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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

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BOOK: Spare
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Sometimes I’d have a stern talk with myself.
Everyone else seems to believe that Mummy is dead, full stop, so maybe you should get on board.

But then I’d think: I’ll believe it when I have proof.

With solid proof, I thought, I could properly mourn and cry and move on.

32.

I don’t remember
how we got the stuff. One of my mates, I expect. Or maybe several. Whenever we found ourselves in possession, we’d commandeer a tiny upstairs bathroom, wherein we’d implement a surprisingly thoughtful, orderly assembly line. Smoker straddled the loo beside the window, second boy leaned against the basin, third and fourth boys sat in the empty bath, legs dangling over, waiting their turns. You’d take a hit or two, blow the smoke out of the window, then move on to the next station, in rotation, until the spliff was gone. Then we’d all head to one of our rooms and giggle ourselves sick over an episode or two of a new show.
Family Guy
. I felt an inexplicable bond with Stewie, prophet without honor.

I knew this was bad behavior. I knew it was wrong. My mates knew too. We talked about it often, while stoned, how stupid we were to be wasting an Eton education. Once, we even made a pact. At the start of exam period, called Trials, we vowed to quit cold turkey, until after the final Trial. But the very next night, lying in bed, I heard my mates in the hall, cackling, whispering. Headed to the loo.
Bloody hell, they’re already breaking the pact!
I got out of bed, joined them. As the assembly line cranked up, bath to basin to loo, as the weed began to take effect, we shook our heads.

What idiots we were, thinking we could change.

Pass the spliff, mate.

One night, straddling the loo, I took a big hit and gazed up at the moon, then down at the school grounds. I watched several Thames Valley police officers marching back and forth. They were stationed out there because of me. But they didn’t make me feel safe. They made me feel caged.

Beyond them, however, that was where safety lay. All was peaceful and still
out there
. I thought: How beautiful. So much peace in the wider world…for some. For those free to search for it.

Just then I saw something dart across the quad. It froze under one of the orange streetlights. I froze too, and leaned out of the window.

A fox!
Staring straight at me! Look!

What, mate?

Nothing.

I whispered to the fox:
Hello, mate. How’s it going?

What are you on about?

Nothing, nothing.

Maybe it was the weed—undoubtedly it was the weed—but I felt a piercing and powerful kinship with that fox. I felt more connected to that fox than I did to the boys in the bathroom, the other boys at Eton—even the Windsors in the distant castle. In fact, this little fox, like the leopard in Botswana, seemed like a messenger, sent to me from some other realm. Or perhaps from the future.

If only I knew who sent it.

And what the message was.

33.

Whenever I was home
from school, I hid.

I hid upstairs in the nursery. I hid inside my new video games. I played Halo endlessly against an American who called himself Prophet and knew me only as BillandBaz.

I hid in the basement beneath Highgrove, usually with Willy.

We called it Club H. Many assumed the H stood for Harry, but in fact it stood for Highgrove.

The basement had once been a bomb shelter. To get down to its depths you went through a heavy white ground-level door, then down a steep flight of stone stairs, then groped your way along a damp stone floor, then descended three more stairs, walked down a long damp corridor with a low arched roof, then past several wine cellars, wherein Camilla kept her fanciest bottles, on past a freezer and several storerooms full of paintings, polo gear, and absurd gifts from foreign governments and potentates. (No one wanted them, but they couldn’t be regifted or donated, or thrown out, so they’d been carefully logged and sealed away.) Beyond that final storeroom were two green doors with little brass handles, and on the other side of those was Club H. It was windowless, but the brick walls, painted bone white, kept it from feeling claustrophobic. Also, we kitted out the space with nice pieces from various royal residences. Persian rug, red Moroccan sofas, wooden table, electric dartboard. We also put in a huge stereo system. It didn’t sound great, but it was loud. In a corner stood a drinks trolley, well stocked, thanks to creative borrowing, so there was always a faint aroma of beer and other booze. But thanks to a big vent in good working order, there was also the smell of flowers. Fresh air from Pa’s gardens was pumped in constantly, with hints of lavender and honeysuckle.

