The accolade of most eagerly awaited book of the year is bandied around a lot but this time it really is justified: Prince Harry’s tell-all memoir, Spare, is due to be published on January 10.
The autobiography might not be out for a few more months but, finally, details are starting to emerge. The cover – a simple, close-up portrait of a stern-looking Duke of Sussex – was revealed this week and, if the brilliantly catty title is anything to go by, it’s going to be a riveting read. There have been rumours of hasty rewrites and anxious anticipation by Buckingham Palace.
So what exactly will be revealed? And just how scared should the royal family be about its release? Here’s everything you need to know.
The release date
Even before the Queen’s death on September 8, there were many who warned against Harry publishing his own story. Now, so soon after his grandmother’s passing, the potential spilling of well-guarded family secrets is widely being regarded as downright distasteful.
But despite the fact that some believed (or hoped) the book’s release might be postponed indefinitely, the news has now been confirmed: the book will be published on January 10.
The memoir is the first in a multi-book deal with Penguin Random House and was initially scheduled for late 2022, just in time for the lucrative Christmas market. Instead, Harry has announced that the “raw, unflinching” account of his life in the royal family will be released during the quieter January period, after the royal family have gathered for Christmas at Sandringham – their first festive period without the Queen. It’s thought the date was chosen in an attempt to show respect for the late monarch, with a source revealing the Duke had fought to push the publication date back as long as possible.
The book, which runs to 416 pages and will cost £28 in hardback (though WH Smith currently has it available for order at £14) is part of a broader push by Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, to establish themselves as media moguls in their new home of California.
Alongside the book contract, the couple have signed big-money deals with Netflix and Spotify. Harry will even be getting behind the microphone for this project, with the Duke set to read the unabridged audio edition of the book himself, which will be released on the same date.
There have been months of fevered speculation over what Harry would call his book, and now its simple, one-word title has been revealed: Spare. While in any other context the word would seem innocuous enough, here it is deeply telling, referring to the well-known phrase that monarchies need an “heir and a spare” – in this case, the Prince of Wales is the heir and his younger brother, the “spare”. The Spanish language version is even more pointed, having been given the subtitle En La Sombra, or In the Shadows.
The title is also understood to refer to a phrase used jokingly between William and Harry. Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, told the Sun: “Being the ‘spare’ is still at the forefront of his mind all these years later and he clearly feels belittled by it … he hasn’t managed to move on. Diana used to call him the spare. Harry would say, ‘I’m the spare, I don’t have to behave, I can do what I like’.”
The role of the spare has been famously complicated in the royal family and Harry is not the first to face difficulty while trying to find his own sense of purpose. You only have to look to the Duke of York and Princess Margaret for prime examples of other younger siblings who have struggled to find their place within the Firm.
The cover of Harry’s book shows him looking directly into the camera and is reminiscent of his days in the military, with him wearing a brown T-shirt and black string necklace. The image was taken by Ramona Rosales, a celebrity photographer based in Los Angeles who recently also shot a magazine cover for the Duchess of Sussex.
The title seems to give some indication to the sort of tone we can expect from the book, with one royal source referring to it as “very pointed” and hurtful to certain family members who had tried to help Harry avoid the ‘spare’ role while he was a working royal. Another source told the Mirror: “The very title demonstrates yet another confrontational attack on the family after claiming a desire for privacy.”
The juicy details
While the contents of the book remain fiercely under wraps, there have been hints about what readers can expect. A spokesman for the publisher, Penguin Random House, said: “Spare takes readers immediately back to one of the most searing images of the 20th century – two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow – and horror.
“As Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest, billions wondered what the princes must be thinking and feeling – and how their lives would play out from that point on.
"For Harry, this is his story at last. With its raw, unflinching honesty, Spare is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief."
When the deal was first announced in the summer of 2021, Random House described the book as “an intimate and heartfelt” memoir from Prince Harry that would provide “the definitive account of the experiences, adventures, losses and life lessons that have helped shape him”.
“I’m writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become,” the Duke said in a statement released by his publisher at the time. “I’ve worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope is that in telling my story – the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned – I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think.”
The book will include the Duke’s full account behind his decision to give up royal duties and move to the US. His author description reads: “Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is a husband, father, humanitarian, military veteran, mental wellness advocate, and environmentalist. He resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his family and three dogs."
As a nod to his new life in California, it seems safe to assume we can expect plenty relating to Harry’s “journey” and his path to self-discovery. Markus Dohle, global chief executive of Penguin Random House, described the book as “Prince Harry’s candid and emotionally powerful story for readers everywhere. He shares a remarkably moving personal journey from trauma to healing, one that speaks to the power of love and will inspire and encourage millions of people around the world.”
