The Biggest Bombshells We Learned from Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare'

This highly-anticipated book pulls back the curtain on the British royal family unlike ever before.
Prince Harry's book Spare displayed in Barnes & Noble
Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP | Getty Images
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Aug 09, 2023
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It was an announcement that shocked the world. In July 2021, Prince Harry revealed that he would be writing a memoir, Spare, detailing "the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned" throughout his life. Before Spare was officially released on January 10, 2023, leaks of its seemingly salacious content dominated the headlines. From divulging personal text messages to calling his brother's hair loss "alarming" and revealing new details about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's marriage, the Duke of Sussex appeared to bare everything in his highly-anticipated memoir—and there's no denying that Spare pulls back the curtain on the British royal family unlike any other interview or documentary has before. Early Prince Harry Spare reviews called the work "emotional and embittered," "unfiltered," "electrified" and "lyrical."

Here, we break down everything you need to know about Spare by Prince Harry. Find The Knot's official review of the royal memoir, read up on the biggest bombshells we learned, and catch up on the latest news about how it continues to impact the royal family today. And, if you have yet to get your hands on a copy of Prince Harry's book, we break down exactly where to snag it for your bookshelf.

In this article:

Prince Harry Spare Book Review

As a lifelong royal family watcher, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Spare. My childhood bookshelf was stacked with "easy reader" books about Princess Diana and the British monarchy. I remember waking up at the crack of dawn on spring break in high school to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding; In college, my mom and grandmother hosted a watch party for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's. I consume as much royal fam content as I can—so when Spare was announced, it was my personal dream come true.

At 407 pages split into three parts, Spare by Prince Harry isn't exactly a light read. I was prepared to fly through this book, assuming its pages would be filled with addictive gossip and never-before-told inside scoop from inside the palace walls. While this was partly true, it took more time than expected to sit with the heavy information and process what I was reading.

I loved the vulnerability within part one, and reading Prince Harry's innermost thoughts about his mother—particularly the emotional fallout after her untimely death—was moving. It's for this reason that I wish there weren't so many salacious headlines ahead of Spare's release, which I feel dampened the impact of this memoir. There's moving content in this book, but much of it was overshadowed by the buzzy tidbits that tabloids picked up and blasted across their headlines…often without necessary context, I might add.

I wasn't expecting this book to focus so heavily on Prince Harry's time in the military. It makes sense, of course, considering these years were formative to his youth and who he became as an adult. But it's important to note that it takes up the majority of the second part. I found myself flipping through these pages quickly to get to what I really wanted to read: his relationship with Meghan, documented in the third part.

Prince Harry's Spare reviews are fairly high. On Amazon, the book racked up 4.5 stars; on Goodreads, 3.9. My personal Spare review falls right in the middle: I gave this book 4 stars. Considering my personal affinity for the royals, I knew I would enjoy the content. I loved learning new, private details about the start of Prince Harry and Meghan's love story, and I devoured other anecdotes (like Harry's childhood memories with Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, and his secrets from Prince William's wedding). I lost interest in parts that leaned heavily into military jargon, and, if I'm being honest, I could have gone without all the "todger" talk (IYKYK). Overall, if you consider yourself to be a fan of the British royals, this book is a must-read. I'd also encourage you to read it if you find yourself critical of Harry and Meghan, because it may shed light on sensationalized stories and help you see them from a different perspective.

Why is Prince Harry's book called Spare?

What's the meaning of Spare for Prince Harry? It's a valid question. The royal's memoir was named Spare as a nod to the nickname "the heir and the spare." This moniker—which typically has a derogatory tone—is often used to describe children who will inherit the throne in royal families. As the oldest child of King Charles, Prince William comes before his brother in the line of succession to the throne, meaning he's the "heir." Prince Harry, as such, was considered the "spare." Before Prince William had kids of his own, Harry fell directly behind his older brother in the line of succession, so if anything happened to Will before he could ascend, Harry would take his place.

