11 Times Prince Harry Revealed What Life in the Royal Family Is Really Like in Spare

11 Times Prince Harry Revealed What Life in the Royal Family Is Really Like in Spare

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Prince Harry's memoir is full of revelatory information and weird tales, but sprinkled throughout are also fascinating details about what life in the royal family is really like. There are small anecdotes, too, about each member of the royal family, like how Queen Elizabeth "got cross if she didn’t breathe at least an hour of fresh air each day," or Kate Middleton had a "heavily disguised silly side."

Here are the 11 most interesting things Prince Harry shared within Spare about life behind palace doors:

1. The Court Circular is a "self-reported joke"

elizabeth meets brownies
Serge Lemoine - Getty Images

The Court Circular, the record of official engagements performed by members of the royal family, is a "sinister document," Prince Harry writes.

He continues, "The Court Circular was an ancient document, but it had lately morphed into a circular firing squad. It didn’t create the feelings of competitiveness that ran in my family, but it amplified them, weaponized them. Though none of us ever spoke about the Court Circular directly, or mentioned it by name, that only created more tension under the surface, which built invisibly as the last day of the calendar year approached."

Not only was there tension, Harry writes in Spare, but "certain family members had become obsessed, feverishly striving to have the highest number of official engagements recorded in the Circular each year, no matter what, and they'd succeeded largely by including things that weren't, strictly speaking, engagements, recording public interactions that were mere blips, the kinds of things Willy and I wouldn't dream of including."

For what it's worth, Princess Anne or King Charles typically tops the list to claim the title of the highest-working royal, though Harry does not call out any members of his family by name in this section.

Harry concludes the Court Circular was a "joke" and a "scam." He also adds that he and William did not decide his own engagements—their father, King Charles, was the "sole decider." So, he added, "to be publicly flogged for how much Pa permitted us to do—that felt grossly unfair. Rigged."

2. What the royals carry with them at all times

the duke and duchess of cambridge and prince harry visit the white garden in kensington palace
WPA Pool - Getty Images

Security is a big conversation throughout Spare, including the threat level against Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Since birth, Harry writes, "I'd never been allowed to go anywhere without three armed bodyguards."

One small aside caught our attention when Harry is writing about making friends at Eton: "To say nothing of electronic tracker and panic alarm I carried with me at all times," he mentions in a discussion about his bodyguards sleeping down the hall from him. Harry started Eton in 1998, so there's a good chance that technology has improved since then, but the "panic alarm" may very well be a part of royal protocol.

3. The lack of physical affection amongst the royals

charles harry diana
A young Prince Harry holding hands with his parents.Tim Graham - Getty Images

The subject of who hugs in the royal family has been in the news since December, when Meghan Markle shared in Harry & Meghan on Netflix, "Even when Will and Kate came over, and I had met her for the first time... They came for dinner, I remember I was in ripped jeans and I was barefoot. I was a hugger, always been a hugger. I didn't realize that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits."

Harry picks up on this no-hugging theme many times throughout his memoir. He writes, "the older generation maintained a nearly zero-tolerance prohibition on all physical contact. No hugs, no kisses, no pats. Now and then, maybe a light touching of cheeks…on special occasions." On another moment, he writes of wanting to hug his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. "I wanted to hug her, though of course I didn’t. Out of the question. I never had done and couldn’t imagine any circumstance under which such an act might be sanctioned."

And, when he returns from Afghanistan in 2008, "Willy hugged me. I think I gave Pa a kiss on each cheek. He might also have…squeezed my shoulder? It would’ve appeared, to anyone at a distance, a normal family greeting and interaction, but for us it was a flamboyant, unprecedented demonstration of physical affection."

the duke and duchess of sussex visit south africa
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is a huggerWPA Pool - Getty Images

He also mentions Meghan meeting William, saying his brother "recoiled" from Meghan's hug, as "Willy didn't hug many strangers."

The most interesting hug mention is at the end, when Prince Harry arrives at Balmoral following the death of Queen Elizabeth. "Aunt Anne was there to greet me. I hugged her. Where’s Pa and Willy? And Camilla? Gone to Birkhall, she said. She asked if I wanted to see Granny." No word on how Princess Anne responded to Harry's hug.

diana and sons
Princess Diana Archive - Getty Images

Princess Diana, though, was definitely a hugger.

