Spare: Prince Harry’s Book About His Life as the Second Son

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Spare" by Prince Harry. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is Spare, Prince Harry’s book, about? What are the main takeaways of the book?

In Spare, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, explains why he made the decision to leave the United Kingdom and the Royal Family to live in California with his wife, Meghan Markle. He provides a brutally honest look into the life of an English prince, particularly the struggles that come from being a younger son.

Read below for a brief overview of Spare by Prince Harry.

Spare by Prince Harry

Why would a member of the British Royal Family, someone born to wealth and influence that most people can only dream of, choose to throw away his status and move to a different country? In Spare, Prince Henry Charles Albert David, Duke of Sussex—usually referred to as Prince Harry—explains why he left his homeland, family, and royal role, instead choosing to live in California with his wife (American former actress Meghan Markle). 

Harry tells his life story from his own perspective, rather than from the distorted perspective of the British media—usually the main source for royal news, and an institution that Harry despises. He describes the hardships he faced as the younger son of a royal family—the so-called “spare” child, valued less than the heir. He also talks at length about his struggles with poor mental health and the endless abuse he (and later Meghan) endured from British tabloids and paparazzi.

Prince Harry’s book Spare gives a unique first-hand account of what it’s like to be royalty and the surprising challenges that position can bring. It also provides unprecedented insight into the behavior of the British Royal Family and the media. Finally, it shows that even a prince can struggle with mental health issues and demonstrates how the stigma around mental illness harms those who are already struggling.

This article reorganizes Harry’s revelations into four key topics: 

  1. His relationships with other members of the Royal Family
  2. His military service
  3. His struggles with mental illness
  4. His marriage to Meghan Markle and their subsequent departure from England in the face of press harassment

Harry’s Family Relationships

As Spare is, in large part, an explanation of why Harry and Meghan decided to leave the Royal Family and move to America, Harry explores his often difficult relationships with his closest family members. Here are the family members he mainly discusses:

  1. The late Queen Elizabeth II – Harry’s grandmother
  2. Diana, Princess of Wales – Harry’s mother
  3. King Charles III – Harry’s father
  4. Queen Consort Camilla – Harry’s stepmother
  5. Prince William – Harry’s older brother

Harry’s Military Career

Harry says more than once that his time in the military was the happiest of his life. Having a clear purpose—and the anonymity of a callsign—helped him to focus his attention and forget about the hardships of royalty. 

Harry explores his military career, starting with the sudden cancellation of his deployment to Iraq and ending with him founding the Invictus Games, a sports event for veterans.

Harry’s Mental Health Struggles

Another clear theme in Spare is Harry’s lifelong struggle with anxiety and trauma. Though his poor mental health tinges many of the experiences he shares in the book, Harry focuses on the period from 2013 to 2015, when his mental health was at its worst, and how he found treatment for his PTSD and anxiety.

Harry’s Marriage to Meghan Markle

In July 2016, while scrolling through Instagram, Harry saw a short video of his friend Violet and another woman. He was immediately captivated by the stranger and asked Violet who she was. Violet replied that she was the actress Meghan Markle, most famous for her long-running role on Suits, and offered to get the two of them in touch with each other. Harry eagerly accepted. The two began chatting almost non-stop online, then started dating.

Eventually, Meghan moved to England to be with Harry, leaving Suits as a consequence. Shortly after, Harry asked her to marry him, and she accepted. By law, Harry had to ask Queen Elizabeth for permission to marry; she granted it immediately. 

However, other members of Harry’s family weren’t so welcoming. Charles once said that he didn’t want Meghan living in Britain—he claimed there wasn’t enough money to support her, but Harry suspects he just didn’t want a new couple to overshadow him and Camilla. Furthermore, William and his wife Catherine didn’t always get on with Meghan; they sometimes argued with her and Harry, fights which the press somehow got wind of. 

Despite his family’s objections, Harry and Meghan got married on May 19, 2018, at St. George’s Chapel. Their first child, Archie, was born almost exactly a year later: May 6, 2019. Their second child, Lilibet, was born on June 4, 2021. 


Desperate to escape from the constant media harassment they faced in the UK, and the death threats that came with it, Harry and Meghan decided that they would step back from their roles as royalty and begin splitting their time between North America and the UK. Their official statement announcing this appeared on Instagram on January 8, 2020. 

A few days later, the Royal Family met to discuss exactly what this “stepping back” would entail. Harry understood that giving up their royal duties also meant giving up their royal income—the money the government paid them for their services—but he was shocked when he found that he’d also be losing his security detail. In fact, the head of Harry’s security team said that only the Queen had a higher estimated threat level than Harry and Meghan; even so, they would lose their protection at the end of March 2020. Harry and Meghan would have to pay for their own security.

In February 2021, Buckingham Palace announced that they’d reviewed the previous agreement regarding Harry and Meghan. Effective immediately, the couple now had to relinquish many of their royal roles—such as being the official patrons of charities and, in Harry’s case, having certain honorary military roles. In other words, the Royal Family was officially cutting almost all remaining ties with them. 

Today, Harry and Meghan live in California, in the United States. They first moved there in March 2020, staying in the home of film director Tyler Perry (who provided paid-for security for the couple). They later purchased their own home, a place to raise their children and begin their new life.

Spare: Prince Harry’s Book About His Life as the Second Son

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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

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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