Early in Prince Harry’s military career, training as a forward air controller (or FAC), he discovered a knack for obliteration. FACs orchestrate the army’s air power, guiding fighter pilots and their bombs to precise spots on enemy terrain, and doing this well, Harry soon learned, required more than just punching in coordinates. “Destruction is partly creative,” he writes. “It begins with imagination. Before destroying something you have to imagine it destroyed.”
Spare, Prince Harry’s much-anticipated and much-leaked memoir, is many things. It’s a record-smashing bestseller. It’s decent promotional material for the overwhelming beauty of Botswana (and, to a lesser extent, for the cathartic power of therapy). It’s a TMI catalogue of bodily functions and failures. But it’s not an act of destruction.
Harry doesn’t have the inclination; he might not have the imagination, either. He isn’t making an impassioned case here for ditching the Crown: “No one wants to hear a prince argue for the existence of a monarchy, any more than they want to hear a prince argue against it,” he writes, and in any event, “my problem has never been with the monarchy, nor the concept of monarchy.” (Okay!) He isn’t taking a flamethrower to his brother’s reputation: Sure, William comes off as a pill, but let’s be honest—William already had Big Pill Energy. The jealousy, the brawling, the bitchy asides, however: Every sibling will recognize that dynamic. If anything, Spare might make William marginally more interesting. It definitely makes him more human.
And from Charles and Camilla’s perspective, at least, that may be the book’s real damage. Not the explicit claim that they secured positive headlines by trading negative stories about Harry and William—Harry has strongly implied that plenty before—but the fact that, for a family meant to derive its authority straight from God, they can seem so painfully relatable. Camilla, once loathed by the British, can’t quit the need for their approval. Charles, abandoned by his parents to the bullies at his boarding school, still travels with the threadbare teddy that gave him a bit of comfort. Says Harry: “Teddy expressed eloquently, better than Pa ever could, the essential loneliness of his childhood.” (Says an entire latchkey generation: same!)
By this point—a week after The Guardian nabbed a copy and then the book went on sale early in Spain—you’ve likely already read about the dog-bowl knock out and the Nazi dress-up and the back-of-the-pub roll in the hay. You may have even read that Harry’s frostbitten penis, courtesy of an Arctic expedition, could’ve been far worse, and that baby brain, however much Kate didn’t like Meghan’s mention of it, is nevertheless a thing. What’s left to say? The book is at times a slog (the rehash of tiaragate and dressgate gets tedious), at times compelling (there’s wonderful stuff about flying a helicopter), and at times quite sad (Diana—everything about Diana).
Between the joint Oprah interview and the six-hour Netflix series and Meghan’s podcast and now Harry’s memoir, we might be H&M-ed out for a while. But some unexpected faces do pop up in the pages of Spare, so we collected a few of our favourite cameos.
Harry’s great-great-great grandmother was not without her own share of personal drama: She survived eight separate assassination attempts by seven different subjects, including being shot at with pieces of tobacco pipe and getting whacked on the head with an iron-tipped cane. A statue of Queen Victoria sits on the second floor of Balmoral Castle, and Harry is sure to bow each time he goes by.
They meet at a party at Courteney Cox’s house, and Harry—deep into his fourth tequila, because L.A. seems to be out of gin—recognizes Arnett’s voice from The Lego Batman Movie. (Um: justice for Gob Bluth!) Harry is so tickled by Arnett saying “Hello, Harry” in that “perfect gravelly Batmanese” that he asks him to do it again and again. “He wanted to say no, but he didn’t want to be impolite,” Harry writes. “Or else he recognized that I wouldn’t stop.”
After his magnetic first date with Meghan Markle, Harry rushes over to a mate’s house to decompress. They open the tequila, break out the weed, and cue up…Pixar’s beloved animated film about the power of a child’s emotions? Why not!
Prince Harry, this book makes clear, can get a lot of people on the phone—“hello, Elton”—but his call to pal Tom Hardy yields a full outfit. Harry borrows Hardy’s Mad Max costume for a Halloween party with Meghan in Toronto, though for such a Batman fan, you’d think he would’ve gone with Bane, which comes complete with a cozy shearling coat.
Spike the echidna
This spiny Australian anteater, who Harry poses with on a 2003 visit to the Sydney zoo, gives him his nickname—“spike” being a solid description of Harry’s unruly hair back then. Fun fact about the echidna: It has a four-headed penis. Very helpful if one of them gets frostbite.
@chatelaine The Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream *really* does it all! ❄️ #elizabetharden #eighthourcream #skincareroutine #skintok #princeharryspare ♬ original sound – Chatelaine
Speaking of: It’s Arden’s cream that Harry reaches for, on a friend’s recommendation, to try to remedy his frostbitten penis, the very same cream that Diana would use on her lips, and when he opens the tube to apply it to his “todger,” the smell whisks him through the corridors of time, and he feels as though suddenly she’s in the room with him, and the whole thing—as one editor flawlessly put it—is a Freudian nightmare, so let’s just move on.
How is this real? pic.twitter.com/D0XSDFqEMG
— Ξvan Ross Katz (@evanrosskatz) January 11, 2023
We’d have suggested Harry start with the author’s peerless, Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall, but he’s gone straight for her notorious LRB essay on the commodification of monarchs, misread by many as unsympathetic to the royal family and specifically anti-Kate. Harry seems to have come to the same wrong conclusion, and he doesn’t seem to have come to the end of the essay, where Mantel writes:
“We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago. History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes.”
Harry could not have said it better himself.