In the book, Harry details everything from the aftermath of his mother’s death, his often rocky relationship with his father and brother, his time in the military, his relationship with Meghan Markle, and his groundbreaking decision to leave the royal family in order to protect his wife and children.
While nearly all 407 pages of the book are full of royal bombshells, here are 37 of the buzziest details and stories Harry shared in Spare:
Harry was on vacation at Balmoral Castle with his father and brother when his mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car accident in Paris. He said that Charles came into his room in the early morning to break the news. “‘They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it,'” he wrote. “These phrases remain in my mind like darts on a board.” Despite the devastating news, Harry wrote, “What I do remember was startling clarity is that I didn’t cry. Not one tear.” After leaving church that morning, Harry said the family’s car pulled over to look at the mementoes mourners had left, as the press stood nearby. “I reached for my father’s hand, for comfort, then cursed myself, because that gesture set off an explosion of clicks,” he said. “I’d given them exactly what they wanted. emotion. drama. Pain.”
Diana’s funeral was held in London several days later. Although Harry wrote that Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, was against the public spectacle of her sons walking behind her coffin, he was later overruled. Harry added that the only time he cried over Diana’s death as a child was when her coffin was lowered into the ground. “It was reported that Mummy’s hands were folded across her chest and between them was placed a photo of me and Willy, possibly the only two men who ever truly loved her. Certainly the two who loved her most,” he said. “For all eternity we’d be smiling at her in the darkness, and maybe it’s this image, 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.”
Throughout the book, Harry recalled the years he spent believing that his mother wasn’t actually dead. “This was all a trick. And for once the trick wasn’t being played by the people around me, or the press, but by Mummy,” he wrote. “Her life’s been miserable, she’s been hounded, harassed, lied about, lied to. So, she staged an accident as a diversion and run away. The realization took my breath away, made me gasp with relief.” He said he momentarily doubted that she still was alive after his aunt, Sarah Ferguson, presented him and William each with a lock of Diana’s hair. “This could be anybody’s hair. Mummy, her beautiful blonde hair intact, was out there somewhere.”
When Harry returned to school, he said some of his teachers encouraged him to write a “final” letter to Diana. “I have a vague memory of wanting to protest that she was still alive, and yet not doing so, for fear they’d think I was mad,” he wrote. Harry eventually shared this idea with William. “I shared my theory with Willy, about Mummy being in hiding,” he said. “He admitted that he’d once entertained a similar theory. But ultimately, he’d discarded it.” Harry added that part of the reason William didn’t believe it was because he thought that she would never want to put her sons through the pain of her disappearance.
Harry said he finally decided he needed concrete proof of Diana’s death. “With solid proof, I thought, I could properly mourn and cry and move on,” he wrote. He said he asked one of his secretaries to get him the police report from the scene of the accident. Although the secretary obliged, Harry said that he removed many of the graphic images before giving it to him. To Harry, the photos represented the role the paparazzi played in Diana’s death. “I hadn’t been aware, before this moment, the last thing Mummy saw on this Earth was a flashbulb,” he wrote. In 2007, Harry went to Paris to see the tunnel where Diana was killed. “I got the closure I was pretending to seek. I got it in spades,” he wrote. “And now I’d never be able to get rid of it. I 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.”
In the years following Diana’s death, Harry said that Charles wasn’t “made for single parenthood.” He added that Charles was very aware about his own negative public perception in the wake of Diana’s death, and invited Harry to accompany him on a trip to meet Nelson Mandela and The Spice Girls, which he hoped would earn him “positive headlines, which he sorely needed.” Harry recalled feeling like he “needed” Charles on that trip. He also added that Charles would often leave Harry notes on his pillow about how proud he was of him in those years.
Harry said that during his school years, he refused to learn about British history, which infuriated many of his teachers, who he claimed argued that he should make more of an effort to learn about his family. “The Spare could always be spared,” he wrote. “I knew this, knew my place, so why go out of my way to study it? Why memorize the names of past spares? What was the sense in that? More, why trace my family tree when all tracery led to the same severed branch — Mummy?”
He also noted that during this time, he began to misbehave in school, writing that he would frequently sneak out of his room, and was disruptive in class. He said that the punishments doled out included detention, being sent to teachers’ offices to reprimanded, and being hit with a Bible. “There was no torture Ludgrove [his school] could dish out that surpassed what was going on inside me,” he wrote.
