In Spare, Prince Harry recalls being so excited for Prince William and sister-in-law Kate Middleton to meet Meghan Markle. So he was "a bit hurt" when William allegedly advised him to "slow down," saying, "'She's an American actress after all, Harold. Anything might happen.'" (Harry notes that these are his memories of what was said.)
And when he did introduce his brother to his beloved in October 2016, Harry wrote, Meghan—an admitted hugger—leaned in to embrace William and "he recoiled." But "Willy got over it," Harry continued, and "exchanged a few warm words with Meg."
Kate wasn't at that first meeting, William explaining she was busy with the children, but in Netflix's 2022 docuseries Harry & Meghan, Meghan detailed a similar hugging issue with her future sister-in-law when they finally met in early 2017. However, all was not frosty: Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand reported in their 2020 book Finding Freedom that Kate told Meghan to reach out to her anytime, that she understood what she was going through (as a royal love interest, that is).
At this point in time, meanwhile, the British press could only speculate about Harry's months-long romance. The first official confirmation that he and Meghan were a couple came in a Nov. 8, 2016, statement released by Kensington Palace that notably referred to the actress as the royal's girlfriend, lambasted the media for grossly invading Meghan's privacy and called out racist and sexist comments being made about Meghan on social media.
Harry revealed in Spare that he got an "earful" from his "furious" father and brother about that statement, supposedly because it made them look bad for not issuing similar comments about the media harassment their partners faced.
There were rumors at time that the family wasn't thrilled with Harry's initiative, prompting Kensington Palace to release a statement Nov. 27 assuring that William "absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him."
After being "pretty discouraging" about Harry dating Meghan in the first place, William also tried to pump the brakes on Harry's plans to propose, according to Spare.
Harry wrote that William warned him he was moving "too fast" and it was "too soon" to get engaged, asking him if he was "'sure about her'" and did he know "'how difficult it's going to be?'"
To which Harry recalled replying, "'What do you want me to do? Fall out of love with her?'"
A friend of both brothers is quoted in Finding Freedom as explaining that William "just wanted to make sure that Harry wasn't blindsided by lust."
After looking like their usual fraternal selves while greeting well-wishers outside King Edwards Gate the day before Harry's wedding, according to Spare, William tried to cancel on what Harry assumed would be one last stag dinner for him before he took the plunge—just as they'd spent the night before William tied the knot.
"I'd always believed, despite our problems, that our underlying bond was strong," Harry wrote. After tea with the queen and greeting the people, "I asked him to come have dinner with me. I mentioned maybe staying the night, as I'd done before his wedding. He'd come for dinner, he said, but wouldn't be able to stay."
Harry wondered in Spare, "Was he feeling bad about not being my best man? Was he upset that I'd asked my old mate Charlie [van Straubanzee, a childhood school mate]?"
William bought into the worst of what the tabloids were selling about Meghan, according to Harry, who on his end described being angry and heartbroken that his family seemed to have no interest in protecting their newest member, not even after their May 19, 2018, nuptials. It all came to a head when William visited one night (when Meghan was away) and their argument devolved into a screaming match—during which, Harry alleged, William grabbed him by the collar and knocked him down.
Harry wrote that he later told his therapist he was proud of himself for not hitting William back.
In Harry & Meghan, in Spare and in interviews, Harry described a strategic give-and-take relationship between the royal family and the British press.
Talking to Oprah Winfrey in 2021 he called it an "invisible contract" that involved some very generous behavior toward certain journalists in exchange for generally favorable coverage, the institution's positive visibility key to its long-term survival.
In addition to leaking info, there was also planting and swapping info, Harry detailed in the Netflix series, which could mean one family member's communications office offering to dish dirt on another family member in order to quash a story they didn't want out there. Once upon a time, Harry said, he and William vowed they'd never use their comms staff for evil.
But once their working and personal relationship started to unravel in 2018, Harry alleged, William didn't hold up his end of the bargain. "I would far rather get destroyed in the press than play along with this game or business of trading," Harry said. "And to see my brother's office copy the very same thing that we promised the two of us would never ever do, that was heartbreaking."
After a decade of William and Harry sharing an office, expanding to include Kate when she married William in 2011, the reports that the Sussexes and Cambridges were looking into splitting their households began in October 2018.
