It’s been a whirlwind week for Prince Harry and his upcoming memoir Spare hasn’t even been formally published yet.
Amid tabloid leaks and illicit copies of the book accidentally making their way to Spanish bookstores, Spare has already been ransacked for shocking revelations and made global headlines before it officially hits the shelves on Tuesday. This is the landscape into which three pre-recorded interviews of Harry discussing his book were released on Sunday evening.
The first interview aired at 9 p.m. in the U.K. on Sunday with ITV Correspondent Tom Bradby steering the conversation. At times, Bradby played devil’s advocate and channeled the voice of his critics by putting hard questions to Harry, but the royal played it safe by reiterating a lot of the same narratives he had shared in previous interviews. The duke upheld a razor sharp focus on the “briefings, leakings, and plantings,” which take place between royals and the British press, and expressed a desire to leave behind his true narrative as a historical artifact.
Harry hammered home that message in another interview that same day with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, this time pointing a finger specifically at Queen Consort Camilla, who he claimed traded damning stories about other royals to the press to improve her image. He went on to emphasize how the palace’s relationship with the toxic British tabloids took a toll on his mother, Princess Diana, and, later, his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
Here is everything we learned about the royal institution, the British media, and Harry’s personal relationships from his various book interviews.
Harry insists he never called his family racist
Prince Harry explained his understanding of the term “unconscious bias” and how he believes it differs from racism by delving into the controversy surrounding Lady Susan Hussey, William’s 83-year-old godmother and a long-standing lady of the household.
Hussey, Queen Elizabeth II’s former lady-in-waiting, apologized and resigned from her position in December after she repeatedly asked Ngozi Fulani, a black British charity boss where she was “really” from in a prolonged encounter at a Buckingham Palace event on tackling domestic violence. Prince Harry said the row was a “very good example of the environment” within the Royal institution.
“After our Oprah interview, they said that they were going to bring in a diversity tsar. That hasn’t happened. Everything they said was going to happen hasn’t happened,” he added. The royal emphasized that he never called his family racist; he said he just pointed out their unconscious bias, which they can work on.
Prince Harry continued to say that he and Meghan Markle “loved” Hussey and that he was glad to hear that Fulani had been invited to the palace to discuss what happened.
“She never meant any harm at all,” he said of Hussey’s comments. “But the response from the British press, and from people online because of the stories that they wrote was horrendous.”
William tried to forbid Harry from keeping his beard at his wedding
In a more unusual encounter, Harry tells Bradby that William took issue with him keeping facial hair for his wedding despite the Queen, his late grandmother, granting him permission to keep his beard for the 2018 ceremony.
When Bradby asked what the disagreement was actually about, Harry said: “I think a lot of it is to do with – I mean I refer to it as heir/spare but also older brother/younger brother. There’s a level of competition there.”
He added: “And again, writing this, I remembered that William had a beard himself and that granny and other people, the ones to tell—told him that he had to shave it off.” The duke then said that he explained to his grandmother that his beard felt like a “shield to his anxiety” and that was the reason for the different standard.
Harry believed that his mother may still be alive
Harry was 12 years old when his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car accident in Paris while being chased by the paparazzi. For many years as a teenager, the young prince believed that his mother may still be alive and had simply disappeared to escape the pressures of public life. “I just refused to accept she was gone. Part of ‘She would never do this to us’ but also ‘This is all part of a plan.’” He says that he would discuss this hope with William, who had similar thoughts. He believed some day, “She would call us, and we would go and join her.”
It was only when Harry was in his 20s and asked to see photos of the car accident that killed Princess Diana that he let go of the fantasy of seeing his mother again. He made the tragic realization while reviewing the photos that the last thing his mother saw before she passed away was the flash of a camera.
Harry experimented with drugs to help with his grief
Initially, Harry says he dealt with his grief through alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. He credits his military career from saving him from spinning out of control.
As an adult, Harry has experimented with other types of drugs in a much more controlled environment. He says he has used psychedelics to deal with the grief about his mother, including ayahuasca, psilocybin, and mushrooms, all in a controlled space.
“I would never recommend people to do this recreationally, but doing it with the right people if you’re suffering from a huge amount of loss, grief, or trauma, then these things have a way of working as a medicine,” he said. “For me they cleared the windscreen, the windshield, the misery of loss.”
Harry says that Camilla “sacrificed” him to her “personal PR altar”
Cooper said during the interview that Spare was particularly cutting when it came to the depiction of Harry’s stepmother Camilla, now queen consort. As boys, William and Harry both directly asked their father not to marry Camilla. “We thought it was going to cause more harm than good, and if he was now with his person, surely that was enough,” he told Cooper. “We wanted him to be happy.”
But Harry was wary of Camilla in part because her reputation had been so tarnished in the British press. Harry’s father King Charles has admitted to having a multi-year affair with Camilla while he was married to Harry’s mother, Diana. Diana famously once said of Camilla,
“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Harry argues that Camilla had to work to make herself more appealing to the British people after that revelation—and claims that she would trade secrets about other royals with the press to do so.
“The need for her to rehabilitate her image, that made her dangerous because of the connections she was forging within the British press. And there was an openness on both sides to trade in information,” he said in the interview. “And with a family built on hierarchy, and with her on the way to being queen consort, there was going to be people or bodies left in the street because of that.”
According to Anderson Cooper, Harry writes in the book that Camilla “sacrificed me on her personal PR altar.”
The royals didn’t invite Harry on a plane to rush to the Queen’s deathbed
He was in London last September in a charity event when the palace announced Queen Elizabeth II, his grandmother, was under medical supervision in Scotland at Balmoral Castle.
“I asked my brother, I said, ‘What are your plans? How are you and Kate getting up there?’ And then a couple of hours later, all of the family members that live within the Windsor and Ascot were jumping on a plane together, a plane with 12, 14, maybe 16 seats…I was not invited.”
By the time Harry reached Balmoral on his own, the Queen had died.
Harry says he’s doing interviews to get through to his family
Even before the book’s publication, Harry has faced criticism for airing his family’s dirty laundry rather than resolving his issues with them in private. When Cooper challenged Harry on this point, Harry claimed that writing a book and conducting honest interviews was the only way he knew how to get through to his family.
“Every single time I’ve tried to do it privately, there have been briefings and leakings and planting of stories against me and my wife,” he said. “Trying to speak a language that perhaps they understand, I will sit here and speak truth to you with the words that come out of my mouth rather than using someone else, an unnamed source, to feed lies or narrative to a tabloid media that literally radicalizes its readers to potentially cause harm to my family—my wife, my kids.”
Harry and Meghan are ready to apologize and reconcile
It’s difficult to imagine that Harry and William will ever share the close bond they once had after the publication of Spare. The book details, among other things, a physical confrontation between the two brothers that ended in William grabbing Harry by the collar and shoving him to the ground before asking him to keep the incident a secret. Harry confirmed in the interview he has not spoken to his father or his brother in “quite awhile”
Harry, meanwhile, continues to feel burned by the palace’s silence on issues that personally affect his family. Cooper brought up an article in the British tabloid The Sun written by a TV host in which the author said he dreamed of Meghan walking naked through the streets of Britain having excrement thrown at her. The palace did not respond to the disturbing piece. “There comes a point when silence is betrayal,” Harry said.
The Duke of Sussex said he “can’t see” himself returning to life as a full-time royal, but maintained the “ball is in their court” in terms of personal reconciliation. “We will openly apologize for anything we’ve done wrong.”
BY ELIANA DOCKTERMAN AND ARMANI SYED, TIME