4. The description of Balmoral

balmoral castle
Tim Graham - Getty Images

Just join Harry on this very long one-sentence description of Balmoral Castle:

"Balmoral. Closing my eyes, I can see the main entrance, the paneled front windows, the wide portico and three gray-black speckled granite steps leading up to the massive front door of whisky-colored oak, often propped open by a heavy curling stone and often manned by one red-coated footman, and inside the spacious hall and its white stone floor, with gray star-shaped tiles, and the huge fireplace with its beautiful mantel of ornately carved dark wood, and to one side a kind of utility room, and to the left, by the tall windows, hooks for fishing rods and walking sticks and rubber waders and heavy waterproofs—so many waterproofs, because summer could be wet and cold all over Scotland, but it was biting in this Siberian nook—and then the light brown wooden door leading to the corridor with the crimson carpet and the walls papered in cream, a pattern of gold flock, raised like braille, and then the many rooms along the corridor, each with a specific purpose, like sitting or reading, TV or tea, and one special room for the pages, many of whom I loved like dotty uncles, and finally the castle’s main chamber, built in the nineteenth century, nearly on top of the site of another castle dating to the fourteenth century, within a few generations of another Prince Harry, who got himself exiled, then came back and annihilated everything and everyone in sight."

There are rare glimpses inside Balmoral, but in addition to the above description, Harry writes about an elevator favored by Queen Elizabeth and her corgis ("whenever Granny headed up to her bedroom on the second floor, corgis at her heels, she preferred the lift"), and a statue of Queen Victoria: "Through a pair of crimson saloon doors and along a green tartan floor, was a smallish staircase with a heavy iron banister; it led up to the second floor, where stood a statue of Queen Victoria." He and William, Harry adds, always bowed to the statue when they passed.

5. Little details of "Hotel Granny" at Sandringham

prince harry, on his way to sandringham stables at sandringham estate
Prince Harry at Sandringham, 1990Julian Parker - Getty Images

While Balmoral gets the most description, Sandringham, too, features throughout the narrative. He writes about a red antique telephone in Afghanistan, saying, "the sound was vaguely familiar; I couldn't place it at first. Eventually I realized. It was exactly like Granny’s phone at Sandringham on her big desk, in the huge sitting room where she took calls between games of bridge." Though we have no photos, it's easy to picture a large sitting room with Queen Elizabeth's desk and a bright red telephone.

Elsewhere, he writes about the dining room.

"The dining room at Sandringham, for instance, was our version of Dante’s Inferno," Harry writes, talking about he and his father, King Charles, were sensitive to heat. "Much of Sandringham was balmy, but the dining room was subtropical."

6. Princess Diana had a waterbed

armistice day in paris
Princess DianaPrincess Diana Archive - Getty Images

Once Prince Harry starts therapy, he starts remembering more about Princess Diana. "I remembered mornings in Mummy's apartment at Kensington Palace, the nanny waking Willy and me, helping us down to Mummy's bedroom. I remembered that she had a waterbed, and Willy and I would jump up and down on the mattress, screaming, laughing, our hair standing up."

He also writes about her breakfast. "Mummy loving grapefruit and lychees, seldom drinking coffee or tea."

7. Heir/Spare are terms used by royals

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Much has been made of Spare, the book's title, but Harry writes it's a term used within the royal family. "Willy was the Heir, whereas I was the Spare," Harry writes. "This was shorthand also used by Pa, Mummy, Grandpa, Granny."

8. Inside Highgrove's basement: storage for gifts from foreign governments

harry number two
Tim Graham - Getty Images

When he was home from school as a teenager, Harry writes, "I hid in the basement beneath Highgrove, usually with Willy. We called it Club H. Many assumed the H stood for Harry, but in fact it stood for Highgrove."