Harry wrote at length about his father’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, who he was linked to for decades before marrying in 2005. Harry recalled that William was suspicious that there was another woman in his parents’ relationship, but said he was too young to pick up on anything, although he noticed there was a lack of stability and warmth in their home. When Charles told his sons he was officially seeing Camilla, Harry said they were happy for him. “Camilla had played a pivotal role in the unraveling of our parents marriage, and yes, that meant she played a role in our mother’s disappearance, but we understood that she’d been trapped like everyone else in the riptide of events,” he wrote. “We didn’t blame her, and in fact we gladly forgive her if she could make Pa happy.”
However, Harry said the boys did not want to Charles to marry Camilla because it felt it would breed comparison between Camilla and Diana. As Charles and Camilla’s relationship progressed, Harry noted that Camilla began to use the press to her advantage. “She began to play the long game, a campaign aimed at marriage and eventually the Crown (with Pa’s blessing we presumed),” he wrote. “Stories began to appear everywhere, in all the papers, about her private conversation with Willy, stories that contained pinpoint accurate details, none of which had come from Willy, of course. They could only have been leaked by the one other person present.” Throughout the rest of the book, Harry notes several other times where he believes his father and Camilla planted stories about him and William in order to bolster their own public image.
When Harry got to school at Eton, he said that he “was in way, way over my head” academically, and added that he turned to sports and his social life. One night, he allowed his friends to shave his head, in part to cement his reputation as a “jokester.” Within a few days, the haircut was on the front page of the tabloids, which shocked him. “I’d dealt with the British press all my life, but they never before singled me out,” he wrote. “In fact, since Mummy’s death, an unspoken agreement had governed press treatment of both her sons, and the agreement went like this: Lay off. Let them have their education and peace. Apparently that agreement had now expired.”
Several weeks later, Harry said he broke a bone in his thumb while playing rugby. The tabloids soon began printing stories saying that Harry had been in a terrible accident and claimed he was on life support. “My existence was just fun and games to these people. I wasn’t a human being to them. I wasn’t a 14 year old boy hanging on by his fingernails. I was a cartoon character, a glove puppet to be manipulated and mocked for fun.” Soon, he began to gain a reputation for being “the naughty one” in the papers. “I wanted to be good, work hard, grow up and do something meaningful with my days. But every sin, every mess up, every setback triggered the same tired label, and the same public condemnation, and thereby reinforced the conventional wisdom that I was innately naughty.”
Throughout the book, Harry references the idea that he would forever be referred to as the “Spare” to William’s “Heir,” an association that would prove to affect their relationship for their entire lives. “Willy was the Heir, whereas I was the Spare,” he wrote. “There is no judgment about it, but also no ambiguity. I was 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. This was all made explicitly clear to me from the start of life’s journey and regularly reinforced thereafter.”
Both William and Harry attended Eton. While Harry said he was excited to go to the same school as his brother, William told him to act like they didn’t know each other, because he had already carved out his own life there. Harry wrote that as children, William believed that Harry “got away with everything,” writing that after one fight, “I could just make out the future king of England, plotting his revenge.” The comparisons of heir vs. spare continued well into their adult years. When William joined the military, he was technically a subordinate to Harry, who wrote, “For a brief moment, spare outranked heir.”
Harry said that he and William lived together in their 20s, and wrote that they had a lot of fun together, so they decided to do a joint interview. Harry was shocked when, during the interview, William told reporters that Harry was a slob who snored, which he said was not true. Although William claimed it was said in good fun, Harry said he wasn’t so sure. “When I look back on it now, I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t something else at play,” he wrote. “I was training to get to the front lines, the same place Willy had been training to get, but the palace had scheduled his plans. The spare, sure let him run around a battlefield like a chicken with its head cut off, if that’s what he likes. But the heir? No.”
In Spare, Harry spoke fondly about his memories of Africa, where he spent a lot of time, both personally and for charity work. During one of his trips, he said he was told, “I think your body was born in Britain, but your soul was born here in Africa,” which he called “possibly the highest compliment I’d ever received.” Although he felt such a kinship with Africa, Harry said that his charity work there later became a point of contention between him and William. Harry claimed that when he told William about how happy Africa made him, William responded that he actually wanted causes in Africa to be his charity focus, and because he was the heir, he had priority over it. “He cared less about finding his purpose or passion than winning his lifelong competition with me,” Harry wrote.
