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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

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BOOK: Spare
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Maybe Pat knew this. Now and then she’d turn, see me being a perfect ass, and she’d laugh too. That was the best. I loved cracking up my mates, but nothing quite did it for me like making the otherwise miserable Pat bust a gut.

9.

We called them grub days.

They were Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I think. Immediately after lunch we’d queue in the corridor, along the wall, craning to see, just ahead, the grub table, piled high with sweets. Munchies, Skittles, Mars Bars and, best of all, Opal Fruits. (I took great offense when Opal Fruits changed their name to Starburst. Pure heresy. Like Britain changing its name.)

Just the sight of that grub table made us swoon. Mouths watering, we’d talk about the impending sugar rush as farmers in a drought talk about a forecast of rain. Meanwhile, I devised a way of super-sizing my sugar rush. I’d take all my Opal Fruits and squeeze them together into one massive gobstopper, then jam it into the side of my mouth. As the wad melted my bloodstream would become a frothy cataract of dextrose.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.

The opposite of grub day was letter-writing day. Every boy was required to sit down and compose a missive to his parents. At the best of times this was drudgery. I could barely remember when Pa and Mummy weren’t divorced, so writing to them without touching on their mutual grievances, their messy breakup, required the finesse of a career diplomat.

Dear Pa, How’s Mummy?

Hm. No.

Dear Mummy, Pa says you haven’t…

No.

But after Mummy disappeared, letter-writing day became impossible.

I’ve been told the matrons asked me to write a “final” letter to Mummy. I have a vague memory of wanting to protest that she was still alive, and yet not doing so, for fear they’d think I was mad. Also, what was the point? Mummy would read the letter when she came out of hiding, so it wouldn’t be a total waste of effort.

I probably dashed off something pro forma, saying I missed her, school was fine, so on and so forth. I probably folded it once and handed it to the matron. I remember, immediately thereafter, regretting that I hadn’t taken the writing more seriously. I wished I’d dug deep, told my mother all the things weighing on my heart, especially my regret over the last time we’d spoken on the phone. She’d called early in the evening, the night of the crash, but I was running around with Willy and my cousins and didn’t want to stop playing. So I’d been short with her. Impatient to get back to my games, I’d rushed Mummy off the phone. I wished I’d apologized for it. I wished I’d searched for the words to describe how much I loved her.

I didn’t know that search would take decades.

10.

A month later
it was half-term. I was going home at last.

Wait—no, I wasn’t.

Pa, apparently, didn’t want me to spend the break wandering aimlessly around St. James’s Palace, where he’d been mostly living since his breakup with Mummy, and where Willy and I had lived whenever it was our allotted time with Pa. He feared what I might get up to in that big palace all by myself. He feared I might glimpse a newspaper, overhear a radio. More, he feared I might be photographed through an open window, or while playing with my toy soldiers in the gardens. He could imagine reporters trying to speak to me, shouting questions.
Hi, Harry, do you miss your mum?
The nation was in a state of hysterical grief, but the press’s hysteria had veered into psychosis.

Worst of all, Willy wouldn’t be at home to watch over me. He was at Eton.

So Pa announced that he’d be taking me with him on a planned work trip. To South Africa.

South Africa, Pa? Really?

Yes, darling boy. Johannesburg.

He had a meeting with Nelson Mandela…and the Spice Girls?

I was thrilled. And baffled. The Spice Girls, Pa? He explained that the Spice Girls were giving a concert in Johannesburg, so they were calling on President Mandela to pay their respects. Great, I thought, that explains why
the Spice Girls
are going to be there…what about us? I didn’t get it. I’m not sure Pa wanted me to get it.

The truth was, Pa’s staff hoped a photo of him standing alongside the world’s most revered political leader and the world’s most popular female musical act would earn him some positive headlines, which he sorely needed. Since Mummy’s disappearance he’d been savaged. People blamed him for the divorce and thus for all that followed. His approval rating around the world was single digits. In Fiji, to pick just one example, a national holiday in his honor had been rescinded.

Whatever the official reason for the trip, I didn’t care. I was just glad to be going along. It was a chance to get away from Britain. Better yet, it was proper time with Pa, who seemed sort of checked out.

