In amongst the thousands of inflammatory headlines about Prince Harry’s book Spare is a very real story of growing up in the royal family – and the sad, weird and relatable stories that come with it. Alice O’Connell presents the parts of Spare that stood out the most to her – in context.
Yes, by now, you will have likely scrolled through 4,398 headlines about Prince Harry and his new book.
You’ll have read how he lost his virginity, how he dabbled with cocaine and magic mushrooms, the snippy text messages between his wife and the now Princess of Wales, the dramatic fight between him and his big brother, and a multitude of small comments he made in the book, that have now been cherry picked and turned into salacious full-length stories.
But there’s so much you haven’t heard about! And, really, I think they’re best read in context, by reading the whole book. Seriously! Last week I wrote a piece called ‘I Read Prince Harry’s Spare So You Wouldn’t Have To… But Now I Really Think You Should’, where I talked about why you should read it. And what I see as being the biggest issue of the book: It’s about a 12-year-old boy who lost his mother in the most horrific of circumstances, and quite frankly, hasn’t been treated fairly since then (well, really since his birth), by both the media and his own family.
But, if you read that article, and you still don’t want to read the book (look, I get it – 232 is a LOT of chapters!), then I want to give you a glimpse into a few of the other stories in the book I found really interesting and revealing. I’ve tried my best here to put these anecdotes and tales into as much context as possible, as they are in the book (which I still hope you’ll read!)
Harry says he said ‘goodbye’ to his father at his wedding to Camilla
As has now been widely reported, Harry and William begged their father not to marry Camilla. They were happy for the two of them to be a couple, but they worried about a wedding and how it may all be perceived. What was interesting though, was at the wedding, Harry says he said a silent farewell to his father as he exchanged vows with the now Queen consort.
“I mostly kept my head bowed, eyes on the floor, just as I had at mum’s funeral, he writes. “But I did sneak several peeks at the groom, and the bride, and each time I thought, ‘good for you’. Though also, ‘goodbye.’ I knew, without question that this marriage would take Pa away from us. Not in any real sense, not in any deliberate or malicious way, but nevertheless, away. He was entering a new space, a closed space, a tightly insular space. Willy and I would see less of Pa, I predicted, and that left me with mixed feelings. I didn’t relish losing a second parent and I had complex feelings about gaining a step parent, who I believed had recently sacrificed me on her personal PR altar, but I saw Pa smile and it was hard to argue with that.”
Harry throws shade at The Spice Girls.
Harry writes about a photo opportunity that was set up between the then Prince Charles, Nelson Mandela and… the Spice Girls (?!?) in an attempt to rehab Charles’ image in the wake of Princess Diana’s death. As Harry tells, Charles’ approval rating was in single digits across the globe – it was so dire even, that in Fiji, a public holiday in Charles’ honour was scrapped.
So, it was decided Charles needed some positive press and this photo opportunity could provide just the ticket. And so, joining his father, Harry met The Spice Girls on a red carpet to a concert, where Baby Spice pulled his cheeks and the girls cooed over him. Harry is scathing of their love of the media attention – and adds that at one point, one of them even compares their crusade against sexism, to that of Nelson Mandela’s against apartheid. Yikes.
His First Love.
Harry discusses falling for his long-time love, Chelsy Davy, and what drew him to her.
Prince Harry writes about meeting Zimbabwe-born Chelsy Davy in South Africa, years after meeting her fleetingly at a Polo Club. Chelsy was a breath of fresh air to Harry – so different from the institution he had been brought up in. The pair dated on-and-off from 2004 to 2010.
“Unlike so many girls I met she wasn’t visibly fitting herself for a crown the moment we met, he writes. “She seemed immune to that common affliction sometimes called Throne Syndrome. It was similar to the effect that actors and musicians have on people, except with actors and musicians the root cause is talent. I had no talent, so I’d been told again and again and thus all reactions have nothing to do with me, they were down to my family.”
The Hardest Working Royals?
Harry calls the Court Circular “a scam”
You’ll likely have heard about the Court Circular over the years, but perhaps not by its official title. Essentially it’s just a record of how many official royal engagements each working member of the royal family has racked up over the calendar year. It’s nearly always topped by Princess Anne, followed closely by King Charles. Prince William, Kate and Harry have all normally fallen quite a bit further down the list – often resulting in some pretty nasty headlines, often dubbing William as ‘The Lazy Prince’.
But Harry steps in to defend his brother, to reveal the circular is at best a joke – at worst, a complete scam.
“Certain family members had become obsessed, feverishly striving to have the highest number of official engagements recorded no matter what,” he tells. “And they’d succeeded largely by including things that weren’t, strictly speaking, engagements. Recording public interactions that were mere blips, the kinds of things Willy and I wouldn’t dream of including – which essentially was why the court circular was a joke – it was all self reporting, all subjective.
