If you thought Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan's 2021 Oprah interview was explosive, just wait until you get your hands on Prince Harry's book.
Prince Harry's new tell-all memoir "Spare" (Random House, 416 pp., out Tuesday) has already made droves of headlines thanks to leaked copies ahead of release. But there's still plenty to learn from the book, which delivers tons of drama and insider knowledge of the inner workings of the royal family, but also a thoughtful, nuanced recollection of the biggest stories the public thought it knew about Harry.
"Thank you for wanting to know my story in my words," Harry writes to readers in the acknowledgements.
Why Harry wrote his tell-all book
After he and Meghan stepped down from senior roles in the royal family in 2020 and moved to the U.S., Harry reunited with his family for the first time a year later at his grandfather Prince Philip's funeral. King Charles – Prince Charles at the time – and Prince William had "come ready for a fight," Harry begins the book.
"Every time I ventured a new explanation, started a new line of thought, one or both of them would cut me off," he writes. "Willy in particular didn't want to hear anything. After he'd shut me down several times, he and I began sniping, saying some of the same things we'd said for months – years. It got so heated that Pa raised his hands. Enough!
"He stood between us, looking up at our flushed faces. Please, boys – don't make my final years a misery."
Harry remembers William, whom he calls "my beloved brother, my arch nemesis," and his father saying they "honestly" didn't know why Harry left.
"If they didn't know why I'd left, maybe they just didn't know me. At all. And maybe they never really did. … How can I tell them? I can't. It would take too long. Besides, they're clearly not in the right frame of mind to listen. Not now, anyway. Not today. And so: Pa? Willy? World? Here you go."
Toward the end of the book, Harry's story comes full-circle, back at that family meeting after Philip's funeral. William shouted at Harry "that if things were as bad as I made out, then it was my fault for never asking for help. … If we were being mauled by a bear, and he saw, would he wait for us to ask for help?"
'60 Minutes' interview: Prince Harry says he never 'intended to hurt my family' with 'Spare'
The royal family referred to Harry as 'The Spare'
"The Heir and the Spare" is an old term referring to aristocratic families in which the first-born child is the heir to inherit the throne, while the second-born is there to support his older sibling.
As Harry writes, it wasn't just a turn of phrase used by media and palace outsiders – his own family, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Charles and Princess Diana referred to him as such.
"There was no judgment about it, but also no ambiguity," he writes. "I was in the shadow, the support, the Plan B. I was brought into the world in case something happened to Willy. I was summoned to provide backup, distraction, diversion and, if necessary, a spare part. Kidney, perhaps. Blood transfusion. Speck of bone marrow."
When Harry was 20, he was told that his father joked to his mother on the day of his birth that she had given him an heir and a spare. "My work is done," he said.
'Mummy's been in a car crash': How Charles broke news of Diana's death to Harry
When news of Diana's death surfaced, Harry and other members of the royal family were at staying Balmoral in Scotland – the same royal residence where Queen Elizabeth II would die 25 years later.
Harry recalls his father waking him up in the middle of the night, wearing a white dressing gown, to share the news that would change his life forever.
"Darling boy, Mummy's been in a car crash," Charles told his son, who was 12 at the time.
"I remember waiting patiently for Pa to confirm that indeed Mummy was all right. And I remember him not doing that," he writes. Harry was insistent that she'd be treated at the hospital and be reunited with her family soon.
"They tried, darling boy. I'm afraid she didn't make it," his father said. Charles didn't hug Harry and "wasn't great at showing emotions under normal circumstances," but did try to reassure his son that it was "going to be OK."
For years, Harry believed Diana wasn’t dead – until he drove through the tunnel where she crashed
Overwhelmed with grief, there was a time immediately after his mother’s Death when Harry wholeheartedly believed Diana had staged her death.
“With nothing to do but roam in the castle and talk to myself, a suspicion took hold, which then became a firm belief. This was all a trick," he writes. "And for once the trick wasn’t being played by the people around me, or the press, but by Mummy. Her life’s been miserable, she’s been hounded, harassed, lied about, lied to. So she’s staged an accident as a diversion and run away.”
That belief brought temporary relief to the young prince, who dreamed of himself and his brother joining Diana at a secret Swiss Alps getaway. But he battled back and forth in his mind about the truth, even after his aunt Duchess Sarah brought a box with clipped locks of Diana’s hair to Harry and William.
Years later, when Harry told William of his theory, he said he'd "once entertained a similar theory. But, ultimately, he'd discarded it."
"Everyone else seems to believe that Mummy is dead, full stop, so maybe you should get on board," he told himself four years after her death. But Harry still didn't believe there was concrete proof.
