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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

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BOOK: Spare
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These virtues had been preached to me from an early age, but now I’d lived them, and felt them on my face. I wasn’t religious, but this “blood facial” was, to me, baptismal. Pa was deeply religious, he prayed every night, but now, in this moment, I too felt close to God. If you loved Nature, Pa always said, you had to know when to leave it alone, and when to manage it, and managing meant culling, and culling meant killing. It was all a form of worship.

At the larder Sandy and I took off our clothes and checked each other for
ticks. Red deer in those woods were rife and once a tick got onto your leg it would burrow deep under the skin, often crawl up into your balls. One poor gamekeeper had recently been felled by Lyme disease.

I panicked. Every freckle looked like doom.
Is that a tick? Is that?

Nae, lad, nae!

I got dressed.

Turning to Sandy to say goodbye, I thanked him for the experience. I wanted to shake his hand, give him a hug. But a small, still voice inside me said:

Nae, lad. Nae.

28.

Willy enjoyed stalking
too, so that was his excuse for not coming to Klosters that year. He preferred to stay behind at Granny’s estate in Norfolk, twenty thousand acres we both adored: Sandringham.

Rather shoot partridges, he told Pa.

A lie. Pa didn’t know it was a lie, but I did. The real reason Willy was staying at home was that he couldn’t face the Wall.

Before skiing at Klosters we’d always have to walk to a designated spot at the foot of the mountain and stand before seventy or so photographers, arranged in three or four ascending tiers—the Wall. They’d point their lenses and shout our names and shoot us while we squinted and fidgeted and listened to Pa answer their daft questions. The Wall was the price we paid for a hassle-free hour on the slopes. Only if we went before the Wall would they briefly leave us in peace.

Pa disliked the Wall—he was famous for disliking it—but Willy and I
despised
it.

Hence, Willy was at home, taking it out on the partridges. I’d have stayed with him, if I could, but I wasn’t old enough to assert myself like that.

In Willy’s absence, Pa and I had to face the Wall ourselves, which made it that much more unpleasant. I stuck close to Pa’s side while the cameras whirred and clicked. Memories of the Spice Girls. Memories of Mummy, who also despised Klosters.

This is why she’s hiding, I thought. This right here. This shit.

Mummy had other reasons besides the Wall for hating Klosters. When I was three, Pa and a friend were involved in a gruesome accident on the slopes
there. A massive avalanche overtook them. Pa narrowly escaped, but the friend didn’t. Buried under that wall of snow, the friend’s final breaths must have been snow-filled gasps. Mummy often spoke of him with tears in her eyes.

After the Wall, I tried to put my mind to having fun. I loved skiing and I was good at it. But once Mummy was in my thoughts, I was buried under my own private avalanche of emotions. And questions.
Is it wrong to enjoy a place that Mummy despises? Am I being mean to her if I have fun today on these slopes? Am I a bad son for feeling excited to get on the chairlift alone with Pa? Will Mummy understand that I miss her and Willy but also enjoy having Pa briefly to myself?

How would I explain any of this to her when she returned?

Some time after that trip to Klosters I shared my theory with Willy, about Mummy being in hiding. He admitted that he’d once entertained a similar theory. But, ultimately, he’d discarded it.

She’s gone, Harold. She’s not coming back.

No, no, no, I wouldn’t hear such a thing.
Willy, she always said she wanted to just disappear! You heard her!

Yes, she did. But, Harold, she’d never do this to us!

I’d had the very same thought, I told him.
But she wouldn’t die either, Willy! She’d never do that to us either!

Fair point, Harold.

29.

We rolled down the long drive,
past Granny’s white stag ponies through the golf course, past the green where the Queen Mother once scored a hole in one, past the policeman in his little hut (crisp salute) and over a couple of speed bumps, then over a small stone bridge and onto a quiet country lane.

Pa, driving, squinted through the windscreen.
Splendid evening, isn’t it?

Balmoral. Summer. 2001.

