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Photos from The Most Shocking Parts of Prince Harry's Spare

Oct 22, 2023Oct 22, 2023

Prince Harry describes the moment his father told him that Princess Diana had been in a fatal car crash, writing that King Charles III, then the Prince of Wales, had a difficult time finding the right words.

"Mummy was quite badly injured and taken to a hospital, darling boy," Harry recalls his dad saying. "He always called me 'darling boy,' but he was saying it quite a lot now. His voice was soft. He was in shock, it seemed."

When Charles ultimately said, "I'm afraid she didn't make it," for Harry, "everything seemed to come to a stop."

He continues: "What I do remember with startling clarity is that I didn't cry. Not one tear."

Moreover, "Pa didn't hug me. He wasn't great at showing emotions under normal circumstances, how could he be expected to show them in such a crisis? But his hand did fall once more on my knee and he said: It's going to be OK. That was quite a lot for him. Fatherly, hopeful, kind. And so very untrue."

Harry last spoke to his mother hours before the car crash that took her life on Aug. 31, 1997—but he regretfully remembers being too preoccupied to really sit down and talk.

When she called earlier that night, "I was running around with Willy and my cousins and didn't want to stop playing," he writes. "So I'd been short with her. Impatient to get back to my games, I'd rushed Mummy of the phone. I wished I'd apologized for it. I wished I'd searched for the words to describe how much I loved her. I didn't know that search would take decades."

Amid differing opinions over whether Harry, still days away from his 13th birthday, and William, 15, should have to walk behind their mother's coffin in the funeral procession to Westminster Abbey, Harry recalls that another option was considered.

"Willy would walk alone. He was fifteen, after all," Harry writes. "Leave the younger one out of it. Spare the Spare. This alternative plan was sent up the chain. Back came the answer. It must be both princes. To garner sympathy, presumably. Uncle Charles [Spencer, Diana's brother] was furious. But I wasn't. 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."

And so both brothers made the 20-minute walk, with their father, grandfather Prince Philip and their uncle.

"I remember feeling numb," Harry writes. "I remember clenching my fists. I remember keeping a fraction of Willy always in the corner of my vision and drawing loads of strength from that. Most of all I remember the sounds, the clinking bridles and clopping hooves of the six sweaty brown horses, the squeaking wheels of the gun carriage they were hauling. (A relic from the First World War, someone said, which seemed right, since Mummy, much as she loved peace, often seemed a soldier, whether she was warring against the paps or Pa.) I believe I'll remember those few sounds for the rest of my life, because they were such a sharp contrast to the otherwise all-encompassing silence."

Even watching Diana's coffin being buried on the grounds of the Spencer family's Althorp estate couldn't quite convince Harry that his mum was dead.

He remembers "as the flag came off and the coffin descended to the bottom of the hole, that finally broke me. My body convulsed and my chin fell and I began to sob uncontrollably into my hands. I felt ashamed of violating the family ethos, but I couldn't hold it in any longer."

"It's OK, I reassured myself, it's OK," Harry continues. "There aren't any cameras around. Besides, I wasn't crying because I believed my mother was in that hole. Or in that coffin. I promised myself l'd never believe that, no matter what anyone said. No, I was crying at the mere idea. It would just be so unbearably tragic, I thought, if it was actually true."

He admitted to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes that he spent years telling himself that Diana had faked her own death.

"I just refused to accept that she was gone," Harry said in the Jan. 8 interview. "Part of [it was] she would never do this to us. But also, part of it maybe [felt like] this is all part of a plan. For a time [I believed she was alive] and then she would call us, and we would go and join her."

Apparently Harry's parentage was the butt of an ongoing family joke—and no one was immune from the unfounded speculation that Diana's onetime lover James Hewitt was Harry's real father.

"Pa liked telling stories, and this was one of the best in his repertoire," Harry writes, alleging his father would make jokes like, "'Who knows if I'm really the Prince of Wales? Who knows if I'm even your real father? Maybe your real father is in Broadmoor, darling boy!'"

"He'd laugh and laugh," Harry continues, "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. Tabloid readers were delighted by the idea that the younger child of Prince Charles wasn't the child of Prince Charles. They couldn't get enough of this 'joke,' for some reason. 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, the story was simply too good to drop."

Harry was born in 1984 and Diana's romance with Hewitt is said to have begun in 1987.

