Author: Prince Harry – The Duke of Sussex
Publisher: Bantam Books
First Publication: 2023
Book Summary: Spare by Prince Harry – The Duke of Sussex
It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow-and horror. As Princess Diana was laid to rest, billions wondered what Prince William and Prince Harry must be thinking and feeling-and how their lives would play out from that point on.
For Harry, this is that story at last.
Before losing his mother, twelve-year-old Prince Harry was known as the carefree one, the happy-go-lucky Spare to the more serious Heir. Grief changed everything. He struggled at school, struggled with anger, with loneliness-and, because he blamed the press for his mother’s death, he struggled to accept life in the spotlight.
At twenty-one, he joined the British Army. The discipline gave him structure, and two combat tours made him a hero at home. But he soon felt more lost than ever, suffering from post-traumatic stress and prone to crippling panic attacks. Above all, he couldn’t find true love.
Then he met Meghan. The world was swept away by the couple’s cinematic romance and rejoiced in their fairy-tale wedding. But from the beginning, Harry and Meghan were preyed upon by the press, subjected to waves of abuse, racism, and lies. Watching his wife suffer, their safety and mental health at risk, Harry saw no other way to prevent the tragedy of history repeating itself but to flee his mother country. Over the centuries, leaving the Royal Family was an act few had dared. The last to try, in fact, had been his mother. . . .
For the first time, Prince Harry tells his own story, chronicling his journey with raw, unflinching honesty. A landmark publication, Spare is full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.
Book Review: Spare by Prince Harry – The Duke of Sussex
Prince Harry bares his soul in his raw and revealing memoir Spare, providing an intimate look into the highs and lows of his life as a member of the British royal family. From enduring the tragic loss of his mother to struggling with his role as the “spare” heir, Prince Harry comes across as startlingly candid yet heartbreakingly human. He holds little back in recounting his innermost struggles, though some may critique Spare as offensive to the royals. Ultimately, the memoir succeeds in humanizing the oft-criticized prince.
One of the most striking aspects of Spare is Prince Harry’s gut-wrenching account of losing his mother, Princess Diana, at the tender age of twelve. He movingly describes learning she had died in a car crash in Paris, waiting in agonized hope that perhaps she had only been injured. Harry poignantly conveys his numb confusion when told the devastating news, writing “Everything distinctly, certainly, irrevocably, came to a stop.” He recalls being unable to cry at Diana’s funeral, having absorbed the royal family’s stoic creed.
Harry touchingly expresses his enduring pain and longing for his mother in the months after her shocking death. He clung to the belief that her death was an elaborate hoax and she would eventually reappear, noting “I still hadn’t mourned, still hadn’t cried, except that one time at her grave, still hadn’t processed the bare facts.” Harry writes of his constant yearning for Diana, describing her as “light, pure radiant light,” too phenomenal to be gone. His palpable grief leaps off the page.
The memoir highlights how profoundly losing Diana at such a young age shaped Harry. He links his eventual struggles with drugs and alcohol to unresolved trauma, poignantly recalling how he avoided quiet moments when difficult emotions might surface. Harry suggests it fueled his rebellious streak, noting he felt unable to publicly mourn while being labeled the “naughty” prince. His unwillingness to believe Diana was truly gone prevented him from properly grieving during his teen years.
Harry paints a less than flattering picture of his father, King Charles III, referring to him as the distant, emotionally repressed “Pa” throughout the memoir. He portrays Charles as aloof, consumed by public perception, and unwilling to stand up for his sons against media attacks. Harry heartbreakingly describes craving physical affection from Charles as a child but rarely receiving it. However, glimmers of Harry’s love and sympathy for his father occasionally emerge. He expresses compassion for the bullying Charles endured at school, suggesting it influenced his guarded nature. Harry writes movingly of clutching Charles’ hand for comfort after Diana’s death, highlighting their rare moment of connection. While he clearly harbors resentment towards Charles, Harry poignantly shares that he simply wanted his father to be happy.
Harry is also candid regarding his complex dynamic with Prince William, referring to him as “Willy” in the memoir. He characterizes their sibling relationship as deeply affectionate yet competitive, noting William’s dislike of being treated as a package deal. Harry recounts his eagerness to support William and sense of pride in playing the role of protective younger brother. However, he also shares William’s request that Harry pretend not to know him at school, illustrating the rift between them. Their warm but strained bond leaps off the page.
Providing an intimate glimpse into the cloistered world of royals, Harry details the intense pressures and lack of privacy he endured growing up in the public eye. He expresses disdain for the superficiality of much royal life, writing that “Being a Windsor meant working out which truths were timeless, and then banishing them from your mind. It meant absorbing the basic parameters of one’s identity, knowing by instinct who you were, which was forever a byproduct of who you weren’t.” Prince Harry suggests his role as the “spare” heir contributed to his feelings of isolation, noting he was treated as merely a backup for William. He conveys his sense of destiny as the rebellious, misunderstood prince.
Harry truly seems to come into his own during his military service, which he describes as a respite from royal duties. He provides colorful descriptions of his time in officer training, candidly admitting he struggled with academic lessons. Harry speaks poignantly of finding purpose, camaraderie, and escape from his privilege as a young soldier. His disappointment about being prevented from serving in Iraq due to safety concerns is palpable. He sees the military as a way to finally be “just Harry.”
The most revealing glimpse into Harry’s state of mind comes as he describes struggling with substance abuse and anger issues in his late twenties. He admits that heavy drinking provided an outlet for deep unhappiness during this period, candidly writing “I was in a bad, bad place.” Harry acknowledges excessive partying and lashing out at paparazzi, reflecting “Something had to change. I knew I couldn’t go on like this.” His willingness to be so forthright makes these passages compelling.
As he falls in love with Meghan Markle, Harry paints an idyllic portrait of their courtship. He speaks effusively about their instant connection, recalling thinking “Compared to her, Cinderella was the queen of long goodbyes.” shortly after being introduced. Harry movingly recounts his nervousness about introducing Meghan to his father and brother, conveying his anxiety about acceptance. He passionately defends Meghan against what he sees as racist media attacks on their relationship.
Harry’s devotion toward Meghan and conviction that she was being treated unfairly inform his account of their dramatic decision to leave royal life. He criticizes the institution for failing to protect her as it had failed Diana. Harry conveys steely determination to avoid history repeating itself, whatever the cost. His partner loyalty and resolve to chart a new path for his young family shine through.
While Spare focuses on Prince Harry’s personal struggles, he also offers glimpses into his philanthropic works and commitment to service. He writes movingly of his time in Africa, where he finds inspiration in aid workers helping vulnerable communities. Harry speaks with humility about striving to make a difference on meaningful causes like mental health, conservation, and supporting veterans. His social awareness provides balance to Spare’s heavier, introspective passages.
Harry’s memoir has an undeniably introspective, self-focused slant that some may critique as self-pitying or indulgent. He can come across as resentful of royal duties and some may argue he places undue blame on press scrutiny over personal missteps. However, Spare generally succeeds as a nuanced self-portrait of the painfully human prince behind the media caricatures.
With raw emotional honesty, Harry compellingly recounts his ongoing battles with childhood trauma, the loss of his mother, and struggles with his royal destiny. While certain revelations may be deemed offensive, potentially straining family relationships, the memoir marks a decisive step towards Harry telling his own imperfect but authentic story. With heartfelt candor and flashes of humor, Spare renders the flawed yet well-intentioned prince remarkably relatable.