Harry said when he and William were home together, they spent a lot of time in what they called “Club H,” an underground room in their house where they would drink with friends before sneaking out to pubs. Harry revealed that he lost his virginity to “an older woman” in a grassy field behind a pub on one of these nights. Soon after, he said he was approached by Marko, his and William’s aide, for a meeting. Harry said that he was worried Marko had found out about him losing his virginity, but it was actually worse: a tabloid was claiming that they had evidence of Harry doing drugs in Club H and in a bike shed behind a pub. He denied the entire story.
Even though Harry denied it, he wrote that the tabloid editor said she was going to run the story anyway, and noted that the Palace refused to deny it. Instead, he claimed that Charles and Camilla chose to “spin me right under the bus,” by asserting that the story was true. “In one swoop this would appease the editor and also bolster the sagging reputation of Pa,” he wrote. “Amid all this unpleasantness, all this distortion and gamesmanship, the spin doctor had discovered one silver lining, one shiny constellation prize for Pa. No more the unfaithful husband, Pa now would be presented to the world as the harried single dad coping with a drug-addled child.” Harry said he was “heartbroken” when days later, a 7-page story appeared in the tabloids, claiming that Harry was going to rehab.
Harry wrote that although Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister, was “almost a total stranger,” to him, he noted the similarities in their lives. “Now and then, as I grew older, it struck me that Aunt Margo and I should have been friends,” he wrote. “We had so much in common. Two spares. Her relationship with Granny wasn’t an exact analog of mine with Willy, but pretty close. The simmering rivalry, the intense competition (driven largely by the older sibling), it all looked familiar.” He also said he saw a link between Margaret and Diana. “Both rebels, both labeled as sirens,” he wrote.
In June 2002, just before Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee and several months after the drug allegations broke in the media, Harry said he was once again approached by a tabloid, who claimed to have pictures of him doing cocaine. Harry wrote that the tabloid claimed that the only way to get the story to go away was if Harry met with one of the paper’s editors to hear about why doing drugs was so bad. He wrote that he didn’t want to do this, because he thought that agreeing to a meeting would be an admission of guilt, and instead, chose to deny that the editor had anything, even though he wrote that he had been doing cocaine. “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.”
During this time, the press also learned that Harry had been accused of cheating at school. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing, but he wrote, “the damage was done. the accusation stuck.” Despite this, he said the press moved forward with the story, and wrote that the Palace refused to let him issue a statement defending himself.
Harry wrote that he felt a bit conflicted when it came to figuring out his post-Eton plans. He said he initially considered working as a ski instructor or a safari guide, but wrote that Charles quickly shot those plans down. “Part of me really did want to do something totally out of the box, something that would make everyone in the family, in the country, sit up and say: What the — ? Part of me wanted to drop out, disappear — as Mummy did,” he wrote. “But another part of me felt hugely ambitious. People assumed that the Spare wouldn’t or shouldn’t have any ambition. People assume that royals generally had no career desires or anxieties. You’re royal, everything’s done for you, why worry? But in fact, I worried quite a lot about making my own way, finding my purpose in this world.”
After briefly considering going to university, Harry said he and Charles finally decided he would enter the military. “It made sense,” he wrote. “It aligned with my desire to be outside the box, to disappear. The military would take me away from the prying eyes of the public and the press. But it also fitted with my hopes of making a difference. And it accorded with my personality.” Before heading to boot camp, Harry decided to take a gap year, where he spent extensive time doing charity work in Africa.
During his gap year, Harry began dating Chelsy Davy, who he said was “unlike so many girls I met.” He wrote that he liked how “she wasn’t visibly fitting herself for a crown the moment she shook my hand. She seemed immune to that common affliction sometimes called Throne Syndrome.” He said that things were great while they were in Africa, but once they got back to Britain, the paparazzi began to pry into their relationship, which caused tension. “I advised Chelsy to treat it like a chronic illness, something to be managed,” he wrote. “But she wasn’t sure she wanted to have a chronic illness.”
In January 2005, Harry was invited to a “Natives and Colonials” party, and wrote that William, and his new girlfriend, Kate Middleton, offered to help him pick out a costume. He said that he really liked Kate from the beginning. “Whenever I worried that Kate was going to be the one to take Willy away from me, I consoled myself with thoughts of all of our future laughing fits together, and I told myself how great everything would be when I had a serious girlfriend who could laugh along with us,” he wrote. Harry said that he narrowed down his options to either a British pilot or a Nazi soldier, and claimed that Will and Kate encouraged him to choose the Nazi costume.