Willy and I would start a typical weekend evening by sneaking into a nearby
pub, where we’d have a few drinks, a few pints of Snake Bite, then round up a group of mates and bring them back to Club H. There were never more than fifteen of us, though somehow there were never less than fifteen either.

Names float back to me. Badger. Casper. Nisha. Lizzie. Skippy. Emma. Rose. Olivia. Chimp. Pell. We all got on well, and sometimes a bit more than well. There was plenty of innocent snogging, which went hand in hand with the not-so-innocent drinking. Rum and Coke, or vodka, usually in tumblers, with liberal splashes of Red Bull.

We were often tipsy, and sometimes smashed, and yet there wasn’t a single time that anyone used or brought drugs down there. Our bodyguards were always nearby, which kept a lid on things, but it was more than that. We had a sense of boundaries.

Club H was the perfect hideout for a teenager, but especially this teenager. When I wanted peace, Club H provided. When I wanted mischief, Club H was the safest place to act out. When I wanted solitude, what better than a bomb shelter in the middle of the British countryside?

Willy felt the same. I often thought he seemed more at peace down there than anywhere else on earth. And it was a relief, I think, to be somewhere that he didn’t feel the need to pretend I was a stranger.

When it was just the two of us down there, we’d play games, listen to music—talk. With Bob Marley, or Fatboy Slim, or DJ Sakin, or Yomanda thumping in the background, Willy sometimes tried to talk about Mummy. Club H felt like the one place secure enough to broach that taboo subject.

Just one problem. I wasn’t willing. Whenever he went there…I changed the subject.

He’d get frustrated. And I wouldn’t acknowledge his frustration. More likely, I couldn’t even recognize it.

Being so obtuse, so emotionally unavailable, wasn’t a choice I made. I simply wasn’t capable. I wasn’t close to ready.

One topic that was always safe was how wonderful it felt to be unseen. We talked at length about the glory, the luxury, of privacy, of spending an hour or two away from the press’s prying eyes. Our one true haven, we said, where those lot can never ever find us
.

And then they found us.

At the tail end of 2001 Marko visited me at Eton. We met for lunch at a café in the heart of town, which I thought quite a treat. Plus an excuse to bunk off, leave school grounds? I was all smiles.

But no. Marko, looking grim, said this was no larky outing.

What’s up, Marko?

I’ve been asked to find out the truth, Harry.

About what?

I suspected he was referring to my recent loss of virginity. Inglorious episode, with an older woman. She liked horses, quite a lot, and treated me not unlike a young stallion. Quick ride, after which she’d smacked my rump and sent me off to graze. Among the many things about it that were wrong: It happened in a grassy field behind a busy pub.

Obviously someone had seen us.

The truth, Marko?

About whether or not you’re doing drugs, Harry.

What?

It seemed that the editor of Britain’s biggest tabloid had recently phoned my father’s office to say she’d uncovered “evidence” of my doing drugs in various locations, including Club H. Also, a bike shed behind a pub. (Not the pub where I’d lost my virginity.) My father’s office immediately dispatched Marko to take a clandestine meeting with one of this editor’s lieutenants, in some shady hotel room, and the lieutenant laid out the tabloid’s case. Now Marko laid it out for me.

He asked again if it was true.

Lies, I said. All lies.

He went item by item through the editor’s evidence. I disputed all of it. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The basic facts, the details, it was all wrong.

I then questioned Marko. Who the hell is this editor?

Loathsome toad, I gathered. Everyone who knew her was in full agreement that she was an infected pustule on the arse of humanity, plus a shit excuse for a journalist. But none of that mattered, because she’d managed to wriggle her way into a position of great power and lately she was focusing all that power upon…me. She was hunting the Spare, straight out, and making no apologies for it. She wouldn’t stop until my balls were nailed to her office wall.

I was lost.
For doing basic teenage stuff, Marko?

No, boy, no.

In this editor’s estimation, Marko said, I was a drug addict.

A
what?

And one way or another, Marko said, that was the story she was going to publish.

I offered a suggestion about what this editor could do with her story. I told Marko to go back, tell her she had it all wrong.

He promised he would.

He rang me days later, said he’d done what I asked, but the editor didn’t believe him, and she was now vowing not only to get me, but to get Marko.

