What’s in Prince Harry’s memoir Spare? Here’s all we know so far

Duke of Sussex writes about tussles with his brother, that Nazi uniform, his mother’s death, and losing his virginity

The Duke of Sussex’s tell-all memoir Spare is not sparing in its extraordinary revelations. After it went on sale in Spain ahead of official publication, excerpts have dominated media outlets. According to accounts, Harry writes on his deteriorating relationship with his brother, his despair over the death of his mother, and even about losing his virginity in a field behind a busy pub aged 17. The accounts are reinforced by a series of trails for TV interviews by Harry before the book is published.

Heir and Spare

Prince William was the heir, “whereas I was the spare”, Harry writes, according to reports in Friday’s newspapers. It was “shorthand” used by his father, now king, his mother, his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, and “even Granny” – the late queen – the Times reports. There was “no judgment about it but also no ambiguity”. Harry was “the shadow, the support, the plan B”, and believes he was “brought into this world in case something happened”.

He recounts hearing, aged 20, that his father allegedly said to his mother on the day of his birth: “Wonderful! Now you’ve given me an heir and a spare – my work is done.” It was presumably a joke, Harry writes. But minutes after delivering it, he said, Charles was said to have “gone off to meet with his girlfriend”. He adds: “So. Many a true word spoken in jest.”


In one unexpected admission, Harry reveals that he killed 25 Taliban fighters during his second tour of Afghanistan. He knew the number because technology allowed him to say “with exactness” how many “enemy combatants” he was responsible for killing.

“It seemed to me essential not to be afraid of that number. So my number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me,” he wrote, according to the Times’ translation from the Spanish edition of his book.

But in order to kill, it was important he did not see the Taliban fighters as people at the time, the prince continues, but rather as “chess pieces removed from the board … bad guys eliminated”.

Queen consort

Harry and William told their father they would not stand in the way of his relationship with Camilla, but begged him not to marry her. William had felt “tremendous guilt” over “the other woman” whom he had “long harboured suspicions about”. William was “confused” and “tormented”, and when his suspicions were confirmed, felt “guilt” for not saying or doing something sooner, according to excerpts in the US publication Page Six.

Meeting Camilla Parker Bowles for the first time was like an “injection”. “Close your eyes and you won’t even feel it,” Harry wrote, according to the Times. But he also claimed Camilla had seemed “bored” during their meeting, putting that down to the fact he was the spare and not the more important heir.

Harry wondered if she would be the “wicked stepmother” of fairytales, but it turned out she wasn’t. But, he said, shortly after their private meetings with Camilla, she began to develop a “long-term strategy … aimed at marriage and, eventually, the crown”. Stories began to appear in the press about her conversations with William, with Harry blaming “the new communications expert Camilla had convinced our father to employ”, according to the Times.

Prince of Wales

One of the most startling claims is that William physically attacked Harry at his Nottingham Cottage home in Kensington Palace in a row over Meghan in 2019, during which William allegedly called Meghan “difficult”, “rude” and “abrasive”.

He describes William grabbing him by the collar, “ripping my necklace” and knocking him to the kitchen floor where he landed on and broke the dog’s bowl, sustaining injuries to his back. He lay “dazed” before getting up and ordering William to leave. He writes his brother had urged him to fight back, like they had done when children, but Harry refused.

William later returned, looking apologetic and regretful. Harry gave him a glass of water, and says he told him: “Willy, I can’t speak to you when you’re like this,” using William’s pet nickname. William reportedly said: “I didn’t attack you, Harold,” using Harry’s pet name. Harry also writes William told him he did not need to tell “Meg” about this. Harry told his therapist first, but then Meghan noticed the scrapes and bruises on his back. “She was terribly sad,” he writes.

Harry hoped for understanding from his family over his decision to leave. He writes of meeting with Charles and William at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. But as soon as he saw William’s “familiar scowl”, he knew he was in for a “duel”. Neither his father or brother appeared to understand why he had left. Of his father, he writes, Charles told his sons: “Please, boys. Don’t make my final years a misery.”

In a trail of an interview for Good Morning America, due to air on Monday, the anchor Michael Strahan asks: “There’s a quote in your book where you refer to your brother as your ‘beloved brother and arch nemesis’. Strong words. What did you mean by that?”

Harry said he learned of the late Queen’s death from the BBC news website as he scrambled to get to her bedside in Balmoral, according to the Mail.


The trauma of his mother’s death is evident as Harry describes in detail its immediate impact, and his struggle since to come to terms with it. He recalls Charles breaking the news, sitting at the end of his bed at Balmoral Castle, with his hand on his son’s knee, telling him: “My dear son, mum has had a car accident.” According to the Sun, Harry claims Charles did not hug him, and that he later “felt like a politician” as he greeted members of the public after his mother’s death.

Many years later, Harry recounts going to see “a woman”, not described as a psychic or medium, but who “claimed to have powers” and who told him she was able to relay a message from Diana, telling Harry: “You’re living the life she couldn’t. You’re living the life she wanted for you.”

‘Corruption and cover-ups’

Harry states he and William wanted to call for an investigation into their mother’s death, but were dissuaded. He said a decade after her death, while in Paris, he specifically asked to be driven through the tunnel where she died at “precisely 65 mph”, the speed her car was travelling. He later repeated the journey with William, the Times reports. He “watched the concrete pillars flicker past” and “counted them” and counted his heartbeats. “I sat back. Quietly I said: ‘Is that all of it? It’s nothing. Just a straight tunnel … a short, simple, no-frills tunnel. No reasons anyone should ever die inside it.”