After the party, he said the media was clamoring to get photos from the event, adding they wanted them because they heard William was wearing a leopard costume. Once they got the photos, they noticed Harry’s Nazi costume in the background, and published the pictures. “What followed was a firestorm, which I thought at times would engulf me,” he wrote. “I felt that I deserve to be engulfed. There are moments over the course of the next several weeks and months when I thought I might die of shame.” He added that he hadn’t been thinking “for some time” at that point, and wrote that Charles was surprisingly sympathetic to the situation, and believed it would blow over. When it didn’t, Harry wrote that he went to see a rabbi, who “urged me not to be devastated by my mistake, but instead to be motivated,” and later visited with an Auschwitz survivor.
Harry left for military boot camp in May 2005. “Boot camp was no picnic, but I never wavered in my belief that I was exactly where I was meant to be,” he said. “They can’t break me, I thought. Is it, I wondered, because I’m already broken?” He joked that boot camp almost felt like a holiday because of the lack of paparazzi there. Harry also wrote that he enjoyed the feeling of shedding his identity to become one unit with his fellow soldiers. “I couldn’t tell how the other cadets felt about all this, but I bought in, all the way. Self? I was more than ready to shed that dead weight. Identity? Take it.”
In April 2006, Harry officially became Second Lieutenant Wales of the Blues and Royals. Queen Elizabeth II came to his passing-out parade, marking only the second time she had attended the event, which he called a “dazzling honor.” He wrote that the public seemed to have mixed reactions about a royal going off to war. Soon after leaving for Iraq, he was called off the battlefield. British intelligence agents learned that photos of Harry had been circulating around Iraqi snipers, and that he was being called “the mother of all targets.” When he returned home, he wrote, “I pondered quitting the army. What was the point of staying if I couldn’t actually be a soldier?”
After leaving the army, Harry wrote that he was partying a lot, and once again, became a target for the paparazzi. He claimed that photos of him looking aggressive or angry were worth more, and acknowledged getting into a physical altercation with a photographer. “Paps had always been grotesque people, but as I reached maturity they were worse,” he wrote. “You could see it in their eyes, their body language. They were more emboldened, more radicalized, just as young men and Iraq had been radicalized.” He wrote that he later adopted Diana’s trick of hiding in the trunk of the car to avoid being photographed. “It felt like being in a coffin,” he wrote. “I didn’t care.”
During a trip to Africa around this time, Harry said his friends told him that he seemed incredibly unhappy. He agreed, and decided to approach his colonel to get back on the battlefield. He was asked to become a Forward Air Controller, a role that he wrote was highly coveted and required additional training, during which he said he was so happy he was “delirious.” As he prepared to go back into combat, he wrote that he thought a lot about death. “If I die in Afghanistan, I thought, at least I’ll never have to see another fake headline, read another shameful lie about myself,” he said. “I thought a lot on that flight about dying. What would it mean? Did I care? I tried to picture my funeral. Would it be a state funeral? Private? I tried to imagine the headlines: Bye Harry. How would I be remembered by history? For the headlines? Or for who I actually was?”
Once Harry was back to work, he wrote that he believed he was finding his purpose. “I was a British soldier, on a battlefield, at last, a role for which I’ve been preparing all my life,” he said. He was advancing in his role and had even been promoted when he was once again pulled from the battlefield because the press had revealed his whereabouts. He wrote that he struggled upon his return. “I just felt like being quiet,” he said. “I felt out of place, a bit distant. At times I felt sort of panicky. At other times I felt angry.”
Harry wrote that throughout his relationship with Chelsy, she struggled with the constant paparazzi presence. He said that she asked him to get the paparazzi to stop, and had to tell her there was nothing he could do, even when she found a tracking device on her car. “She wasn’t sure if she was up for a lifetime of being stalked,” he wrote. “I completely understood her desire for freedom. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want this life either.” He also said that while he cherished Chelsy’s carefree qualities, he worried about what the family would think. “I couldn’t help worrying how Granny might feel about them. Or the British public. And the last thing I wanted was for Chels to change to accommodate them,” he wrote. “I want it so badly to be a husband, a father… It takes a certain kind of person to withstand the scrutiny and I don’t know if Chels can handle it. I don’t know that I want to ask her to handle it.”