It wasn’t until he was 23 and requested for a driver to take him through the tunnel his mother died in, driving the same speed — 65 mph — as her driver was before the crash, that he was finally able to come to terms with Diana's death.
“She’s dead, I thought. My God, she’s really gone for good. I got the closure I was pretending to seek. I got it in spades. And now I’d never be able to get rid of it.”
The next day, he called William to share his experience. William had done the same drive, he revealed. The two discussed their shared beliefs in the injustices of that night — why were those paparazzi not in jail, they wondered? Harry and William planned to issue a joint statement, maybe hold a press conference and call for the investigation of Diana’s death to be reopened. But “we were talked out of it by the powers that be,” he writes.
Charles joked he wasn't Harry's 'real father'
Charles was a fan of telling stories that would end in a "burst of philosophizing," Harry recalls. Once, he told his son a tale that ended on a personal note: "Who knows if I'm even your real father?" he said to Harry. "Maybe your real father is in Broadmoor, darling boy," he added, referring to the psychiatric hospital.
Charles would "laugh and laugh, though it was a remarkably unfunny joke," Harry adds. Tabloids speculated Major James Hewitt to be Harry's birth father, despite the fact that Diana didn't meet him "until long after I was born," he writes.
Harry and William asked Charles not to marry Camilla
Camilla Parker-Bowles, now King Charles' queen consort, invited each of the boys to a separate tea in what Harry believed was his father's first step toward making their relationship public. Harry wondered, on his way, if she would "be mean to me. If she'd be like all the wicked stepmothers in storybooks. But she wasn't," he writes.
As Camilla became a bigger part of Charles' life following Diana's death, he sat down with his sons to discuss her future in their family. While Harry and William said they'd forgive Camilla's "pivotal role in the unravelling of our parents' marriage" and welcome her into the family, they asked their father that he not marry her.
"You don't need to remarry, we pleaded," he writes. "A wedding would cause controversy. … We support you, we said. We endorse Camilla, we said. Just please don't marry her. Just be together, Pa."
Charles didn't answer, according to Harry. Charles and Camilla married on April 9, 2005.
Harry partied, used drugs to cope with being 'deeply unhappy'
Harry details a number of instances of underage drinking, smoking marijuana (he once "smoked an entire shopping bag of weed"), snorting cocaine and experimenting with psychedelics that contributed to his party-boy image.
When he began going to Eton, Harry noticed how many students had a “raging” cigarette habit. He joined in, accepting every cigarette offered to him before he “soon graduated to weed" and watching "Family Guy" with his school buddies after smoke sessions.
Being alone with his thoughts only made things more complicated. "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."
Harry and William would have a few drinks at a local pub and host about 15 people at a time in the Highgrove basement when they were home from school – the safest place to act out and drink in private.
But soon, the "editor of Britain's biggest tabloid" called Charles' office with "evidence" of Harry doing drugs in the basement and behind the pub. "Rather than telling the editor to call off the dogs," Harry recalls a "spin doctor" advising his father's office to "spin me – right under the bus."
Later, he was offered a line of cocaine for the first time. "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. Feel. Different. I was a deeply unhappy seventeen-year-old boy willing to try almost anything that would alter the status quo."
Harry and William’s rift had been growing for years
When Harry arrived at Eton College as a teenager, he joined his older brother, who had been there alone for two years and was “forging his own life,” as Harry recalls William saying. William told his little brother to pretend they didn’t know each other, Harry writes.
“I told him not to worry. I’ll forget I ever knew you.”
While home from school, the two would bicker and physically fight in the backseat of Charles' car. Once, Charles pulled over and told William to get out.
"Willy turned to me, furious," Harry writes. "He felt I got away with everything. … Behind us, I could just make out the future King of England, plotting his revenge."
After Harry's military service ended years later, he struggled with finding a purpose until he came up with the idea to organize what would eventually become the Invictus Games, a Paralympics for soldiers from around the world.
"Thrilled, I reached out to Willy, expecting him to be thrilled as well," he recalls. "He was sorely irritated. He wished I'd run all this by him first."
Harry blamed "sibling rivalry," though he wondered why his brother, second in line to the throne, married and soon-to-be a father, saw him as any competition.
"Africa was his thing," Harry writes. "It was all so obvious. He cared less about finding his purpose or passion than about winning his lifelong competition with me."
Prince Harry's explosive tell-all book drops tomorrow — here's where to buy 'Spare'
Will and Kate told Harry to wear his infamous Nazi costume
Harry recently called it "one of the biggest mistakes of my life."
