If you thought Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s 2021 Oprah interview was explosive, just wait until you get your hands on Prince Harry’s book.
Prince Harry’s new tell-all memoir “Spare” (Random House, 416 pp., out Tuesday) has already made droves of headlines thanks to leaked copies ahead of release. But there’s still plenty to learn from the book, which promises tons of drama but also a thoughtful, nuanced recollection of the biggest stories the public thought it knew about the British royal.
The ghostwritten memoir is rife with bombshell revelations. These are the biggest things we’ve learned so far as we continue to dig into the book.
Harry killed 25 people during his military service in Afghanistan
During his time in Afghanistan with the military, Harry killed 25 people, he reveals.
“Afghanistan was a war of mistakes, a war of enormous collateral damage – thousands of innocents killed and maimed, and that always haunted us,” he writes. “So my goal from the day I arrived was to never go to bed doubting that I’d done the right thing, that my targets had been correct, that I was firing on Taliban and only Taliban, no civilians nearby.”
He adds: “While in the heat and fog of combat, I didn’t think of those twenty-five as people. You can’t kill people if you think of them as people. You can’t harm people if you think of them as people. They were chess pieces removed from the board, Bads taken away before they could kill Goods. I’d been trained to ‘other-ize’ them, trained well. On some level I recognized this learned detachment as problematic. But I also saw it as an unavoidable part of soldiering.”
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Harry also writes of the security struggles his presence sometimes brought to his military base. On the eve of his 28th birthday, the base came under attack. Harry was later told that Taliban fighters were specifically targeting Harry, timing the attack to coincide with his birthday.
“The Taliban had learned about my presence on the base, and the granular details of my tour, through the non-stop coverage that week in the British press,” he writes.
Harry wasn’t actually William’s best man at wedding to Kate
Though Harry and William had recently spent time together, the heir never mentioned his intentions to propose to Kate, Harry writes. More, stories in tabloids about Harry gifting William the ring he had inherited from his mother was “absolute rubbish,” Harry claims.
“I never gave Willy that ring because it wasn’t mine to give. He already had it,” he writes. “He’d asked for it after Mummy died, and I’d been more than happy to let it go.”
More misinformation about the wedding: Harry writes that talk of him being William’s best man was a “bare-faced lie” – that role went to William’s two best friends, James and Thomas.
“The public expected me to be best man, and thus the Palace saw no choice but to say that I was. In truth, Willy didn’t want me giving a best-man speech. He didn’t think it safe to hand me a live mic and put me in a position to go off-script. I might say something wildly inappropriate. He wasn’t wrong.”
The timing of William and Kate’s wedding also came as a shock because Harry “always assumed” he’d be the first of the two to get married.
“I’d always assumed that I’d be a young husband, a young father, because I’d resolved not to become my father,” he writes. “He’d been an older dad, and I’d always felt that this created problems, placed barriers between us.”
The day of William and Kate’s wedding marked a “farewell” in Harry’s eyes, though he “loved” his new sister-in-law.
“He’d never again be first and foremost Willy,” Harry writes. “Who shall separate us? Life, that’s who.”
Several of Harry’s relationships ended after incessant paparazzi run-ins
Chelsy Davy, whom Harry dated on-and-off before and after Afghanistan, told Harry she was “freaking out” because paparazzi always knew where she was and where she was going. They discovered someone had stuck a tracking device underneath her car.
“Chels said again that she just wasn’t sure if she was up for this,” he writes. “A lifetime of being stalked? What could I say? I’d miss her, so much. But I completely understood her desire for freedom. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want this life either.”
It was a similar story with the late TV presenter Caroline Flack, though the relationship was short-lived. After instances of paparazzi camping outside Flack’s parents’ house, her grandmother’s house and friends’ houses, they both believed their relationship was “tainted, irredeemably” and didn’t feel it was “worth the grief and harassment.”
Another one-time girlfriend, Florence St George, called Harry crying after eight paparazzi “chased her halfway across London” and parked outside her apartment.
Will and Kate told Harry to wear his infamous Nazi costume
Harry recently called it “one of the biggest mistakes of my life.”
In January of 2005, William’s friend threw a “natives and colonials”-themed birthday party, for which Harry recalls guests were “required” to dress on theme. William and his new girlfriend, the future Duchess Kate, offered to help.
Harry went to a local costume shop and narrowed down his options to two: a British pilot’s uniform and a “sand-colored Nazi uniform. With a swastika armband.”
“I phoned Willy and Kate, asked what they thought. Nazi uniform, they said,” Harry claims, recalling how the two “howled” after seeing him try it on.