After being forced to leave combat for a second time, Harry said he vowed to find a way to come back. This time, he was given the opportunity to be a helicopter pilot, which he said he was wary of, because his father, grandfather, and brother had all been pilots. In 2009, Harry left for his training, and wrote that the military seemed surprised when he passed all of his drug tests. He called the first time he flew by himself one of the most wonderful moments of his life, and said that he felt as if he “was born to fly.” In May 2010, Harry officially got his wings, and was pinned by his father. He also broke up with Chelsy because he knew he was headed to war and wanted her to be free to experience life. “The day I got my wings, I figured she got hers,” he wrote.
Shortly after, in November 2010, William and Kate announced their engagement, which was news that blindsided Harry, who had just gone on a trip with William. He said that the newspapers reported that he had nobly given William Diana’s ring to propose with. “Absolute rubbish: none of it ever happened,” he wrote. “I never gave Willy that ring because it wasn’t mine to give. He already had it. He had asked for it after Mummy died, and I’ve been more than happy to let it go.” Harry also said that William’s engagement brought out complicated feelings in himself. “I’d always assumed I’d be the first to be married, because I wanted it so badly,” he wrote. “I’d always assumed that I’d be a young husband, a young father, because I’d resolved not to become my father. He’d been an older dad, and I’d always felt that this created problems, placed barriers between us.”
Harry wrote that William got drunk the night before the wedding, and wanted to go out and greet the crowds of people waiting outside to catch a glimpse of the processional the next day. He pointed out that it felt very similar to greeting the crowds after Diana’s death, writing that what was supposed to be William’s “best day, was echoing one of his worst.” After the wedding, Harry said he couldn’t help but think it was the end of an era. “I loved my new sister-in-law, I felt she was more sister than in-law, the sister I’d never had and always wanted,” he wrote. “But, I couldn’t help feeling that this was yet another farewell under this horrid roof. another sundering. The brother I’d escorted into Westminster Abbey that morning was gone — forever.”
Just before the wedding, Harry said he had been invited on an excursion to the North Pole with a veterans’ group he worked with. He believed it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and even though the timing was tight with the wedding, he decided to go. “Upon arriving home, I’d been horrified to discover that my nether regions were frostnipped,” he wrote. “While the ears and cheeks were already healing, the todger wasn’t. It was becoming more of an issue by the day.” He wrote that he was hesitant to tell his father about the issue, and instead turned to a friend for advice, who suggested that he put Elizabeth Arden cream on it. Harry also revealed that although he thought he probably needed to seek medical attention, he was hesitant to because he didn’t want it in the papers.
In March 2012, Harry was asked to go on an official royal tour to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne. Upon his return, he said he got rave reviews for his performance, and decided he deserved to celebrate before leaving for his deployment. He went on a trip to Las Vegas with his friends. “People kept handing me drinks, and by the time the sun was dipping over the mountains, I was in rough shape, and filling up with… ideas,” he wrote. “I need something to commemorate this trip, I decided. Something to symbolize my sense of freedom, my sense of carpe diem. For instance… a tattoo?” He wrote that he planned on getting a tattoo of Botswana on his foot, but his plans got derailed. Instead, he wrote that they kept drinking and playing blackjack. At one point, he was losing so badly, that he had to strip naked.
The next day, naked photos of Harry were all over the media, which he claimed one of the women invited to the room had taken and sold. “I berated myself: How had I let it happen? How had I been so stupid? Why had I trusted other people?” he wrote. “I counted on strangers having goodwill, I’d counted on those dodgy girls showing some basic decency, and now I was going to pay the price forever. These photos would never go away. They were permanent. They’d make a foot tattoo of Botswana look like a splodge of Indian ink.” He said he was relieved when his father and his then-girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, were sympathetic, and wrote that he was relieved to be going off to war as a distraction. In later years, he wrote that during an appearance, Chris Christie gifted him a fleece jacket, and joked that he could use it to keep himself clothed.
