’d thought Willy and Kate might not welcome Meg into the family, but now I had to worry about them hounding her for an autograph,” the prince explained.
The decision to have her character leave the show was, in part, inspired by Markle’s own private life. “Meg packed up her house, gave up her role in Suits. After seven seasons. A difficult moment for her, because she loved that show, loved the character she was playing, loved her cast and crew—loved Canada,” Harry wrote.
“On the other hand, life there had become untenable… The show writers were frustrated because they were often advised by the palace comms team to change lines of dialogue, what her character would do, how she would act,” he alleged.
Spare by Prince Harry
For more about Prince Harry, read his upcoming memoir, Spare. Told for the first time in his own words, the book takes readers through the Duke of Sussex’s life with the British royal family, from the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 to how the moment led to his decision decades later to move to America with his wife, Meghan Markle, and leave Buckingham Palace for good in 2020. “With its raw, unflinching honesty, Spare is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief,” the publisher’s description reads.
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