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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

Spare (36 page)

BOOK: Spare
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We were chatting, my mate and I, having a drink, when suddenly a sheet dropped down in front of my windows. Then the sheet began to shake. My mate stood, went to the window and said:
Spike…what in the…?
Falling from the sheet was a cascade of what looked to be—brown confetti?




My mate said:
Spike, is that hair?

It was. Mrs. R was giving a trim to one of her sons, shaking out the sheet in which she’d collected the clippings. The real problem, however, was that my three windows were open and it was a breezy day. Gusts of fine hair blew into the flat. My mate and I coughed, laughed, picked strands off our tongues.

What didn’t come into the flat landed like summer rain on the shared garden, which just then was blooming with mint and rosemary.

For days I went around composing a harsh note to Mrs. R in my head. I never sent it. I knew I was being unfair: she didn’t know she was hairing me out. More, she didn’t know the real source of my antipathy towards her. She was guilty of an even more egregious vehicular crime than her husband. Every day Mrs. R parked her car in Mummy’s old spot.

I can still see her gliding into that space, right where my mother’s green
BMW used to be. It was wrong of me, and I knew it was wrong, but on some level I condemned Mrs. R for it.


I was an uncle.
Willy and Kate had welcomed their first child, George, and he was beautiful. I couldn’t wait to teach him about rugby and Rorke’s Drift, flying and corridor cricket—and maybe give him a few pointers about how to survive life in the fishbowl.

Reporters, however, used this joyous occasion as an opportunity to ask me…if I was miserable.


The baby had moved me one link down the chain of succession, making me fourth from the throne instead of third. So reporters said, Bad luck, eh?

You must be joking.

There must be some misgivings.

Couldn’t be happier.

A half-truth.

I was delighted for Willy and Kate, and I was indifferent to my place in the order of succession.

But nothing to do with either thing, I wasn’t anywhere close to happy.


I traveled to that war-torn country, an official visit, and went specifically to several places where daily life had been poisoned by land mines, including one town believed to be the most heavily mined place in all of Africa.

August 2013.

I wore the same protective gear my mother had worn when she visited Angola on her historic trip. I even worked with the same charity that had invited her: Halo Trust. I was deeply frustrated to learn from the charity’s executives and fieldworkers that the job she’d spotlighted, indeed the entire global crusade my mother had helped launch, was now stalled. Lack of resources, lack of resolve.

This had been Mummy’s most passionate cause at the end. (She’d gone to Bosnia three weeks before she’d gone to Paris in August 1997.) Many could still remember her walking alone into a live minefield, detonating a mine via remote control, announcing bravely: “One down, seventeen million to go.” Her vision of a world rid of land mines seemed within reach back then. Now the world was going backwards.

Taking up her cause, detonating a land mine myself, made me feel closer to her, and gave me strength, and hope. For a brief moment. But overall I felt that I was walking each day through a psychological, emotional minefield. I never knew when the next explosion of panic might be.

Upon returning to Britain, I did another dive into the research. I was desperate to find a cause, a treatment. I even spoke to Pa, took him into my confidence.
Pa, I’m really struggling with panic attacks and anxiety.
He sent me to a doctor, which was kind of him, but the doctor was a general practitioner with no knowledge or new ideas. He wanted to give me pills.

I didn’t want to take pills.

Not until I’d exhausted other remedies, including homeopathic ones. In my research I came across many people recommending magnesium, which was said to have a calming effect. True, it did. But in large quantities it also had unpleasant side effects—loosens the bowels—which I learned the hard way at a mate’s wedding.

Over dinner one night at Highgrove, Pa and I spoke at some length about what I’d been suffering. I gave him the particulars, told him story after story. Towards the end of the meal he looked down at his plate and said softly:
I suppose it’s my fault. I should’ve got you the help you needed years ago.

I assured him that it wasn’t his fault. But I appreciated the apology.