After the scandal, Harry headed back to war, where he learned that members of the Taliban had cut a hole into a fence on base and were allegedly planning to kill him on his birthday. “The Taliban had learned about my presence on the base, and the granular details of my tour, through the non-stop coverage by the British press,” he wrote. He remained in combat for the rest of his tour, and revealed that he killed 25 people while in the military. “It wasn’t a number that gave me any satisfaction,” he said. “But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed. Naturally, I’d have preferred not to have that number on my military CV, on my mind, but by the same token I’d have preferred to live in a world in which there is no Taliban, a world without war.” He added that he had to think of the people he killed as chess pieces, but said he thought he held a “problematic” viewpoint.
Following the end of his military career, Harry said he felt like he didn’t have much of a purpose. After attending the Warrior Games, an athletic event for veterans, he decided to create something similar in the UK. When he brought up his idea to William, he wrote that William seemed jealous that Harry had come up with the idea on his own. “Hadn’t he built up an insurmountable lead?,” he wrote. “He was married, with a baby on the way, while I was eating takeaway alone over the sink.” Harry ended up launching the Invictus Games, and held the first event in 2014. “I knew Invictus would do some good in the world, I always knew, but I was caught off guard by this wave of appreciation and gratitude. And joy,” he wrote.
In Spare, Harry opened up about suffering from panic attacks, which he said began in 2013, and were normally triggered by cameras. “The telltale click of a shutter opening and closing… it could knock me sideways for a whole day,” he wrote. He also said he diagnosed himself with PTSD. “My war didn’t begin in Afghanistan. It began in August 1997,” he said, referring to Diana’s death. One night on a ski vacation, he said his then-girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, asked him about his mother, adding that her tone was so compassionate that he found himself crying for the first time since her burial. “It was cathartic, it accelerated our bond, and added an element rare in past relationships: immense gratitude,” he wrote. Despite this, he realized she wasn’t the one, and broke up with her.
By 2015, Harry said his panic attacks got so bad that he stopped leaving his home entirely except to run errands, and called himself “an agoraphobe,” although he noted it was difficult given his public-facing role. “I felt lonely, but lonely was better than panicky,” he wrote. He said William was initially supportive of what Harry was going through, but later began to tease him about his panic attacks, a move Harry called “ironic,” as William was in the midst of launching a charity focused on mental health. Harry said that he eventually went to therapy, where he opened up about his mother, a process that he said allowed a lot of his suppressed memories about her to come back.
Although he had decided to work as a full-time royal during this time, Harry said that he was growing increasingly ambivalent about the role of the royal family after witnessing the way they stressed out over who was invited to certain engagements and who got the most press coverage. “Maybe the stress around all this stuff stemmed from the overarching stress about the monarchy itself. The stress the family was feeling, the tremors of global change, hearing the cries of critics who said the monarchy was outdated, costly,” he wrote. “The family tolerated, even leaned into, the nonsense of the Court Circular [a list of who had the most engagements] for the same reason it accepted the ravages and depredations of the press — fear. Fear of the public. Fear of the future. Fear of the day of the nation would say: Okay, shut it down.” He recalled making a comment about this to William and Kate, but said both of them brushed it off.
Harry revealed that he turned to psychedelics to help with his anxiety. “Psychedelics did me some good as well,” he wrote. “I’d experimented with them over the years, for fun, but now I’d begun to use them therapeutically, medicinally. They didn’t simply allow me to escape reality for a while, they let me redefine reality. 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.”
He recalled using psychedelics during a party at actor Courteney Cox’s home. At the party, he said he met actor Will Arnett (who he referred to as LEGO Batman), and repeatedly asked him if he would use his Batman voice. “He wanted to say no, but he didn’t want to be impolite,” he wrote. “Or else he recognized that I wouldn’t stop.” After his encounter with Arnett, Harry wrote that he found mushroom chocolates in the refrigerator, and said that later, during a trip to the bathroom, he believed the toilet had turned into a talking head.
Just before meeting Meghan at age 32, Harry said that he was worried he would be called “a tragically late bloomer,” just as his father had. After seeing a photo of Meghan on Instagram, complete with the dog filter from Snapchat, he was instantly enamored, and the two began talking. “It occurred to me how uncanny, how surreal, how bizarre, that this marathon conversation should have begun on July 1, 2016, my mother’s 55th birthday,” he wrote. After early dates and a trip to Africa, the pair were quickly committed to each other. “I’d always told myself that there were firm rules about relationships, at least when it came to royalty, and the main one was that you absolutely must date a woman for 3 years before taking the plunge,” he wrote. “But Meg seems like the shining exception to this rule.”