We went up a steep hill, past the whisky distillery, along a blowy lane and down between sheep fields, which were overrun by rabbits. That is, those lucky enough to escape us. We’d shot a bunch earlier that day. After a few minutes we turned onto a dusty track, drove four hundred meters to a deer fence. I hopped out, opened the padlocked gate. Now, at last, because we were on remote private roads, I was allowed to drive. I jumped behind the
wheel, hit the accelerator, put into practice all those driving lessons from Pa through the years, often seated on his lap. I steered us through the purple heather into the deepest folds of that immense Scottish moorland. Ahead, like an old friend, stood Lochnagar, splotchy with snow.

We came to the last wooden bridge, the tires making that soothing lullaby I always associated with Scotland.
Da dong, da dong…da dong, da dong.
Just below us, a burn seethed after recent heavy rain up top. The air was thick with midges. Through the trees, in the last moments of daylight, we could faintly make out huge stags peering at us. Now we arrived in a great clearing, an old stone hunting lodge to the right, the cold stream running down to the river through the wood on our left, and there she was.
Inchnabobart
!

We ran inside the lodge. The warm kitchen! The old fireplace! I fell onto the fender, with its worn red cushion, and inhaled the smell of that huge pyramid of silver birch firewood stacked beside it. If there’s a smell more intoxicating or inviting than silver birch, I don’t know what it could be. Grandpa, who’d set off half an hour before us, was already tending his grill at the back of the lodge. He stood amid a thick cloud of smoke, tears streaming from his eyes. He wore a flat cap, which he took off now and then to mop his brow or smack a fly. As the fillets of venison sizzled he turned them with a huge pair of tongs, then put on a loop of Cumberland sausages. Normally I’d beg him to make a pot of his specialty, spaghetti Bolognese. This night, for some reason, I didn’t.

Granny’s specialty was the salad dressing. She’d whisked a large batch. Then she lit the candles down the long table and we all sat on wooden chairs with creaky straw seats. Often we had a guest for these dinners, some famous or eminent personage. Many times I’d discussed the temperature of the meat or the coolness of the evening with a prime minister or bishop. But tonight it was just family.

My great-grandmother arrived. I jumped up, offered her my hand. I always offered her my hand—Pa had drummed it into me—but that night I could see Gan-Gan really needed the extra help. She’d just celebrated her 101st birthday and was looking frail.

Still natty, however. She wore blue, I recall, all blue. Blue cardigan, blue tartan skirt, blue hat. Blue was her favorite color.

She asked for a martini. Moments later, someone handed her an ice-cold tumbler filled with gin. I watched her take a sip, expertly avoiding the lemon floating along the top, and on an impulse I decided to join her. I’d never had a cocktail in front of my family, so this would be an event. A bit of rebellion.

Empty rebellion, it turned out. No one cared. No one noticed. Except Gan-Gan. She perked up for a moment at the sight of me playing grown-up, gin and tonic in hand.

I sat beside her. Our conversation started out as lively banter, then evolved, gradually settling into something deeper. A connection. Gan-Gan was really speaking to me that night, really listening. I couldn’t quite believe it. I wondered why. Was it the gin? Was it the four inches I’d grown since last summer? At six foot I was now one of the tallest members of the family. Combined with Gan-Gan’s shrinkage, I towered over her.

I wish I could recall specifically what we talked about. I wish I’d asked more questions, and jotted down her answers. She’d been the War Queen. She’d lived at Buckingham Palace while Hitler’s bombs rained from the skies. (Nine direct hits on the Palace.) She’d dined with Churchill, wartime Churchill. She’d once possessed a Churchillian eloquence of her own. She was famous for saying that, no matter how bad things got, she’d never, ever leave England, and people loved her for it. I loved her for it. I loved my country, and the idea of declaring you’d never leave struck me as wonderful.

She was, of course,
infamous
for saying other things. She came from a different era, enjoyed being Queen in a way that looked unseemly to some. I saw none of that. She was my Gan-Gan. She was born three years before the aeroplane was invented yet still played the bongo drums on her hundredth birthday. Now she took my hand as if I were a knight home from the wars, and spoke to me with love and humor and, that night, that magic night, respect.

I wish I’d asked about her husband, King George VI, who died young. Or her brother-in-law, King Edward VIII, whom she’d apparently loathed. He gave up his crown for love. Gan-Gan believed in love, but nothing transcended the Crown. She also reportedly despised the woman he’d chosen.