In January of 2005, William's friend threw a "natives and colonials"-themed birthday party, for which Harry recalls guests were "required" to dress on theme. William and his new girlfriend, the future Duchess Kate, offered to help.
Harry went to a local costume shop and narrowed down his options to two: a British pilot's uniform and a "sand-colored Nazi uniform. With a swastika armband."
"I phoned Willy and Kate, asked what they thought. Nazi uniform, they said," Harry claims, recalling how the two "howled" after seeing him try it on.
"What followed was a firestorm, which I thought at times would engulf me," he continues. "And I felt that I deserved to be engulfed. There were moments over the course of the next several weeks and months when I thought I might die of shame. ... I wanted to go around Britain knocking on doors, explaining to people: I wasn't thinking. I meant no harm."
Several of Harry's relationships ended after incessant paparazzi run-ins
Chelsy Davy, whom Harry dated on-and-off before and after Afghanistan, told Harry she was "freaking out" because paparazzi always knew where she was and where she was going. They discovered someone had stuck a tracking device underneath her car.
"Chels said again that she just wasn't sure if she was up for this," he writes. "A lifetime of being stalked? What could I say? I'd miss her, so much. But I completely understood her desire for freedom. If I had a choice, I wouldn't want this life either."
It was a similar story with the late TV presenter Caroline Flack, though the relationship was short-lived. After instances of paparazzi camping outside Flack's parents' house, her grandmother's house and friends' houses, they both believed their relationship was "tainted, irredeemably" and didn't feel it was "worth the grief and harassment."
Another one-time girlfriend, Florence St George, called Harry crying after eight paparazzi "chased her halfway across London" and parked outside her apartment.
And Harry recalled having "massive affection, deep and abiding loyalty" for Cressida Bonas, but "she was always clear about not wanting to take on the stresses of being a royal, and I was never sure I wanted to ask her to do so."
Harry and William weren't actually each others' best men at their weddings
Though Harry and William had recently spent time together, the heir never mentioned his intentions to propose to Kate, Harry writes. More, stories in tabloids about Harry gifting William the ring he had inherited from his mother was "absolute rubbish," Harry claims.
"I never gave Willy that ring because it wasn't mine to give. He already had it," he writes. "He'd asked for it after Mummy died, and I'd been more than happy to let it go."
More misinformation about the wedding: Harry writes that talk of him being William's best man was a "bare-faced lie" – that role went to William's two best friends, James and Thomas.
"The public expected me to be 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."
William and Kate's wedding marked a "farewell" in Harry's eyes, though he "loved" his new sister-in-law.
"He'd never again be first and foremost Willy," Harry writes. "Who shall separate us? Life, that's who."
Years later at Harry's wedding, the palace similarly announced William was Harry's best man, though it was actually Harry's friend Charlie.
Charles and Camilla wanted Kate to change her name to ‘Katherine’
Aside from formal appearances, Kate, born Catherine, is usually referred to by her nickname. Charles and Camilla at one point "wanted Kate to change the spelling of her name" because the family already had two "C" names, Harry writes.
"It would be too confusing to have another. Make it Katherine with a K, they suggested."
Harry killed 25 people during his military service in Afghanistan, sought help for mental health
During his time in Afghanistan with the military, Harry killed 25 people, he reveals.
"Afghanistan was a war of mistakes, a war of enormous collateral damage – thousands of innocents killed and maimed, and that always haunted us," he writes. "So my goal from the day I arrived was to never go to bed doubting that I'd done the right thing, that my targets had been correct, that I was firing on Taliban and only Taliban, no civilians nearby."
He adds: "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 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. 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."
Home from war, a new battle emerged: Harry began to experience panic attacks and intense anxiety. He knew about post-traumatic stress disorder from speaking to fellow veterans and recognized he was likely as traumatized by his mother's death as his tours in Afghanistan.
Determined to find an effective treatment, Harry spoke to his father, who directed him to a general practitioner who wanted to prescribe Harry pills he didn't want.
"I suppose it's my fault. I should've gotten you the help you needed years ago," Charles said to Harry. "I assured him that it wasn't his fault. But I appreciated the apology," Harry writes.
Harry began speaking to a few therapists, hoping to find one he liked, at the end of 2015 at William's suggestion. He discovered meditation helped.
"It quieted my racing mind, brought a degree of calm. I wasn't one to pray, Nature was still my God, but in my worst moments I'd shut my eyes and be still. Sometimes I'd also ask for help, though I was never sure whom I was asking."
William and Kate felt trapped by Charles, Camilla and the press, Harry says
Though there was much competition among members of the royal family to make the most official public appearances, Charles was still in charge of his sons' royal schedules. That proved vexing to William and Kate.