Harry wrote that William and Kate had suspected that Harry was seeing someone, and invited him over for dinner to ask him about it. He said that when he told them she was on the show Suits, they were shocked, as they were “religious viewers” of the show. “I’ve been worrying about the wrong thing,” he wrote. “All this time, I thought Willy and Kate might not welcome Meghan to the family, but now I had to worry about them hounding her for an autograph.” Despite this, Harry said that William still had reservations about her being an “American actress.” Later, after introducing Meghan to the family, Harry said William confided in him, saying that he felt their mother had been guiding him through life. When Harry revealed he felt the same way, and believed that Diana had brought him Meghan, he wrote that William responded, “That seemed to be taking things a bit far. Now, Harold, I’m not sure about that. I wouldn’t say that!”
Harry also wrote about Meghan’s first interactions with several other family members, including Queen Elizabeth II, who he said asked Meghan for her thoughts on Donald Trump. He also wrote that she initially thought Prince Andrew was the queen’s assistant, because he was standing around holding her purse. When Meghan met Charles and Camilla, Harry said that he instructed Meghan not to curtsy to Camilla, because he didn’t think it was “appropriate,” but added that Charles seemed to really take to Meghan. “In her presence Pa became boyish,” he said. “I saw it, saw the bond between them growing stronger, and I felt strengthened in my own bond with him. So many people were treating her shabbily, it filled my heart to see my father treating her like the princess she was about to — maybe born to — become.”
After their relationship went public in 2016, Meghan began facing immense criticism in the press, and was heavily stalked by the paparazzi. Harry famously issued a statement condemning the press for their “glaring, vulgar, in your face racism.” He said that both William and Charles were angry with him for releasing that statement, arguing that it made them look bad because they hadn’t done the same for their girlfriends. Despite this, Harry wrote “we managed to protect our essential bond.” He shared that one night, Meghan called him from Toronto, and said that several men were following her car. “I was in London, in my own car, my bodyguard driving, and her tearful voice brought me right back to my childhood. Back to Balmoral,” he wrote. “I felt helpless, and this, I realize, was my Achilles heel. I could deal with most things so long as there are some action to be taken. But when I had nothing to do.. I wanted to die.”
Harry said that the racist comments ramped up once again after the couple was photographed at a dinner with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland. When he told his father that he believed the monarchy’s lack of condemnation against the press was a bad look, he wrote that Charles appeared “unmoved.” Months later, when Harry discussed marrying Meghan, he said Charles told him there wasn’t enough money for a new member of the family. “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,” he wrote. “And Camilla. He lived through that before, and had no interest in living through it again.”
Meghan and Harry’s engagement news went public in November 2017. He said that while they were in a rush to get married, the palace was slow to get back to them regarding dates and venues, which was frustrating. According to Harry, William often shot down all of his ideas for the wedding, and suggested that they marry in a tiny chapel. Harry also discussed Meghan having to quit Suits. “Decent of Suits, I thought, marrying Meg off on the show, instead of pushing her down a lift shaft,” he wrote. “There were enough people in real life trying to do that.” Harry also said that Queen Elizabeth II generously offered to allow Meghan to wear a tiara from her collection, but alleged that Angela Kelly, the queen’s stylist, tried to sabotage it by not responding to their calls. “To my mind, Angela was a troublemaker, and I didn’t need her as an enemy,” he wrote.
In the days before the wedding, Harry said he asked his grandmother for special permission to keep his beard for his wedding, because he said it had become “an effective check on my anxiety.” He wrote that this enraged William, who demanded that Harry shave it off. “Willy always thought Granny had a soft spot for me, that she indulged me while holding him to an impossibly high standard,” he wrote. “Because.. heir, spare, etc. It hurt him.” He said he later learned that William had joked that he was going to get Harry so drunk at his stag party that he would pin him down and shave his entire beard off.
In June 2018, Harry said William and Kate invited him and Meghan over to clear the air. Kate and Meghan had long been compared in the media, and there were reports that Meghan had made Kate cry over bridesmaids dresses. Harry said that one of the biggest disputes was over Meghan joking that Kate had “baby brain” after forgetting something. He wrote that Meghan apologized and said it was a joke, but Kate shot back, “You talked about my hormones. We’re not close enough for you to talk about my hormones!” After this, Harry said that William appeared to believe most of the false narrative the press was spreading about Meghan, which led to several more spats, including an alleged physical altercation, during which William pushed Harry to the ground. “We’d had a million physical fights in our lives,” he wrote. “As boys, we’d done nothing but fight. But this felt different.” Following this, the two households stopped sharing the same office.