As autumn neared my anxiety was heightened, I think, by my impending birthday, the last of my twenties. Dregs of my youth, I thought. I was beset by all the traditional doubts and fears, asked myself all the basic questions people ask when they get older. Who am I? Where am I going? Normal, I told myself, except that the press was abnormally echoing my self-questioning.

Prince Harry…Why Won’t He Marry?

They dredged up every relationship I’d ever had, every girl I’d ever been seen with, put it all into a blender, hired “experts,” a.k.a. quacks, to try to make sense of it. Books about me dived into my love life, homed in on each romantic failure and near miss. I seem to recall one detailing my flirtation with Cameron Diaz. Harry just couldn’t see himself with her, the author
reported. Indeed I couldn’t, since we’d never met. I was never within fifty meters of Ms. Diaz, further proof that if you like reading pure bollocks then royal biographies are just your thing.

Behind all this hand-wringing about me was something more substantive than “tittle-tattle.” It went to the whole underpinning of the monarchy, which was
on marriage. The great controversies about kings and queens, going back centuries, generally centered on whom they married, and whom they didn’t, and the children who issued from those unions. You weren’t a fully vested member of the Royal Family, indeed a true human being, until you were wed. No coincidence that Granny, head of state in sixteen countries, started every speech: “My husband and I…” When Willy and Kate married they became The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but more important they became a Household, and as such were entitled to more staff, more cars, bigger home, grander office, extra resources, engraved letterheads. I didn’t care about such perks, but I did care about respect. As a confirmed bachelor I was an outsider, a nonperson within my own family. If I wanted that to change, I had to get hitched. That simple.

All of which made my twenty-ninth birthday a complex milestone, and some days a complex migraine.

I shuddered to think of how I might feel on the next birthday: thirty. Truly over-the-hill. To say nothing of the inheritance it would trigger. Upon reaching thirty I’d receive a large sum left to me by Mummy. I scolded myself for being gloomy about that: most people would kill to inherit money. To me, however, it was another reminder of her absence, another sign of the void she’d left, which pounds and euros could never fill.

The best thing, I decided, was to get away from birthdays, get away from everything. I decided to mark the anniversary of my arrival on Earth by traveling to its end. I’d already been to the North Pole. Now I’d walk to the South.

Another trek in the company of Walking With The Wounded.

People warned me that the South Pole was even colder than the North. I laughed. How could that be possible? I’d already frozen my penis, mate—wasn’t that the very definition of worst-case scenario?

Also, this time I’d know how to take proper precautions—snugger underwear, more padding, etc. Better yet, one very close mate hired a seamstress to make me a bespoke cock cushion. Square, supportive, it was sewn from pieces of the softest fleece and…

Enough said.


In between preparations
for the assault on the Pole I sat down with my new private secretary, Ed Lane Fox, whom we all called Elf.

November 2013.

A onetime captain in the Household Cavalry, Elf was trim, smart, sleek. He often reminded people of Willy, but that was down to his hairline more than his personality. He reminded me less of my older brother than of a racing dog. Like a greyhound, he wouldn’t ever stop. He’d chase that rabbit to the end of time. In other words, he was wholly dedicated to the Cause, whatever it might be at any given moment.

His greatest gift, though, might’ve been his knack for seeing to the heart of things, for sizing up and simplifying situations and problems, which made him the perfect man to help enact this ambitious idea of an International Warrior Games.

Now that some of the money was in hand, Elf advised, next order of business was finding someone with the uncommon organizational skills, the social and political connections, to take on a job this size. He knew of just the man.

Sir Keith Mills.

Of course, I said. Sir Keith had organized the 2012 Olympics, in London, which had been such a smash.

Indeed, who else could there be?

Let’s invite Sir Keith to Kensington Palace for a cup of tea.


I could build a scale replica
of that sitting room. Two big windows, small red sofa, chandelier shining softly on an oil painting of a horse. I’d been there for meetings before. But when I walked in that day, I felt that this would be the setting for one of the more crucial meetings of my life, and every detail of the scene impressed itself on me.