"Pa and Camilla didn't want Willy and Kate getting loads of publicity," Harry writes. "Pa and Camilla didn't like Willy and Kate drawing attention away from them or their causes. They'd openly scolded Willy about it many times," Harry recalls, adding: "Willy told me that both he and Kate felt trapped, and unfairly persecuted, by the press and by Pa and Camilla."
Later, after Harry and Meghan were together, the former Fab Four convened for a summit where William "sheepishly" admitted he "let it slip that there'd been strife between the two couples" while having dinner with Charles and Camilla, which Harry took to mean his father and step-mother had been responsible for leaking to the press.
Later, Harry and William "had proof": "Reporters, inside actual newsrooms," assured them a woman on Charles' communications team was "selling us out."
When William confronted their father, he didn't deny it, Harry writes. "Granny has her person, why can't I have mine?" Charles responded, referencing a member of the queen's team "said to be skilled at planting stories."
William and Kate were religious 'Suits' viewers
A few months after Harry and Meghan's first date, William and Kate noticed a change in Harry and invited him over for dinner to investigate the cause. Harry cautiously opened up, but asked the couple to promise to keep it a secret: He was dating an American actress from a "show called 'Suits.'"
"Their mouths fell open," Harry recalls. "Willy and Kate explained that they were regular – nay, religious – viewers of 'Suits.' Great, I thought, laughing. I've been worrying about the wrong thing. All this time I'd thought Willy and Kate might not welcome Meg into the family, but now I had to worry about them hounding her for an autograph."
Charles and William were 'furious' when Harry released a statement about press coverage of Meghan
When the racism, misogyny and death threats against Meghan increased, Harry turned to his father for guidance.
“Don’t read it, darling boy,” was Charles’ advice.
“It’s not that simple, I said angrily. I might lose this woman. She might either decide I’m not worth the bother, or the press might so poison the public that some idiot might do something bad, harm her in some way. … She’s isolated, I said, and afraid, she hasn’t raised the blinds in her house for months — and you’re telling me not to read it?”
Harry continues: “He said I was overreacting. This is sadly just the way it is.”
Harry put out a statement in 2016 condemning the "sexism and racism" Meghan faced from the press and social media trolls.
Not only did it not stop the "onslaught" of coverage, it "generated a whole new onslaught – from my family," Harry says. "Pa and Willy were furious. They gave me an earful. My statement made them look bad, they both said. Why in hell? Because they'd never put out a statement for their girlfriends or wives when they were being harassed."
Queen Elizabeth asked Meghan about Donald Trump during their first meeting
Harry introduced Meghan to several members of his family – including his grandmother – in October 2016. With the U.S. Presidential election a month away, Donald Trump was on the minds of many, including, Harry writes, Queen Elizabeth.
"Granny even asked Meg what she thought of Donald Trump," he writes. "Meg thought politics a no-win game, so she changed the subject to Canada," where she had been living for the last seven years while filming "Suits."
Following their meeting, Meghan asked Harry who the "assistant" holding the queen's purse was. He wasn't an assistant – he was Prince Andrew, Harry told her.
"She definitely hadn't googled us," Harry writes. The year prior, Andrew had publicly denied having sex with an underage girl in 2001, building the case for the prince's alleged involvement with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Harry 'snapped' at Meghan in a landmark relationship moment
One evening during dinner at home while they were dating, Harry recalled having a conversation with Meghan when he turned "touchy" and "angry," feeling "over-sensitive over their discussion.
"I snapped at her, spoke to her harshly – cruelly," he recalls. "As the words left my mouth, I could feel everything in the room come to a stop."
Meghan left the room and sat in the bedroom for 15 minutes. She told him she "wasn't going to tolerate that kind of partner." Harry knew the anger was deep-rooted and didn't have anything to do with Meghan. He told her he had tried therapy but it hadn't worked.
"No, she said softly. Try again."
Harry and Meghan wanted to elope in Botswana
Planning his royal wedding proved to be difficult, Harry claims. Palace officials were reluctant to set a date. William shot down Harry's location ideas because other royals had already married there. If it were up to the couple, they would have eloped, "barefoot in Botswana, with maybe a friend officiating," Harry says.
"But we were expected to share this moment with other people," he notes. "It wasn't up to us."
Kate 'grimaced' after Meghan borrowed her lip gloss
Amid wedding planning, it became clear to the royals that Meghan and Kate would be facing constant comparisons. Soon after, Harry recalls, there was an "awkward moment" backstage at an event during which Meghan asked to borrow Kate's lip gloss.
"Meg forgot hers, worried she needed some, and turned to Kate for help," he writes. "Kate, taken aback, went into her handbag and reluctantly pulled out a small tube. Meg squeezed some onto her finger and applied it to her lips. Kate grimaced."
