On the Shelf
By Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex
Random House: 416 pages, $36
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With his memoir, ‘Spare,’ which finally hit bookstores around the globe on Tuesday, Prince Harry cements his place as the world’s least predictable living royal — a chaos agent of the most interesting kind.
The book is full of references that, out of context, can sound absolutely ridiculous, but they often open a window onto the mind of the estranged Duke of Sussex that more well-worn anecdotes about tiffs over children’s formal wear might not. Read on for stories you haven’t heard yet — or haven’t yet made sense of, until now. All quoted material is by Harry and/or his ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer.
‘He had a meeting with Nelson Mandela … and the Spice Girls’
Early in “Spare,” Harry writes about a trip to South Africa with his father — now King Charles III — soon after his mother Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Charles didn’t want 12-year-old Harry spending his half-term break at St. James’s Palace, where he “might glimpse a newspaper, overhear a radio” talking about Diana as the British press “veered into psychosis” over her death.
Plus, Harry wrote in hindsight, “Pa’s staff hoped a photo of him standing alongside the world’s most revered political leader and the world’s most popular female act would earn him some positive headlines, which he sorely needed. … His approval rating around the world was in single digits.
This is why Harry’s first public appearance after his mother’s death was a photo call with the Spice Girls before the group’s Halloween concert in Johannesburg. Baby Spice kept pinching Harry’s cheeks (“So chubby! So cute!”) while the young prince spied Ginger Spice (“a fellow ginger”) and wished he were home in bed, away from everyone. Through the whole thing, reporters shouted questions at him.
“The journalists didn’t didn’t give a toss how I was doing, they were trying to get me to say something messy, newsy.” Instead, Harry smiled and then headed off, unexpectedly, to the Spice Girls concert, where he saw his dad nodding his head and tapping his foot to the beat.
“On the way home I told myself the whole trip had been a smash. Not only a terrific adventure, but a bonding experience with Pa.”
‘My penis was a matter of public record, and indeed some public curiosity’
Just before his big brother’s wedding, Harry was traveling to the North Pole with a group of wounded soldiers raising money for charity. He didn’t know that he should have avoided sweating during the group’s activities, because in 30-below temperatures moisture freezes instantly. He also didn’t make it all the way to the pole because weather delayed the trip and he had to leave for the nuptials.
Back at Clarence House, Harry had a pre-wedding meal with his father, Prince William and the two best men. “The public had been told I was to be best man, but that was a bald-faced lie. …. Willy didn’t want me giving a best-man speech.” Apparently big bro didn’t trust little bro to stay on script. “He wasn’t wrong.”
Harry had something more urgent to worry about. On his trip, he’d noticed frostbite on his fingers and ears. “Upon arriving home I’d been horrified to discover that my nether regions were frostnipped as well, and while the ears and cheeks were already healing, the todger wasn’t.”
After the wedding, Harry’s penis “was oscillating between extremely sensitive and borderline traumatized.” Sitting, walking and sex were all difficult or out of the question, and he needed to see a doctor. “But I couldn’t ask the Palace to find me one. Some courtier would get wind of my condition and leak it to the press and the next thing I knew my todger would be all over the front pages.”
Harry wound up booking an appointment with the help of a friend, sneaked in through a back door with help from his bodyguard and told the doctor something along the lines of “I went to the North Pole and now my South Pole is on the fritz.” The doctor told him that the partial penectomy he had googled was likely unnecessary; the probable cure would be time. “Time, he said, heals. Really, Doc? That hasn’t been my experience.”
This was during Harry’s ill-fated 2012 trip to Las Vegas. He and some mates headed to Sin City, chipping in on a massive two-level suite with a grand staircase, a “lift” and a billiard table — the very one on which he’d be photographed playing (and losing) a game of strip pool.
The trip was “a bit of a neon blur,” as they all began drinking upon arrival and never really stopped. Then Harry, a.k.a. “Spike,” started thinking a tattoo would be a good souvenir. “I went to find Billy the Rock” — one of his bodyguards — who shut that down immediately. But he wasn’t able to stop what happened later that night.
The gang returned to the suite around 2 a.m., traveling with “four or five women who worked at the hotel … and two women they’d met at the blackjack table.” Harry started playing pool with his bodyguards. Then he noticed the “blackjack girls” looking like they wanted to play too. They joined the game, though nobody was very good. “I suggested we up the stakes. How about a game of strip pool?” Cheers all around.
One of those blackjack girls had snapped some photos — and sold them.