Kensington Palace confirmed Nov. 24, 2018, that Harry and Meghan would be moving out of Nottingham Cottage in London—where they were in close proximity to William and Kate's grander KP residence—and relocating to Frogmore Cottage, part of the royals' Home Park in Windsor, to await the birth of their first child.
The holidays are a big-show-of-togetherness time for the royals, so it wasn't until March 24, 2019, that Queen Elizabeth II made the separation news official, a statement confirming that she had signed off Harry and Meghan forming their own household with an office based out of Buckingham Palace.
Harry noted in Spare the announcement came "soon after" his and William's dust-up.
The Sussex Royal social media accounts went live in April 2019 and in June they announced they'd be disentangling from The Royal Foundation charity, which started as a joint venture for the brothers, and launching their own.
With ITV cameras documenting his and Meghan's September 2019 trip to Africa with then-5-month-old son Archie, Harry told journalist Tom Bradby that, as far as rumors of a rift between him and William went, "The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing, but as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days."
Without going into detail, Harry acknowledged, "Inevitably stuff happens. But we're brothers, we'll always be brothers. We're certainly on different paths at the moment. I'll always be there for him and as I know, he'll always be there for me. We don't see each other as much as we used to because we're so busy but I love him dearly."
The interview aired Oct. 20, 2019, as part of the special Harry & Meghan: An African Journey. Afterward, amid reports that the royals were "furious" the couple had shared so much, a Kensington Palace source told the BBC that William was more "worried" about his brother and sister-in-law than anything else, as they seemed to be "in a fragile place."
After a six-week break from work to focus on their family, which included a Christmas not spent at Sandringham with the queen and the rest of Harry's family, the Sussexes announced on Jan. 8, 2020, that they planned to "step back as senior members of the royal family," relocate to North America and work toward becoming financially independent from the crown—all while, they hoped, continuing to "fully support" the queen.
Upon the heels of reports that, while the queen knew her grandson had about had it, she was blindsided by the release of this statement, the palace countered that there was much to be discussed regarding Harry and Meghan's exit. She called an emergency meeting with Charles and William, her second-in-line-to-the-throne grandson having become more involved in serious decision-making sessions with the monarch in recent years.
"I've put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can't do that any more; we're separate entities," William reportedly told a friend while the negotiations were ongoing, as detailed by London's Sunday Times. "I'm sad about that. All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope that the time comes when we're all singing from the same page. I want everyone to play on the team."
On Jan. 13, 2020, Harry and William released a joint statement slamming a story that suggested William's "bullying attitude" toward Meghan was a contributing factor to her and Harry's decision to leave. "Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of Cambridge," the statement read. "For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful."
Only, according to Harry, that statement was attributed to him without his knowledge.
"I couldn't believe it," he recalled in Netflix's Harry & Meghan. "No one had asked me permission to put my name to a statement like that." The statement made Meghan cry, he shared, "because within four hours, they were happy to lie to protect my brother and yet, for three years, they were never willing to tell the truth to protect us."
After Harry, William, Charles and the queen had hammered out the terms of the Sussexes' exit deal (they could keep their duke and duchess titles but not use them as a business brand, no more security courtesy of the British government, etc.) Harry and Meghan returned to London for a final week of appearances in an official capacity.
Their last engagement was the March 9, 2020, Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, the last time they'd be photographed alongside Kate and William for more than two years.
The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown started days later, confining the couples to separate continents and rendering the official March 31 start date of the rest of Harry and Meghan's lives relatively uneventful.
While it felt at the time as if he and his wife were dumping buckets of tea into the Pacific Ocean when they sat down with Oprah for a CBS special that aired March 7, 2021, in hindsight Harry was still fairly reserved when it came to the state of his relationship with William.
"And much will continue to be said about that," Harry acknowledged, agreeing with Oprah that much had been said already. "You know, as I've said before, I love William to bits. He's my brother. We've been through hell together. I mean, we have a shared experience. But, you know, we're on different paths."
Asked point-Oprah where they stood, he replied, "The relationship is space, at the moment. And, you know, time heals all things, hopefully."