I wish I’d asked about her distant ancestors in Glamis, home to Macbeth.

She’d seen so much, knew so much, there was so much to be learned from her, but I just wasn’t mature enough, despite the growth spurt, or brave enough, despite the gin.

I did, however, make her laugh. Normally that was Pa’s job; he had a knack for finding Gan-Gan’s funny bone. He loved her as much as he loved anybody in the world, perhaps more. I recall him glancing over several times and looking pleased that I was getting such good giggles out of his favorite person.

At one point I told Gan-Gan about Ali G, the character played by Sacha Baron Cohen. I taught her to say
Booyakasha
, showing her how to flick her fingers the way Sacha did. She couldn’t grasp it, she had no idea what I was
talking about, but she had such fun trying to flick and say the word. With every repetition of that word,
Booyakasha
, she’d shriek, which would make everyone else smile. It tickled me, thrilled me. It made me feel…a part of things.

This was my family, in which I, for one night at least, had a distinctive role.

And that role, for once, wasn’t the Naughty One.

30.

Weeks later, back
at Eton, I was walking past two blue doors, almost exactly the same blue as one of Gan-Gan’s kilts. She’d have liked these doors, I thought.

They were the doors to the TV room, one of my sanctuaries.

Almost every day, straight after lunch, my mates and I would head to the TV room and watch a bit of
Neighbours
, or maybe
Home and Away
, before going off to sports. But this day in September 2001 the room was packed and
Neighbours
wasn’t on.

The news was on.

And the news was a nightmare.

Some buildings on fire?

Oh, wow, where’s that?

New York.

I tried to see the screen through all the boys massed in the room. I asked the boy to my right what was going on.

He said America was under attack.

Terrorists had flown planes into the Twin Towers in New York City.

People were…jumping. From the tops of buildings half a kilometer high.

More and more boys gathered, stood around, biting their lips, their nails, tugging their ears. In stunned silence, in boyish confusion, we watched the only world we’d ever known disappear in clouds of toxic smoke.

World War Three
, someone muttered.

Someone propped open the blue doors. Boys kept streaming in.

None made a sound.

So much chaos, so much pain.

What can be done? What can we do?

What will we be called to do?

Days later I turned seventeen.

31.

I’d often say it to myself
first thing in the morning:
Maybe this is the day
.

I’d say it after breakfast:
Maybe she’s going to reappear this morning.

I’d say it after lunch:
Maybe she’s going to reappear this afternoon.

It had been four years, after all. Surely she’d established herself by now, forged a new life, a new identity.
Maybe, at long last, she’s going to emerge today, hold a press conference—shock the world.
After answering the shouted questions from the astonished reporters, she’d lean into the microphone:
William! Harry! If you can hear me, come to me!

At night I had the most elaborate dreams. They were essentially the same, though the scenarios and costumes were slightly different. Sometimes she’d orchestrate a triumphant return; other times I’d simply bump into her somewhere. A street corner. A shop. She was always wearing a disguise—a big blond wig. Or big black sunglasses. And yet I’d always recognize her.

I’d step forward, whisper:
Mummy? Is it you?

Before she could answer, before I could find out where she’d been, why she hadn’t come back, I’d snap awake.

I’d look around the room, feeling the crushing disappointment.

Only a dream. Again.

But then I’d tell myself:
Maybe that means…today’s the day?

I was like those religious fanatics who believe the world will end on such and such a date. And when the date passes uneventfully, their faith remains undaunted.

I must’ve misread the signs. Or the calendar
.

I suppose I knew the truth deep in my heart. The illusion of Mummy hiding, preparing to return, was never so real that it could blot out reality entirely. But it blotted it out enough that I was able to postpone the bulk of my grief. I still hadn’t mourned, still hadn’t cried, except that one time at her grave, still hadn’t processed the bare facts. Part of my brain knew, but part of it was wholly insulated, and the division between those two parts kept the parliament of my consciousness divided, polarized, gridlocked. Just as I wanted it.

BOOK: Spare
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