In her own bombshell sit-down with the BBC's Panorama in 1995, Diana said of the former cavalry officer, "I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But," when he collaborated on a tell-all book about their affair, Anna Pasternak's Princess in Love, "I was very let down."

Four years after Diana died, "I still hadn't mourned, still hadn't cried, except that one time at her grave, still hadn't processed the bare facts," Harry writes.

When he and William were still in school, they'd sneak into a local pub for a few pints with friends, then invite the lot back to their dad's house, Highgrove, and hang out in the basement they dubbed Club H. They were "often tipsy, and sometimes smashed," Harry notes, "and yet there wasn't a single time that anyone used or brought drugs down there." There were bodyguards watching, yes, but they also had "a sense of boundaries."

During those nights at Club H, William would sometimes try to talk to Harry about their mother, but Harry always changed the subject.

"He'd get frustrated," Harry writes. "And I wouldn't acknowledge his frustration. More likely, I couldn't even recognize it. Being so obtuse, so emotionally unavailable, wasn't a choice I made. I simply wasn't capable. I wasn't close to ready."

Tabloid characterizations of Harry as a big partier weren't exactly incorrect, he admits in Spare. Though he found a "Harry's Drugs Shame" headline—and a story using a photo of him visiting a rehab center as part of public service implying he was going to rehab—pretty rich.

Harry writes that he chalked it all up to royal spin at work, that his father's office agreed to let the papers run with the drug reports to make scandal-tarred Charles look like a concerned parent: "No more the unfaithful husband, Pa would now be presented to the world as the harried single dad coping with a drug-addled child."

"Of course...I had been doing cocaine around this time," he writes. "At someone's country house, during a shooting weekend, I'd been offered a line, and I'd done a few more since."

But, he continues, "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."

"I was a deeply unhappy seventeen-year-old boy willing to try almost anything that would alter the status quo," he writes. "That was what I told myself anyway."

He also started smoking pot with his friends at Eton and experimented with psychedelic drugs—which he found therapeutic once he got older.

"They didn't simply allow me to escape reality for a while, they let me redefine reality," he said of hallucinogens. Referencing his go-to term for the anger he felt, he added, "Under the influence of these substances I was able to let go of rigid preconcepts, to see that there was another world beyond my heavily filtered senses, a world that was equally real and doubly beautiful—a world with no red mist, no reason for red mist. There was only truth."

Harry put his virginity out to pasture during an "inglorious episode" with an unnamed older woman.

"She liked horses, quite a lot, and treated me not unlike a young stallion," Harry writes of his first time having sex. "Quick ride, after which she'd smacked my rump and sent me to grace. Among the many things about it that were wrong: It happened in a grassy field behind a busy pub."

Harry has said that wearing a Nazi uniform to a "Native and Colonial"-themed costume party when he was 20 was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

He writes in Spare that, before the January 2005 party, he asked William and Kate Middleton (who were just dating at the time) what he should go as—a pilot or that. And the couple picked that, Harry alleges, and they "howled" with laughter when he tried the offensive outfit on for them.

When he found out he was going to make the papers, "I turned to Willy," Harry recalls. "He was sympathetic, but there wasn't much to say. Then I phoned Pa. To my surprise he was serene. At first I was suspicious. I thought maybe he was seeing my crisis as another opportunity to bolster his PR. But he spoke to me with such tenderness, such genuine compassion, that I was disarmed. And grateful. He didn't gloss over the facts. Darling boy, how could you be so foolish? My cheeks burned. I know, I know. But he quickly went on to say that it was the foolishness of youth, that he remembered being publicly vilified for youthful sins, and it wasn't fair, because youth is the time when you're, by definition, unfinished."

"I am very sorry if I caused any offense or embarrassment to anyone," Harry said in a statement released by Clarence House after the shameful incident landed the prince on the front page of The Sun (Headline: "Harry the Nazi"). "It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize."

Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace declined to comment on Harry's recollection of these events.

Though his initial concerns that she'd be a "wicked stepmother" type proved unfounded, Harry shares that he and William pleaded with their father not to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, Charles ex-girlfriend turned confidante and mistress turned—eventually—publicly acknowledged romantic partner. (And now queen consort.)

"A wedding would cause controversy," Harry recalls warning his dad at the time. "It would incite the press. It would make the whole country, the whole world, talk about Mummy, compare Mummy and Camilla, and nobody wanted that. Least of all Camilla."