“I had counted on those dodgy girls showing some basic decency, and now I was going to pay the price forever. These photos would never go away.” Fortunately, his army superiors didn’t care — and some servicemen even posed for their own candid snaps, “covering their privates with helmets, weapons, berets,” as a show of support before Harry headed back to the war in Afghanistan.
‘Because rhinos, elephants, that’s mine’
Toward the end of 2015, Harry — who had been battling anxiety — was told casually by a therapist that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress. So he tried therapy, meditation, psychedelic drugs.
“I’d experimented with them over the years, for fun, but now I’d begun to use them therapeutically, medicinally.” Under the influence of ayahuasca and psychedelic mushrooms, Harry was “able to let go of rigid preconcepts, to see that there was another world beyond my heavily filtered senses.”
Work also helped, and Harry wanted to work in Africa — but that was a problem for Prince William, who wanted Africa to himself and was willing to flex his veto power as heir to the throne. Big brother was resentful that Harry had been the one invited to the North Pole. “It was all so obvious. He cared less about finding his purpose or passion than about winning his lifelong competition with me.”
But Harry forged on with a four-month fact-finding trip through the African continent. In South Africa, he went on anti-poaching patrols aimed at protecting rhinos. He also assisted on a long surgery to repair the face of a rhino whose horn had been taken while she was tranquilized.
‘She was Monica. And I was a Chandler’
In January 2016, Harry, a “Friends” fanboy, found himself in Los Angeles, his future home turf, with a couple of mates. He was introduced to “proper tequila, fancy schmancy tequila, and I was schooled in all the many ways of drinking it.” The next day — no hangover, thank you — they went to the house of Courteney Cox, who was friends with the girlfriend of one of his buddies.
“As a Friends fanatic, the idea of crashing at Monica’s was highly appealing. And amusing. But then … Courteney showed up.” Would they have to leave? Courteney said no, of course not. Then she invited more people over, and the party began.
Three or four tequilas into the festivities, Harry finally learned that the familiar-looking guy he’d been talking to was Will Arnett, the voice of Batman in “The Lego Movie” and its sequels. So of course he begged Arnett to do it. Do the voice. “He shut his eyes. He wanted to say no, but he didn’t want to be impolite. Or else he recognized that I wouldn’t stop.” Then — “Hello, Harry,” said the voice of Batman, tickling the prince to his core.
Will then led them to a fridge containing, among other things, chocolates infused with mushrooms. Yep, those kinds of mushrooms. The actor grabbed a soft drink. Harry and his mate indulged.
Later, when Harry went to the bathroom, a trashcan — the kind with a foot pedal to open it — suddenly became a head, then smiled at the prince after he stepped on the pedal. “I laughed, turned away, took a piss. Now the loo became a head too. The bowl was its gaping maw, the hinges of the seat were its piercing eyes. …. I finished, flushed, closed its mouth.” He left the bathroom giggling.
‘I thought of petting them but then remembered I had a dead bird in each hand’
Harry had been told that as number six in line for the throne, he had to ask the queen’s permission before proposing marriage to Meghan Markle, a divorcée. He decided he would get his grandmother alone during a family hunting trip. He didn’t succeed until after the final drive of the day.
“I saw Granny jump into her smaller Range Rover and drive out to the middle of the stubble field. She began looking for dead birds, while her dogs hunted.” Harry fell in beside her, helping gather birds, and tried to start a conversation while his subconscious “was popping” with thoughts of what he would do if he couldn’t marry his beloved.
But he managed to get the words out, telling Queen Elizabeth II that he loved Meg very much and wanted to marry her and had been told that he had to ask her for permission. “You have to?,” the queen asked. Yes, Harry replied, her staff had told him. His staff too.
“I stood completely still, as motionless as the birds in my hands. I stared at her face but it was unreadable. At last she replied: Well, then, I suppose I have to say yes.”
Harry frantically searched for hidden meaning in what she’d just said, then realized: “She’s saying yes, you muppet! She’s granting permission. Who cares how she words it, just know when to take yes for an answer.”
‘How can you really describe light? Even Einstein had a problem with that one.’
This passage, from the book’s introduction, is among the most floridly written in the pages of “Spare.” It’s presented here without elaboration, because nobody wants to pick on a boy expressing his love for his late mom.
“Recently,” Harry wrote, “astronomers rearranged their biggest telescopes, aimed them at one tiny crevice in the cosmos, and managed to catch a glimpse of one breathtaking sphere, which they named Earendel, the Old English word for Morning Star. Billions of miles off, and probably long vanished, Earendel is closer to the Big Bang, the moment of Creation, than our own Milky Way, and yet it’s somehow still visible to mortal eyes because it’s just so awesomely bright and dazzling.
“That was my mother.”