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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

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BOOK: Spare
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Everyone kept saying: Well, well, so this is where the King lived.


The King. Elvis Presley.

Oh. The King. Right.

People variously called the house a castle, a mansion, a palace, but it reminded me of the badger sett. Dark, claustrophobic. I walked around saying: The King lived here, you say? Really?

I stood in one tiny room with loud furniture and shag carpet and thought: The King’s interior designer must’ve been on acid.

In honor of Elvis, every member of the bridal party wore blue suede shoes. At the reception there was much kicking up of those shoes, young British men and women dancing drunkenly and singing gleefully without pitch or rhythm. It was riotous, ridiculous, and Guy looked happier than I’d ever seen him.

He’d always been cast as our sidekick, but not now. He and his bride were the stars of this show, the center of attention, and my old mate was rightly savoring it. It made me so happy to see him so happy, though now and then, as couples paired off, as lovers drifted into corners or swayed to songs by Beyoncé and Adele, I’d wander over to the bar and think: When’s it going to be my turn? The one person who might want it most, to be married, to have a
family, and it’s never going to happen. More than a little petulantly, I thought: It’s just not fair of the universe.


But the universe
was just getting warmed up. Soon after I got back to Britain, the main villain in the phone-hacking scandal, Rehabber Kooks, was acquitted at trial.

June 2014.

The evidence had been strong, everybody said.

Not strong enough, the jury said. They believed what Rehabber Kooks testified on the witness stand, even though she’d strained credulity. No, she’d abused credulity. She’d treated credulity as she’d once treated a redheaded teenage royal.

Likewise her husband. He’d been caught on video throwing black bin liners full of computers and thumb drives and other personal belongings, including his porn collection, into a garage dustbin, just hours before the police searched their place. But he swore it was all a silly coincidence, sooo…no evidence-tampering here, sayeth the justice system. Carry on. As you were. I never believed what I read, but now I truly couldn’t believe what I was reading. They were letting this woman walk? And there was no furor from the general public? Did people not realize that this was about more than privacy, more than public safety—more than the Royal Family? Indeed, the phone-hacking case first broke wide open because of poor Milly Dowler, a teenager who’d been abducted and murdered. Rehabber Kooks’s minions broke into Milly’s phone after she’d been declared missing—they’d violated her parents at the moment of their worst pain and given them false hope
that their little girl might be alive, because her messages were listened to.
Little did the parents know that it was Team Rehabber listening. If these journalists were villainous enough to go after the Dowlers in their darkest hour, and get away with it, was anyone safe?

Did people not care?

They didn’t. They did not care.

My faith in the whole system took a serious hit when that woman got off scot-free. I needed a reset, a faith refresher. So I went where I always went.

The Okavango.

To spend a few restorative days with Teej and Mike.

It helped.

But when I returned to Britain, I barricaded myself into Nott Cott.


I didn’t go out
much at all. Maybe a dinner party now and then. Maybe the odd house party.

Sometimes I’d duck in and out of a club.

But it wasn’t worth it. When I went out, it was always the same scene. Paps here, paps there, paps everywhere. Groundhog Day.

The dubious pleasure of a night out was never worth the pain.

But then I’d think: How am I going to meet someone if I don’t go out?

So I’d try it again.

And: Groundhog Day.

One night, leaving a club, I saw two men come racing around a corner. They were headed straight for me and one had a hand on his hip.

Someone yelled:

I thought: Well, everyone, we had a good run.

Billy the Rock leaped forward, hand on his gun, and nearly shot the two men.

But it was just Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. They didn’t have guns, and I don’t know what one of them was reaching for on his hip. But Billy held him and screamed into his face:
How many times do we have to tell you?
You’re going to get someone fucking killed.

They didn’t care. They did not care.


The Tower of London.
With Willy and Kate. August 2014.

The reason for our visit was an art installation. Across the dry moat were spread tens of thousands of bright red ceramic poppies. Ultimately, the plan was for 888,246 of these poppies to be spread there, one for each Commonwealth soldier who’d died in the Great War. The hundredth anniversary of the war’s start was being marked all over Europe.

Apart from its extraordinary beauty, the art installation was a different way of visualizing war’s carnage—indeed, of visualizing death itself. I felt stricken. All those lives. All those families.

It didn’t help that this visit to the Tower was also three weeks before the anniversary of Mummy’s death, or that I always connected her to the Great War, because her birthday, July 1, the start of the Battle of the Somme, was the war’s bloodiest day, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow…

All these things were converging in my heart and mind outside the Tower as someone stepped forward, handed me a poppy and told me to place it. (The artists behind the installation wanted every poppy to be placed by a living person; thousands of volunteers had pitched in thus far.) Willy and Kate were also handed poppies and told to place them on any spot of their choosing.

After we’d finished, all three of us stood back, lost in our private thoughts.

I believe it was just then that the constable of the Tower appeared, greeted us, told us about the poppy, how it had come to be the British symbol of war. It was the only thing that bloomed on those blood-soaked battlefields, said the constable, who was none other than…General Dannatt.

The man who’d sent me back to war.

Truly, everything was converging.

He asked if we’d like a quick tour of the Tower.

Course, we said.

We walked up and down the Tower’s steep stairs, peered into its dark corners, and soon found ourselves before a case of thick glass.

Inside were dazzling jewels, including…the Crown.

Holy shit. The Crown.

The one that had been placed upon Granny’s head at her 1953 coronation.

For a moment I thought it was also the same crown that sat on Gan-Gan’s coffin as it went through the streets. It looked the same, but someone pointed out several key differences.

Ah, yes. So this was Granny’s crown, and hers alone, and now I remembered her telling me how unbelievably heavy it had been the first time they set it upon her head.