In simpler terms, Harry was viewed as the backup to William—a damaging concept that wreaked havoc on his mental health and self-perception, as explained throughout his memoir. "They would say it without a spirit of judgment, but straight out," Harry wrote. "I was the shadow, the supporting actor, the plan B." He added: "I was brought into this world in case something happened to Willy."

The Biggest Takeaways From Prince Harry's Book Spare

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Photo: Chris Jackson - Pool | Getty Images

There are so many fascinating anecdotes throughout Prince Harry's Spare, and we can't possibly sum them all up here. But, of course, some stories stand out from others. Here are five of the biggest bombshells we learned from Prince Harry's tell-all book.

Harry and William Got into a Physical Fight Over Meghan

The first—and most explosive—detail to be leaked from Prince Harry's book Spare was that he and Prince William got into a physical fight over Meghan Markle. Harry said the altercation, which happened in 2019, took place over "issues which were based not on reality."

In a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper ahead of the book's release, the Duke of Sussex stated that the fight began on the grounds of Kensington Palace when Prince William brought up Harry's relationship with Meghan. "It was a buildup of frustration, I think, on his part," Prince Harry said. "It was at a time where he was being told certain things by people within his office. And at the same time, he was consuming a lot of the tabloid press, a lot of the stories. And he had a few issues which were based not on reality. And I was defending my wife. And he was coming for my wife. She wasn't there at the time but through the things that he was saying, I was defending myself."

He added, "We moved from one room into the kitchen. And his frustrations were growing and growing and growing. He was shouting at me. I was shouting back at him. It wasn't nice. It wasn't pleasant at all. And he snapped. And he pushed me to the floor." Harry claims he landed on a dog bowl and sustained scrapes and bruises on his back.

While Prince Harry didn't reveal the contents of the argument on 60 Minutes, he wrote in his book that William called Meghan "difficult," "rude," and "abrasive." At first, he didn't tell Meghan about the incident until she noticed the evidence on his body. In another interview with ITV's Tom Bradby, Harry said, "I talk about the red mist that I had for so many years. I saw this red mist in him—he wanted me to hit him back but I chose not to." He confirmed to Cooper that William did eventually apologize for the "nasty experience."

Harry Revealed Meghan and Kate's Text Messages About Charlotte's Bridesmaid Dress

Perhaps one of the biggest tabloid stories to come from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in 2018 was that the bride reportedly made Kate Middleton cry over bridesmaid dresses. But during the couple's explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021, they revealed that it was actually Kate who made Meghan cry. In Spare, Prince Harry details the exact text messages that were shared during the tense exchange, which stemmed from Princess Charlotte's dress fitting incorrectly.

"Charlotte's dress is too big, too long, too baggy," Kate allegedly texted Meghan. "She cried when she tried it on at home." Meghan responded, "Right, and I told you the tailor has been standing by since 8am. Here. At KP. Can you take Charlotte to have it altered, as the other mums are doing?" Prince Harry says that Kate didn't agree to the alterations, and instead requested that "all the dresses be remade"—an idea she discussed with her own wedding dress designer, who agreed. "Meg asked if Kate was aware of what was going on right now. With her father," Harry wrote. "Kate said she was well aware, but the dresses. And the wedding is in four days!" He added that Kate "had problems with the way Meg was planning her wedding. Something about a party for the page boys? It went back and forth."

The exchange concluded with Meghan replying, "I'm not sure what else to say. If the dress doesn't fit then please take Charlotte to see Ajay. He's been waiting all day." Kate responded with a cool, "Fine." Harry recalled that he came home to see Meghan "sobbing on the floor" over the conversation.

Harry and William "Begged" Charles Not to Marry Camilla

Camilla Parker-Bowles' relationship with the royal family has been tumultuous. Originally known as the "third person" in Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage, she had an affair with the future king while he was still betrothed. Following Princess Diana's tragic death in 1997, Charles and Camilla rekindled their love, despite the controversy surrounding them—and they faced an uphill battle to win over the approval of the press, the British people, and even the royal family.

