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Authors: The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry

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BOOK: Spare
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Afterwards I went up to him, explained that there’d been a dreadful mistake and I was in the wrong class. He told me to relax, assured me I’d be up to speed in no time. He didn’t get it; he had faith in me. So I went to my housemaster, begged him to put me with the slower talkers, the more glacial learners, boys
exactement comme moi
.

He did as I asked. But it was a mere stopgap.

Once or twice I’d confess to a teacher or fellow student that I wasn’t merely in the wrong class but in the wrong location. I was in way, way over my head. They’d always say the same thing: Don’t worry, you’ll be all right.
And don’t forget you always have your brother here!

But I wasn’t the one forgetting. Willy told me to pretend I didn’t know him.

What?

You don’t know me, Harold. And I don’t know you.

For the last two years, he explained, Eton had been his sanctuary. No kid brother tagging along, pestering him with questions, pushing up on his social circle. He was forging his own life, and he wasn’t willing to give that up.

None of which was all that new. Willy always hated it when anyone made the mistake of thinking us a package deal. He loathed it when Mummy dressed us in the same outfits. (It didn’t help that her taste in children’s clothes ran to the extreme; we often looked like the twins from
Alice in Wonderland
.) I barely took notice. I didn’t care about clothes, mine or anyone else’s. So long as we weren’t wearing kilts, with that worrisome knife in your sock and that breeze up your arse, I was good. But for Willy it was pure agony to wear the same blazer, the same tight shorts, as me. And now, to attend the same school, was pure murder.

I told him not to worry.
I’ll forget I ever knew you.

But Eton wasn’t going to make that easy. Thinking to be helpful, they put us under the same bloody roof. Manor House.

At least I was on the ground floor.

Willy was way upstairs, with the older boys.

17.

Many of the sixty boys
in Manor House were as welcoming as Willy. Their indifference, however, didn’t unsettle me as much as their
ease
. Even the ones my age acted as if they’d been born on the school grounds. Ludgrove had its problems, but at least I knew my way around, knew how to fox Pat, knew when sweets got handed out, how to survive letter-writing days. Over time I’d scratched and clawed my way to the top of the Ludgrove pyramid. Now, at Eton, I was at the bottom again.

Starting over.

Worse, without my best friend, Henners. He was attending a different school.

I didn’t even know how to get dressed in the morning. Every Etonian was required to wear a black tailcoat, white collarless shirt, white stiff collar pinned to the shirt with a stud—plus pinstripe trousers, heavy black shoes, and a tie that wasn’t a tie, more like a cloth strip folded into the white detachable collar. Formal kit, they called it, but it wasn’t formal, it was funereal. And there was a reason. We were supposed to be in perpetual mourning for old Henry VI. (Or else for King George, an early supporter of the school, who used to have the boys over to the castle for tea—or something like that.) Though Henry was my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, and though I was sorry for his passing, and for whatever pain it had caused those who loved him, I wasn’t keen on mourning the man around the clock. Any boy might balk at taking part in a never-ending funeral, but for a boy who’d just lost his mum it was a daily kick in the balls.

First morning: It took forever to fasten my trousers, button my waistcoat, fold my stiff collar, before finally getting out the door. I was frantic, desperate not to be late, which would mean being forced to write my name in a large ledger, the Tardy Book, one of many new traditions I’d need to learn, along with a long list of new words and phrases. Classes were no longer classes: they were divs. Teachers were no longer teachers: they were beaks. Cigarettes were tabbage. (Seemingly everyone had a raging tabbage habit.) Chambers was the mid-morning meeting of the beaks, when they discussed the students, especially the problem students. I often felt my ears burning during Chambers.

Sport, I decided, would be my thing at Eton. Sporty boys were separated into two groups: dry bobs and wet bobs. Dry bobs played cricket, football, rugby, or polo. Wet bobs rowed, sailed, or swam. I was a dry who occasionally got wet. I played every dry sport, though rugby captured my heart. Beautiful
game, plus a good excuse to run into stuff very hard. Rugby let me indulge my rage, which some had now taken to calling a “red mist.” Plus, I simply didn’t feel pain the way other boys did, which made me scary on a pitch. No one had an answer for a boy actually
seeking
external pain to match his internal.