What's interesting is that the basement had once been a bomb shelter—and what's in the basement of Highgrove now: "To get down to its depths you went through a heavy white ground-level door, then down a steep flight of stone stairs, then groped your way along a damp stone floor, then descended three more stairs, then past several wine cellars, wherein Camilla kept her fanciest bottles, on past a freezer and several storerooms full of paintings, polo gear, and absurd gifts from foreign governments and potentates. (No one wanted them, but they couldn't be regifted or donated, or thrown out, so they'd been carefully logged and sealed away.) Beyond that final storeroom were two green doors with little brass handles, and on the other side of those was Club H."

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Harry describes Club H, which is unclear if it still exists today—it seems like a teenage boy hangout. "It was windowless, but the brick walls, painted bone white, kept it from feeling claustrophobic. Also, we kitted out the space with nice pieces from various royal residences. Persian rug, red Moroccan sofas, wooden table, electric dartboard. We also put in a huge stereo system. It didn't sound great, but it was loud. In a corner stood a drinks trolley..."

The space was something of a sanctuary for Harry. "Club H was the perfect hideout for a teenager, but especially this teenager. When I wanted peace, Club H provided. When I wanted mischief, Club H was the safest place to act out. When I wanted solitude, what better than a bomb shelter in the middle of the British countryside?"

9. The royal family's view of bachelors

the duke of cambridge prince harry attend the coach core graduation
Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

"You weren't a fully vested member of the Royal Family, indeed a true human being, until you were wed," Harry writes. He details the perks William and Kate got upon their marriage—"they became a Household, and as such were entitled to more staff, more cars, bigger home, grander office, extra resources, engraved letterheads."

Harry continues, "I didn’t care about such perks, but I did care about respect. As a confirmed bachelor I was an outsider, a nonperson within my own family. If I wanted that to change, I had to get hitched. That simple."

10. Where the bodyguards stay during Christmas

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While ostensibly some are at Sandringham, Harry says most of them stay nearby at the Knights Hill Hotel. He stays there in 2007 while studying the controls so he can be certified as a forward air controller, or FAC. "I'd known the place all my life, driven past it a million times. Whenever we visited Granny at Christmas, our bodyguards would sleep there. Standard room: hundred quid."

Per its website, "Ideally located atop one of the highest points in West Norfolk, the Knights Hill Hotel & Spa offers the perfect getaway retreat. With spectacular views of the Wash and Castle Rising, the hotel and spa provide guests with the ideal location to enjoy a relaxing break in affordable, stylish and comfortable surroundings. Whether guests want to explore local attractions such as Sandringham House, Norfolk Lavender and the historic market town of Kings Lynn, or take advantage of the on-site spa and health club, the hotel provides a luxurious base."

Bodyguards are discussed throughout Spare. Harry says he and William "always worshipped our bodyguards."

11. The reverence for the literal Crown

In 2014, Harry, William, and Kate were on an engagement at the Tower of London.

wwi centenary britain

While there, they got to tour inside the Tower (not with press) and saw the Crown jewels—specifically St Edward's Crown.

Harry recounts, "We walked up and down the Tower’s steep stairs, peered into its dark corners, and soon found ourselves before a case of thick glass. Inside were dazzling jewels, including… the Crown. Holy shit. The Crown. The one that had been placed upon Granny’s head at her 1953 coronation."

crowned queen
Hulton Archive - Getty Images

"This was Granny’s crown, and hers alone, and now I remembered her telling me how unbelievably heavy it had been the first time they set it upon her head. It looked heavy. It also looked magical. The more we stared, the brighter it got—was that possible? And the glow was seemingly internal. The jewels did their part, but the crown seemed to possess some inner energy source, something beyond the sum of its parts, its jeweled band, its golden fleurs-de-lis, its crisscrossing arches and gleaming cross. And of course its ermine base. You couldn’t help but feel that a ghost, encountered late at night inside the Tower, might have a similar glow. I moved my eyes slowly, appreciatively, from the bottom to the top. The crown was a wonder, a transcendent and evocative piece of art, not unlike the poppies, but all I could think in that moment was how tragic that it should remain locked up in this Tower. Yet another prisoner. Seems a waste, I said to Willy and Kate, to which, I recall, they said nothing."

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