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Prince Harry Alleges William Assaulted Him. What to Know About the Claims in Spare

11 minute read
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After estranged British Prince Harry and his brother Prince William appeared together after their grandmother’s death last September, it may have seemed like the feuding royals would put the worst of their differences behind them. Not so fast.

In a shocking new revelation, Harry has alleged that William once physically attacked him during an argument over the treatment of Meghan Markle, according to the Guardian, which obtained a prerelease copy of Harry’s forthcoming memoir in which the incident is reportedly detailed. The allegation represents the latest dramatic twist in the yearslong saga of the couple’s acrimonious split from Buckingham Palace.

The Guardian reported on Thursday that in a passage in Spare, which publishes Jan. 10, Harry asserts that in 2019 William “knocked” the younger prince to the floor during a heated conversation.

The book, believed by royal watchers to be a juicy tell-all of Harry and Meghan’s dealings with the House of Windsor, has been kept closely under wraps by publisher Penguin Random House before it’s set for worldwide release next week, though other excerpts have also begun to leak.

Since their public step-back from royal duties in 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have spoken out on their struggles within the so-called Firm, including dealing with mental health woes, British media vitriol, and alleged racism within the monarchy’s circles. The Palace has steadfastly refused to comment on the couple’s claims.

Here’s what to know about the newest allegation Harry has brought to light.

How does Harry describe what happened in London in 2019?

Based on Harry’s account, as reported by the Guardian, he and his brother had an argument at Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace. William had come over “piping hot” to talk about Harry’s “whole rolling catastrophe” of his relationship with Markle, as well as their issues with the British press, which has been critical of their marriage.

William allegedly called Markle “difficult,” “rude,” and “abrasive,” to which Harry replied that his older brother was parroting false media narratives. Harry accused his brother of “acting like an heir,” and the two exchanged insults.

According to the account, William claimed he was only trying to help, to which Harry then replied: “Are you serious? Help me? Sorry—is that what you call this? Helping me?”

That remark purportedly angered William, so Harry went to the kitchen to get him a glass of water. Harry retells that William, who was tailing him, set down the water and then “came at me.”

“It all happened so fast. So very fast,” Harry reportedly writes in his memoir. “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 reportedly writes that William urged him to hit back, but he refused. According to the story, William left the cottage though he returned shortly after to apologize; then he left again but not before saying that Harry did not “need to tell Meg about this”—referring to the altercation.

Markle is said to have later discovered the “scrapes and bruises” on Harry’s back, which prompted him to disclose the fraternal quarrel to her.

What to know about Harry’s memoir, Spare

The book’s title references the concept of a firstborn royal child being in line to inherit the throne, while subsequent children represent merely backups should something happen to the eldest. In the U.K., William, who is 40, was born the “heir,” while Harry, who is 38, has thus always been a “spare.”

With his words, however, and the stories and personal details he’s decided to share, he’s proven to be anything but.

According to the Guardian, Harry’s resentment of this second-tier status “is the unifying theme of his book, through chapters on his childhood, his schooling, his career as a royal and in the British army, his relationship with his parents and brother and his life with Meghan through courtship, wedding and marriage to their own experience of parenthood.”

In a press release, Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, calls Harry’s memoir “a remarkably moving personal journey from trauma to healing.”

Proceeds from Spare’s sales will go to British charities, according to the publisher’s website.

How is Harry promoting the book? What else has come out?

The Duke of Sussex has done multiple TV interviews in the lead-up to the book’s release: one with British broadcaster ITV, another with news program 60 Minutes on CBS, both of which are set to air Sunday. He also sat done with Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan for an interview that will air Monday on ABC.

In a snippet of the ITV interview, Harry told British journalist Tom Bradby, “I would like to get my father back. I would like to have my brother back,” referring to King Charles III and William. “They’ve shown absolutely no willingness to reconcile,” he said. “They feel as though it’s better to keep us somehow as the villains.”

In a clip from his upcoming 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, Harry says he and his wife would have liked to live a private life since they moved to Canada and then California, but he accuses Buckingham Palace of planting disparaging stories against them. “There becomes a point when silence is betrayal.”

And in a preview of his sit-down with Strahan, Harry says: “Ultimately, what this all comes down to is, I don’t think that we can ever have peace with my family unless the truth is out there.”