“The main reason the court circular was a joke – a scam – was that none of us was deciding in a vacuum how much work to do. Granny or Pa decided, by way of how much support – money – they allocated to our work. Money determined all. In the case of Willy and I, Pa was the sole decider. It was he alone who controlled our funds – we could only do what we could do with whatever resources and budget we got from him. To be publicly flogged for how much Pa permitted us to do? That felt grossly unfair.”
Harry also felt a lot was unfair about the way Kate was treated – he talks about it being discussed that she should change the spelling of her name, Catherine, so it instead began with a K. Charles and Camilla thought it would be too confusing having another ‘C’ in the family.
In another chapter, Harry writes about Charles and Camilla fuming that Kate was scheduled to make a charity appearance at a tennis club, on the same day that they had an official engagement. It was too late to cancel, so Kate was told that in no circumstances should she be photographed holding a tennis racket. It was thought that such an image would be guaranteed to make front page of the papers, pushing any chance of Charles and Camilla getting coverage, right out of reach.
A Decade Without Tears.
Harry reveals he didn’t cry about Diana’s death after the funeral until a conversation with Cressida Bonas.
Prince Harry managed to keep his relationship with English actress and singer, Cressida Bonas, for nearly two years before they were photographed together. In Spare, Harry writes about a holiday in Switzerland where Cressida asked him about his mother, and he found himself finally opening up and answering her truthfully – so truthfully, he found himself crying. It was more than a decade and a half since her death.
“I started to cry. I remember thinking, ‘oh, I’m crying’ and saying to her, ‘this is the first time I’ve..’ Cressida leaned toward me. ‘What do you mean, first time?’
‘This is the first time I’ve been able to cry about my mum since the burial’. Wiping my eyes, I thanked her.
She was the first person to help me across that barrier, to help me unleash the tears. It was cathartic, it accelerated our bond and added an element rare in past relationships. Immense gratitude. I was indebted to Cress.”
High Street fashion.
Harry bought most of his clothes at T.J. Maxx sales – and visited the supermarket each week in disguise.
Harry reveals that while he had plenty of beautiful suits, ties and ceremonial outfits (thanks to a clothing allowance), his less formal clothes were from bargain bins. He says that his clothing allowance was strictly for formal wear, so for other clothing he’d dress in a disguise, wait until a few minutes before closing, and dart up and down the aisle, pulling anything out that “looked comfortable” and buy it without trying it on.
“I’d go to TJ Maxx discount store,” he writes. “I was particularly fond of their once a year sale when they’d be flush with items from Gap, J Crew… items that had just gone out of season, or were slightly damaged. If you timed it just right, got there on the same day as the sale, you could snag the same clothes that others were paying top dollar for down on high street. With 200 quid, you could look like a fashion plate.”
Harry also revealed he had the same technique for grocery shopping – he’d visit the store near his home once a week (at different times and days, so as not to give the paparazzi a schedule to work to). He’d dress in a disguise and move quickly, getting his favourite brand of salmon and yoghurt, among other things, and make a beeline for the fastest moving checkout line. Although he’d often still find himself waiting behind queues of people discussing him and his family and whether or not he was gay.
A Decade of Disbelief.
For more than 10 years after her passing, Harry refused to believe Diana was dead.
I know, I wrote about this at length in my last story, but honestly? I could write a whole thesis on this topic. To me, the whole crux of this book, is the loss of Diana. It has entirely shaped Harry – and to be fair, it would have been impossible for it not to.
As a child, Harry simply could not fathom that his mother really had died – so he instead believed that she’d faked her death to get away from the media attention. To Harry, it made perfect sense that their hounding of her would have got too much. He later recalls terrifying car rides with her, where he and William would be strapped into the back seat, his mother driving, when suddenly she would run red lights, push the accelerator firm to the floor – and he and Willy would know instantly that they were being chased. They’d ask her. “Are we going to die, Mummy?” they’d question her.
The thought that she was still alive would follow him everywhere. It was his first thought upon waking each day: would today be the day she came to get him?
He tells one story of visiting Africa, not too long after her death, and popping out of the large tent they were all in one evening, to visit the kitchen (to tee up a practical joke). Moments after he returned to his seat, the entire group looked on in horror as a leopard strolled past the tent – right where a young Harry had been, alone, in the dark, a moment earlier. Everyone reeled, silently imagining the horror that could have taken place (and the headlines it would have generated: Prince Harry Eaten By Leopard), while Harry had another thought.
He thought, “in horror – what if mummy finally came out of hiding at last only to learn that her youngest son had been eaten alive?”