In July 2021, Prince Harry revealed that he was writing a memoir. Described as “intimate and heartfelt” by his publisher Penguin Random House, the prince promised that the book would be an "accurate and wholly truthful" account of his life, spanning his childhood and coming-of-age as a royal, his military service, his marriage, and his experiences with fatherhood. The announcement came on the heels of an eventful year for the prince—after stepping down from their duties as senior members of the royal family, he and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, moved to California, where they sat for an explosive televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, speaking candidly about facing racism, insensitivity, and a lack of mental healthcare within Buckingham Palace. Ever since the memoir was announced, royal watchers have eagerly awaited its release, hopeful that it might reveal more bombshells from inside the House of Windsor.
The book was originally slated to arrive in fall 2022, but as the date approached with no further news, it became the subject of tabloid speculation, with reports surfacing that the memoir may have contributed to tension between Prince Harry and his brother, Prince William. When Queen Elizabeth II died in September, royal insiders alleged that Harry revised the book at the last minute, fearful that some of what he wrote might come across as "insensitive." According to publishing industry executives interviewed by The New York Times, Harry has occasionally "gotten cold feet" about the memoir’s contents, with the project shrouded in "rumours, delays, and secrecy."
Now, after a long wait and much speculation, the memoir is finally coming into clearer view. Titled Spare (a reference to the oft-used description of royal siblings as “an heir and a spare”), it will hit shelves on January 10, 2023, with the proceeds set to be donated to two charities: WellChild, a charity for children with complex medical needs, and Sentebale, another charity Prince Harry co-founded in honour of his late mother, benefitting HIV-positive children and adolescents. Buckingham Palace, for its part, did not respond to news of Spare’s release date. Markus Dohle, global CEO of Penguin Random House, said that in the memoir, Prince Harry "shares a remarkably moving personal journey from trauma to healing, one that speaks to the power of love and will inspire and encourage millions of people around the world."
But just what will Prince Harry reveal in Spare? That’s the million dollar question. The publisher’s official description offers some clues: “It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow—and horror. As Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest, billions wondered what the princes must be thinking and feeling—and how their lives would play out from that point on. For Harry, this is that story at last.”
Exploring Princess Diana’s untimely death will “resurface a particular agony for [King] Charles,” said Tina Brown, the author of The Palace Papers. “The queen was restabilised after the death of Diana, whereas Charles has continually battled to end those ghosts. The rehabilitation of Camilla’s image has been utterly successful, but she lives in dread of Harry’s book. In some ways, Diana’s ghost still rattles at the gate.”
Spare arrives at a precarious moment for the British monarchy. As the nation adjusts to King Charles III on the throne, some Brits have renewed their calls to abolish the monarchy altogether, defiantly chanting, "Not my king!" If Spare reveals explosive or unflattering information, it could damage an institution already flagging in public esteem. Valentine Low, the author of Courtiers: Intrigue, Ambition and the Power Players Behind the House of Windsor, told The New York Times, "Don’t forget, the British royal family is there by consent. They need to earn and keep the respect of the British public. If that is ever damaged in a fundamental and permanent way, that could be very serious."
Can the British monarchy survive all 416 pages of Spare? Only time will tell. Stick with us in January, when we’ll be covering the book in all its juicy details.
This article was first published on Esquire.