72 pages 2 hours read

Prince Harry

Spare

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2023

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Spare is a memoir by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. The book was ghostwritten by J. R. Moehringer and first published in January 2023. The memoir’s title highlights Prince Harry’s position as Prince Charles’s “Spare” (i.e., contingency heir), in contrast to Prince William’s role as “Heir.” The narrative recounts the prince’s struggle to come to terms with his mother’s death and his pursuit of love and purpose. Outlining his reasons for breaking with the royal family and leaving Britain, Prince Harry highlights the restrictions of royal life, the effects of press harassment, and his strained relationships with his father and brother. The memoir’s tone is frank, informal, and matter-of-fact.

This guide refers to the 2023 Transworld eBook edition.

Content Warning: The book (and this guide) reference death by suicide.

Plot Summary

The Prologue is set in 2021, after Prince Phillip’s funeral. Prince Harry meets with Prince Charles and Prince William, who don’t understand his reasons for leaving the royal family and moving to California. Harry considers his reasons too complicated to articulate.

Part 1 covers Prince Harry’s life between 1997 and 2006. On August 31, 1997, he learns his mother is dead. Diana, Princess of Wales, died in Paris as paparazzi chased her car through a tunnel. The collision also killed her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and their driver. Twelve-year-old Harry clings to the belief that his mother is still alive. At the funeral, he and his older brother, Prince William, walk behind the coffin during its procession to Westminster Abbey.

Prince Harry goes to Ludgrove School and Eton, where he struggles academically. He smokes marijuana and occasionally uses cocaine, leading to stories of drug abuse and visits to rehab in the newspapers.

After leaving Eton, Prince Harry takes a gap year, working on an Australian farm and helping an AIDS charity in Lesotho, South Africa. He forms a strong bond with wildlife filmmakers and campaigners Teej and Mike.

The paparazzi harass Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Chelsy Davy. They also publish a photograph of Prince Harry in a Nazi costume, causing public outrage. Harry begins boot camp at Sandhurst Military Academy, graduating a year later. In April 2005, Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles against his sons’ wishes.

Part 2 covers the period between 2007 and 2015. After visiting the site of his mother’s death, Prince Harry believes that the paparazzi caused the crash. He wants the inquest reopened, but the Palace advises against it.

Prince Harry’s deployment to Iraq is cancelled because of concerns about his safety. Instead, he takes the role of an airspace controller in Afghanistan. However, Special Forces extract him when Australian journalists reveal his location. After training as a helicopter pilot, he’s again deployed to Afghanistan. His tour ends when Prince Harry becomes a target for the Taliban.

Prince Harry struggles to adjust to civilian life and experiences anxiety. A video of Harry using a racial slur goes viral, and he’s condemned for racism. He and Chelsy agree to split after a tracking device is found under her car. Brief romances with TV presenter Caroline Flack and Florence Brudenell-Bruce end for similar reasons. After meeting a new girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, Prince Harry visits Las Vegas with male friends. They play strip billiards in their hotel suite with a group of women. The next day, newspapers publish photographs of Prince Harry naked.

In April 2011, Prince William marries Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. The couple eventually has a son, George, and a daughter, Charlotte. Prince Harry treks with injured soldiers to the North and South Poles. The experience inspires him to found the Invictus Games: a Paralympics for war veterans. In addition, he contributes to Teej and Mike’s conservation work in South Africa.

Part 3 recounts events from 2016 to 2021. Prince Harry meets and falls in love with biracial American actor Meghan Markle. Newspaper stories focus on Meghan’s race, and reporters constantly harass her. Prince Harry asks his father to take legal action, but Prince Charles suggests that his son is overreacting.

The Queen gives Prince Harry permission to marry Meghan, and a wedding date is set for May 2018. Meanwhile, tensions mount between Meghan, Kate, Prince Harry, and Prince William. Four days before the wedding, Kate upsets Meghan by insisting that Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress must be remade. Meghan’s distress is exacerbated by the news that her father colluded with the paparazzi for money.

After the wedding, Meghan becomes pregnant. Stories appear in the British newspapers claiming Meghan made outrageous demands over her wedding and made Kate cry. The Daily Mail prints a private letter Meghan wrote to her father. Prince Harry wants to sue the newspaper, but his father and brother oppose him. One day Prince Harry finds Meghan crying, and she admits that she no longer wants to live. Prince William confronts Harry, insisting that Meghan is “difficult” and “rude.” They argue, and Prince William grabs his brother, knocking him over.

When Meghan has a baby boy, a BBC radio presenter posts a photograph of a chimpanzee, claiming that it’s a picture of the royal baby. Prince Harry and Meghan decide to sue three British tabloids, but Prince Charles warns them that it could damage the royal family.

Prince Harry tells his father that he and Meghan want to live in South Africa for six months of the year to escape press harassment. Prince Harry is summoned to a meeting to discuss options for the couple’s future. His family agrees that Prince Harry and Meghan will no longer perform royal duties and won’t have armed protection if they leave Britain.

Prince Harry and Meghan move to Canada and then the US. Their security is withdrawn, along with royal funding. Meghan has a miscarriage before giving birth to a daughter.

In the Epilogue, Prince Harry learns that Queen Elizabeth is gravely ill and flies to London. On the journey, he hears that the Queen has died and his father is now king. Prince Harry and his brother follow the coffin at the Queen’s funeral but barely speak. The next day, Prince Harry returns to his home in California. Finding a hummingbird in the house, he sets it free.

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