Book summary Spare

On the day of Harry’s birth, Prince Charles allegedly said to Diana, “Wonderful! Now there’s an Heir and a Spare.”

William was the firstborn – the heir to the throne – while Harry, the second son, was “the Spare.”

Presumably, Charles’s comment was a joke. But Harry’s parents and grandparents often talked about him in this way, making it clear that he was the back-up.

From an early age, Harry knew exactly what his role was. He was aware that his father and brother, who were first and second in line to the throne, could never take the same flight, in case the plane crashed. But there were no such rules for Harry. The Spare could be, well, spared.

Harry says that he took no offense at this. He accepted his role in the family. But now, as an adult, reflecting on his family and his identity, he realizes just how abnormal his life has been.

For instance, take his relationship with his father. Charles is not just Harry’s father, but also his boss and his banker. Or at least, he was, until Harry’s exit from royal life – we’ll get to that later. The point is, it’s not a typical father-son relationship.

It’s true that when Harry was growing up, there were some normal, loving moments between them.

Harry has fond memories of his father comforting him when he was a child. He used to be afraid of the dark, and at bedtime, Charles would sit beside him, gently tickling his face until he fell asleep. And he always called Harry his “darling boy.”

But for the most part, Harry recalls his father being a distant parent, who found communicating difficult. Charles preferred to tell his son how proud he was through letters, left on Harry’s pillow, rather than face-to-face.

And Charles wasn’t much of a hugger. In that, he seems to have taken after his mother, Queen Elizabeth. Apparently, she once swerved to avoid a hug from Diana – quite the awkward moment for them both!

But a lack of physical affection was far from Harry’s only issue growing up. Because of his royal status, every attempt to lead a normal life was thwarted in some way.

At school, he had armed bodyguards down the hall. When he was a teenager, they were waiting for him outside the pub, too.

It’s hard to live anything resembling a normal existence when you have to be escorted by bodyguards everywhere you go. Public transport is out of the question, though Harry did take the Tube once, on a school trip.

As an adult, Harry managed to enjoy occasional moments of freedom. For example, he would go to the supermarket on his own.

But each outing was planned like a military operation. He would go in disguise – a loose coat and a low baseball cap – and at different times of day, to throw off the press. He even memorized the layout of the store, so he could get in and out as quickly as possible.

Lack of freedom and privacy have been recurring issues in Harry’s life – a cause of stress and frustration. But of course, nothing has impacted him quite like the events of that night in August 1997.

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