Harry said the family was delighted when they announced Meghan was pregnant. Shortly after, they embarked on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. Harry wrote that Meghan did incredibly well on tour. “I felt compelled to warn her,” he wrote. “You’re doing too well my love. Too damn well. You’re making it look too easy. This is how everything started with my mother.” When they returned, Meghan was getting relatively positive press coverage, until Harry said the narrative started to suddenly shift. “It was no longer about two women fighting, two duchesses at odds, or even two households,” he wrote. “It was now about one person being a witch and causing everyone to run from her, and that one person was my wife. And in building the super narrative, the press was clearly being assisted by someone or multiple someone’s inside the palace.” Harry said at this time, the press coverage caused Meghan to have suicidal thoughts.
After Meghan and Harry vocalized their intentions to leave the royal family, Harry was called to the family’s country estate for which later became called the Sandringham Summit. There, Harry said he was presented with five options for leaving the family. He added that Option 3, which allowed them to step back and move out of the UK, but still work remotely, was the closest to what they wanted. “I was desperate to keep security,” Harry wrote. “That was what worried me most, my family’s physical safety. I wanted to prevent a repeat of history, another untimely death like the one that had rocked this family to its core 23 years earlier, and from which we were still trying to recover.”
Despite the purported element of choice, Harry soon realized that he had no say in the matter. The family began pushing for Option 1 (to fully stay) or Option 5 (to fully leave), and he said they would not budge. He wrote that he was shocked when an aide began passing out the paperwork for Option 5. When he asked if there were printouts for the other options, he was told the printer broke. After the meeting, Harry said that he went outside to speak privately with William. “Willy was subdued,” he said. “He wanted to listen. For the first time in a long time, my brother heard me out, and I was so grateful.”
In early 2020, after officially leaving the family, Harry said he believed the family would not take away their security, since Prince Andrew still had his after the news about his involvement with Jeffrey Epstein came to light. “Whatever grievances people had against us, sex crimes weren’t on the list,” he wrote. He said he was shocked when he learned that their security was being pulled, a move he said William called “a government decision.” Shortly after, he learned that he was being financially cut off from Charles. Harry acknowledged that it was “absurd” for a man in his 30s to complain about being cut off, but added, “Cutting me off therefore I meant firing me, without redundancy pay, and casting me into the void after a lifetime of service. More, after a lifetime of rendering me otherwise unemployable.”
After Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021, Harry said that he went for a walk with William and Charles, during which he claimed they called him “delusional,” and said that he obviously didn’t mind the press after being interviewed by Oprah. Harry defended the interview, writing, “We chose an interviewer who was above reproach, and we didn’t once hide behind phrases like ‘Palace sources,’ we let people see the words coming out of our mouths.”
He added that the argument became heated after this, claiming that William grabbed him by the shirt and told him to “swear on Mummy’s life” that Harry understood that William wanted him to be happy. “He’d used the secret code, the universal password. Ever since we were boys those three words were to be used only in times of extreme crisis. ‘On Mummy’s life.’ For nearly 25 years we’d reserved that soul-crushing vow for times when one of us needed to be heard, to be believed, quickly. For times when nothing else would do,” he wrote. “It stopped me cold, as it was meant to. Not because he used it, but because it didn’t work. I simply didn’t believe him, didn’t fully trust him. And vice versa. He saw it too. He saw that we were in such a place of such hurt and doubt that even those sacred words couldn’t set us free.”
The memoir closes with the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022. Harry wrote that he got a call from Charles telling him to come, and claimed that Charles began to list out reasons why Meghan wasn’t welcome. “[It] was nonsensical, and disrespectful, and I wasn’t having it. Don’t ever speak about my wife that way,” he wrote. By the time he arrived at Balmoral Castle, the queen was already dead, which he said he learned about from reading it on the BBC’s website while on the plane. Harry wrote that he still decided to say his goodbyes. “It was difficult, but I kept on, thinking how I’d regret it not seeing my mother at the end,” he said. “Years of lamenting that lack of proof, postponing my grief for want of proof. Now I thought: Proof. Careful what you wish for.”