Editor’s Note: Sign up for CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what’s happening behind palace walls.
Britain’s Prince Harry has launched a series of incendiary accusations against members of his family in his new memoir, which reveals a number of private confrontations between him and other senior royals and details his split from the family.
CNN has obtained a copy of the book – called “Spare,” a reference to the Duke of Sussex’s role as the monarchy’s “spare heir.” For days now, many have been gobsmacked by the stunning claims to have emerged from the memoir after they were first reported by British newspaper the Guardian, which managed to get a copy ahead of its scheduled release.
The autobiography, which releases globally on Tuesday, features a litany of rebukes, criticisms and grievances from Harry’s time as a senior member of the royal family, and details of his highly publicized split from the clan in 2020.
Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace have not commented on the allegations in the book, which the 38-year-old royal has promoted in a series of televised interviews.
Here is what we’ve learned from “Spare”:
Among the most explosive claims is Harry’s allegation that Prince William, his older brother, knocked him onto the floor during an argument over Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
The alleged scuffle took place after a conversation between the two siblings, during which William, the heir to the British throne, called Meghan “difficult,” “rude” and “abrasive,” according to the book.
The confrontation escalated until William “grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and … knocked me to the floor,” Harry writes.
He details his version of events, which began when William arrived at Harry and Meghan’s then-home, Nottingham Cottage on Kensington Palace grounds in London, to discuss “‘the whole rolling catastrophe’ of their relationship and struggles with the press.”
Harry alleges that William attacked him after he gave his elder brother water and attempted to cool the heated verbal exchange.
“He set down the water, called me another name, then came at me. It all happened so fast. So very fast. He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog’s bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out.”
Harry states in the book that William urged him to hit back, but he refused to do so. William left but later returned “looking regretful” and apologized, he says.
In his interview with Britain’s ITV, which aired Sunday, the duke elaborated on the altercation and recalled seeing a “red mist” take hold of William.
“What was different here was the level of frustration, and I talk about the red mist that I had for so many years, and I saw this red mist in him,” he said, adding, “He wanted me to hit him back, but I chose not to.”
Early on in the book, Harry recalls returning to the UK for the first time after stepping back as a senior royal in April 2021 for the funeral of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip.
The somber occasion was the first time the duke was reunited with his father, now King Charles III, and William since he and Meghan had spoken to Oprah Winfrey for their bombshell interview.
“So, though I’d flown home specifically and solely for Grandpa’s funeral, while there I’d asked for this secret meeting with my older brother, Willy, and my father talk about the state of things. To find a way out,” he writes in the book, an advance copy of which CNN has obtained.
Harry continues: “I tried to explain my side of things. I wasn’t at my best. For starters, I was still nervous, fighting to keep my emotions in check, while also striving to be succinct and precise.”
However, Harry says, he discovered that his brother and father had “come ready for a fight.” Harry’s retelling suggests tensions with William remained high and quotes Charles pleading to his sons not to “make my final years a misery,” according to the memoir.
The passage also revealed the brothers refer to each other as “Willy” and “Harold” respectively.
Harry also claims in his memoir that Charles also once joked about who Harry’s father really is.
The prince explained his father “liked telling stories” and recounts his father, then Prince Charles, making a joke about his mother Diana’s affair with Major James Hewitt.
Harry writes that his father would joke: “‘Who knows if I’m really the Prince of Wales? Who knows if I’m even your real father? Maybe your real father is in Broadmoor, darling boy!”
Harry found it an “unfunny joke, given the rumour circulating just then that my actual father was one of Mummy’s former lovers: Major James Hewitt.”
The former Princess of Wales, Diana, confirmed she had a five-year affair with Hewitt in a now infamous BBC Panorama interview with journalist Martin Bashir. She said the relationship started in 1986 – two years after the Duke of Sussex was born.
“One cause of this rumour was Major Hewitt’s flaming ginger hair, but another cause was sadism. Tabloid readers were delighted by the idea that the younger child of Prince Charles wasn’t the child of Prince Charles,” Harry writes. “Never mind that my mother didn’t meet Major Hewitt until long after I was born, the story was simply too good to drop.”
Prince Harry added that if the King thought anything about Major Hewitt, “he kept them to himself.”
In another anecdote from the autobiography, Harry told his father not to marry Camilla, who is now Queen Consort, and feared that she would be a “wicked stepmother.”
“I recall wondering, right before the tea, if she’d be mean to me. If she’d be like all the wicked stepmothers in storybooks. But she wasn’t. Like Willy, I did feel real gratitude for that,” he wrote.
Both William and Harry called her the “other woman,” according to the book.
William “long harboured suspicions” of his father’s affair, “which confused him, tormented him, and when those suspicions were confirmed he felt tremendous guilt for having done nothing, said nothing, sooner,” Harry writes.
When their father wanted “to be public about” his relationship with Camilla, the brothers met her formally for the first time in separate occasions, Harry writes.
“He (William) merely gave me the impression that the Other Woman, Camilla, had made an effort, which he appreciated, and that was all he cared to say,” Harry says. He later compares his meeting with her as getting an injection, writing in the book, “close your eyes, over before you know it.”
