The much-anticipated book offers few revelations, in the wake of leaks and high-profile interviews, but it tucks familiar incidents into a broader narrative.
By The New York Times Books Staff
Jan. 10, 2023
A series of high-profile interviews, along with leaked excerpts and premature sales of the book in Spain, heightened interest in a memoir that offers a frank, if one-sided, look at Harry’s life.
Harry says he decided to write “Spare” when he traveled to Britain for his grandfather’s funeral in April 2021. There he had the “staggering” realization that neither his father nor his brother truly understood why he and his wife, Meghan, had moved to California. “I have to tell them,” he thought. “And so: Pa? Willy? World? Here you go.”
Here are 11 takeaways from the book.
Read the Review: Prince Harry Learns to Cry, and Takes No Prisoners, in ‘Spare’
He talks candidly about Princess Diana’s death
The morning after Diana, Harry’s mother, died in a car crash in Paris, Charles, his father, woke him up to tell him what had happened.
“He sat down on the edge of the bed,” Harry writes. “He put a hand on my knee. Darling boy, Mummy’s been in a car crash.” He went on, “They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it.”
Harry writes that “none of what I said to him then remains in my memory. It’s possible that I didn’t say anything. What I do remember with startling clarity is that I didn’t cry. Not one tear. 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.”
Prince Harry Gets Personal
The release of Prince Harry’s memoir, “Spare,” had been a hotly anticipated affair, with leaked passages and pre-publication interviews.
- Detailing a Royal Rift: The book paints a portrait of a hopelessly divided House of Windsor. Its publication seems likely to dash any near-term prospects of a reconciliation between Harry and his family.
- Record Breaking Sales: The steady drumbeat of leaks and interview clips that preceded the book’s release helped push early orders and initial sales, making “Spare,” on its first day, one of the best-selling hardcover books in recent memory.
- Psychedelics Use: In his memoir, Harry talks about taking psychedelics to deal with his grief over the death of his mother. Here’s what we know about their effectiveness.
- The Ghostwriter: J.R. Moehringer has a reputation for intense work habits, along with a good sense of humor and strong opinions. He is also known for his discretion.
Years after his mother’s death, Harry asked to see the secret police files related to the crash. Harry’s private secretary obtained the files, though he removed the most “challenging” ones, Harry wrote. Still, he saw many paparazzi photos of his dying mother.
The men who followed her “never stopped shooting her while she lay between the seats, unconscious, or semiconscious,” he writes. “Not one of them was checking on her, offering her help, not even comforting her. They were just shooting, shooting, shooting.”
Prince William and Harry begged Charles not to marry Camilla
“When asked, Willy and I promised Pa that we’d welcome Camilla into the family,” Harry writes. “The only thing we asked in return was that he not marry her. You don’t need to remarry, we pleaded. … We support you, we said. We endorse Camilla, we said. Just please don’t marry her.”
Press leaks from his family were common, he says
According to the book, Charles and sometimes Camilla approved damaging press leaks about Harry and William.
On one occasion, Harry writes, Charles — advised by a spin doctor — cooperated with the tabloids on a story about Harry and drugs to bolster his own faltering reputation. “No more the unfaithful husband, Pa would now be presented to the world as the harried single dad coping with a drug-addled child.” Much later, in 2019, Harry writes, William was “seething” because “Pa and Camilla’s people had planted a story or stories about him, and Kate, and the kids, and he wasn’t going to take it any more. Give Pa and Camilla an inch, he said, they take a mile.”
Separately, the news report that Harry and Meghan were leaving England included a tidbit that Harry believes was leaked by the palace.
The article, which appeared in The Sun, “included the telling detail that we’d offered to relinquish our Sussex titles,” Harry writes. “There was only one document on earth in which that detail was mentioned — my private and confidential letter to my father. To which a shockingly, damningly small number of people had access. We hadn’t even mentioned it to our closest friends.”