Of the “summary conclusion” that a drunk chauffeur “was the only cause of the accident”, he concludes: “It was simplistic and absurd.” Even if he had been drinking or drunk, “he wouldn’t have had any problem driving through such a short tunnel,” Harry writes, adding: “Unless paparazzi were following him and dazzled him.”

He questions why those paparazzi “got off lightly”, why they were not in prison, and why the people who had sent them were also not in jail. “What other reason could there be apart from corruption and coverups being the order of the day?” he writes.

He said William and he wanted to issue a statement asking jointly for the investigation to be reopened, and, even, call a press conference. “Those who decided dissuaded us,” he writes.

Sex and drugs

From losing his virginity, aged 17, to an older woman in a field behind a busy pub, to tripping on magic mushrooms and taking cocaine in his youth, Harry does not hold back.

The woman, not named, treated him like a “young stallion”. “I mounted her quickly, after which she spanked my ass and sent me away,” the Mail reports.

He had first taken cocaine during a hunting weekend aged 17, smoked cannabis in the gardens of Kensington Palace and at Eton school, and took psychedelics both for “fun” and therapeutically over the years revealing they allowed him to see “the truth”, according to the Telegraph.

He also took magic mushrooms and got drunk on tequila in California in January 2016 when he was 31, with the paper reporting he started hallucinating, believing a bin in the bathroom was staring at him and growing a head, while the toilet also became a head and began talking to him.

Other notable asides include the fact he was circumcised as a child, according to the New York Post, and that his penis suffered frostbite on a trip to Antarctica immediately before William and Kate’s marriage.

Princess of Wales

Simmering tensions between the Cambridges and the Sussexes came to a head after the Sussexes’ wedding, after Harry and Meghan popped round for tea, according to numerous reports. Previously, Kate, who had recently given birth, had reportedly being offended at Meghan describing her apparent forgetfulness as “baby brain because of her hormones”. When the subject was raised, Harry writes, Meghan apologised, saying it was how she would speak to friends. But William, according to Harry, “pointed a finger at Meghan” and thundered: “Well it’s rude, Meghan. These things are not done here,” to which Meghan is said to have replied: “If you don’t mind, keep your finger out of my face.”

Meghan visited Diana’s grave on an island on the Althorp estate with Harry on the 20th anniversary of the late princess’s death in 2017. Meghan wanted a private moment, and when Harry returned, he found her kneeling at the grave with her palms flat against the gravestone. She said that she had asked Diana for “clarity and guidance”, the Mail reports.

Nazi uniform

Harry’s decision to wear a Nazi uniform with swastika to a fancy dress party in 2005 caused outrage. But, according to US website Page Six, he claims he phoned William and Kate asking them if he should wear a pilot’s uniform or a Nazi one, and they said the latter. Both howled with laughter, he said, when he later tried it on for them.

He also writes that when he was criticised for referring to a Pakistani army cadet as a “Paki” (he apparently writes the word without asterisks), he didn’t know it was an insult, and thought it was similar to calling an American a “Yankee”, the Times reports.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Prince Harry’s teasers trigger tsunami of outrage as the Windsors await his book
Will any of the royal family react publicly to the duke’s memoir? The betting would be on Prince William

Caroline Davies

03, Jan, 2023 @3:19 PM

Article image
Prince Harry defends tell-all memoir in furious ITV interview
King, queen consort and Prince William all criticised as Harry says silence ‘allows the abuser to abuse’

Caroline Davies, and Ed Pilkington in New York

09, Jan, 2023 @1:55 AM

Article image
Prince Harry’s autobiography Spare is UK’s fastest-selling nonfiction book
The memoir, which includes claims Prince William attacked him, records figures of 400,000 on its first day

Tom Ambrose

10, Jan, 2023 @7:17 PM

Article image
Prince Harry tell-all memoir does not bode well for reconciliation hopes
Netflix series, memoir and ITV interview reveal Harry has ammunition on William and is prepared to use it

Caroline Davies

05, Jan, 2023 @3:18 PM

Article image
Two PMs, a race row and Harry & Meghan: Charles’s first 100 days as king
Amid a steady stream of controversy, keeping calm and presenting a united front remains the monarchy’s mantra

Caroline Davies

17, Dec, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
Prince Harry appears to criticise way he was raised by his father
Duke of Sussex also speaks of ‘genetic pain and suffering’ in royal family in new interview in US

Caroline Davies

14, May, 2021 @11:13 AM

Article image
Prince Harry: I felt guilt meeting mourners after Diana’s death
Duke recalls feeling hands wet with tears when he shook hands with people outside Kensington Palace

Tobi Thomas

07, Jan, 2023 @9:00 PM

Article image
Olive branches and Grandma Diana: what we learned about Prince Harry this week
Five things revealed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s UK visit and Harry’s NBC interview

Tobi Thomas

22, Apr, 2022 @12:37 PM

Article image
Prince William welcomes brother to 'sleep deprivation society'
Duke and Duchess of Sussex could announce baby son’s name on Wednesday

Caroline Davies

07, May, 2019 @4:08 PM

Article image
The royal showdown: everything you need to know
Titles, funding, roles, and the question of a middle way – the hope is to thrash it all out at Sandringham

Caroline Davies

13, Jan, 2020 @7:00 AM