Prince Harry claims to have killed 25 people while serving with the British army in Afghanistan, saying that in the heat of combat he viewed his targets as “chess pieces” rather than people.
The prince completed two tours of Afghanistan, one spanning 2007 to 2008 and the other from 2012 to 2013.
Advancements of technology “in the age of Apaches and laptops,” allowed Harry to say “precisely how many enemy combatants I’d killed,” adding that, “I felt it vital never to shy away from that number.”
“So, my number: Twenty-five. It wasn’t a number that gave me any satisfaction. But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed,” he writes.
Harry also says he “didn’t think of those twenty-five as people. You can’t kill people if you think of them as people. You can’t really harm people if you think of them as people. They were chess pieces removed from the board, Bads taken away before they could kill Goods. I’d been trained to “other-ize” them, trained well. On some level I recognized this learned detachment as problematic. But I also saw it as an unavoidable part of soldiering.”
The remarks have sparked criticism from some British security and military figures – and an angry rebuke from the Taliban.
One part of Harry’s life story that many wondered if he would share was the death of his grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth II. He does in fact reveal that it was his father Charles who first called him last September to say that the Queen’s health “had taken a turn.”
In the memoir, Harry recounts immediately then sending a text message to William to ask if he and Kate were flying to Balmoral – and when and how.
There was no response from William, Harry says.
He writes that he then received another call from Charles, who told Harry that he was welcome at the Scottish residence but that his wife, Meghan, was not.
Harry says he spent much of the time on his flight to Scotland staring at the clouds, replaying the last time he’d spoken with his grandmother.
“Four days earlier, long chat on the phone. We’d touched on many topics. Her health, of course. The turmoil at Number 10,” Harry recalls.
As the plane began its descent, Harry says he received a text message from Meghan asking him to call her and then he checked the BBC’s website.
“Granny was gone. Pa was King,” he writes.
He also opens up about the moment he saw the Queen’s body inside a room within Balmoral Castle.
“I braced myself, went in. The room was dimly lit, unfamiliar – I’d been inside it only once in my life. I moved ahead uncertainly, and there she was. I stood, frozen, staring. I stared and stared. It was difficult, but I kept on, thinking how I’d regretted not seeing my mother at the end. Years of lamenting that lack of proof, postponing my grief for want of proof. Now I thought: Proof. Careful what you wish for.”
Harry says he then whispered to her that he hoped she was happy, that she was with her late husband, Prince Philip.
In another part of the memoir, it’s revealed that the Duchess of Sussex allegedly upset the Princess of Wales by saying she must have “baby brain” because of her hormones after she had given birth and during the run up to the royal wedding in 2018.
Harry describes a 2018 meeting with William and Kate at their residence – which, according to the duke, was an attempt to clear the air between both couples.
Prince Harry reportedly claims that Kate demanded an apology from Meghan for offending her.
Kate allegedly told Meghan that “we’re not close enough for you to talk about my hormones!” according to the book.
Harry went on to say that Meghan said she spoke to all her friends that way.
Harry recounted that the Prince of Wales called Meghan “rude” and pointed his finger, saying “it’s not what’s done here in Britain,” to which Meghan reportedly replied “Kindly take your finger out of my face.”
“Meg said she’d never intentionally do anything to hurt Kate, and if she ever did, she asked Kate to please just let her know so it wouldn’t happen again,” Harry writes.
“We all hugged. Kind of.”
The autobiography also revisits the controversial incident of wearing a Nazi costume to a party in 2005. Harry alleges that his decision to wear it was influenced by Prince William and his wife Catherine who encouraged him to do so.
In 2005, Harry was pictured on the front page of the UK’s Sun newspaper wearing a swastika armband on a German military jacket at a costume party.
At the time, Harry took responsibility for the incident and issued an apology through Clarence House Press Office saying he was “very sorry if I caused any offense or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize.”
The topic was readdressed in the recent Netflix documentary titled ‘Harry and Meghan’ where the Duke of Sussex said it was one of the “biggest mistakes” of his life, adding that he felt “so ashamed afterwards.”
Harry’s new claim that his brother and sister-in-law were involved contrasts with his previous public apologies, in which he took responsibility for the incident alone.
The Duke of Sussex in the new book revisits the time when he was debating which costume to wear and called Prince William and Catherine to ask their opinions, to which they allegedly told him to wear the Nazi uniform over a pilot costume.
“I phoned Willy and Kate, asked what they thought. Nazi uniform, they said,” Harry says. “I rented it, plus a silly moustache, and went back to the house.”
Harry tries it on and both William and Kate “howled. Worse than Willy’s leotard outfit! Way more ridiculous!”
He described what followed after a picture of him wearing the costume was released in the media as a “firestorm, which I thought at times would engulf me.”
“And I felt that I deserved to be engulfed. There were moments over the course of the next several weeks and months when I thought I might die of shame,” he adds.