Prince Harry opened up about this complicated dynamic in Spare, writing, "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…We support you, we said. We endorse Camilla, we said. Just please don't marry her." Charles ultimately didn't listen to the requests of his sons. The couple got engaged in February 2005 and were married just two months later on February 9.

William Didn't Want Harry to Be the Best Man at His 2011 Wedding

In Spare, Prince Harry also shed new light on Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding. The couple got married at Westminster Abbey in 2011, and, according to Prince Harry, the palace openly lied about the nuptials. "The public had been told that I was to be best man, but that was a bare-faced lie," Harry reminisced, noting that his brother was not in favor of giving him that esteemed role. "Willy didn't want me giving a best-man speech. He didn't think it was safe to hand me a live mic and put me in a position to go off-script. He wasn't wrong."

Ever the mischievous younger brother, he did manage to surprise William by presenting the newlyweds with a thong made of ermine fur at the reception. "The room let out a collective gasp," he recalled, followed by "a warm, gratifying wave of laughter."

Charles Said He Couldn't Financially Support Harry and Meghan

Prince Harry was met with a less-than-warm response from his father when he announced his intention to marry Meghan Markle. The author recounted a shocking conversation he had with King Charles after sharing his desire to propose, which revolved around finances:

Prince Charles: "Does she want to carry on working?"

Prince Harry: "Say again?"

PC: "Does she want to keep on acting?"

PH: "Oh, I mean, I don't know, I wouldn't think so. I expect she'll want to be with me, doing the job, you know, which would rule out Suits…since they film in…Toronto."

PC: "Hmm, I see. Well, darling boy, you know there's not enough money to go around."

PH: I stared. What was he banging on about?

PC: He explained. Or tried to. "I can't pay for anyone else. I'm already having to pay for your brother and Catherine."

Harry continued, "Pa didn't financially support Willy and me, and our families, out of any largesse. That was his job. That was the whole deal. We agreed to serve the monarch, go wherever we were sent, do whatever we were told, surrender our autonomy, keep our hands and feet in the gilded cage at all times, and in exchange the keepers of the cage agreed to feed and clothe us."

He speculated that this decision wasn't actually about money. "Pa might have dreaded the rising cost of maintaining us, but what he really couldn't stomach was someone new dominating the monarchy, grabbing the limelight, someone shiny and new coming in and overshadowing him."

Prince Harry's Spare Fallout After Its Release

Prince Harry's Spare fallout was exactly what you'd expect. The palace was reportedly furious with the book, with sources claiming that Prince William was "so angry," King Charles felt "deeply hurt" and Queen Camilla was "astounded" by the content.

During the promotional tour for his book, Prince Harry told Anderson Cooper that he didn't think it was "ever going to be possible" for him to rejoin his family as a senior working royal. He also confirmed that he did not speak to Charles, Camilla and William "for quite a while."

Despite the alleged disapproval from his family members, Prince Harry had a different perspective on life post-Spare release. In a conversation on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, the talk show host asked Prince Harry to describe how he sees the rest of his life in just five words. His response? "Freedom, happiness, clarity, space, love."

Where to Buy Spare by Prince Harry

So, where can you get your hands on a copy of Spare by Prince Harry? The royal's memoir is available to purchase in a variety of mediums. If you prefer physical books, you can grab a hardcover copy from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or an independent bookseller near you.

Digital copies of the Spare e-book are available to purchase on Amazon. You can also use an app like Libby to rent the book from your library. Doing so will allow you to download the copy on an e-reader, like a Kindle or Nook.

You can also get Prince Harry's Spare as an audiobook too. Not only is this great for reading on the go, it's extra special because Prince Harry himself narrates the text, making this an immersive experience. You can buy the Spare audiobook on a platform like Audible (where you can get a complimentary copy with a free trial) or Apple.

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