Not that Pa hadn’t always been a bit checked out. He’d always given an air of being not quite ready for parenthood—the responsibilities, the patience, the time. Even he, though a proud man, would’ve admitted as much. But single parenthood? Pa was never made for that.

To be fair, he tried. Evenings, I’d shout downstairs:
Going to bed, Pa!
He’d always shout back cheerfully:
I’ll be there shortly, darling boy!
True to his word, minutes later he’d be sitting on the edge of my bed. He never forgot that I didn’t like the dark, so he’d gently tickle my face until I fell asleep. I have the fondest memories of his hands on my cheeks, my forehead, then waking to find him gone, magically, the door always considerately left open a crack.

Other than those fleeting moments, however, Pa and I mostly coexisted. He had trouble communicating, trouble listening, trouble being intimate face-to-face. On occasion, after a long multi-course dinner, I’d walk upstairs and find a letter on my pillow. The letter would say how proud he was of me for something I’d done or accomplished. I’d smile, place it under my pillow, but also wonder why he hadn’t said this moments ago, while seated directly across from me.

Thus the prospect of days and days of unrestricted Pa time was exhilarating.

Then came the reality. This was a work trip for Pa. And for me. The Spice Girls concert represented my first public appearance since the funeral, and I knew, through intuition, through bits of overheard conversations, that the
public’s curiosity about my welfare was running high. I didn’t want to let them down, but I also wanted them all to go away. I remember stepping onto the red carpet, screwing a smile onto my face, suddenly wishing I was in my bed at St. James’s Palace.

Beside me was Baby Spice, wearing white plastic shoes with chunky twelve-inch platform heels. I fixated on those heels while she fixated on my cheeks. She kept pinching them. So chubby! So cute! Then Posh Spice surged forward and clutched my hand. Farther down the line I spied Ginger Spice, the only Spice with whom I felt any connection—a fellow ginger. Also, she was world-famous for recently wearing a minidress made of the Union Jack.
Why’s there a Union Jack on the coffin?
She and the other Spices were cooing at me, saying things I didn’t understand, while bantering with the journalists, who were shouting at me.
Harry, over here, Harry, Harry, how are you doing, Harry?
Questions that weren’t questions. Questions that were traps. Questions that were flung at my head like cleavers. The journalists didn’t give a toss how I was doing, they were trying to get me to say something messy, newsy.

I gazed into their flashes, bared my teeth, said nothing.

If I was intimidated by the flashes, the Spice Girls were intoxicated. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, that was their attitude every time another flash went off. Fine by me. The more out-front they were, the more I could fade into the woodwork. I remember they talked to the press about their music and their mission. I didn’t know they had a mission, but one Spice compared the group’s crusade against sexism to Mandela’s struggle against apartheid.

At last someone said it was time for the concert to begin.
Off you go. Follow your father.

Concert? Pa?

Impossible to believe. Even more impossible while it was actually happening. But I saw it with my own eyes, Pa gamely nodding to the beat and tapping his foot:

If you want my future, forget my past

If you wanna get with me, better make it fast

After, on the way out, there were more flashes. This time the Spice Girls weren’t there to deflect attention. It was just Pa and me.

I reached for him, grabbed his hand—hung on.

I recall, bright as the flashes: Loving him.

Needing him.

11.

The next morning Pa
and I went to a beautiful lodge on a snaky river. KwaZulu-Natal. I knew about this place, where Redcoats and Zulu warriors clashed in the summer of 1879. I’d heard all the stories, legends, and I’d seen the movie
Zulu
countless times. But now I was going to become a bona fide expert, Pa said. He’d arranged for us to sit on camp chairs before a log fire and listen to a world-famous historian, David Rattray, re-create the battle.

It might’ve been the first lecture to which I ever really paid attention.

The men who fought on this ground, Mr. Rattray said, were heroes. On both sides—heroes. The Zulus were ferocious, utter wizards with a short spear known as the
iklwa
, which was named for the sucking sound it made when pulled from a victim’s chest. And yet a mere 150 British soldiers on hand managed to hold off four thousand Zulus, and that improbable stand, called Rorke’s Drift, instantly became part of British mythology. Eleven soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross, the greatest number ever won in one battle by a single regiment. Another two soldiers, who held off the Zulus one day before Rorke’s Drift, became the first to win the Victoria Cross posthumously.