The hasty rewrites
A lot has changed since the book was first announced last summer. The Queen has died, Harry’s father is King, and his stepmother, Camilla, is Queen Consort. In the wake of the Queen’s death there were reports suggesting Harry made 11th-hour attempts to tone down parts of the book over fears of how some of his revelations might look following the public outpouring of support for the monarchy.
Naturally, Random House are likely to want the book be as revelatory as possible, and according to the Mail on Sunday, the Duke had already been told to revise the manuscript after it was regarded as “too touchy-feely”, with too much of it taken up with his mental health struggles. Another report in the Sun on Sunday claimed that the publishers found the first draft “disappointing” and “too emotional”.
Yet others suggested that reports the Duke had made significant changes to the book after starting to get cold feet were overblown, with the Telegraph revealing the book will contain a short note explaining that it was written before the death of his grandmother, but will otherwise appear intact. Either way, it’s going to be a delicate balancing act if he doesn’t want to burn any more bridges, or cause an even deeper rift with his father and brother.
The book is part of a three-title deal worth £36.8 million, and the Duke was reportedly paid an £18.4m advance for the three books. Penguin Random House did not disclose financial terms but noted that Harry will be donating his profits to charity – though it’s not been confirmed whether this includes his sizable advance, and is believed to relate to royalties.
The charity donations confirmed so far include $1.5 million to Sentebale – the charity Harry co-founded in 2006 – which supports vulnerable children and young people in Lesotho and Botswana affected by HIV-Aids, and £300,000 to WellChild, the UK charity of which Harry is a patron.
The book is being ghostwritten by the Pulitzer prize-winning writer and former Los Angeles Times journalist JR Moehringer, who also worked with Grand Slam tennis champion Andre Agassi on his critically acclaimed 2009 memoir, Open. Many have noted there are already some striking similarities between the two books, which both have one-word titles and front covers that feature close-up headshots.
The King may well have reasons to be concerned about Harry’s choice of writer – not only is Moehringer famed for his devastating prose, he’s also known for focusing on subjects that have daddy issues. Agassi’s father is portrayed as the villain in his autobiography, and Moehringer’s own 2005 coming-of-age memoir, The Tender Bar, which is being made into a film by Harry’s pal George Clooney, is about his search for a father figure. The difficult relationship between Harry and Charles is thought to be one of the driving forces behind the memoir.
Both ghost written by JR Moehringer. Can anyone spot the similarities? pic.twitter.com/joEz4aY5Sd— Gary Steinberg (@MinnieCaldwell) October 27, 2022
If anyone can get compelling tales out of Harry, it’s Moehringer. A source who worked with him said: “JR goes deep into family relationships, particularly fathers and father figures. He delivers massive stories. He even got Agassi to admit taking crystal meth.”
The familial snub
Buckingham Palace is said to be in a “state of high alarm” about what the book might reveal and the royal family is going to have to read the memoir at the same time as the rest of us, as reports have revealed that neither the King nor the Prince of Wales – or, indeed, their lawyers and advisers – have been given the opportunity to read any part of the manuscript.
Sources close to the King revealed that he would have hoped members of his team would have been sent the book in advance of publication but they confided that it was “unlikely to be on his reading list”. He may be particularly anxious to learn what is said about his wife, Camilla, as there are reports that she is treated most unfavourably in the book.
Some have been surprised that Random House appears prepared to risk its reputation by publishing a book likely to contain highly subjective allegations, but royal aides have shrewdly noted that they will be all too aware that the royal family would never sue one of its own. That being said, other reports have claimed the Firm’s lawyers are on standby for its release in January.
There’s no doubt that the book is being published at a delicate moment for the monarchy and the British public, which is still adjusting to the new King and has been left reeling from the recent political and economic turmoil. In some ways, Harry finds himself in a lose-lose situation. If the book is full of incendiary revelations, they could damage the monarchy and the Duke’s relationship with his family beyond repair. On the other hand, if the book is deemed too dull, it could hamper sales, making it more difficult for his publisher to recoup its considerable costs.
Royal experts have warned that it would be unseemly for Harry to deliver another public blow to his family so soon after the Queen’s death. “If it had anything sensational it would be tasteless,” the royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told the Daily Mail. However, biographer Tom Bower suggested that, to ensure its commercial success, it’s likely the book will still contain plenty of criticism of the royal family.
“Profits demanded that the book be published as soon as possible after the Queen’s death. And the publishers were helped by the reality that neither Harry nor Meghan are prepared to terminate their campaign against the royal family,” he told the Mail.
“Certainly, Harry was warned that the Sussexes’ revenge would be answered in kind, so there is certain to be a nervous Christmas among the royal family in Sandringham as they anticipate the worst. For the new King, still planning his coronation, this could not have come at a worse time.”