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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

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BOOK: Spare
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Half an hour later we picked up the first sounds of the adults beginning
their evening migration downstairs, then the first bleaty notes of the accompanying bagpipes. For the next two hours the adults would be held captive in the Dinner Dungeon, forced to sit around that long table, forced to squint at each other in the dim gloom of a candelabra designed by Prince Albert, forced to remain ramrod straight before china plates and crystal goblets placed with mathematical precision by staff (who used tape measures), forced to peck at quails’ eggs and turbot, forced to make idle chitchat while stuffed into their fanciest kit. Black tie, hard black shoes, trews. Maybe even kilts.

I thought: What hell, being an adult!

Pa stopped by on his way to dinner. He was running late, but he made a show of lifting a silver dome—
Yum, wish I was having that!—
and taking a long sniff. He was always sniffing things. Food, roses, our hair. He must’ve been a bloodhound in another life. Maybe he took all those long sniffs because it was hard to smell anything over his personal scent.
Eau Sauvage.
He’d slather the stuff on his cheeks, his neck, his shirt. Flowery, with a hint of something harsh, like pepper or gunpowder, it was made in Paris. Said so on the bottle. Which made me think of Mummy.

Yes, Harry, Mummy’s in Paris.

Their divorce had become final exactly one year before. Almost to the day.

Be good, boys.

We will, Pa.

Don’t stay up too late.

He left. His scent remained.

Willy and I finished dinner, watched some more TV, then got up to our typical pre-bedtime hijinks. We perched on the top step of a side staircase and eavesdropped on the adults, hoping to hear a naughty word or story. We ran up and down the long corridors, under the watchful eyes of dozens of dead stag heads. At some point we bumped into Granny’s piper. Rumpled, pear-shaped, with wild eyebrows and a tweed kilt, he went wherever Granny went, because she loved the sound of pipes, as had Victoria, though Albert supposedly called them a “beastly instrument.” While summering at Balmoral, Granny asked that the piper play her awake and play her to dinner.

His instrument looked like a drunken octopus, except that its floppy arms were etched silver and dark mahogany. We’d seen the thing before, many times, but that night he offered to let us hold it. Try it.

Really?

Go on.

We couldn’t get anything out of the pipes but a few piddly squeaks. We just didn’t have the puff. The piper, however, had a chest the size of a whisky barrel. He made it moan and scream.

We thanked him for the lesson and bade him good night, then took ourselves back to the nursery, where Mabel monitored the brushing of teeth and the washing of faces. Then, to bed.

My bed was tall. I had to jump to get in, after which I rolled down into its sunken center. It felt like climbing onto a bookcase, then tumbling into a slit trench. The bedding was clean, crisp, various shades of white. Alabaster sheets. Cream blankets. Eggshell quilts. (Much of it stamped with ER,
Elizabeth Regina.
) Everything was pulled tight as a snare drum, so expertly smoothed that you could easily spot the century’s worth of patched holes and tears.

I pulled the sheets and covers to my chin, because I didn’t like the dark. No, not true, I loathed the dark. Mummy did too, she told me so. I’d inherited this from her, I thought, along with her nose, her blue eyes, her love of people, her hatred of smugness and fakery and all things posh. I can see myself under those covers, staring into the dark, listening to the clicky insects and hooty owls. Did I imagine shapes sliding along the walls? Did I stare at the bar of light along the floor, which was always there, because I always insisted on the door being left open a crack? How much time elapsed before I dropped off? In other words, how much of my childhood remained, and how much did I cherish it, savor it, before groggily becoming aware of—

Pa?

He was standing at the edge of the bed, looking down. His white dressing-gown made him seem like a ghost in a play.

Yes, darling boy.

He gave a half-smile, averted his gaze.

The room wasn’t dark anymore. Wasn’t light either. Strange in-between shade, almost brownish, almost like the water in the ancient tub.

He looked at me in a funny way, a way he’d never looked at me before. With…fear?

What is it, Pa?

He sat down on the edge of the bed. He put a hand on my knee.
Darling boy,
Mummy’s been in a car crash.

I remember thinking: Crash…OK. But she’s all right? Yes?

