How Prince Harry astounded Britain with blockbuster book Spare on this day one year ago

Few had anticipated its quite extraordinary success. Prince Harry has hardly been known for his literary abilities, after all.

But when Spare hit the bookshelves on this day one year ago, it became an international phenomenon, selling more than three million copies around the world in its first week alone, 1.4 million in the first 24 hours.

According to its publisher Penguin Random House, it was the fastest selling non-fiction book ever seen in Britain.

Said to have been the result of a $20m book deal, the steady stream of royal and personal revelations has been a huge commercial success for Prince Harry – and has given his voice unprecedented global reach.

The cover of Spare by Prince Harry, which appeared on the shelves of UK bookstores on January 10, 2023

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The cover of Spare by Prince Harry, which appeared on the shelves of UK bookstores on January 10, 2023

Prince Harry interviewed by ITV's Tom Bradby in California ahead of the release of his memoir

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Prince Harry interviewed by ITV’s Tom Bradby in California ahead of the release of his memoir

Diana, the late Princess of Wales, pictured with Prince William and Prince Harry in August 1995

ut at what cost?

Although significant sections of material were reportedly removed from the book at a late stage, Harry’s unflinching commentary on William, Kate and other royals is felt to have driven a wedge between the prince and his family.

Twelve months later, the distance between them shows no sign of narrowing.

The subject of huge anticipation, the launch of Spare seemed to go awry when a blunder in Spain meant the contents – in translation – emerged five days early.

It was pulled from the shelves within hours, but not before the Prince’s personal stories about his life were hurtling electronically around the world.

The additional publicity seemed to do no harm harm.

Some UK stores opened late for the midnight release of the biggest royal book since Harry’s mother Princess Diana collaborated with Andrew Morton’ Diana: Her True Story in 1992.

Some of those waiting outside London stores as Monday January 9 turned into Tuesday 10 expressed sympathy for the prince’s clear emotional distress at the tragic loss of his adored mother – covered in the book.

But many considered airing so much dirty linen to have been an unforgivable betrayal of his family.

The book came just four months after the death of the Queen, his grandmother.

Harry’s explosive memoir detailed his life from his mother’s death in August 1979 through to Queen Elizabeth’s death in September 2022.

Much of the material, ghost-written by JD Moehringer, focuses on his own grief and healing.

The attacks on fellow royals, though, rained down in every chapter: from casting his brother as an ‘arch-nemesis’ to claiming that King Charles had failed him as a father.

One of the most shocking revelations from the memoir included claims that Harry and William had an explosive row after – it is claimed – the elder brother called Meghan ‘difficult’, ‘rude,’ and ‘abrasive’.

The book claimed that William had grabbed him by the collar, breaking his necklace, and knocked him to the ground, where he injured himself on a dog bowl – which broke.

We haven’t heard William’s side of this or many other stories that appear in Spare.

As for his father, while Harry made fewer criticisms than some had expected, the prince painted Charles as an ineffectual father who wasn’t even able to hug him when telling him of his mother’s death.

The prince claimed that, at Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021, Charles tried to mend fences between William and Harry, saying, ‘Please, boys, don’t make my final years a misery.’

There were odd hostages to fortune, also. Harry’s statement that he had killed 25 members of the Taliban while serving on the front line went down badly across the board.

His account of losing his virginity, meanwhile, was so badly disguised that the other party was almost immediately identified and interviewed.

The Royal Family’s reaction was keenly anticipated. Yet not a word was said. Family members must have been sorely tempted to speak out, but in the end they kept to the ‘never complain, never explain’ approach which has served them well through the years.

William and Catherine, Prince and Princess of Wales, arrive for a visit to Royal Liverpool University Hospital on January 12, 2023 - their first appearance following the publication of Harry's book

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William and Catherine, Prince and Princess of Wales, arrive for a visit to Royal Liverpool University Hospital on January 12, 2023 – their first appearance following the publication of Harry’s book

Prince Harry at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion southern Afghanistan in 2012

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Prince Harry at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion southern Afghanistan in 2012

Harry's bombshell novel seen on display in New York on January 10, 2023

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Harry’s bombshell novel seen on display in New York on January 10, 2023

One source who knew the late Queen Elizabeth well told MailOnline that they felt ‘almost comforted’ that she wasn’t alive to see what her grandson had done.

‘Her Majesty would have been devastated,’ said the source.

And so, no doubt, was Harry’s father, Charles.

It reported  that Harry ‘wanted to cancel the publication’ of his bombshell memoir Spare after he visited the UK for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2021.

The Duke of Sussex’s second thoughts may have come after he was told by the royals there would be ‘no way back’ if it was published while the Queen was still alive, sources at the book’s publisher speculated.

After his visit with his wife Meghan, the team at Penguin Random House were reportedly told the Prince had ‘pulled it’ and that ‘he doesn’t want to do it’.

While an official reason was never given, it was rumoured by the publisher Harry was given an ‘ultimatum’ not to publish while his grandmother was alive.

But ‘that all changed with the monarch’s death in September,’ the publishing source  said.

Although other reports suggested that the experience of the jubilee and of the family unity at his grandmother’s funeral prompted some significant revisions to the text.

The Royal Family did its best to appear calm.

Two days later, Prince William and Kate Middleton opened the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

Seeming cheerful and at ease in ease in matching navy and green outfits, they put on a united front and  were met with cheers.

Prince Harry speaks to Tom Bradby about the book just days before its release

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Prince Harry speaks to Tom Bradby about the book just days before its release

The Duke of Sussex with host Stephen Colbert during a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on January 10, 2023

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The Duke of Sussex with host Stephen Colbert during a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on January 10, 2023

Ahead of the book’s release in the small hours of January 10, the Duke toured the TV studios, taking part interviews with ITV’s Tom Bradby and Anderson Cooper from CBS among others.

Mr Bradby, a former royal correspondent and a presenter of ITV News at Ten, has been friendly with the Sussexes and had previously interviewed them for a documentary about their 2019 tour of Africa.

Their interview saw him alternate between answering questions from Bradby and reading sections from his memoir.

Speaking to Anderson Cooper, Harry appeared to ignore his father’s feelings in the matter by labelling  Camilla ‘the villain’ and ‘dangerous’.

The prince said he continues to have questions about the death of his mother.

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