Prince Harry Struggled With How the British Royal System Can Be ‘Cruel to the Spare,’ Expert Says

Prince Harry’s upcoming memoir is titled Spare, a nod to the phrase “the heir and the spare,” and gives a clue about how he has felt over the years. In a 2020 interview, author Robert Lacey looked at the rift between Harry and Prince William and explained some of the cruelty directed toward the “spare.”

Prince William and Prince Harry walk together at Queen Elizabeth's funeral
Prince William and Prince Harry | Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Prince Harry was ‘typecast as the court jester, the number two,’ author says

Lacey spoke with Good Morning America in 2020 to promote his book Battle of Brothers, which explored William and Harry’s relationship. Part of the interview involved a discussion about Harry’s role as the spare in relation to his brother William.

“This story goes right back to the beginning when they were children,” Lacey explained. “And at the age of 6 [or] 7, William suddenly starts becoming more serious. He’s aware of his destiny as a king. Harry goes in the opposite direction.”

At a young age, Harry became quite aware that his path would be different from William’s. “There’s a story of how he was misbehaving in the back of a car at the age of 4 and his nanny tells him off. And he says, ‘I don’t have to behave. I’m not going to be king,’” Lacey said.

“Harry came to realize in his teens that he was typecast as the court jester, the number two,” the author continued. “There’s William, standing for duty going ahead down the conventional path. And it’s Harry who strikes out for love, for self-determination.”

Author says royal system is ‘cruel to the spare’

Lacey further shared how the spare has historically been treated. “The British royal system can be very cruel, and it’s particularly cruel to the spare,” he explained.

“This is not the first time we’ve had spare problems, the heir and the spare, Princess Margaret, Prince Andrew. Now, Harry is in the same dilemma,” Lacey noted.

He continued, “They start off in the public eye as playmates, as co-stars with the heir. And what’s their destiny? To be pushed down the line of succession as babies come along, marriages come along. There was trouble with Margaret. There was trouble with Andrew. And now we have the same thing with Harry.”


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Things changed when Meghan Markle entered the picture, expert says

Lacey also discussed how Prince Harry “transformed” when Meghan Markle came along. “He falls in love with this megawatt woman. He’s inspired. He’s transformed by her, not really changed, but the ideas and tensions that have been inside him get resolved,” the author explained. “And he wants more than that. And the palace couldn’t handle it.”

Harry and Meghan became family “rock stars” that the palace didn’t know how to handle,” the author noted. “I think Meghan’s a force of nature that maybe Buckingham Palace hasn’t worked out how to cope with. She is a woman of great conviction,” Lacey explained.

According to the author, the palace “edged out” Harry and Meghan after they “overshadowed William and Kate.”

He referenced portraits taken of Queen Elizabeth, then Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George. “A picture is issued of the four monarchs of the present and the future. And I think the underlying message of that is, ‘Just remember your place, Harry and Meghan. These are the people that really matter in the royal family. And you are the backup. And you’re trying to play too prominent a role,'” Lacey said.