While in Afghanistan, he killed 25 Taliban fighters
“Most soldiers can’t tell you precisely how much death is on their ledger,” Harry writes of his tours during the war. “My number: 25.”
He added: “While in the heat of combat, I didn’t think of those 25 as people. You can’t kill 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.”
Harry describes suffering anxiety and panic attacks
Fear of public speaking morphed into a fear of crowds, and then full-blown anxiety attacks on the cusp of his 30th birthday. In the book, Harry sees the afflictions as a form of PTSD, attributing them to both his military service and the death of his mother. When he told his father what was happening, Charles said: “I suppose it’s my fault. I should’ve got you the help you needed years ago.” Harry writes: “I assured him that it wasn’t his fault. But I appreciated the apology.”
And a nasty case of frostbite
A trip to the North Pole left Harry with some discomfort. “Upon arriving home I’d been horrified to discover that my nether regions were frostnipped as well, and while the ears and cheeks were already healing, the todger wasn’t,” he reports. When home remedies — like applying Elizabeth Arden cream — did not work, he finally saw a doctor.
Meghan convinced him to return to therapy
One evening during their courtship, “Meg said something I took the wrong way,” so “I snapped at her, spoke to her harshly — cruelly.” Meghan left the room. “I went and found her upstairs. She was sitting in the bedroom. She was calm, but said in a quiet, level tone that she would never stand for being spoken to like that.” Harry writes:
She wanted to know where it came from.
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?
I cleared my throat, looked away. Yes.
Harry told Meghan he’d tried therapy, but it hadn’t helped. “No,” she told him. “Try again.”
Charles told Harry there wasn’t money to support him and Meghan
The exchange between father and son when Harry announced his intention to marry did not go as expected.
Does she want to carry on working?
Does she want to keep on acting?
Oh, I mean, I don’t know, I wouldn’t think so. I expect she’ll want to be with me, doing the job, you know, which would rule out “Suits” … since they film in … Toronto.
Hmm, I see. Well, darling boy, you know there’s not enough money to go around.
I stared. What was he banging on about?
He explained. Or tried to. I can’t pay for anyone else. I’m already having to pay for your brother and Catherine.
Harry writes: “Pa didn’t financially support Willy and me, and our families, out of any largesse. 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 in the gilded cage at all times, and in exchange the keepers of the cage agreed to feed and clothe us.”
But it wasn’t about money, of course: “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.”
William didn’t want Harry to be the best man at his wedding
“The public had been told that I was to be best man, but that was a bare-faced lie,” Harry writes. “Willy didn’t want me giving a best-man speech. He didn’t think it was safe to hand me a live mic and put me in a position to go off-script. He wasn’t wrong.” Still, he managed to present the newly married couple with an ermine thong at the wedding reception: “The room let out a collective gasp,” he writes, then “a warm, gratifying wave of laughter.”
Harry singles out Rupert Murdoch’s media empire for blame
“I couldn’t think of a single human being in the 300,000-year history of the species who’d done more damage to our collective sense of reality,” he writes. But those hired to shoot photographs for British tabloids are targets of his anger, too.
“The paps had always been grotesque people, but as I reached maturity they were worse,” he says. “They were more emboldened, more radicalized, just as young men in Iraq had been radicalized. Their mullahs were editors, the same ones who’d vowed to do better after Mummy died.”
Harry and Meghan felt blindsided during negotiations over their future
The couple chose to leave England, but hoped to keep up some of their royal duties and to retain the security that came with their titles. Instead, after a meeting dubbed “the Sandringham Summit” in January 2020, they learned that, in Harry’s words, “the fix was in” — they would no longer represent the queen and their security would continue for only a 12-month transition period. (In fact, they would lose that security several months later.)
“I love my Mother Country, and I love my family, and I always will,” Harry writes. “I just wish, at the second-darkest moment of my life, they’d both been there for me.”