Posthumously, Pa?

Er, yes.

What does it mean?

After they, you know.

What?

Died, darling boy.

Though a source of pride for many Britons, Rorke’s Drift was the outgrowth of imperialism, colonialism, nationalism—in short, theft. Great Britain was trespassing, invading a sovereign nation and trying to steal it, meaning the precious blood of Britain’s finest lads had been wasted that day, in the eyes of some, among them Mr. Rattray. He didn’t glide over such difficult facts. When necessary, he condemned the British roundly. (Locals called him the White Zulu.) But I was too young: I heard him and also didn’t hear. Maybe I’d seen the movie
Zulu
too many times, maybe I’d waged too many pretend battles with my toy Redcoats. I had a view of battle, of Britain, which didn’t
permit new facts. So I zoomed in on the bits about manly courage, and British power, and when I should’ve been horrified, I was inspired.

On the way home I told myself the whole trip had been a smash. Not only a terrific adventure, but a bonding experience with Pa. Surely life would now be altogether different.

12.

Most of my teachers were
kind souls who just let me be, who understood all that I was dealing with and didn’t want to give me more. Mr. Dawson, who played the organ in the chapel, was extremely gentle. Mr. Little, the drum teacher, was exceedingly patient. Confined to a wheelchair, he’d turn up for drum lessons in his van, and it would take us forever to get him out of the van and into the classroom, and then we’d have to leave enough time to get him back into the van after the lesson, so we’d never have more than twenty minutes of actual teaching. I didn’t mind, and in return Mr. Little didn’t ever complain that my drumming wasn’t really improving.

Some teachers, however, gave me no quarter. Like my history teacher, Mr. Hughes-Games.

Day and night, from Mr. Hughes-Games’s bungalow beside the sports fields, came the shrill yelps of his pointers, Tosca and Beade. They were beautiful, spotted, gray-eyed, and Mr. Hughes-Games cherished them as children. He kept silver-framed photos of them on his desk, which was one reason many boys thought Mr. Hughes-Games a tad eccentric. So it came as a roaring shock when I realized that Mr. Hughes-Games believed me to be the odd one. What could be odder, he said to me one day, than a British prince not knowing British history?

I cannot fathom it, Wales. We’re talking about your blood relatives—does that mean nothing to you?

Less than nothing, sir.

It wasn’t just that I didn’t know anything about my family’s history: I didn’t want to know anything.

I liked British history
in theory
. I found certain bits intriguing. I knew a few things about the signing of the Magna Carta, for instance—June 1215, at Runnymede—but that was because I’d once glimpsed the place where it
happened through the window of Pa’s car. Right by the river. Looked beautiful. Perfect spot to establish peace, I thought. But micro details about the Norman Conquest? Or the ins and outs of the beef between Henry VIII and the Pope? Or the differences between the First and Second Crusades?

Please.

It all came to a head one day when Mr. Hughes-Games was talking about Charles Edward Stuart, or Charles III, as he thought of himself. Pretender to the Throne. Mr. Hughes-Games had strong opinions about the fellow. While he shared them with us, in a hot rage, I stared at my pencil and tried not to fall asleep.

Suddenly Mr. Hughes-Games stopped and posited a question about Charles’s life. The answer was a cinch if you’d done the reading. No one had.

Wales—you must know this.

Why must I?

Because it’s your family!

Laughter.

I dropped my head. The other boys knew I was royal, of course. If they forgot for half a second, my omnipresent bodyguard (armed) and uniformed police scattered across the grounds would be more than happy to remind them. But did Mr. Hughes-Games need to shout it from the rooftops? Did he need to use that loaded word—family? My family had declared me a nullity. The Spare. I didn’t complain about it, but I didn’t need to dwell on it either. Far better, in my mind, not to think about certain facts, such as the cardinal rule for royal travel: Pa and William could never be on the same flight together, because there must be no chance of the first and second in line to the throne being wiped out. But no one gave a damn whom I traveled with; the Spare could always be spared. I knew this, knew my place, so why go out of my way to study it? Why memorize the names of past spares? What was the sense in that?

BOOK: Spare
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