It looked heavy. It also looked magical. The more we stared, the brighter it got—was that possible? And the glow was seemingly internal. The jewels did their part, but the crown seemed to possess some inner energy source, something beyond the sum of its parts, its jeweled band, its golden fleurs-de-lis, its
crisscrossing arches and gleaming cross. And of course its ermine base. You couldn’t help but feel that a ghost, encountered late at night inside the Tower, might have a similar glow. I moved my eyes slowly, appreciatively, from the bottom to the top. The crown was a wonder, a transcendent and evocative piece of art, not unlike the poppies, but all I could think in that moment was how tragic that it should remain locked up in this Tower.

Yet another prisoner.

Seems a waste, I said to Willy and Kate, to which, I recall, they said nothing.

Maybe they were looking at that band of ermine, remembering my wedding remarks.

Maybe not.


A few weeks later,
after more than a year of talking and planning, thinking and worrying, seven thousand fans packed into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the opening ceremony. The Invictus Games were born.

It had been decided that the International Warrior Games was a tongue twister, a mouthful. A clever Royal Marine had then come up with this far better alternative.

As soon as he suggested it we all said: Of course! After the William Ernest Henley poem!

Every Brit knew that poem. Many had the first line by heart.

Out of the night that covers me…

And what schoolboy or schoolgirl didn’t encounter at least once those sonorous final lines?

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

Minutes before my speech at the opening ceremony, I stood in the wings, holding notecards in my hands, which were visibly shaking. Before me, the podium looked like a gallows. I read my cards over and over, while nine Red Arrows did a flypast, streaming smoke colored red, white and blue. Then Idris Elba read “Invictus,” maybe as well as anyone ever has, and then Michelle
Obama, via satellite, said some eloquent words about the meaning of the games. Finally, she introduced me.

Long walk. Through a red-carpeted labyrinth. My cheeks looked red-carpeted as well. My smile was frozen, the fight-or-flight response in full effect. I scolded myself under my breath for being this way. These games were celebrating men and women who’d lost limbs, pushed their bodies to the limit and beyond, and here I was freaking out about a little speech.

But it wasn’t my fault. Anxiety, by this point, was controlling my body, my life. And this speech, which I believed meant so much to so many, couldn’t help but exacerbate my condition.

Plus, the producer told me as I walked onstage that we were running behind on time.
Ah, great, something else to think about. Thanks.

As I reached the lectern, which I’d personally and carefully positioned, I berated myself, because it afforded a perfect view of all the competitors. All those trusting, wholesome, expectant faces—counting on me. I forced myself to look away, to look at nothing. Hurrying, hyper-conscious of the clock, I bleated out:
For some of those taking part this will be a stepping-stone to elite sport. But for others it will mark the end of a chapter in their recovery and the beginning of a new one.

I went and found my seat, down front, beside Pa, who put a hand on my shoulder.
Well done, darling boy.
He was being kind. He knew I’d rushed the speech. For once I was glad not to hear the raw truth from him.

Just on the numbers, Invictus was a hit. Two million people watched on TV, thousands filled the arenas for each event. Among the highlights, for me, was the wheelchair rugby final, Britain versus America, thousands of fans cheering Britain on to victory in the Copper Box.

Wherever I went that week, people came up to me, shook my hand, told me their stories. Children, parents, grandparents, always with tears in their eyes, told me that these games had restored something they’d feared forever lost: the true spirit of a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a mum, a dad. One woman tapped me on the shoulder and told me I’d resurrected her husband’s smile.

Oh, that smile
, she said.
I hadn’t seen it since he got injured.

I knew Invictus would do some good in the world, I always
, but I was caught off guard by this wave of appreciation and gratitude. And joy.

Then came the emails. Thousands, each more moving than the last.

I’ve had a broken back for five years, but after watching these brave men and women I’ve got off the sofa today and I’m ready to begin again.

I’ve been suffering depression since returning from Afghanistan but this demonstration of human courage and resilience has made me see…

At the closing ceremony, moments after I introduced Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, a man and woman approached, their young daughter between them. The daughter was wearing a pink hoodie and orange ear defenders. She looked up at me:
Thank you for making my daddy…Daddy again.

He’d won a gold medal.

Just one problem, she said. She couldn’t see the Foo Fighters.

Ah well, we can’t have that!

I lifted her onto my shoulders and together the four of us watched, danced, sang, and celebrated being alive.

It was my thirtieth birthday.


Shortly after the games
I informed the Palace that I’d be leaving the Army. Elf and I worked on the public announcement; it was hard to get the wording just right, to explain it to the public, maybe because I was having trouble explaining it to myself. In hindsight I see that it was a hard decision to explain because it wasn’t a decision at all. It was just time.

But time for what, exactly, besides leaving the Army? From now on I’d be something I’d never been: a full-time royal.

How would I even do that?

And was that what I wanted to be?

In a lifetime of existential crises, this was a bugger. Who are you when you can no longer be the thing you’ve always been, the thing you’ve trained to be?

Then one day I thought I glimpsed the answer.

It was a crisp Tuesday, near the Tower of London. I was standing in the middle of the street and suddenly here he came, yomping down the road—young Ben, the soldier with whom I’d flown back from Afghanistan in 2008, the soldier I’d visited and cheered as he climbed a wall with his new prosthetic leg. Six years after that flight, as promised, he was running a marathon. Not the London marathon, which would’ve been miraculous on its own. He was running
his own marathon
, along a route he’d designed himself, in the outline of a poppy laid over the city of London.

A staggering thirty-one miles, he’d done the full circuit to raise money and awareness—and heart rates.

I’m in shock,
he said on finding me there.

BOOK: Spare
10.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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