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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

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BOOK: Spare
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Also, an experienced polar guide had advised me before I left Britain to use this trek to “clean the hard drive.” That was his phrase.
the repetitive motion, he said,
the biting cold,
that nothingness, that landscape’s unique blankness, to narrow your focus until your mind falls into a trance. It will become a meditation.

I followed his advice to the letter. I told myself to stay present.
the snow,
the cold,
each step, and it worked. I fell into the loveliest trance, and even when my thoughts were dark I was able to stare at them, watch them float away. Sometimes it would happen that I’d watch my thoughts connect to other thoughts and all at once the whole chain of thoughts would make some sense. For instance, I considered all of the previous challenging walks of my life—the North Pole, the Army exercises, following Mummy’s coffin to the grave—and while the memories were painful, they also provided continuity, structure, a kind of narrative spine that I’d never suspected. Life was one long walk. It made sense. It was wonderful. All was interdependent and interconnected…

Then came the dizzies.

The South Pole, counterintuitively, is high above sea level, roughly three thousand meters, and so altitude sickness is a real danger. One walker had already been taken off our trek; now I understood why. The feeling started slowly and I brushed it off. Then it knocked me flat. Head spins, followed by crushing migraine, pressure building in both lobes of my brain. I didn’t want to stop but it wasn’t up to me. My body said, Thanks, this is where we get off. The knees went. The upper torso followed.

I hit the snow like a pile of rocks.

Medics pitched a tent, laid me flat, gave me some sort of anti-migraine injection. In my buttocks, I think. Steroids, I heard them say. When I came to, I felt semi-revived. I caught up with the group, searched for a way back into the trance.

the cold,
the snow…

As we neared the Pole we were all in sync, all elated. We could see it there,
just over there
, through our ice-crusted eyelashes. We began running to it.


The guides told us it was time to make camp.

Camp? What the—? But the finish line’s just there.

You’re not allowed to camp at the Pole! So we’ll all have to camp here tonight, then strike out for the Pole in the morning.

Camped in the shadow of the Pole, none of us could sleep, we were too
excited. And thus we had a party. There was some drinking, horseplay. The underside of the world rang with our giggles.

Finally, at first light, December 13, 2013, we took off, stormed the Pole. On or near the exact spot was a huge circle of flags representing the twelve signatories of the Antarctic treaty. We stood before the flags, exhausted, relieved, disoriented.
Why’s there a Union Jack on the coffin?
Then we hugged. Some press accounts say one of the soldiers took off his leg and we used it as a tankard to guzzle champagne, which sounds right, but I can’t remember. I’ve drunk booze out of multiple prosthetic legs in my life and I can’t swear that was one of the times.

Beyond the flags stood a huge building, one of the ugliest I’d ever seen. A windowless box, built by the Americans as a research center. The architect who designed this monstrosity, I thought, must’ve been filled with hate for his fellow humans, for the planet, for the Pole. It broke my heart to see a thing so unsightly dominate a land so otherwise pristine. Nevertheless, along with everyone else, I hurried inside the ugly building to warm up, have a pee, drink some cocoa.

There was a huge café and we were all starving. Sorry, we were told, café’s closed.
Would you like a glass of water?

Water? Oh. OK.

Each of us was handed a glass.

Then a souvenir. A test tube.

With a tiny cork in the top.

On the side was a printed label:
Cleanest Air in the World.


I went directly from
the South Pole to Sandringham.

Christmas with the family.

Hotel Granny was full that year, overrun by family, so I was given a mini room in a narrow back corridor, among the offices of Palace staff. I’d never stayed there before. I’d rarely even set foot there before. (Not so unusual; all Granny’s residences are vast—it would take a lifetime to see every nook and cranny.) I liked the notion of seeing and exploring uncharted territory—I was a grizzled polar explorer, after all!—but I also felt a bit unappreciated. A bit unloved. Relegated to the hinterlands.

I told myself to make the best of it, use this time to protect the serenity I’d achieved at the Pole. My hard drive was cleaned.

