Read Spare Online

Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

Spare (6 page)

BOOK: Spare
4.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

More, why trace my family tree when all tracery led to the same severed branch—Mummy?

After class I went up to Mr. Hughes-Games’s desk and asked him to please stop.

Stop what, Wales?

Embarrassing me, sir.

His eyebrows flew up to his hairline, like startled birds.

I argued that it would be cruel to single out any other boy the way he did
me, to ask any other student at Ludgrove such pointed questions about his great-great-grand-whatever.

Mr. Hughes-Games harrumphed and snuffled. He’d overstepped, he knew it. But he was stubborn.

It’s good for you, Wales. The more I call on you, the more you’ll learn.

Days later, however, at the start of class, Mr. Hughes-Games made a proffer of peace, Magna Carta style. He presented me with one of those wooden rulers, engraved along both sides with the names of every British monarch since Harold in 1066. (Rulers, get it?) The royal line, inch by inch, right up to Granny. He said I could keep it at my desk, refer to it as needed.

Gosh, I said. Thanks.

13.

Late at night, after
lights-out, some of us would sneak out, go roaming up and down the corridors. A strict violation of the rules, but I was lonely and homesick, probably anxious and depressed, and I couldn’t abide being locked into my dormitory.

There was one particular teacher who, whenever he caught me, would give me a tremendous clout, always with a copy of the
New English Bible
. The hardback version. It is indeed, I always thought, a very hard back. Getting hit with it made me feel bad about myself, bad about the teacher, and bad about the Bible. Nevertheless, the next night I’d go right back to flouting the rules.

If I wasn’t roaming the corridors, I was roaming the school grounds, usually with my best mate, Henners. Like me, Henners was officially a Henry, but I always called him Henners, and he called me Haz.

Skinny, with no muscles, and hair that stood up in permanent surrender, Henners was all heart. Whenever he smiled, people melted. (He was the only boy who mentioned Mummy to me after she disappeared.) But that winning smile, that tender nature, made you forget that Henners could be
quite
naughty.

A huge “pick your own” farm lay beyond the school grounds, on the other side of a low fence, and one day Henners and I hopped over, landing face-first in carrot furrows. Row after row. Nearby were some fat, juicy strawberries. We went along, stuffing our mouths, popping up now and then like meerkats to make sure the coast was clear. Whenever I bite into a strawberry I’m there again, in those furrows, with lovely Henners.

Days later we went back. This time, after we’d eaten our fill and hopped over the fence, we heard our names.

We were heading along a cart track in the direction of the tennis courts and slowly we turned. Coming straight for us was one of the teachers.

You there! Stop!

Hello, sir.

What are you two doing?

Nothing, sir.

You’ve been to the farm.

No!

Open your hands.

We did. Busted. Crimson palms. He reacted as if it were blood.

I can’t remember what punishment we received. Another clout with the
New English Bible
? Detention? (Often called det.) A trip to Mr. Gerald’s office? Whatever it was, I know I didn’t mind. There was no torture Ludgrove could dish out that surpassed what was going on inside me.

14.

Mr. Marston,
while patrolling the dining room, often carried a little bell. It reminded me of the bell on the front desk of a hotel.
Ding, have you a room?
He’d ring the bell whenever he wanted to get a group of boys’ attention. The sound was constant. And utterly pointless.

Abandoned children don’t care about a bell.

Frequently Mr. Marston would feel the need to make an announcement during meals. He’d begin speaking and no one would listen, or even lower their voice, so he’d ring his bell.

Ding.

A hundred boys would keep on talking, laughing.

He’d ring it harder.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Each time the bell failed to bring silence, Mr. Marston’s face would grow a shade redder.
Fellas!
Will you LISTEN?

No, was the simple answer. We would not. It wasn’t disrespect, however; it was simple acoustics. We couldn’t hear him. The hall was too cavernous, and we were too absorbed in our conversations.

He didn’t accept this. He seemed suspicious, as if our disregard of his bell
was part of some greater coordinated plot. I don’t know about the others, but I was part of no plot. Also, I wasn’t disregarding him. Quite the contrary: I couldn’t take my eyes off the man. I often asked myself what an outsider might say if they could witness this spectacle, a hundred boys chatting away while a grown man stood before them frantically and uselessly abusing a tiny brass bell.