I vividly remember that thought flashing through my mind. And I remember waiting patiently for Pa to confirm that indeed Mummy was all right. And I remember him not doing that.

There was then a shift internally. I began silently pleading with Pa, or God, or both:
No, no, no.

Pa looked down into the folds of the old quilts and blankets and sheets.
There were complications. Mummy was quite badly injured and taken to hospital, darling boy.

He always called me “darling boy,” but he was saying it quite a lot now. His voice was soft. He was in shock, it seemed.

Oh. Hospital?

Yes. With a head injury.

Did he mention paparazzi? Did he say she’d been chased? I don’t think so. I can’t swear to it, but probably not. The paps were such a problem for Mummy, for everyone, it didn’t need to be said.

I thought again: Injured…but she’s OK. She’s been taken to hospital, they’ll fix her head, and we’ll go and see her. Today. Tonight at the latest.

They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it.

These phrases remain in my mind like darts in a board. He did say it that way, I know that much for sure.
She didn’t make it
. And then everything seemed to come to a stop.

That’s not right. Not
seemed
. Nothing at all
seemed
. Everything distinctly, certainly, irrevocably, came to a stop.

None of what I said to him then remains in my memory. It’s possible that I didn’t say anything. What I do remember with startling clarity is that I didn’t cry. Not one tear.

Pa didn’t hug me. He wasn’t great at showing emotions under normal circumstances, how could he be expected to show them in such a crisis? But his hand did fall once more on my knee and he said:
It’s going to be OK.

That was quite a lot for him. Fatherly, hopeful, kind. And so very untrue.

He stood and left. I don’t recall how I knew that he’d already been in the other room, that he’d already told Willy, but I knew.

I lay there, or sat there. I didn’t get up. I didn’t bathe, didn’t pee. Didn’t get dressed. Didn’t call out to Willy or Mabel. After decades of working to reconstruct that morning I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion: I must’ve remained in that room, saying nothing, seeing no one, until nine
a.m.
sharp, when the piper began to play outside.

I wish I could remember what he played. But maybe it doesn’t matter. With bagpipes it’s not the tune, it’s the tone. Thousands of years old, bagpipes are built to amplify what’s already in the heart. If you’re feeling silly, bagpipes make you sillier. If you’re angry, bagpipes bring your blood to a higher boil.
And if you’re in grief, even if you’re twelve years old and don’t know you’re in grief, maybe
especially
if you don’t know, bagpipes can drive you mad.

4.

It was Sunday.
So, as always, we went to church.

Crathie Kirk. Walls of granite, large roof of Scottish pine, stained-glass windows donated decades earlier by Victoria, perhaps to atone for the upset she caused in worshipping there. Something about the head of the Church of England worshipping in the Church of Scotland—it caused a stir, which I never understood.

I’ve seen photographs of us going into the church that day, but they bring back no memories. Did the minister say anything? Did he make it worse? Did I listen to him or stare at the back of the pew and think about Mummy?

On the way back to Balmoral, a two-minute drive, it was suggested that we stop. People had been gathering all morning outside the front gates, some had begun leaving things. Stuffed animals, flowers, cards. Acknowledgment should be made.

We pulled over, stepped out. I could see nothing but a matrix of colored dots. Flowers. And more flowers. I could hear nothing but a rhythmic clicking from across the road. The press. I reached for my father’s hand, for comfort, then cursed myself, because that gesture set off an explosion of clicks.

I’d given them exactly what they wanted. Emotion. Drama. Pain.

They fired and fired and fired.

5.

Hours later Pa left for Paris.
Accompanied by Mummy’s sisters, Aunt Sarah and Aunt Jane. They needed to learn more about the crash, someone said. And they needed to arrange for the return of Mummy’s body.

Body.
People kept using that word. It was a punch in the throat, and a bloody lie, because Mummy wasn’t dead.

That was my sudden insight. With nothing to do but roam the castle and talk to myself, a suspicion took hold, which then became a firm belief. This was all a trick. And for once the trick wasn’t being played by the people around me, or the press, but by Mummy.
Her life’s been miserable, she’s been hounded,
harassed, lied about, lied to. So she’s staged an accident as a diversion and run away.