William 'ordered' Harry to shave his beard for his own wedding
Harry grew accustomed to having a beard since leaving the military – though "illogical," he writes, it helped to "quell (his) nerves." So he had to ask his grandmother permission to keep it for his wedding, given that he'd be wearing his Army uniform and beards were seen as a violation of protocol.
The queen said yes. William voiced his disdain for Harry asking. "Willy always thought Granny had a soft spot for me, that she indulged me while holding him to an impossibly high standard," he writes.
"At one point he actually ordered me, as the Heir speaking to the Spare, to shave," Harry adds, claiming William said it mattered to him because he wasn't allowed to keep his beard when marrying Kate.
Kate acknowledged she made Meghan cry over bridesmaid dresses
While Meghan was dealing with fallout over her father working with tabloids and news of him having a heart attack that would cause him to miss the wedding, Kate sent a text about an issue with the young bridesmaids' dresses.
"Charlotte's dress is too big, too long, too baggy," Kate told Meghan. "She cried when she tried it on at home."
Meghan told her the tailor was ready to make alterations, but Kate insisted all of the dresses need to be remade, Harry writes. Later that day, he found Meghan sobbing on the floor and told her he didn't think Kate meant "any harm."
"Indeed the next morning Kate came by with flowers and a card that said she was sorry," Harry adds. "Simple misunderstanding, I told myself."
But a tabloid story claimed Meghan had made Kate cry over the dresses. (Kate later acknowledged in private to Meghan that she knew she was the one who made Meghan cry.) Harry also decries a story that claimed he threw a fit and proclaimed "What Meghan wants, Meghan gets!" after Meghan demanded to wear one of Diana's tiaras.
The bridesmaids' dresses incident magnified issues between the couples, Meghan told William and Kate about a month after their wedding. William and Kate in turn shared their gripes: "Willy and Kate were apparently upset that we hadn't given them Easter presents," Harry writes.
And, Kate said, Meghan owed her an apology for once talking about Kate's hormones. As Meghan recalled, Kate couldn't remember something and Meghan said, "It's not a big deal, it's baby brain. Because you'd just had a baby. It's hormones."
"Kate's eyes widened," Harry continues. "Yes. You talked about my hormones. We're not close enough for you to talk about my hormones! ... It's rude, Meghan. It's not what's done here in Britain."
William physically attacked Harry in dispute about Meghan
William called for a meeting with Harry after Meghan's letter to her father was leaked to the press.
"Meg's difficult," William told his brother, right off the bat. "She's rude. She's abrasive. She's alienated half the staff."
Harry said he "expected better from my older brother" and was "shocked to see that this actually pissed him off. … He wanted me to agree that Meg was wrong and then agree to do something about it."
He adds: "He was in full Heir mode, and couldn't fathom why I wasn't dutifully playing the role of the Spare."
Harry recalls his brother getting increasingly angry, to the point where Harry "felt a bit scared." William was calling him names, Harry claims, before he "came at me."
"He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dogs' bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out."
William told Harry to "hit me," but Harry reiterated his wish for his brother to leave. William left the kitchen and returned two minutes later to apologize, he said.
"You don't need to tell Meg about this," William told him.
"You mean that you attacked me?" Harry replied.
"I didn't attack you, Harold," William said. Harry promised not to tell Meghan, though he did call his therapist. And days later when Meghan returned from a trip, she asked about the scrapes and bruises on his back, so he did tell her. "She wasn't that surprised, and she wasn't at all angry," Harry writes. "She was terribly sad."
The palace announced Meghan was going into labor – after baby Archie was born
Two hours after Harry and Meghan welcomed their first child, Archie, they had returned home to Frogmore Cottage when the palace released an "official announcement" that Meghan had gone into labor.
"You know she's not in labor anymore," Harry told a woman on the communications team. "She explained that the press must be given the dramatic, suspenseful story they demanded. But it's not true, I said. Ah truth didn't matter. Keeping people tuned to the show, that was the thing."
Harry shares the four times he's ever felt 'totally helpless'
"In my life I've felt totally helpless only four times. In the back of the car while Mummy and Willy and I were being chased by paps. In the Apache above Afghanistan, unable to get clearance to do my duty. At (Nottingham Cottage) when my pregnant wife was planning to take her life. And now," he writes, recalling the visit to the hospital when Meghan lost "so much blood" suffering a miscarriage.
Prince Harry's memoir 'Spare': His relationship with Prince William, more to know ahead of release
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Prince Harry 'Spare': Biggest revelations from tell-all book