"We support you, we said. We endorse Camilla, we said. Just please don't marry her. Just be together, Pa."

But Charles was determined to marry her, which he did in 2005. And eventually his sons accepted it.

"Despite Willy and me urging him not to, Pa was going ahead," Harry writes. "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, the woman 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 beside the point."

On a trip to Cape Town, Harry called up a girl he knew from the British boarding school circuit: Chelsy Davy, the rare young lady who "wasn't visibly fitting herself for a crown the moment she shook my hand," he writes. Their date went so well, he invited her to go with him to Botswana, where they enjoyed their "first kiss under the stars."

(This excursion is not to be confused with a later trip to Botswana he and Chelsy took after she was by his side at the 2007 Concert for Diana, or his third date with future wife Meghan Markle.)

When the paparazzi were waiting upon his and Chelsy's arrival at Heathrow Airport, he put the odds at "fifty-fifty, maybe sixty-forty" he'd ever see her again. He told her she'd get used to the attention and hoped for the best, but eventually she couldn't even go anywhere in South Africa without paps tailing her—with the help of a tracking device stuck to her car.

Ultimately, he dated Chelsy off and on for years (he cherished her "carefree and authentic spirit") and remained close enough that she was at his wedding.

Harry tasked private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton with procuring the police's file on his mother's death for him, Diana's younger son having refused to look at any crash photos or immerse himself in the details—until then.

When Jamie handed him the file a few days later, he told Harry he'd "gone through and removed the more...'challenging' [photos]. For your sake. I was frustrated. But I didn't argue. If LP didn't think I could handle them, then I probably couldn't. I thanked him for protecting me. He said he'd leave me to it, then walked out."

Not long after, Harry was in Paris for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and he asked his driver to take him through the Pont de l'Alma tunnel, the scene of the fatal car crash. Moreover, he wanted to go 65 miles an hour—the same speed Diana's car was going when her driver lost control and ran into a pillar, Harry explains.

"We zipped ahead, went over the lip at the tunnel's entrance, the bump that supposedly sent Mummy's Mercedes veering off course. But the lip was nothing. We barely felt it," he writes. "As the car entered the tunnel I leaned forward, watched the light change to a kind of watery orange, watched the concrete pillars flicker past. I counted them, counted my heartbeats, and in a few seconds we emerged from the other side. I sat back. Quietly I said: Is that all of it? It's…nothing. Just a straight tunnel...No reason anyone should ever die inside it."

He thought recreating that moment might help him, he recalls, but instead, "it brought on the start of Pain, Part Deux."

Later he told William about it, and his brother said he'd made the same drive. It turned out they were both eager to have the inquiry into their mum's death reopened, Harry writes, but palace officials persuaded them to drop it. (An inquest began in October 2007 and the following spring the findings stated that Diana was unlawfully killed due to the "gross negligence" of the driver of her car, Henri Paul, and the paparazzi who followed them into the tunnel. Harry and William said in April 2008 they were "hugely grateful" for the verdict.)

Describing his time serving in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot, Harry writes that he killed 25 Taliban fighters—a revelation that led to a Taliban spokesman accusing the royal of committing war crimes after that anecdote was reported on.

"It wasn't a number that gave me any satisfaction. But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed," Harry writes. "Naturally," he adds, he would have preferred "not to have that number on my military CV, on my mind...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 really 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."

The army trained Harry to "'other-ize' them, trained well," he continues. "On some level I recognized this learned detachment as problematic."

Retired British Army Colonel Tim Collins took offense, telling Forces News in response to what Harry relayed in Spare, "That's not how you behave in the Army; it's not how we think. He has badly let the side down. We don't do notches on the rifle butt. We never did."

Another former colonel, Richard Kemp, who commanded an operation in Afghanistan in 2003, also disagreed with Harry's characterization of treating enemy forces as "chess pieces" or otherwise less than human. "That's not the case at all, and that's not the way the British Army trains people," Kemp told BBC News, noting that sharing these details "in quite such stark terms now" could "undermine" Harry's security.

"It inflames old feelings of revenge that might have been forgotten about," Kemp said, adding that it was "a shame in many ways because he's a very brave man who went to Afghanistan voluntarily, had to fight the government policy to get there, and had a fantastic reputation for his courage in action and also for the way he championed wounded soldiers."

