Do Harry and William get along? Why is there tension between them?
In his autobiography Spare, Prince Harry portrays his older brother Prince William in a negative light. Harry owes this to the sibling rivalry that William takes part in.
Keep reading to learn why the brothers aren’t on good terms.
Prince Harry and Prince William’s Sibling Rivalry
Aside from Princess Diana, the family member Harry discusses most in Spare is his older brother William. But the real question is, do Harry and Williams get along? The brothers’ relationship was contentious; Harry portrays William as petty and self-centered, often unable to celebrate Harry’s successes because he’s too wrapped up in sibling rivalry. For example, when Harry mentioned that he wanted to do conservation work in Africa, William became upset because Africa was supposed to be “his” project.
(Shortform note: Prince William has been criticized by African leaders for his overbearing and Eurocentric approach to conservation work. For example, the president of the African Wildlife Foundation said that the best results in conservation and anti-poaching work have come from areas where Africans are leading the efforts. Other experts say that William should be following the lead of African experts, instead of trying to make conservation “his” project and setting himself up as a “white savior.”)
Perhaps the most extreme example of the strife between the brothers came in 2019, when William confronted Harry about his wife, Meghan Markle. William said that she was rude, unpleasant, and impossible to please, and Harry retorted that he was just repeating lies the tabloids printed. Their argument escalated until Wiliam grabbed Harry’s collar and threw him to the ground, then demanded he get up and fight back. Harry refused and instead waited for William to leave before calling his therapist to discuss the incident.
(Shortform note: Following Spare’s release, photos and videos of Prince William have emerged that—according to some—suggest he’s had anger issues and an abusive personality throughout much of his life. However, another report says that William’s friends describe him as calm, patient, and dutiful, not the sort of man who would attack his brother in anger. It’s worth noting that the report never names these “friends,” so the stories on both sides of this issue are little more than rumor and speculation.)
Later, when Harry attended his grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, William said that all he really wanted was for Harry and Meghan to be happy. However, Harry didn’t believe him. (Shortform note: Reports—citing unnamed “sources close to William”—say that the Prince is extremely angry about Spare and his portrayal in it. In particular, these reports claim that William is livid about Harry sharing details of their private conversations, like the one recounted here; ironically, something that Harry criticizes the rest of the Royal Family for allegedly doing.)
Finally, as with their father Charles, Harry suspects that someone on William’s staff was leaking information about him to the tabloids. Also like Charles, William was either unable or unwilling to intervene. (Shortform note: William has, so far, not responded to questions about Spare, his alleged leaking of stories to the press, or the brothers’ physical fight, nor has he issued any official statement about his brother’s memoir.)
The Heir vs. the “Spare”
Further complicating the brothers’ relationship was the fact that William is the heir-apparent to the throne, while Harry was simply a “spare”; a backup plan in case something should happen to William. Harry claims not to resent this fact: It’s simply how things are, and he says there’s no sense in getting upset over it. However, he was always aware that he was a secondary concern—William got the first and best of everything, while Harry was an afterthought, if people thought of him at all.
(Shortform note: Younger children of royalty have suffered from their positions all throughout history. They’re trained from birth for roles that they’ll most likely never hold, leaving them frustrated, aimless, and depressed. These “spare” royals have coped with their situation in numerous unhealthy ways, ranging from debauchery and attention-seeking to attempting to seize the throne by force.)
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Prince Harry's "Spare" at Shortform.
Here's what you'll find in our full Spare summary:
- Prince Harry's autobiography about growing up as a member of the Royal Family
- The struggles that come from being the younger son—not the heir-apparent
- How Prince Harry deals with harassment from paparazzi and mental illness