“What followed was a firestorm, which I thought at times would engulf me,” he continues. “And I felt that I deserved to be engulfed. There were moments over the course of the next several weeks and months when I thought I might die of shame. … I wanted to go around Britain knocking on doors, explaining to people: I wasn’t thinking. I meant no harm.”
Harry believes he was nearly killed in a car crash by paparazzi
In December of 2003, Harry recalls leaving a club with a woman in an unmarked police car. “Just as we pulled away, a Mercedes with blacked-out windows jumped the pavement and swiped our car, nearly slamming head-on into the rear passenger door. We could see it coming, the driver not looking ahead, too busy trying to shoot photos. The story in the papers the next morning should’ve been about Prince Harry nearly being killed by a reckless pap. Instead it was about Prince Harry meeting and supposedly kissing a page-three girl,” he writes.
‘The naughty one’: Harry’s growing resentment toward tabloids
Harry recalls how British media reacted to major moments in his life, from the barrage of camera clicks at his mother’s funeral to the constant coverage of his teenage years.
At one point, the public pegged him as “the naughty one,” a title he resented.
“I didn’t want to be naughty. I wanted to be noble,” he writes. “I wanted to be good, work hard, grow up and do something meaningful with my days. But every sin, every misstep, every setback triggered the same tired label, and the same public condemnations, and thereby reinforced the conventional wisdom that I was innately naughty.”
Prince Harry’s memoir ‘Spare’:His relationship with Prince William, more to know ahead of release
Harry and William’s rift had been growing for years
When Harry arrived at Eton College as a teenager, he joined his older brother, who had been there alone for two years and was “forging his own life,” as Harry recalls Will saying. William told his little brother to pretend they didn’t know each other, Harry writes.
“I told him not to worry. I’ll forget I ever knew you.”
While home from school, the two would bicker and physically fight in the backseat of Charles’ car. Once, Charles pulled over and told William to get out.
“Willy turned to me, furious,” Harry writes. “He felt I got away with everything. … Behind us, I could just make out the future King of England, plotting his revenge.”
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Harry partied, used drugs to cope with being ‘deeply unhappy’
Harry details a number of instances of underage drinking, smoking marijuana (he once “smoked an entire shopping bag of weed”) and snorting cocaine that contributed to his party-boy image.
When he began going to Eton, Harry noticed how many students had a “raging” cigarette habit. He joined in, accepting every cigarette offered to him before he “soon graduated to weed” and watching “Family Guy” with his school buddies after smoke sessions.
Being alone with his thoughts only made things more complicated, teenage Harry felt. “My memory had been spotty since Mummy disappeared, by design, and I didn’t want to fix it, because memory equaled grief. Not remembering was balm.”
Harry and William would have a few drinks at a local pub and host about 15 people at a time in the Highgrove basement when they were home from school – the safest place to act out and drink in private.
But soon, the “editor of Britain’s biggest tabloid” called Charles’ office with “evidence” of Harry doing drugs in the basement and behind the pub. “Rather than telling the editor to call off the dogs,” Harry recalls a “spin doctor” advising his father’s office to “spin me – right under the bus.”
Later, he was offered a line of cocaine for the first time. “It wasn’t much fun, and it didn’t make me particularly happy, as it seemed to make everyone around me, but it did make me feel different, and that was the main goal. Feel. Different. I was a deeply unhappy seventeen-year-old boy willing to try almost anything that would alter the status quo.”
Harry and William asked Charles not to marry Camilla
As Camilla Parker-Bowles, now King Charles’ queen consort, became a bigger part of Charles’ life following Diana’s death, he sat down with his sons to discuss her future in their family. While Harry and William said they’d forgive Camilla’s “pivotal role in the unravelling of our parents’ marriage” and welcome her into the family, they asked their father that he not marry her.
“You don’t need to remarry, we pleaded,” he writes. “A wedding would cause controversy. … We support you, we said. We endorse Camilla, we said. Just please don’t marry her. Just be together, Pa.”
Charles didn’t answer, according to Harry. Charles and Camilla married on April 9, 2005.”
“I had complex feelings about gaining a step-parent who, I believed, had recently sacrificed me on her personal PR altar,” Harry writes. “But I saw Pa’s smile and it was hard to argue with that, and harder still to deny the cause: Camilla.”
Charles joked he wasn’t Harry’s ‘real father’
Charles was a fan of telling stories that would end in a “burst of philosophizing,” Harry recalls. Once, he told his son a tale that ended on a personal note: “Who knows if I’m even your real father?” he said to Harry. “Maybe your real father is in Broadmoor, darling boy,” he added, referring to the psychiatric hospital.
