Read Spare Online

Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

Spare (12 page)

BOOK: Spare
10.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I thought she was going to ask me to sell her a bag.


Our family was no
longer getting larger. There were no new spouses on the horizon, no new babies. My aunts and uncles, Sophie and Edward, Fergie and Andrew, had stopped growing their families. Pa, too, of course. An era of stasis had set in.

But now, in 2002, it dawned on me, dawned on all of us, that the family wasn’t static after all. We were about to get smaller.

Princess Margaret and Gan-Gan were both unwell.

I didn’t know Princess Margaret, whom I called Aunt Margo. She was my great-aunt, yes, we shared 12.5 percent of our DNA, we spent the bigger holidays together, and yet she was almost a total stranger. Like most Britons, I mainly knew
her. I was conversant with the general contours of her sad life. Great loves thwarted by the Palace. Exuberant streaks of self-destruction splashed across the tabloids. One hasty marriage, which looked doomed at the outset and ended up being worse than expected. Her husband leaving poisonous notes around the house, scalding lists of things wrong with her.
Twenty-four reasons why I hate you!

Growing up, I felt nothing for her, except a bit of pity and a lot of jumpiness. She could kill a houseplant with one scowl. Mostly, whenever she was around, I kept my distance. On those rarer-than-rare occasions when our paths crossed, when she deigned to take notice of me, to speak to me, I’d wonder if she had any opinion of me. It seemed that she didn’t. Or else, given her tone, her coldness, the opinion wasn’t much.

Then one Christmas she cleared up the mystery. The whole family gathered to open gifts on Christmas Eve, as always, a German tradition that survived the anglicizing of the family surname from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. We were at Sandringham in a big room with a long table covered with white cloth and white name cards. By custom, at the start of the night, each of us located our place, stood before our mound of presents. Then
suddenly, everyone began opening at the same time. A free-for-all, with scores of family members talking at once and pulling at bows and tearing at wrapping paper.

Standing before my pile, I chose to open the smallest present first. The tag said:
From Aunt Margo.

I looked over, called out:
Thank you, Aunt Margo!

I do hope you like it, Harry.

I tore off the paper. It was…

A biro?

I said:
Oh. A biro. Wow.

She said:
Yes. A biro.

I said:
Thank you so much.

But it wasn’t just any biro, she pointed out. It had a tiny rubber fish wrapped around it.

I said:
Oh. A
biro! OK.

I told myself: That is cold-blooded.

Now and then, as I grew older, it struck me that Aunt Margo and I should’ve been friends. We had so much in common. Two Spares. Her relationship with Granny wasn’t an
analog of mine with Willy, but pretty close. The simmering rivalry, the intense competition (driven largely by the older sibling), it all looked familiar. Aunt Margo also wasn’t that dissimilar from Mummy. Both rebels, both labeled as sirens. (Pablo Picasso was among the many men obsessed with Margo.) So my first thought when I learned in early 2002 that she’d been taken ill was to wish there’d been more time to get to know her. But we were well past that. She was unable to care for herself. After badly burning her feet in a bath, she was confined to a wheelchair, and said to be swiftly declining.

When she died, February 9, 2002, my first thought was that this would be a heavy blow to Gan-Gan, who was also in decline.

Granny tried to talk Gan-Gan out of attending the funeral. But Gan-Gan dragged herself out of her sickbed, and shortly after that day took a bad fall.

It was Pa who told me she’d been confined to her bed at Royal Lodge, the sprawling country house in which she’d lived part-time for the last fifty years, when she wasn’t at her main residence, Clarence House. Royal Lodge was three miles south of Windsor Castle, still in Windsor Great Park, still part of the Crown Estate, but like the castle it had one foot in another world. Dizzyingly high ceilings. Pebbled driveway winding serenely through vivid gardens.

Built not long after the death of Cromwell.

I felt comforted to hear that Gan-Gan was there, a place I knew she loved. She was in her own bed, Pa said, and not suffering.

Granny was often with her.

Days later, at Eton, while studying, I took the call. I wish I could remember whose voice was at the other end; a courtier, I believe. I recall that it was just before Easter, the weather bright and warm, light slanting through my window, filled with vivid colors.

Your Royal Highness, the Queen Mother has died.