Adding to this general sense of bedlam was the psychiatric hospital down the road. Broadmoor. Some time before I came to Ludgrove, a Broadmoor patient had escaped and killed a child in one of the nearby villages. In response Broadmoor installed a warning siren, and now and then they’d test it, to make sure it was in working order. A sound like Doomsday. Mr. Marston’s bell on steroids.

I mentioned this to Pa one day. He nodded sagely. He’d recently visited a similar place as part of his charitable work. The patients were mostly gentle, he assured me, though one stood out. A little chap who claimed to be the Prince of Wales.

Pa said he’d wagged a finger at this impostor and severely reprimanded him.
Now look here. You cannot be the Prince of Wales! I’m the Prince of Wales.

The patient merely wagged his finger back.
Impossible! I’m the Prince of Wales!

Pa liked telling stories, and this was one of the best in his repertoire. He’d always end with a burst of philosophizing: If this mental patient could be so thoroughly convinced of his identity, no less than Pa, it raised some very Big Questions indeed. Who could say which of us was sane? Who could be sure
they
weren’t the mental patient, hopelessly deluded, humored by friends and family?
Who knows if I’m really the Prince of Wales? Who knows if I’m even your real father? Maybe your real father is in Broadmoor, darling boy!

He’d laugh and laugh, though it was a remarkably unfunny joke, given the rumor circulating just then that my actual father was one of Mummy’s former lovers: Major James Hewitt. One cause of this rumor was Major Hewitt’s flaming ginger hair, but another cause was sadism. Tabloid readers were delighted by the idea that the younger child of Prince Charles wasn’t the child of Prince Charles. They couldn’t get enough of this “joke,” for some reason. Maybe it made them feel better about their lives that a young prince’s life was laughable.

Never mind that my mother didn’t meet Major Hewitt until long after I was born, the story was simply too good to drop. The press rehashed it,
embroidered it, and there was even talk that some reporters were seeking my DNA to prove it—my first intimation that, after torturing my mother and sending her into hiding, they would soon be coming for me.

To this day nearly every biography of me, every longish profile in a paper or magazine, touches on Major Hewitt, treats the prospect of his paternity with some seriousness, including a description of the moment Pa finally sat me down for a proper heart-to-heart, reassuring me that Major Hewitt wasn’t my real father. Vivid scene, poignant, moving, and wholly made up. If Pa had any thoughts about Major Hewitt, he kept them to himself.

15.

My mother legendarily said
there were three people in her marriage. But her maths was off.

She left Willy and me out of the equation.

We didn’t understand what was going on with her and Pa, certainly, but we intuited enough, we sensed the presence of the Other Woman, because we suffered the downstream effects. Willy long harbored suspicions about the Other Woman, which confused him, tormented him, and when those suspicions were confirmed he felt tremendous guilt for having done nothing, said nothing, sooner.

I was too young, I think, to have suspicions. But I couldn’t help but feel the lack of stability, the lack of warmth and love, in our home.

Now, with Mummy missing, the maths swung hard in Pa’s favor. He was free to see the Other Woman, openly, as often as he liked. But seeing wasn’t sufficient. Pa wanted to be public about it. He wanted to be aboveboard. And the first step towards that aim was to bring “the boys” into the fold.

Willy went first. He’d bumped into the Other Woman, once, at the palace, but now he was formally summoned from Eton for a high-stakes private meeting. At Highgrove, I think. Over tea, I believe. It went well, I gathered from Willy later, though he didn’t go into details. He merely gave me the impression that the Other Woman, Camilla, had made an effort, which he appreciated, and that was all he cared to say.

My turn came next. I told myself: No big deal. Just like getting an injection. Close your eyes, over before you know it.

I have a dim recollection of Camilla being just as calm (or bored) as me.
Neither of us much fretted about the other’s opinion. She wasn’t my mother, and I wasn’t her biggest hurdle. In other words, I wasn’t the Heir. This bit with me was mere formality.

I wonder what we found to talk about. Horses, probably. Camilla loved them, and I knew how to ride. Hard to think of any other subject we might’ve scrounged up.

