It was inevitable, with a book as highly anticipated as Prince Harry’s memoir Spare, that there would be a leak of its contents ahead of its release next week. Given the Duke of Sussex’s antipathy towards his family, it is fitting that the British newspaper that landed this exclusive is the republican-leaning Guardian. Nonetheless, it is something of a marmalade-dropper to see the headline “Prince Harry details physical attack by brother William in new book.”
We might have thought we have heard all the details of the acrimonious relationship between the two royal siblings before: clearly, there is still more to come.
The story is an unedifying one. Harry describes how, in 2019, William visited his younger brother — who we learn he refers to as “Harold” — at his grace-and-favor home Nottingham Cottage (‘Nott Cott’) and the two had a row, largely over Meghan.
In the book, ghostwritten by the American author J.D. Moehringer, William is said to have referred to Meghan as “difficult,” “rude” and “abrasive,” before the argument became progressively more heated.
The Prince of Wales, who is described as “piping hot,” claimed he was trying to help, to which his brother retorted: “Are you serious? Help me? Sorry — is that what you call this? Helping me?”
Describing himself as frightened by the extent of William’s rage, Harry retreated to the kitchen, poured a glass of water, and said: “Willy, I can’t speak to you when you’re like this.”
Then the red mist descended; as Harry describes it in the book, “He set down the water, called me another name, then came at me. It all happened so fast. So very fast. He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog’s bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out.”
It is an uncomfortable tale, all the more so because of William’s reported insistence that Harry fight back, as he did when the two were younger, before he apologized and said “you don’t need to tell Meg about this.”
Harry initially obeys his brother, although does tell his therapist — naturally — but when Meghan sees the scratches on his back, her reported reaction is that she “wasn’t that surprised, and wasn’t all that angry… she was terribly sad.”
Yet, once the initial shock value wears off of the image of William being so irate at his brother and his wife that he is driven to physical violence, many might wonder whether — if this is the single most damning story to emerge from Spare — the book is as ruinous as has been anticipated to royal reputations.
The other revelation of sorts, which appeared in the New York Post‘s Page Six, is that William and Kate both “howled with laughter” when they saw Harry dressed up in a Nazi uniform in 2005 and suggested that he wear the outfit to a party. The story would be more noteworthy if a version of it had not already appeared in Robert Lacey’s 2020 Battle of Brothers.
If the Guardian has had unfettered access to Spare, rather than a quick glance at selected passages, it suggests the book might be something of a damp squib. Does an angry altercation between two grown men — both army veterans and in good physical fitness — represent the most shocking revelation? Many in the Firm might consider that they have got off lightly if so.
The only mention in the leak of King Charles is his saying to his sons, in the wake of Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021, “Please, boys, don’t make my final years a misery.” It had been thought that both Charles and Camilla might be the target of Harry’s opprobrium, so this might indicate a change in emphasis in a later draft.
Either way, if William is to be the main focus of the author’s resentment — the heir, rather than the spare — this particular war between the Windsors shows no signs of being resolved.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.