The realization took my breath away, made me gasp with relief.

Of course! It’s all a ruse, so she can make a clean start! At this very moment she’s undoubtedly renting an apartment in Paris, or arranging fresh flowers in her secretly purchased log cabin somewhere way up high in the Swiss Alps. Soon, soon, she’ll send for me and Willy. It’s all so obvious! Why didn’t I see it before? Mummy isn’t dead! She’s hiding!

I felt so much better.

Then doubt crept in.

Hang on! Mummy would never do this to us. This unspeakable pain, she’d never allow that, let alone cause it.

Then back to relief:
She had no choice. It was her only hope of freedom.

Then doubt again:
Mummy wouldn’t hide, she’s too much of a fighter.

Then relief:
This is her way of fighting. She’ll be back. She has to be. It’s my birthday in two weeks.

But Pa and my aunts came back first. Their return was reported by every TV channel. The world watched as they stepped onto the tarmac at RAF Northolt. One channel even added music to the arrival: someone mournfully singing a psalm. Willy and I were kept from the TV, but I think we heard that.

The next few days passed in a vacuum, no one saying anything. We all remained ensconced inside the castle. It was like being inside a crypt, except a crypt where everyone’s wearing trews and keeping to normal routines and schedules. If anyone talked about anything, I didn’t hear them. The only voice I heard was the one droning in my head, arguing with itself.

She’s gone.

No, she’s hiding.

She’s dead.

No, she’s
playing
dead.

Then, one morning, it was time. Back to London. I remember nothing about the trip. Did we drive? Did we fly on the Royal Flight? I can see the reunion with Pa, and the aunts, and the pivotal encounter with Aunt Sarah, though it’s wreathed in fog and might be slightly out of sequence. At times my memory places it right there, in those horrid first days of September. But at other times memory casts it forward, to many years later.

Whenever it happened, it happened like this:

William? Harry?
Aunt Sarah has something for you, boys
.

She stepped forward, holding two tiny blue boxes.
What’s this?

Open it.

I lifted off the top of my blue box. Inside was…a moth?

No.

A mustache?

No.

What’s…?

Her hair, Harry.

Aunt Sarah explained that, while in Paris, she’d clipped two locks from Mummy’s head.

So there it was. Proof.
She’s really gone.

But then immediately came the reassuring doubt, the lifesaving uncertainty:
No, this could be anybody’s hair.
Mummy, her beautiful blond hair intact, was out there somewhere.

I’d know if she weren’t. My body would know. My heart would know. And neither knows any such thing.

Both were just as full of love for her as ever.

6.

Willy and I walked up
and down the crowds outside Kensington Palace, smiling, shaking hands. As if we were running for office. Hundreds and hundreds of hands were thrust continually into our faces, the fingers often wet.

From what? I wondered.

Tears, I realized.

I disliked how those hands felt. More, I hated how they made me feel. Guilty. Why were all these people crying when I wasn’t—and hadn’t?

I wanted to cry, and I’d tried to, because Mummy’s life had been so sad that she’d felt the need to disappear, to invent this massive charade. But I couldn’t squeeze out one drop. Maybe I’d learned too well, absorbed too deeply, the ethos of the family, that crying wasn’t an option—ever.

I remember the mounds of flowers all around us. I remember feeling unspeakable sorrow and yet being unfailingly polite. I remember old ladies saying:
Oh, my, how polite, the poor boy!
I remember muttering thanks, over and over, thank you for coming, thank you for saying that, thank you for camping out here for several days. I remember consoling several folks who were
prostrate, overcome, as if they knew Mummy, but also thinking: You didn’t, though. You act as if you did…
but you didn’t know her
.

That is…you
don’t
know her. Present tense.

After offering ourselves up to the crowds, we went inside Kensington Palace. We entered through two big black doors, into Mummy’s apartment, went down a long corridor and into a room off the left. There stood a large coffin. Dark brown, English oak. Am I remembering or imagining that it was draped in…
a Union Jack?

BOOK: Spare
11.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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