In April 2011, expedition patron Harry joined Walking With the Wounded—a 13-day trek across the polar ice cap to the North Pole benefiting military veterans—for four days before he had to get back to England in time for his brother's wedding. And it was awfully cold.

When he got home, Harry was "horrified to discover that my nether regions were frostnipped as well, and while the ears and cheeks were already healing, the todger wasn't." (Make that his circumcised todger, he notes, putting another rumor to rest.)

A female friend recommended Harry try some Elizabeth Arden moisturizer ("My mum used that on her lips. You want me to put that on my todger?" he recalls thinking), but a doctor told him that he'd heal with time. Harry remembers thinking, "Really Doc? That hasn't been my experience."

Though he hoped to one day bring a partner into the mix and make for a fab foursome, Harry sensed William's marriage to Kate in 2011 marked the end of an era.

"The brother I'd escorted into Westminster Abbey that morning was gone—forever. Who could deny it?" Harry writes. "He'd never again be first and 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."

Noting that Kate looked "incredible" coming down the aisle, he continues, "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."

Harry also couldn't help but think, "Nothing like getting married in the same place where you did your mum's funeral."

Harry writes that he used to be an agoraphobe—he feared open or public spaces—"which," he acknowledges, "was nearly impossible given my public role."

His brother used to tease him, he writes: "After one speech, which couldn't be avoided or canceled, and during which I'd nearly fainted, Willy came up to me backstage. Laughing. 'Harold! Look at you! You're drenched.'"

(For the record, Harry's full name is Henry Charles Albert David—but Willy's much-referenced nickname for his little brother was Harold, according to Spare.)

William wasn't much more sensitive when he witnessed Harry having a panic attack while they were on their way to a polo match, either—but, Harry recalls, he didn't blame him: "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 may self-deprecatingly joke about nights alone at Kensington Palace, folding his underwear and watching "The One With Monica and Chandler's Wedding," but he probably didn't hallucinate a trip to (or should we say at) Courteney Cox's L.A. house in 2016.

"While the [refrigerator] door was open we spotted a huge box of black diamond mushroom chocolates," he writes. "Someone behind me said they were for everybody. 'Help yourself, boys.'"

An actor with a gravelly voice whom Harry only refers to in the book as "Batman" from The Lego Batman Movie did not partake of the candy, he notes. The Internet is confident he's talking about Will Arnett, who voiced the Batman in question and told James Corden on the Late, Late Show in 2017 that he had a text-level friendship with the royal. "I got to know him briefly a little while ago," the actor said.

William and Kate were huge Suits fans, according to Harry, and when he told them he was dating the actress who played paralegal Rachel Zane, they bombarded him with questions. (Well, at first a disbelieving William told him to "f--k off" with such a lie, Harry recalls.)

"All this time I'd thought Willy and Kate might not welcome Meg into the family," Harry writes, "but now I had to worry about them hounding her for an autograph."

At the time, though, he gave his brother and sister-in-law a "heavily redacted" version of his burgeoning romance, noting, "I just didn't want to give away too much."

Meanwhile, Harry might have wanted to consider a redacted version himself when he decided to catch up with the USA drama.

He writes that he saw one too many steamy scenes between Meghan and co-star Patrick J. Adams. "It would take electric-shock therapy to get those images out of my head," he laments. "I didn't need to see such things live." (Though it's all water under the bridge: Patrick was a guest at their wedding.)

When he told his brother that he planned to propose to Meghan, William warned Harry that the relationship was moving "too fast" and it was "too soon" to get engaged, Harry writes, remaking that William's tone never failed to make "American actress" sound like "convicted felon."

Wedding plans got underway regardless, and Harry says William advised against he and Meghan getting married at either Westminster Abbey, the scene of his and Kate's nuptials, or St. Paul's Cathedral, where Charles and Diana wed.

The betrothed couple actually wanted to elope, Harry writes, but they knew they were expected to have a big wedding, so that was that.

Harry recalls snapping at Meghan during an argument early on in their relationship, admitting he misunderstood a comment she made.

"Maybe the wine went to my head," he writes. "Maybe the weeks of battling the press had worn me down. For some reason, when the conversation took an unexpected turn, I became touchy. Then angry. Disproportionately, sloppily angry."

And Meghan wouldn't stand for it. She left the room and, about 15 minutes later, he followed her into the bedroom, where she was sitting quietly. He remembers her calmly telling him "that she would never stand for being spoken to like that. I nodded. She wanted to know where it came from."