Alas, my family at that moment was infected with some very scary malware.

It was largely to do with the Court Circular, that annual record of “official engagements” done by each member of the Royal Family in the preceding calendar year. Sinister document. At the end of the year, when all the numbers got tallied, comparisons would be made in the press.

Ah, this one’s busier than that one.

Ah, this one’s a lazy shit.

The Court Circular was an ancient document, but it had lately morphed into a circular firing squad. It didn’t
the feelings of competitiveness that ran in my family, but it amplified them, weaponized them. Though none of us ever spoke about the Court Circular directly, or mentioned it by name, that only created more tension under the surface, which built invisibly as the last day of the calendar year approached. Certain family members had become
feverishly striving to have the highest number of official engagements recorded in the Circular each year, no matter what, and they’d succeeded largely by including things that weren’t, strictly speaking, engagements, recording public interactions that were mere blips, the kinds of things Willy and I wouldn’t dream of including. Which was essentially why the Court Circular was a joke. It was all self-reported, all subjective. Nine private visits with veterans, helping with their mental health? Zero points. Flying via helicopter to cut a ribbon at a horse farm? Winner!

But the main reason the Court Circular was a joke, a scam, was that none of us was deciding in a vacuum how much work to do. Granny or Pa decided, by way of how much support (money) they allocated to our work. Money determined all. In the case of Willy and me, Pa was the sole decider. It was he alone who controlled our funds; we could only do what we could do with whatever resources and budget we got from him. To be publicly flogged for how much Pa permitted us to do—that felt grossly unfair. Rigged.

Maybe the stress around all this stuff stemmed from the overarching stress about the monarchy itself. The family was feeling the tremors of global change, hearing the cries of critics who said the monarchy was outdated, costly. The family tolerated, even
leaned into,
the nonsense of the Court Circular for the same reason it accepted the ravages and depredations of the press—fear. Fear of the public. Fear of the future. Fear of the day the nation would say: OK, shut it down. So, by the time Christmas Eve 2013 rolled
around, I was actually quite content in my back corridor, in my micro room, looking at photos of the South Pole on my iPad.

Staring at my little test tube.

Cleanest Air in the World.

I took off the cork stopper, downed it in one.



I moved out
of the badger sett, into Nottingham Cottage, a.k.a. Nott Cott. Willy and Kate had been living there, but they’d outgrown it. After moving into Princess Margaret’s old place, just across the way, they’d passed me their keys.

It felt good to be out of the badger sett. But even better to be just across the way from Willy and Kate. I looked forward to popping in all the time.

Look! It’s Uncle Harry!

Ello! Just thought I’d stop by.

Holding a bottle of wine and an armful of kiddie presents. Dropping to the floor and wrestling with little George.

Will you stay for supper, Harold?

Love to!

But it didn’t work out that way.

They were half a football pitch away, just beyond a stone courtyard, so close that I could see their nanny pass by all the time with the pram, and I could hear their elaborate renovations. I assumed they’d have me over any minute now. Any day.

But day after day it didn’t happen.

I get it, I thought. They’re busy! Building a family!

Or maybe…they don’t want a third wheel?

Maybe if I get married, things will be different?

They’d both mentioned, pointedly, repeatedly, how much they liked Cressida.


March 2014. A concert
at Wembley Arena. Walking onstage I suffered the typical panic attack. I made my way to the center, clenched my fists, spat out the speech. There were fourteen thousand young faces before me, gathered for We Day. Maybe I’d have been less nervous if I’d concentrated more on them, but I was having a proper
Day, thinking about the last time I’d given a speech under this roof.

Tenth anniversary of Mummy’s death.

I’d been nervous then too. But not like this.

I hurried off. Wiping the shine from my face, and staggering up to my seat to join Cress.

She saw me and blanched.
You OK?

Yeah, yeah.

But she knew.

We watched the other speakers. That is, she watched, I tried to catch my breath.