Calling his judgement “swift, harsh,” he says , “I was either a crypto Nazi or else a mental defective. I turned to Willy. He was sympathetic, but there wasn’t much to say.”
Harry ends by saying the “shame would never fade. Nor should it.”
He also addressed a scandal from 2009 when a video emerged of him using a racial slur to describe a fellow soldier from Pakistan.
Harry recalls that he had shot some video of he and some of his fellow cadets as they killed time in an airport.
“I panned the group, gave a running commentary on each lad, and when I came to my fellow cadet and good friend Ahmed Raza Kahn, a Pakistani, I said: Ah, our little P*ki friend…” Harry writes, before adding that he didn’t know the word was a slur.
“Growing up, I’d heard many people use that word and never saw anyone flinch or cringe, never suspected them of being racist,” he explains. “Neither did I know anything about unconscious bias. I was twenty-one, awash in isolation and privilege, and if I thought anything about this word at all, I thought it was like Aussie. Harmless.”
The footage was sent to a fellow cadet for an end-of-year video, he writes, but it was then circulated and “ultimately ended up in the hands of someone who sold it to the News of the World [newspaper].”
Harry recounts that his father’s office issued an apology on his behalf after the video became public and that he’d also wanted to put out a statement but “courtiers advised against it” as it was “not the best strategy, sir.”
“I didn’t care about strategy. I cared about people not thinking I was a racist. I cared about not being a racist,” he writes, adding that he reached out directly to his friend to apologize and was forgiven.
“He said he knew I wasn’t a racist. No big deal,” Harry ends. “But it was. And his forgiveness, his easy grace, only made me feel worse.”
Harry, who now resides in California with Meghan and their two children, also admits taking cocaine at age 17.
Harry writes: “Of course. I had been doing cocaine around this time. At someone’s country house, during a shooting weekend, I’d been offered a line, and I’d done a few more since.”
He added: “it wasn’t much fun,” adding that it didn’t “make me particularly happy as it seemed to make everyone around me.
“But it did make me feel different, and that was the main goal. Feel. Different. I was a deeply unhappy seventeen-year-old boy willing to try almost anything that would alter the status quo,” Harry continues.
Prince Harry has previously admitted to drug use in his youth. In 2002, when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy, he faced accusations of underage drinking and cannabis use, CNN previously reported. A confession of heavy drinking and marijuana use when he was 16 prompted his father to send him to the drug rehab center, Phoenix House UK, for a day.
Elsewhere in the autobiography Harry describes losing his virginity in what he calls a “inglorious episode.”
Harry says he lost his virginity to “an older woman,” who he added “liked horses, quite a lot, and treated me not unlike a young stallion.”
He does not name the woman in the book.
“Among the many things about it that were wrong: It happened in a grassy field behind a busy pub,” he writes.
“Obviously someone had seen us,” Harry adds.
Harry also reveals in his memoir that he recreated the journey his late mother took through the Paris tunnel where she and two others were involved in a fatal car crash.
Diana died in 1997, when Harry was 12.
Harry writes he had been invited to the French capital to attend the 2007 Rugby World Cup semi-final and had been provided with a driver. On his first night in the city, he asked the driver if he knew the tunnel – Pont de l’Alma – where Diana’s vehicle crashed in 1997.
He asked to drive at 65 miles per hour (104.6 kilometers per hour) – “the exact speed Mummy’s car had supposedly been driving, according to police, at the time of the crash.”
“I’d always imagined the tunnel as some treacherous passageway, inherently dangerous, but it was just a short, simple, no-frills tunnel,” Harry says, before adding that there was “no reason anyone should ever die inside it.”
Harry also writes that he asked his driver to go through the tunnel a second time.
“It had been a very bad idea. I’d had plenty of bad ideas in my twenty-three years, but this one was uniquely ill-conceived. I’d told myself that I wanted closure, but I didn’t really. Deep down, I’d hoped to feel in that tunnel what I’d felt when JLP [Jamie Lowther Pinkerton, former private secretary to Harry and Prince William] gave me the police files—disbelief. Doubt. Instead, that was the night all doubt fell away,” Harry says.
“I’d thought driving the tunnel would bring an end, or brief cessation, to the pain, the decade of unrelenting pain. Instead, it brought on the start of Pain, Part Deux,” he continues.
In a clip from “Harry: The Interview,” was broadcast in Britain on ITV on Sunday, the prince speaks about his memories of meeting mourners and the guilt he felt while walking outside Kensington Palace following the death of his mother in 1997.
Harry also says that he cried once in the wake of his mother’s death – at her burial.
“Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing the night my mother died,” he tells presenter Tom Bradby.
“I cried once, at the burial, and you know I go into detail about how strange it was and how actually there was some guilt that I felt, and I think William felt as well, by walking around the outside of Kensington Palace.”
Harry described feeling the mourners’ tears on their hands when he shook them. “There were 50,000 bouquets of flowers to our mother and there we were shaking people’s hands, smiling,” he says. “I’ve seen the videos, right, I looked back over it all. And the wet hands that we were shaking, we couldn’t understand why their hands were wet, but it was all the tears that they were wiping away.”