Cast your mind back, if you will, to last September. The death of Queen Elizabeth II had sent Prince Harry reeling. He was weeks away from unloading a double-barreled assault on the royal family, first with a six-part, tell-all Netflix series and then with Spare, his equally grievance-filled memoir. But the national mood had become so sensitive and febrile that Harry was having second thoughts. He had seen how quickly the public could turn—not least with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, two TV hosts who became national pariahs for looking at the Queen’s coffin without queuing up first—and so he reportedly revised both projects, removing the most sensational material.
Cut to this Thursday. Despite a colossal security operation, copies of Spare began leaking to the press five days ahead of publication. Within hours, the world would collectively learn that Harry has killed 25 people (while on helicopter missions during the War in Afghanistan); had a conversation with a talking garbage can whilst high on mushrooms; and attended his brother’s wedding with a frostbite-riddled penis. Which really has to make you wonder what was in the original version.
The leaks began explosively when The Guardian printed what is destined to become the key passage from the book: the moment where Prince William physically attacks Harry in the kitchen of Nottingham Cottage, the home he shared with Meghan Markle.
The story—at least from Harry’s perspective—goes that Prince William came to the cottage to rebuke Harry over Meghan’s treatment of the staff. The conversation became strained. “He insulted me. He called me everything,” Harry writes. And then, just as Harry tried calming his brother with a glass of water, William lunged at him. Collars were grabbed. Harry’s “necklace” was yanked off, he said, which conjured up images of pearls scattering across the kitchen floor. A dog bowl was smashed. And as he stormed out of the cottage, William fumed, “I didn’t attack you, Harold.”
This establishes the running theme of the book. Harry is consumed with envy over his brother’s position as the future head of the royal family and really can’t stand him. Willy, as Harry calls him, is depicted as such a spiteful and furious figure throughout that at one point Harry literally refers to him as “my arch-nemesis.”
According to the book, Prince William—who calls, or rather called, Harry “Harold”—seethed with rage because Harry grew a beard for his wedding. Harry also holds Prince William (and his now wife, Kate Middleton) responsible for masterminding his dressing up as a Nazi that time. At one stage, Harry says, Prince William pointed a finger at Meghan. The man is basically a Bond villain incarnate.
The world would collectively learn that Harry has killed 25 people.
But this is Harry’s book, so Harry always gets the final word. Most notably, perhaps, in a section where he stares at William “for the first time since we were little,” and then comes to the highly nuanced conclusion that his brother is actually quite ugly and bald. All of which sadly means that the ballad of Willy and Harold has reached its irreconcilable conclusion.
However, to keep the balance, Harry also makes time to be horrible to his father. King Charles is depicted as weak and emotionally distant, forgetting to hug Harry after the death of Princess Diana; cracking ill-timed jokes about the rumors that he isn’t Harry’s biological father; carrying around a worn teddy bear from childhood; and attempting to break up a fight between his two sons by pleading with them not to “make my final years a misery”—a line of such masterful passive-aggression that it deserves to be etched into commemorative coins.
All this gleeful pot stirring means that Harry is unlikely to attend his father’s coronation, later this year, and even less likely to attend his brother’s, whenever that happens. But Spare is about so much more than a scrappy schoolboy feud between siblings. It is, thankfully, also about all the dumb crap Harry got up to when he was younger.
Harry also holds Prince William (and his now wife, Kate Middleton) responsible for masterminding his dressing up as a Nazi that time.
Want to know all the drugs that Harry has taken? Great. He smoked weed and snorted cocaine (although apparently without much enjoyment) and in 2016 took so many magic mushrooms that a nearby garbage can grew a head, came to life, and started talking to him.
Want to know how Harry lost his virginity? Brilliant. He was 17 years old. And it was outside a “very busy” pub in Windsor, with a much older woman who—and apologies to anyone reading this over breakfast—treated him “like a young stallion” and then “spanked [his] ass” after he “mounted her quickly.”
Want to know how many men Harry has killed? Wonderful. There were 25 of them, and they all belonged to the Taliban. And after every kill Harry went home and watched a video replay of it. In fact, this part of the book might prove to be the most controversial in the long run. Harry has always counted himself as a serviceman first, but several of his peers have begun to distance themselves from him because boasting about killing is apparently quite gauche. Who knew? This bravado might also not sit well with members of the Taliban—which Harry calls “subhuman” in the book. One would imagine that security around the Spare author and his family will need to be beefed up.
Want to know the racial slur that Harry used to say a lot, which forces him into a succession of berserk verbal knots as he attempts to explain it away as either a “sign of the times he lived in” or an “indication of his cosseted, privileged royal life”? Actually, you can look that one up yourself.
Want to know about Harry’s frostbitten penis? Who doesn’t?! He went on a trek to the North Pole, and parts of his body were exposed to the extreme cold. By the time of Prince William’s wedding, he writes, “the todger … was becoming more of an issue by the day.” Oh, and want to know whether or not Harry is circumcised? No, why would you? But, hey, he’s going to tell you anyway. What astonishing value for the money this book is.
The revelations in Harry’s book are such that one British newspaper claims he has plunged the royal family into the biggest constitutional crisis in three decades. Buckingham Palace, for what it’s worth, has chosen not to respond to Spare, with an insider telling The Times that the hoo-ha is “exhausting, it is exasperating … It will burn itself out.”
But still, it’s important to remember that Spare isn’t actually released yet. That will happen next week, with further revelations sure to come out, and Harry will be promoting the tell-all book with two blockbuster tell-all Sunday-night interviews. In short, we are nowhere near peak Spare. Poor Willy. Poor us.
Stuart Heritage is a Kent, U.K.–based Writer at Large for AIR MAIL and the author of Bedtime Stories for Worried Liberals