I recall wondering, right before the tea, if she’d be mean to me. If she’d be like all the wicked stepmothers in storybooks. But she wasn’t. Like Willy, I did feel real gratitude for that.

At last, with these strained Camilla summits behind us, there was a final conference with Pa.

So, what do you boys think?

We thought he should be happy. Yes, Camilla had played a pivotal role in the unraveling of our parents’ marriage, and yes, that meant she’d played a role in our mother’s disappearance, but we understood that she’d been trapped like everyone else in the riptide of events. We didn’t blame her, and in fact we’d gladly forgive her if she could make Pa happy. We could see that, like us, he wasn’t. We recognized the vacant looks, the empty sighs, the frustration always visible on his face. We couldn’t be absolutely sure, because Pa didn’t talk about his feelings, but we’d pieced together, through the years, a fairly accurate portrait of him, based on little things he’d let slip.

For instance, Pa confessed around this time that he’d been “persecuted” as a boy. Granny and Grandpa, to toughen him up, had shipped him off to Gordonstoun, a boarding school, where he was horrendously bullied. The most likely victims of Gordonstoun bullies, he said, were creative types, sensitive types, bookish types—in other words, Pa. His finest qualities were bait for the toughs. I remember him murmuring ominously:
I nearly didn’t survive.
How had he? Head down, clutching his teddy bear, which he still owned years later. Teddy went everywhere with Pa. It was a pitiful object, with broken arms and dangly threads, holes patched up here and there. It looked, I imagined, like Pa might have after the bullies had finished with him. Teddy expressed eloquently, better than Pa ever could, the essential loneliness of his childhood.

Willy and I agreed that Pa deserved better. Apologies to Teddy, Pa deserved a proper companion. That was why, when asked, Willy and I promised Pa that we’d welcome Camilla into the family.

The only thing we asked in return was that he not marry her. You don’t
need to remarry, we pleaded. A wedding would cause controversy. It would incite the press. It would make the whole country, the whole world, talk about Mummy, compare Mummy and Camilla, and nobody wanted that. Least of all Camilla.

We support you, we said. We endorse Camilla, we said.
Just please don’t marry her. Just be together, Pa.

He didn’t answer.

But she answered. Straightaway. Shortly after our private summits with her, she began to play the long game, a campaign aimed at marriage and eventually the Crown. (With Pa’s blessing, we presumed.) Stories began to appear everywhere, in all the papers, about her private conversation with Willy, stories that contained pinpoint accurate details, none of which had come from Willy, of course.

They could only have been leaked by the one other person present.

And the leaking had obviously been abetted by the new spin doctor Camilla had talked Pa into hiring.

16.

In the early autumn
of 1998, having completed my education at Ludgrove the previous spring, I entered Eton.

A profound shock.

The finest school in the world for boys, Eton was
meant
to be a shock, I think. Shock must’ve been part of its original charter, even perhaps a part of the instructions given to its first architects by the school’s founder, my ancestor Henry VI. He deemed Eton some sort of holy shrine, a sacred temple, and to that end he wanted it to overwhelm the senses, so visitors would feel like meek, abased pilgrims.

In my case, mission accomplished.

(Henry even vested the school with priceless religious artifacts, including part of Jesus’s Crown of Thorns. One great poet called the place “Henry’s holy shade.”)

Over the centuries Eton’s mission had become somewhat less pious, but the curriculum had become more shockingly rigorous. There was a reason Eton now referred to itself not as a school but simply as…School. For those in the know, there simply was no other choice. Eighteen prime ministers had
been molded in Eton’s classrooms, plus thirty-seven winners of the Victoria Cross. Heaven for brilliant boys, it could thus only be purgatory for one very unbrilliant boy.

The situation became undeniably obvious during my very first French lesson. I was astounded to hear the teacher conducting the entire class in rapid, nonstop French. He assumed, for some reason, that we were all fluent.

Maybe everyone else was. But me? Fluent? Because I did passably well on the entrance exam?
Au contraire, mon ami!

BOOK: Spare
4.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Breaking Free by Teresa Reasor
Amber House by Kelly Moore
Going All the Way by Cynthia Cooke
Secret Brother by V.C. Andrews
Malachi by Shiloh Walker
With This Kiss: Part Two by Eloisa James