I tried to stay calm as I pointed Sir Keith to a chair and asked how he took his tea.

After a few minutes of chitchat, I made my pitch.

Sir Keith listened respectfully, raptor-eyed, but when I’d finished he ummed and aahed.

All sounded very wonderful, he said, but he was semi-retired. Trying to cut back on projects, you know. He wanted to streamline his life, focus on his passions, chiefly sailing. America’s Cup, and so forth.

In fact he was scheduled to begin a holiday the very next day.

How to talk to a man who’s just hours away from starting a holiday into rolling up his sleeves and taking on an impossible project?

There’s no way, I thought.

But the whole point of these games was: Never give up.

So I kept on. I went at him, and at him, and told him about the soldiers I’d met, their stories, and also a bit of mine. One of the first and fullest accounts I’d ever given anyone of my time at war.

Slowly I could see that my passion, my enthusiasm, were making dents in Sir Keith’s defenses.

Brow furrowed, he said:
Well…Who have you got so far on this project?

I looked at Elf. Elf looked at me.

That’s the beauty of it, Sir Keith. You see…you’re the first.

He chuckled.

No, no, really. You can get the band back together, if you wish. Hire anyone you want.

Despite the overt and obvious salesmanship, there was a great deal of truth in what I was saying. We hadn’t yet managed to trick anyone else into joining us, so he’d have carte blanche. He could organize a staff however he wished, bring on every single person who’d helped him pull off such a successful Olympics.

He nodded.
When are you thinking of doing this?




You mean ten months from now?


No way.

Has to be.

I wanted the games to coincide with the centenary commemorations of the First World War. I felt that connection was vital.

He sighed, promised to consider it.

I knew what that meant.


A few weeks later
I flew to the Antarctic, landed at a research station called Novolazarevskaya, a tiny village of huts and Portakabins. The few hardy souls living there were fabulous hosts. They housed me, fed me—their soups were amazing. I couldn’t get enough.

Maybe because it was thirty-five degrees below zero?

More piping-hot chicken noodle, Harry?

Yes, please.

The team and I spent a week or two carb-loading, gearing up. And, of course, quaffing vodka. At last, one bleary morning…off we went. We climbed into a plane, flew up to the ice shelf, stopped to refuel. The plane landed on a field of solid, flat white, as in a dream. There was nothing to be seen in any direction but a handful of giant fuel barrels. We taxied over to them and I got out while the pilots filled up. The silence was holy—not a bird, not a car, not a tree—but it was only one part of the larger, all-encompassing nothingness. No smells, no wind, no sharp corners or distinct features to distract from the endless and insanely beautiful vista. I walked off to be by myself for a few moments. I’d never been anywhere half so peaceful. Overcome with joy, I did a headstand. Months and months of anxiety passed away…for a few minutes.

We got back onto the plane, flew to the starting point of the trek. As we began walking, at last, I remembered: Oh, yeah, my toe’s broken.

Just recently, in fact. A boys’ weekend in Norfolk. We drank and smoked and partied till dawn, and then, while trying to reassemble one of the rooms we’d rearranged, I dropped a heavy chair with brass wheels onto my foot.

Silly injury. But debilitating. I could barely walk. No matter, I was determined not to let the team down.

Somehow I kept pace with my fellow walkers, nine hours each day, pulling a sledge that weighed about two hundred pounds. It was hard for everyone to gain traction on the snow, but for me the particular challenge was the slick, undulating patches carved out by the wind. Sastrugi, that was the Norwegian word for these patches. Trekking across sastrugi with a broken toe? Maybe this could be an event at the International Warrior Games, I thought. But any time I felt tempted to complain—about my toe, my fatigue, anything—I had only to glance at my fellow walkers. I was directly behind a Scottish soldier named Duncan, who had no legs. Behind me, an American soldier named Ivan was blind. So not one whinge would be heard from me, I vowed.

BOOK: Spare
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