Framing his situation as the preferable one, he also said that he didn't realize how "trapped" he'd been before he met Meghan—and his father and brother were still trapped. "They don't get to leave," he said. "And I have huge compassion for that."
Among the many bombshells dropped during their sit-down with Oprah was Harry and Meghan's recollection of being asked by an unnamed member of the royal family (not the queen or Prince Philip, Oprah later clarified) how dark their firstborn's skin might be.
Addressing the interview, the palace released a statement March 9 saying the family was "saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members."
During a March 11 visit to a school in London with Kate, William couldn't avoid questions about the interview. He said he hadn't yet spoken to Harry, but he would.
When a reporter asked if the royals were a "racist family," William replied, "We are very much not a racist family."
From the outside, Harry and William looked fairly like ye olde duo at Prince Philip's funeral on April 17, 2021. (Meghan, seven months pregnant at the time, stayed behind in California while Harry made his first trip back to the U.K. since their final official engagement.)
But as Harry detailed in his introduction to Spare, it was after his grandfather's funeral—when he hoped to have a substantive conversation with his father and brother in hopes of breaking through the impasse—that he realized they just didn't get him at all.
"I'd vowed not to let this encounter devolve into another argument," Harry wrote. "But I quickly discovered that it wasn't up to me. Pa and Willy had their parts to play, and they'd come ready for a fight...Willy in particular didn't want to hear anything. After he'd shut me down several times, he and I began sniping, saying some of the same things we'd said for months—years."
Eventually Charles intervened, Harry recalled, pleading with them, "'Please, boys—don't make my final years a misery.'"
William reminded Harry that he was the one who had left, and when Harry lobbed back that William knew why he'd left, William insisted he did not.
Harry and William were together again on July 1, 2021, to dedicate a statue of Princess Diana in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace on what would have been their mother's 60th birthday.
When Oprah asked how Diana might have felt about his decision to leave his royal post, Harry said, "I think she would feel very angry with how this has panned out, and very sad. But ultimately, all she'd ever want is for us to be happy."
Meghan and Harry happened to be in the U.K. for an event when the queen's health took a turn and she died on Sept. 8, 2022.
In Spare, Harry wrote of getting the call from his dad that his grandmother wasn't doing well and he should come immediately to Balmoral in Scotland—alone. Because, Harry described Charles trying to explain, "he simply didn't want a lot of people around. No other wives were coming, Kate wasn't coming, he said, therefore Meg shouldn't."
The queen was already gone by the time Harry arrived, he wrote, and while he had lunch with "most" of his family at Balmoral, neither his father nor brother was there to greet him.
Back in Windsor, Harry and Meghan joined William and Kate in greeting mourners outside the castle, the first time all four were photographed together since March 2020.
Aside from reports that the royals were up in arms over Harry's book, Spare was officially greeted with a wall of silence from the palace.
But Harry insisted in multiple interviews that this wasn't him trying to stick a fork in his relationship with his family, but rather clear all the cobwebs and air the dirty laundry so they could perhaps really see what he'd been going through all those years. As he described, his angst and unaddressed trauma went back decades, long before Meghan came into the picture.
"I'm not sure how honesty is burning bridges," he told ITV's Bradby in a Jan. 8 interview. "You know, silence only allows the abuser to abuse. Right? So I don't know how staying silent is ever gonna make things better."
And "though I would like to have reconciliation," he continued, "I would like accountability. I've managed to make peace over this time with a lot of things that have happened. But that doesn't mean that I'm just gonna let it go."
Still, Harry noted, he wanted to be able to forgive and be forgiven. "I would like to get my father back," he said. "I would like to have my brother back. At the moment, I don't recognize them, as much as they probably don't recognize me."
He loved his family and always would, he stressed. "Nothing of what I've done in this book or otherwise," he said, "has ever been [with] any intention to harm them or hurt them."
Talking to The Telegraph after Spare came out, Harry said that he actually held back in his meaty memoir.
"There are some things that have happened, especially between me and my brother, and to some extent between me and my father, that I just don't want the world to know," he said in a Jan. 13 article. "Because I don't think they would ever forgive me."
The original draft was 800 pages, Harry said, but they managed to whittle it down to 416. "It could have been two books, put it that way," he said. "And the hard bit was taking things out."