The interviews come on the heels of the December release of a six-part documentary series by and about Harry and Meghan on Netflix. The show, which set the record for Netflix’s most-viewed documentary premiere, highlights the rift between Harry and his family, particularly William. “The saddest part of it was this wedge created between myself and my brother,” Harry says in one episode, “so that he’s now on the institution’s side, and part of that I get. I understand—that’s his inheritance.”

How is the Firm (and the media) responding?

The royal family has remained tight-lipped in the wake of the allegations in Spare and has declined to respond to a number of British publications which have sought comment.

But palace watchers and experts have been quick to offer their two cents on Harry’s allegations.

“He’s decided to go public with something quite trivial, in my opinion,” Robert Jobson, a British journalist who has written multiple books about the royal family including a 2022 biography of Prince William, tells TIME. “The fact is, brothers do have fights. They’ve always had fights and will continue to do so.”

Not everyone agrees with that conclusion. “This feels different. These aren’t teenage boys roughhousing,” says R.S. Locke, a U.S.-based freelance writer and royal commentator. “To come into his brother’s home, hurl invective about his wife, and then accost Prince Harry when he tried to deescalate the situation is simply beyond the pale.”

Jobson believes the story won’t have much of an impact on the institution of the monarchy, but it may do irreparable damage to Harry’s ties with William. “The relationship [between] the brothers is practically at an all-time low,” he says. “I can’t imagine anything that will improve it.”

Victoria Arbiter, a royal commentator for Australian lifestyle network Honey, has focused on Harry’s emotional state. “Prince Harry appears to be so consumed with anger he’s going to need Sunday’s interviews to help humanise him if he’s to garner public sympathy,” she tweeted.

“Cooper lost his dad when he was 10 and Bradby had a breakdown in 2018. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to soften his rage,” Arbiter said.

Vanity Fair’s royal editor Katie Nicholl spoke with British broadcaster LBC Thursday about Spare. “He used to say to me, ‘I wish I could buy a coffee from Costa or jump on the tube. I want to do those normal things. I wish I hadn’t been born a prince.’ He wanted a way out of royal life,” recalled Nicholl.

She added that it’s easy to blame Markle for providing Harry with an escape, but she described the duchess as a mere catalyst. Nicholl cautioned, however, that with the royal family’s silence we are only hearing one side of the story.

Representatives for Buckingham Palace told the New York Post’s Page Six that the royal family would not be commenting on any of the allegations in Spare.

What other bombshells does Prince Harry drop in Spare?

The Guardian is not the only publication with access to a copy of Harry’s memoir. The book has accidentally made its way to bookstores in Spain five days ahead of its anticipated publish date. The Spanish edition of the memoir, En La Sombra, or In the Shadow, has been translated by a number of tabloids.

Among the book’s many revelations, according to Hello magazine, Harry writes about the last time he spoke to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, four days before her death. During their phone call, they reportedly discussed British politics, the Braemar Gathering (a Scottish celebration and games), and the U.K.’s summer drought. Harry is said to have joked that the grass was like his head—bald with patches.

According to Page Six, which claimed to have obtained passages of the book from industry sources, Harry also writes that he and William urged their father in 2005 not to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Queen Consort. Charles had engaged in a long-standing affair during his marriage to Diana.

“Despite Willy and me urging him not to, Pa was going ahead. We pumped his hand, wished him well. No hard feelings. We recognized that he was finally going to be with the woman he loved, the woman he’d always loved,” Harry wrote. In another excerpt, Harry reportedly wondered if Camilla would be cruel to him “like all the evil stepmothers in the stories,” adding that William “had been suspicious of the Other Woman for some time.”

Page Six also shared new insights into Harry’s recollection of wearing a Nazi uniform to a “Native and Colonial”-themed costume party in 2005, when he was 20-years-old. The tabloid reported that Harry was deciding between a pilot or Nazi uniform and was steered toward the latter: “I phoned Willy and Kate, asked what they thought. Nazi uniform, they said,” Harry wrote, saying he tried the costume on in front of them. “They both howled. Worse than Willy’s leotard outfit! Way more ridiculous! Which, again, was the point.”

Harry described the decision as “one of the biggest mistakes of my life” in the Netflix docuseries.

Spare also reveals, according to the Guardian, that Harry met a clairvoyant, despite reservations around the “high-percentage chance of humbuggery.” “The minute we sat down together,” he says, “I felt an energy around her.”

Harry reportedly writes that the woman said Diana’s spirit was present and that his mother wished to convey to him: “You’re living the life she couldn’t. You’re living the life she wanted for you.”

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Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com