Surely, I said, Pa will do something. Stop her.

Long silence.

No, Marko said. Pa’s office had decided on a…different approach. Rather than telling the editor to call off the dogs, the Palace was opting to play ball with her. They were going full Neville Chamberlain.

Did Marko tell me why? Or did I learn only later that the guiding force behind this putrid strategy was the same spin doctor Pa and Camilla had recently hired, the same spin doctor who’d leaked the details of our private summits with Camilla? This spin doctor, Marko said, had decided that the best approach in this case would be to spin me—right under the bus. In one swoop this would appease the editor and also bolster the sagging reputation of Pa. Amid all this unpleasantness, all this extortion and gamesmanship, the spin doctor had discovered one silver lining, one shiny consolation prize for Pa. No more the unfaithful husband, Pa would now be presented to the world as the harried single dad coping with a drug-addled child.

34.

I went back to Eton,
tried to put all this out of my mind, tried to focus on my schoolwork.

Tried to be calm.

I listened over and over to my go-to soothing CD:
Sounds of the Okavango
. Forty tracks: Crickets. Baboons. Rainstorm. Thunder. Birds. Lions and hyenas scrapping over a kill. At night, shutting off the lights, I’d hit play. My room sounded like a tributary of the Okavango. It was the only way I could sleep.

After a few days the meeting with Marko receded from consciousness. It began to feel like a nightmare.

But then I woke to the actual nightmare.

A blaring front-page headline:
Harry’s Drugs Shame.

January 2002.

Spread over seven pages inside the newspaper were all the lies Marko had presented to me, and many more. The story not only had me down as a habitual drug user, it had me recently going to rehab.
Rehab!
The editor had got her mitts on some photos of Marko and me paying a visit to a suburban rehab
center, months earlier, a typical part of my princely charitable work, and she’d repurposed the photos, made them visual aids for her libelous fiction.

I gazed at the photos and read the story in shock. I felt sickened, horrified. I imagined everyone, all my countrymen and countrywomen, reading these things, believing them. I could hear people all across the Commonwealth gossiping about me.

Crikey, the boy’s a disgrace.

His poor dad—after all he’s been through?

More, I felt heartbroken at the idea that this had been partly the work of my own family, my own father and future stepmother. They’d abetted this nonsense. For what? To make their own lives a bit easier?

I phoned Willy. I couldn’t speak. He couldn’t either. He was sympathetic, and more. (
Raw deal, Harold.
) At moments he was even angrier about the whole thing than I was, because he was privy to more details about the spin doctor and the backroom dealings that had led to this public sacrifice of the Spare.

And yet, in the same breath, he assured me that there was nothing to be done. This was Pa. This was Camilla. This was royal life.

This was our life.

I phoned Marko. He too offered sympathy.

I asked him to remind me, What was this editor’s name? He said it, and I committed it to memory, but in the years since then I’ve avoided speaking it, and I don’t wish to repeat it here. Spare the reader, but also myself. Besides, can it possibly be a coincidence that the name of the woman who pretended I went to
rehab
is a perfect anagram for…
Rehabber
Kooks? Is the universe not saying something there?

Who am I not to listen?

Over several weeks, newspapers continued to rehash the Rehabber Kooks libels, along with various new and equally fabricated accounts of goings-on in Club H. Our fairly innocent teenage clubhouse was made to sound like Caligula’s bedchamber.

Around this time one of Pa’s dearest friends came to Highgrove. She was with her husband. Pa asked me to give them a tour. I walked them around the gardens, but they didn’t care about Pa’s lavender and honeysuckle.

The woman asked eagerly:
Where’s Club H?

An avid reader of all the papers.

I led her to the door, opened it. I pointed down the dark steps.

She breathed in deeply, smiled.
Oh, it even smells of weed!

It didn’t, though. It smelt of damp earth, stone and moss. It smelt of cut flowers, clean dirt—and maybe a hint of beer. Lovely smell, totally organic, but the power of suggestion had taken hold of this woman. Even when I swore to her that there was no weed, that we’d never once done drugs down there, she gave me a wink.

BOOK: Spare
10.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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