The answer was, he couldn't say. Meghan asked where he learned to speak to a woman like that. "'Did you overhear adults speak that way when you were growing up?'" he remembers her asking. "I cleared my throat, looked away [and said], 'Yes.'"

Harry writes that Meghan informed him that "she wasn't going to raise children in an atmosphere of anger or disrespect. She laid it all out, super-clear."

She asked if he'd ever been to therapy and he said that he had tried it, at William's behest, but never found the right therapist and it didn't work.

"'No,' she said softly. 'Try again.'"

Harry alleges in Spare that, during a conversation sometime before their May 2018 wedding, Meghan joked to Kate, who was pregnant with her third child and had forgotten some detail, that it was no big deal because she had "baby brain."

The two couples met for tea about a month after the nuptials, Harry writes, and Kate, gripping her chair so tightly her fingers turned white, demanded an apology, telling Meghan accusatorily, "'You talked about my hormones. We're not close enough for you to talk about my hormones!'"

According to Harry, William also pointed at Meghan and told her that being rude wasn't the British way, and she told him, "'Kindly take your finger out of my face.'"

Kensington Palace declined to comment when asked about this recollection.

Remember the fight that occurred before Harry and Meghan's wedding where, according to the tabloids, Meghan made Kate cry? But really, according to Meghan, it was Kate who made her cry (but later apologized and sent her flowers, Meghan told Oprah Winfrey in 2021)?

Yes, that one.

Harry dips back into that exchange, writing that Kate had texted Meghan to tell her that Princess Charlotte had cried when she tried on her bridesmaid dress and it was baggy and too long.

Meghan wrote back, per Spare, "Right, and I told you the tailor has been standing by since 8am. Here. At KP. Can you take Charlotte to have it altered, as the other mums are doing?"

Kate demanded the flower girl dresses be remade, Harry writes, after which Meghan invoked her increasingly estranged father, Thomas Markle, asking her future sister-in-law if she was "aware of what was going on right now. Kate said she was well aware, but the dresses. And the wedding is in four days!"

"Yes, Kate, I know…," Meghan wrote back, according to Harry. The back-and-forth continued, Harry writes, until Meghan texted, "I'm not sure what else to say. If the dress doesn't fit then please take Charlotte to see Ajay. He's been waiting all day."

To which Kate allegedly replied, "Fine," and Harry came home that day, he writes, to find his bride-to-be sobbing on the floor.

Harry writes that William tried to beg off spending the evening with him and a few pals the night before his wedding on May 19, 2018, claiming family obligations. (William did have a 4-week-old baby at home, Prince Louis having been born April 23).

"I'd always believed, despite our problems, that our underlying bond was strong," Harry writes. After tea with the queen, however, William texted that he'd join Harry after all and they greeted well-wishers outside King Edwards Gate. "As we drove off, I asked him to come have dinner with me. I mentioned maybe staying the night, as I'd done before his wedding. He'd come for dinner, he said, but wouldn't be able to stay."

William and Harry still looked chummy in photos taken the next day. (And at least William didn't hold the groom down and shave his beard, as Harry recalled William informing him was the plan for his bachelor party.)

The Palace was responsible for what had been the widely held belief that William and Harry served as best man at each other's weddings, according to Spare.

When it came to William's 2011 nuptials, "that was a bare-faced lie," Harry writes. "The public expected me to be the 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." (Harry says his brother's actual best men were James Meade, an Eton pal who delivered the speech, and Thomas van Straubenzee, whom the groom had known since their days at Ludgate Prep.)

The Palace did the same thing when Harry was about to get married too, he writes.

When William seemed out of sorts the night before, Harry recalls wondering at the time, "Was he feeling bad about not being my best man? Was he upset that I'd asked my old mate Charlie?" (That would be Charlie van Straubanzee, Thomas' younger brother, a friend since Ludgate.)

Prince HarryPrincess Diana King Charles IIIPrince PhilipAnderson CooperJames Hewitt Anna PasternakKate MiddletonCamilla Parker BowlesChelsy DavyMeghan MarkleJamie Lowther-Pinkerton Tim CollinsRichard KempCourteney CoxWill ArnettJames CordenPatrick J. AdamsOprah WinfreyPrincess CharlotteThomas MarklePrince LouisJames Meade Thomas van StraubenzeeCharlie van Straubanzee