Reactions to Prince Harry's Memoir Spare Are Mixed in Windsor

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The publishing event of the century is a reserved affair in the seat of royal pomp and fandom. Rain splatters the Windsor branch of the Waterstones bookstore chain when it opens at 9 a.m. The window display, just yards from the entrance to Windsor Castle, is still being updated with copies of Spare, which are on sale for £14 ($17)—half the cover price.

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“We’ve had equal levels of interest and disdain,” says a member of staff, who prefers not to be named. After days of leaked revelations and promotional interviews, the general mood in the town could best be described as indifferent. “I thought it had already come out!” says one customer, as she leaves the otherwise empty store with a new cookbook.

That Prince Harry’s bombshell memoir will be a bestseller is not in doubt. Retailers including Waterstones say it has been one of the most in-demand pre-order titles of the past decade. The book already tops best-seller charts on both sides of the Atlantic. But a tour of a damp Windsor suggests a nation both weary and divided in its view of the latest royal ruckus.

Fevered coverage of fraternal fights, Taliban kills, intimate frostbite, al fresco romps—and the alleged skullduggery of Camilla, the Queen Consort—appear to have had an affect on royal polling. Support for Harry is in decline, particularly among older people. More worryingly for an institution under fire, the same polling, by YouGov, also indicates waning support for the Prince of Wales.

Even in Windsor, which has provided the backdrop to so much royal pageantry, fealty to the firm is not a given. “I’m very ambivalent,” says Jilly Armitstead as she leaves the Marks & Spencer clothing store. “I have no interest in this book or any other royal book.” Forget Team Harry or William; Team “Whatever” may yet come to the fore.

Mick Gaffney, 63, is the only person who buys Spare in at least the first hour of trading at Waterstones. The engineer has been sent to fetch a copy for his wife Amanda, 54, who is such a keen consumer of royal intrigue that she tried to buy the Spanish edition last week, after its premature release and sometimes clumsy translation.

“I think the whole saga has gone on far too long if Harry does want reconciliation—he should stay a bit quieter,” Gaffney says. “But my wife is on team Harry and Meghan. He doesn’t want what happened to Diana to happen to his family, and she sympathizes with that.”

Demand was similarly slow at Waterstones’ flagship store in central London. It opened specially an hour early, only for a sole customer—another Harry fan—to show up to buy the book. In scenes that might strike the prince as ironic, press photographers surrounded the woman, although apparently with her consent.

duke of sussex autobiography spare
Caroline Lennon, the first customer to purchase a copy of Prince Harry’s autobiography Spare, poses for photographers as she leaves Waterstones in London.James Manning - PA Images - Getty Images

Yards down the road from a denuded Christmas tree still waiting to be removed at the gates of Windsor Castle, stacks of Spare are also on display in the entrance of WH Smith, relegating memorial biographies of the late Queen to the back of the store. Prince Harry’s book lies untouched here too. “I wouldn’t read it if you paid me!” says Margaret Wilson, 66, a staunch monarchist, as she passes by, tutting in the rain.

Tourist footfall is also slow; the castle is closed to the public on Tuesdays. William Salgueiro, 29, a Brazilian who lives in Germany, is sheltering from the weather inside Esquires cafe. “I’ve followed it—the frostbitten dick, the falling onto the bowl of the dog— and it’s so petty,” he says. “To me it’s just rich people’s drama.”

The woman behind the counter at a nearby bakery is more sympathetic. “I love Harry,” she says, also preferring not to share her name. “He is talking about things that happen in every family. I think it’s good to make people think about that.”

Not long after Spare appears to leave Windsor largely unmoved, soldiers march through the town for the changing of the guard—a centuries old ritual designed to present an image of continuity. Storm clouds over the castle have confined the brass band to their barracks. So the Coldstream Guards, who are dressed down in grey winter coats, march in silence. Watched by barely a dozen spectators, they take a right turn not far from Waterstones and slip through the castle gates.

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