The next morning our photo was in all the papers and splashed online. Someone tipped off the royal correspondents to where we were sitting, and at long last we were outed. After nearly two years of secretly dating, we were revealed to be a couple.

Odd, we said, that it should be such big news. We’d been photographed before, skiing in Verbier. But these photos landed differently, maybe because this was the first time she’d joined me at a royal engagement.

As a result, we became less clandestine, and that felt like a plus. Several days later we went to Twickenham, watched England play Wales, got papped, and didn’t even bother to talk about it. Soon after, we left on a skiing holiday with friends, to Kazakhstan, got papped again, and didn’t even know. We were too distracted. Skiing was so sacred for us, so symbolic, especially after our previous skiing holiday, in Switzerland, when she’d miraculously opened me up.

It happened late one night, after a long day on the slopes, and a fun time at après-ski. We’d gone back to my cousin’s chalet, where we were staying, and Cress was washing her face, brushing her teeth, while I was sitting on the edge of the bath. We were talking about nothing special, as I recall, but suddenly she asked about my mother.

Unique. A girlfriend asking about my mother. But it was also the way she asked. Her tone was just the right blend of curiosity and compassion. The way
she reacted to my answer was just right too. Surprised, concerned, with no judgment.

Maybe other factors were at play as well. The alchemy of physical fatigue and Swiss hospitality. The fresh air and alcohol. Maybe it was the softly falling snow outside the windows, or the culmination of seventeen years of suppressed grief. Maybe it was maturity. Whatever the reason or combination of reasons, I answered her, straight-out, and then started to cry.

I remember thinking: Oh, I’m crying.

And saying to her:
This is the first time I’ve…

Cressida leaned towards me:
What do you mean…first time?

This is the first time I’ve been able to cry about my mum since the burial.

Wiping my eyes, I thanked her. She was the first person to help me across that barrier, to help me unleash the tears. It was cathartic, it accelerated our bond, and added an element rare in past relationships: immense gratitude. I was indebted to Cress, and that was the reason why, when we got home from Kazakhstan, I felt so miserable, because at some point during that ski trip I’d realized that we weren’t a match.

I just knew. Cress, I think, knew as well. There was massive affection, deep and abiding loyalty—but not love everlasting. She was always clear about not wanting to take on the stresses of being a royal, and I was never sure I wanted to ask her to do so, and this unalterable fact, though it had been lurking in the background for some time, became undeniable on those Kazakh slopes.

Suddenly it was clear.
This can’t work.

How odd, I thought. Every time we go skiing…a revelation.

The day after we got home from Kazakhstan I phoned a mate, who was also close with Cress. I told him about my feelings and asked for advice. Without hesitation the mate said that if it was done it must be done quickly. So I drove straight over to see Cress.

She was staying with a friend. Her bedroom was on the ground floor, windows looking onto the street. I heard cars and people going by as I sat gingerly on the bed and told her my thinking.

She nodded. None of it seemed to surprise her. These things had been on her mind as well.

I’ve learned so much from you, Cress.

She nodded. She looked at the floor, tears running down her cheeks.

Damn, I thought.

She helped me cry. And now I’m leaving her in tears.


My mate, Guy,
was getting married.

I wasn’t exactly in the mood for a wedding. But it was Guy. All-round good bloke. Longtime mate of Willy and me. I loved him. And owed him. He’d been dragged through the muck by the press, more than once, in my name.

The wedding was in America, in the Deep South.

My arrival there set off a torrent of talk about…what else?


I thought: After all this time? Really? Is my bare arse that memorable?

So be it, I told myself. Let them bang on about Vegas, I’m going to focus on Guy’s Big Day.

On the way to Guy’s stag party a group of us stopped off in Miami. We ate a fabulous meal, visited a few clubs, danced until well past midnight. Toasted Guy. Next day we all flew to Tennessee. I remember, despite the crowded wedding schedule, finding time to tour Graceland, erstwhile home of Elvis Presley. (Actually, he originally bought it for his mother.)

BOOK: Spare
4.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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