I made some mates. It wasn’t easy. I had special requirements. I needed someone who wouldn’t tease me about being royal, someone who wouldn’t so much as mention my being the Spare. I needed someone who’d treat me normal, which meant ignoring the armed bodyguard sleeping down the hall, whose job was to keep me from being kidnapped or assassinated. (To say nothing of the electronic tracker and panic alarm I carried with me at all times.) My mates all met these criteria.

Sometimes my new mates and I would escape, head for Windsor Bridge, which connected Eton to Windsor over the River Thames. Specifically we’d head to the underside of the bridge, where we could smoke tabbage in privacy. My mates seemed to enjoy the naughtiness of it, whereas I just did it because I was on autopilot. Sure, I fancied a cig after a McDonald’s, who didn’t? But if we were going to bunk off, I’d much prefer heading over to Windsor Castle golf course, knocking a ball around, while drinking a wee beer.

Still, like a robot, I took every cig offered me, and in the same automatic, unthinking way, I soon graduated to weed.

18.

The game required a bat,
a tennis ball, and a total disregard for one’s physical safety. There were four players: a bowler, a batsman, and two fielders stationed mid-corridor, each with one foot in the corridor and one in a room. Not always our rooms. We often intruded on other boys trying to work. They’d beg us to go away.

Sorry, we said.
This
is
our
work.

The radiator represented the wicket. There was an endless debate about what constituted a catch. Off the wall? Yes, catch. Off a window? No catch. One hand, one bounce? Half out.

One day the sportiest member of our group hurled himself at a ball, trying to make a tricky catch, and landed face-first on a fire extinguisher hooked to the wall. His tongue split wide open. You’d think after that, after the carpet had been permanently soiled with his blood, we’d have called an end to Corridor Cricket.

We didn’t.

When not playing Corridor Cricket we’d loll in our rooms. We got very good at affecting postures of supreme indolence. The point was to look as if you had no purpose, as if you’d bestir yourself only to do something bad or, better yet, stupid. Near the end of my first half we hit on something supremely stupid.

Someone suggested that my hair was a complete disaster. Like grass on the moors.

Well…what can be done?

Let me have a go at it.

You?

Yeah. Let me shave it off.

Hm. That didn’t sound right.

But I wanted to go along. I wanted to be a top bloke. A funny bloke.

All right.

Someone fetched the clippers. Someone pushed me into a chair. How quickly, how blithely, after a lifetime of healthy growth, it all went cascading off my head. When the cutter was done I looked down, saw a dozen pyramids of ginger on the floor, like red volcanoes seen from a plane, and knew I’d made a legendary mistake.

I ran to the mirror. Suspicion confirmed. I screamed in horror.

My mates screamed too. With laughter.

I ran in circles. I wanted to reverse time. I wanted to scoop up the hair from the floor and glue it back on. I wanted to wake from this nightmare. Not knowing where else to turn, I violated the sacred rule, the one shining commandment never to be broken, and ran upstairs to Willy’s room.

Of course, there was nothing Willy could do. I was just hoping he’d tell me it would be OK, don’t freak out, keep calm, Harold. Instead, he laughed like the others. I recall him sitting at his desk, bent over a book, chuckling, while I stood before him fingering the nubs on my newly bare scalp.

Harold, what have you done?

What a question. He sounded like Stewie from
Family Guy.
Wasn’t it obvious?

You shouldn’t have done it, Harold!

So we’re just stating the obvious now?

He said a few more things that were immensely unhelpful and I walked out.

Worse ridicule was yet to come. A few days later, on the front page of the
Daily Mirror,
one of the tabloids, there I was with my new haircut.

Headline:
Harry the Skinhead.

I couldn’t imagine how they’d got wind of the story. A schoolmate must have told someone who told someone who told the papers. They had no photo, thank goodness. But they’d improvised. The image on the front page was a “computer-generated” rendering of the Spare, bald as an egg. A lie. More than a lie, really.