Charles would “laugh and laugh, though it was a remarkably unfunny joke,” Harry adds. Tabloids speculated Major James Hewitt to be Harry’s birth father, despite the fact that Diana didn’t meet him “until long after I was born,” he writes.
For years, Harry believed Diana wasn’t dead – until he drove through the tunnel where she crashed
Overwhelmed with grief, there was a time immediately after his mother’s Death when Harry wholeheartedly believed Diana had staged her death.
“With nothing to do but roam in the castle and talk to myself, a suspicion took hold, which then became a firm belief. This was all a trick,” he writes. “And for once the trick wasn’t being played by the people around me, or the press, but by Mummy. Her life’s been miserable, she’s been hounded, harassed, lied about, lied to. So she’s staged an accident as a diversion and run away.”
That belief brought temporary relief to the young prince, who dreamed of himself and his brother joining Diana at a secret Swiss Alps getaway. But he battled back and forth in his mind about the truth, even after his aunt Duchess Sarah brought a box with clipped locks of Diana’s hair to Harry and William.
Years later, when Harry told William of his theory, he said he’d “once entertained a similar theory. But, ultimately, he’d discarded it.”
“Everyone else seems to believe that Mummy is dead, full stop, so maybe you should get on board,” he told himself four years after her death. But Harry still didn’t believe there was concrete proof.
It wasn’t until he was 23 and requested for a driver to take him through the tunnel his mother died in, driving the same speed — 65 mph — as her driver was before the crash, that he was finally able to come to terms with Diana’s death.
“She’s dead, I thought. My God, she’s really gone for good. I got the closure I was pretending to seek. I got it in spades. And now I’d never be able to get rid of it.”
The next day, he called William to share his experience. William had done the same drive, he revealed to his brother. The two discussed their shared beliefs in the injustices of that night — why were those paparazzi not in jail, they wondered. Harry and William planned to issue a joint statement, maybe hold a press conference and call for the investigation of Diana’s death to be reopened. But “we were talked out of it by the powers that be,” he writes.
‘Mummy’s been in a car crash’: How Charles broke news of Diana’s death to Harry
When news of Diana’s death surfaced, Harry and other members of the royal family were at staying Balmoral in Scotland – the same royal residence where Queen Elizabeth II would die 25 years later.
Harry recalls his father waking him up in the middle of the night, wearing a white dressing gown, to share the news that would change his life forever.
“Darling boy, Mummy’s been in a car crash,” Charles told his son, who was 12 at the time.
“I remember waiting patiently for Pa to confirm that indeed Mummy was all right. And I remember him not doing that,” he writes. Harry was insistent that she’d be treated at the hospital and be reunited with her family soon.
“They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it,” his father said. Charles didn’t hug Harry and “wasn’t great at showing emotions under normal circumstances,” but did try to reassure his son that it was “going to be OK.”
The royal family referred to Harry as ‘The Spare’
“The Heir and the Spare” is an old term referring to aristocratic families in which the first-born child is the heir to inherit the throne, while the second-born is the leftover child there to support their older sibling.
As Harry writes, it wasn’t just a turn of phrase used by media and palace outsiders – his own family, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Charles and Princess Diana referred to him as such.
“There was no judgment about it, but also no ambiguity,” he writes. “I was in the shadow, the support, the Plan B. I was brought into the world in case something happened to Willy. I was summoned to provide backup, distraction, diversion and, if necessary, a spare party. Kidney, perhaps. Blood transfusion. Speck of bone marrow. This was all made explicitly clear to me from the start of life’s journey and regularly reinforced thereafter.”
When Harry was 20, he recalls, he was told that his father joked to his mother on the day of his birth that she had given the future king an heir and a spare. “My work is done,” he said.
Why Harry wrote his tell-all book
After he and Meghan stepped down from senior roles in the royal family in 2020 and moved to the U.S., Harry reunited with his family for the first time a year later at his grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral. King Charles – Prince Charles at the time – and Prince William had “come ready for a fight,” Harry writes.
“Every time I ventured a new explanation, started a new line of thought, one or both of them would cut me off,” he writes. “Willy in particular didn’t want to hear anything. After he’d shut me down several times, he and I began sniping, saying some of the same things we’d said for months – years. It got so heated that Pa raised his hands. Enough!
“He stood between us, looking up at our flushed faces. Please, boys – don’t make my final years a misery.”
Harry remembers William, whom he calls “my beloved brother, my arch nemesis,” and his father saying they “honestly” didn’t know why Harry left.
“If they didn’t know why I’d left, maybe they just didn’t know me. At all. And maybe they never really did. … How can I tell them? I can’t. It would take too long. Besides, they’re clearly not in the right frame of mind to listen. Not now, anyway. Not today. And so: Pa? Willy? World? Here you go.”
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