Cut to Willy and me, days later. Dark suits, downcast faces, eyes filled with
déjà vu
. We walked slowly behind the gun carriage, bagpipes playing, hundreds of them. The sound threw me back in time.

I began shaking.

Once again we made that hideous trek to Westminster Abbey. Then we stepped into a car, joined the
—from the center of town, along Whitehall, out to the Mall, on to St. George’s Chapel.

Throughout that morning my eye kept going to the top of Gan-Gan’s coffin, where they’d set the crown. Its three thousand diamonds and jeweled cross winked in the spring sunlight. At the center of the cross was a diamond the size of a cricket ball. Not just a diamond, actually; the Great Diamond of the World, a 105-karat monster called the Koh-i-Noor. Largest diamond ever seen by human eyes. “Acquired” by the British Empire at its zenith. Stolen, some thought. I’d heard it was mesmerizing, and I’d heard it was cursed. Men fought for it, died for it, and thus the curse was said to be masculine.

Only women were permitted to wear it.


Strange, after
so much mourning, to just…
. But months later came the Golden Jubilee. Fiftieth anniversary of Granny’s reign.

Over four days that summer of 2002, Willy and I were constantly pulling on another set of smart clothes, jumping into another black car, rushing to yet another venue for another party or parade, reception or gala.

Britain was intoxicated. People did jigs in the streets, sang from balconies and rooftops. Everyone wore some version of the Union Jack. In a nation known for its reticence, this was a startling expression of unbridled joy.

Startling to me anyway. Granny didn’t seem startled. I was startled at how unstartled she was. It wasn’t that she felt no emotions. On the contrary, I
always thought that Granny experienced all the normal human emotions. She just knew better than the rest of us mortals how to control them.

I stood beside or behind her through much of the Golden Jubilee Weekend and I often thought: If this can’t shake her then she’s truly earned her reputation for imperturbable serenity. In which case, I thought, maybe I’m a foundling? Because I’m a nervous wreck.

There were several reasons for my nerves, but the main one was a brewing scandal. Just before the Jubilee I’d been summoned by one of the courtiers to his little office and without much buildup he’d asked:
Harry—are you doing cocaine?

Shades of my lunch with Marko.

What? Am I—? How could—? No!

Hm. Well. Could there be a photo out there? Is it possible that someone somewhere might have a photo of you doing cocaine?

God, no! That’s ridiculous! Why?

He explained that he’d been approached by a newspaper editor who claimed to have come into possession of a photo showing Prince Harry snorting a line.

He’s a liar. It’s not true.

I see. Be that as it may, this editor is willing to lock the photo into his safe forever. But in exchange he wants to sit down with you and explain that what you’re doing is very damaging. He wants to give you some life advice.

Ah. Creepy. And devious. Diabolical, in fact, because if I agree to this meeting, then I’m admitting guilt.


I told myself: After Rehabber Kooks, they all want a go at me. She’d scored a direct hit, and now her competitors are lining up to be next.

When will it end?

I reassured myself that the editor had nothing, that he was just fishing. He must’ve heard a rumor and he was tracking it down. Stay the course, I told myself, and then I told the courtier to call the journalist’s bluff, vigorously refute the claim, turn down the deal. Above all, reject the proffered meeting.

I’m not going to submit to blackmail.

The courtier nodded. Done.

Of course…I
been doing cocaine around this time. At someone’s country house, during a shooting weekend, I’d been offered a line, and I’d done a few more since. It wasn’t much fun, and it didn’t make me particularly happy, as it seemed to make everyone around me, but it did make me feel
and that was the main goal. Feel. Different. I was a deeply unhappy seventeen-year-old boy willing to try almost anything that would alter the status quo.

That was what I told myself anyway. Back then, I could lie to myself as effortlessly as I’d lied to that courtier.

But now I realized coke hadn’t been worth the candle. The risk far outweighed the reward. Threatened with exposure, faced with the prospect of fouling up Granny’s Golden Jubilee, walking a knife’s edge with the mad press—nothing was worth any of that.

