The most riveting bits from Prince Harry’s new memoir ‘Spare’ so you don’t have to read the whole thing

This has been a journey.

Natalie Teo |
January 17, 2023, 1:36 pm

We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.

This guy. You know him.

And whether willingly or otherwise, you’re probably all caught up with the controversies surrounding the younger, less bald, ginger brother of the future King of England.

Even as a firm and loyal member of Team Who-The-Hell-Cares, I’d admit to watching the former royals from afar with an almost morbid fascination, from That Oprah Interview to their recent Netflix documentary.

Over the past week, we’ve also seen increasingly shocking headlines in the lead up to the release of Prince Harry’s new memoir, Spare, where he spills the tea on everything from his cocaine use, to the first time he had sex, to his claim that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan.

Initial thoughts

Sensationalised or not, my interest had been piqued, which is how I ended up buying a copy of Spare and speed-reading it all in one day.

The title, Spare, comes from the heir and the spare, an informal way of referring to the two children of a monarch who are first and second in line for succession.

To put it bluntly, if William, the first son, died, Harry would be the back up plan.

At least until William’s first child, George was born, booting Harry further down in succession to the throne.

I’ll begin by saying that the juiciest parts had already been leaked prior to its release, no thanks in part to the book being accidentally released early in Spain five days early.

But I was still keen to witness the trainwreck myself hear his story in his own words.

All in the name of work, of course.

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales

Harry recounts hearing about the death of his mother, Princess Diana, from his father, Prince Charles.

This was August 1997.

To catch you up, at this point, Charles and Diana had divorced on the recommendation of the Queen, after they both had highly-publicised affairs.

The car crash which killed Diana is said to be a result of a high speed car chase involving paparazzi.

“What I do remember with startling clarity is that I didn’t cry. Not one tear. My father did not hug me,” Harry says.

Later, millions watched as William and Harry, then just 15 and 12, were made to walk behind the funeral cortege, a decision that Harry says, “horrified” several adults.

He goes on to say that he did not cry throughout the ceremony until his mother was buried.

Seeking closure

Diana’s ghost endures throughout the rest of the book.

Harry talks about being convinced that his mother is not dead but in “hiding”, and expecting her to emerge at any time.

Years after her death, Harry asked to see the secret police files related to the crash.

Some of the more “challenging” photos were removed by his private secretary, but he still saw several photos of Diana in her last moments.

“Those men who’d chased her…they’d never stopped shooting her while she lay between the seats, unconscious, or semiconscious, and in their frenzy they’d sometimes accidentally photographed each other. Not one of them was checking on her, offering her help, not even comforting her. They were just shooting, shooting, shooting.”

Photo via Getty Images

In his quest for “closure”, Harry recalls asking his driver to take him through the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, the site of the crash, twice.

He requested that the driver drive at the speed that Diana’s vehicle had reportedly been going at – 104.5 km/h.

“I’d thought driving the tunnel would bring an end, or brief cessation, to the pain, the decade of unrelenting pain. Instead, it brought on the start of Pain, Part Deux.”

Harry even tried to contact Diana from beyond the grave, describing the time he met a woman with “powers” who said she could feel Diana’s spirit and interpret her messages.

“Your mother says: You’re living the life she couldn’t. You’re living the life she wanted for you,” she told him.

Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll

No one asked, but Harry lost his virginity in a field at the back of a busy pub to an older woman who he says “treated [him] not unlike a young stallion”.

“Quick ride, after which she’d smacked my rump and sent me off to graze,” he continues.

It was at this point that your writer (me) cringed so hard she involuntarily did a kegel.

Anyway! We have no idea who this woman is, but here’s who it isn’t, according to The Daily Mail.

On a more serious note, Harry also opens up about his drug use, saying that he tried cocaine for the first time at 17.

“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.”

Over the years, Harry continued his drug use to escape and “redefine” his reality.

Apathy towards death

Harry narrates his time at war with a tone that sounds almost homesick for the battlefield.

It’s clear that he relished the relative anonymity that deployment provided.

“For the first time I was just a name, a random name, and a random number. No title. And no bodyguard. Is this what other people feel like every day? I savoured the normality, wallowed in it.”

He recalls an instructor commenting, “You’re not terribly concerned, if I may say, Lieutenant Wales, with dying.”

“I explained that I hadn’t been afraid of death since the age of twelve,” Harry quips.

Quis Separabit? Who shall separate us?

Encountering the bits about the “heir” to his “spare” is a difficult read.

We learn that prior to the walk behind Diana’s coffin, a suggestion was made that William (or Willy, as Harry calls him), the eldest, should walk alone.

“I didn’t want Willy to undergo an ordeal like that without me. Had the roles been reversed, he’d never have wanted me – indeed, allowed me – to go it alone.”

After that sweet but heart-wrenching anecdote, the brothers’ relationship begins to go downhill, starting from William instructing Harry to pretend not to know him while at Eton College.

He also says that William took their sibling rivalry to “Olympiad” levels, seemingly worried that his younger brother would draw attention away from him.

Harry goes on to detail their various run-ins over the years, from petty misunderstandings over bridesmaid dresses to an argument ending in a physical altercation, where Harry alleges William “grabbed” him by the collar and knocked him to the floor.

The press and getting away from it all

Despite his fraught relationship with his family, the clear villain in Harry’s story is the paparazzi.

He points to the racist and libellous coverage of his wife, American actress Meghan Markle, and the Palace’s refusal to intervene as a trigger for their eventual departure.

In particular, he details how Meghan had called him after the paparazzi chased her through the ice in Canada, saying that she “felt sure she was going to be in a crash,” bringing to mind the accident that had claimed Diana.

Harry also details the leaks from insider sources within the Palace about private conversations, and hints heavily at Camilla, his stepmother, being the source of it.

He has some colourful words for the British press:

“How much damage has been done to our love, our bond, and why? All because a dreadful mob of dweebs and crones and cut-rate criminals and clinically diagnosable sadists along Fleet Street feel the need to get their jollies and plump their profits—and work out their personal issues—by tormenting one very large, very ancient, very dysfunctional family.”

The “red mist”

Harry makes frequent references to the “red mist” – a rage in him which he channeled towards sport in the early years, then later tried to snuff out with the use of psychedelics.

“I simply didn’t feel pain the way other boys did, which made me scary on a pitch. No one had an answer for a boy actually seeking external pain to match his internal.”

He also admits to suffering from post traumatic stress—a result of Diana’s death and his military experiences.

Harry credits William for being the one to suggest he seek out therapy, but says he never found the right fit.

It was only after he lashed out at Meghan over a minor misunderstanding that she suggested he try again, saying that she would not tolerate this behaviour in a partner.

Therapy, he says, helped him speak about his panic and anxiety and resurrect memories of Diana he had locked away.

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.

Final thoughts

At its core, this is a story about a boy born into a privileged existence he didn’t ask for, his numerous attempts to escape, and then finally succeeding.

It’s also his shot at reclaiming the narrative after years of being written about, and allegedly forbidden to retaliate.

For the rest of us, it’s a reminder that mental illness does not discriminate.

Am I #TeamHarry now? Not quite.

In all honesty, I started reading his memoir because I thought it would be entertaining.

Some parts of it were—like a curious anecdote about his frostbitten (circumcised!) penis that added very little to the story but somehow went on and on.

But I closed the book with a grudging sense of admiration for his bravery to say “screw this” and start afresh, and a twinge of sympathy for a guy who has more money than I will ever see my lifetime, and who just made another S$19.43 off me.

Top image via Penguin Random House and sussexroyal/Instagram

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