I looked bad, but not that bad.

19.

I didn’t think
it could get worse. What a grievous mistake it is for a member of the Royal Family, when considering the media, to imagine that things can’t get worse. Weeks later the same newspaper put me on the front page again.

HARRY’S HAD AN ACCIDENT.

I’d broken a bone in my thumb playing rugby, no big deal, but the paper decided to make out that I was on life support. Bad taste, under any circumstances, but a little more than a year after Mummy’s alleged accident?

C’mon, fellas.

I’d dealt with the British press all my life, but they’d never before singled me out. In fact, since Mummy’s death an unspoken agreement had governed press treatment of both her sons, and the agreement went like this:
Lay off.

Let them have their education in peace.

Apparently that agreement had now expired, because there I was, splattered across the front page, made out to seem a delicate flower. Or an ass. Or both.

And knocking on death’s door.

I read the article several times. Despite the somber subtext—something’s very wrong with Prince Harry—I marveled at its tone: larky. My existence was just fun and games to these people. I wasn’t a human being to them. I wasn’t a fourteen-year-old boy hanging on by his fingernails. I was a cartoon character, a glove puppet to be manipulated and mocked for fun. So what if their fun made my already difficult days more difficult, made me a laughingstock before my schoolmates, not to mention the wider world? So what if they were torturing a child? All was justified because I was royal, and in their minds royal was synonymous with non-person. Centuries ago royal men and women were considered divine; now they were insects. What fun, to pluck their wings.

Pa’s office lodged a formal complaint, publicly demanded an apology, accused the paper of bullying his younger son.

The newspaper told Pa’s office to sod off.

Before trying to move on with my life I took one last look at the article. Of all the things that surprised me about it, the truly flabbergasting thing was the absolutely shitty writing. I was a poor student, a dreadful writer, and yet I had enough education to recognize that this right here was a master class in illiteracy.

To take one example: After explaining that I’d been grievously injured, that I was nearly at death’s door, the article went on to caution breathlessly that the exact nature of my injury couldn’t be revealed because the Royal Family had forbidden the editors to do so. (As if my family had any control over these ghouls.) “To reassure you, we can say that Harry’s injuries are NOT serious. But the accident was considered grave enough for him to be taken to hospital. But we believe you are entitled to know if an heir to the throne is involved in any accident, however small, if it results in injury.”

The two “buts” in a row, the smug self-regard, the lack of coherence and absence of any real point, the hysterical nothingness of it all. This dog’s dinner of a paragraph was said to be edited—or, more likely, written—by a young journalist whose name I scanned and then quickly forgot.

I didn’t think I’d ever run across it, or him, again. The way he wrote? I couldn’t imagine he’d be a working journalist much longer.

20.

I forget who used the word first.
Someone in the press, probably. Or one of my teachers. Whoever—it took hold and circulated. I’d been cast in my role in the Rolling Royal Melodrama. Long before I was old enough to drink a beer (legally) it became dogma.

Harry? Yeah, he’s the
naughty
one.

Naughty became the tide I swam against, the headwind I flew against, the daily expectation I could never hope to shake.

I didn’t want to be naughty. I wanted to be noble. I wanted to be good, work hard, grow up and do something meaningful with my days. But every sin, every misstep, every setback triggered the same tired label, and the same public condemnations, and thereby reinforced the conventional wisdom that I was innately naughty.

Things might have been different if I’d achieved good grades. But I didn’t and everyone knew it. My reports were in the public domain. The whole Commonwealth was aware of my academic struggles, which were largely due to being overmatched at Eton.

But no one ever discussed the
other
probable cause.

Mummy.

Study, concentration, requires an alliance with the mind, and in my teen years I was waging all-out war with mine. I was forever fending off its darkest thoughts, its basest fears—its fondest memories. (The fonder the memory, the deeper the ache.) I’d found strategies for doing this, some healthy, some not, but all quite effective, and whenever they were unavailable—for instance, when I was forced to sit quietly with a book—I freaked out. Naturally, I avoided such situations.

BOOK: Spare
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