On the bright side, I’d played the game well. After I’d called the journalist’s bluff, he went silent. As suspected, he had no photo, and when his con game didn’t work, he slithered off. (Or not quite. He slithered into Clarence House, and became very good friends with Camilla and Pa.) I was ashamed for lying. But also proud. In a tight spot, a hugely scary crisis, I hadn’t felt any serenity, like Granny, but at least I’d managed to project it. I’d channeled
of her superpower, her heroic stoicism. I regretted giving the courtier a cock-and-bull story, but the alternative would’ve been ten times worse.

So…job well done?

Maybe I wasn’t a foundling after all.


On Tuesday, the culminating
day of the Jubilee, millions watched Granny go from Palace to church. A special thanksgiving service. She rode with Grandpa in a carriage of gold—all of it, every square inch, lustrous gold. Gold doors, gold wheels, gold roof, and on top of it all a gold crown, held aloft by three angels cast in glowing gold. The carriage was built thirteen years before the American Revolution, and still ran like a top. As it sped her and Grandpa through the streets, somewhere in the distance a massive choir blasted the coronation anthem.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
We did! We did! For even the grumpiest anti-monarchists, it was hard not to feel at least one goosebump.

There was a luncheon that day, I think, and a dinner party, but it all felt a bit anticlimactic. The main event, everyone acknowledged, had taken place the night before, in the gardens outside Buckingham Palace—a performance by some of the greatest musical artists of the century. Paul McCartney sang “Her Majesty.” Brian May, on the roof, played “God Save the Queen.” How marvelous, many said. And how miraculous that Granny should be so hip, so modern, that she should allow, indeed relish, all this modern rock.

Sitting directly behind her, I couldn’t help thinking the same thing. To see her tapping her foot, and swaying in time, I wanted to hug her, though of course I didn’t. Out of the question. I never had done and couldn’t imagine any circumstance under which such an act might be sanctioned.

There was a famous story about Mummy trying to hug Granny. It was actually more a lunge than a hug, if eyewitnesses can be believed; Granny swerved to avoid contact, and the whole thing ended very awkwardly, with averted eyes and murmured apologies. Every time I tried to picture the scene it reminded me of a thwarted pickpocketing, or a rugby tap-tackle. I wondered, watching Granny rock out to Brian May, if Pa ever tried? Probably not. When he was five or six, Granny left him, went off on a royal tour lasting several months, and when she returned, she offered him a firm handshake. Which may have been more than he ever got from Grandpa. Indeed, Grandpa was so aloof, so busy traveling and working, he barely saw Pa for the first several years of his life.

As the concert went on and on, I began to feel tired. I had a headache from the loud music, and from the stress of the last few weeks. Granny, however, showed no signs of fading. Still going strong. Still tapping and swaying.

Suddenly, I looked closer. I noticed something in her ears. Something—gold?

Gold as the golden carriage.

Gold as the golden angels.

I leaned forward. Maybe not quite gold.

No, maybe it was more yellow.

Yes. Yellow ear plugs.

I looked into my lap and smiled. When I lifted my head again, I watched with glee as Granny kept time to music she couldn’t hear, or music she’d found a clever and subtle way of…distancing. Controlling.

More than ever before, I wanted to give my Granny a hug.


I sat down with Pa
that summer, possibly at Balmoral, though it might’ve been Clarence House, where he was now living more or less full-time. He’d moved in shortly after Gan-Gan’s death, and wherever he lived, I lived.

When I wasn’t living at Manor House.

My final year at Eton drawing near, Pa wanted to chat about how I envisaged my life post-Eton. Most of my mates would be headed off to university.
Willy was already at St. Andrews and thriving. Henners had just finished his A levels at Harrow School and was planning to go to Newcastle.

And you, darling boy? Have you given any thought to…the future?

Why, yes. Yes, I had. For several years I’d talked in all seriousness about working at the ski resort in Lech am Arlberg, where Mummy used to take us. Such wonderful memories. Specifically, I wanted to work at the fondue hut in the center of town, which Mummy loved. That fondue could change your life. (I really was that mad.) But now I told Pa I’d given up the fondue fantasy, and he sighed with relief.

BOOK: Spare
10.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Alicia ANOTADA by Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner
Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi
Loved by the Sheikh by Eve Jordan
A Winter Kill by Vicki Delany
Curves and the Rancher by Jenn Roseton
Branching Out by Kerstin March
The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo