I’m well into Part 2 of Prince Harry’s Spare, but it took a long time to get through the first forty pages of the memoir. The first part is about Harry, then 12 years old, being told his mother has died and what happened in the days and weeks afterwards. In the earlier reporting about then-Prince Charles telling his younger son that Diana died, people were making a big deal about how Charles didn’t hug Harry at any point when Charles told a 12-year-old child that his mother was dead. But the most shocking and appalling part is that… Charles left his child alone for hours in his room right after:
They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it. These phrases remain in my mind like darts in a board. He did say it that way, I know that much for sure. She didn’t make it.
And then everything seemed to come to a stop.
That’s not right. Not seemed. Nothing at all seemed. Everything distinctly, certainly, irrevocably, came to a stop.
None of what I said to him then remains in my memory. It’s possible that I didn’t say anything. What I do remember with startling clarity is that I didn’t cry. Not one tear.
Pa didn’t hug me. He wasn’t great at showing emotions under normal circumstances, how could he be expected to show them in such a crisis? But his hand did fall once more on my knee and he said: It’s going to be OK.
That was quite a lot for him. Fatherly, hopeful, kind. And so very untrue.
He stood and left. I don’t recall how I knew that he’d already been in the other room, that he’d already told Willy, but I knew.
I lay there, or sat there. I didn’t get up. I didn’t bathe, didn’t pee. Didn’t get dressed. Didn’t call out to Willy or Mabel. After decades of working to reconstruct that morning I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion: I must’ve remained in that room, saying nothing, seeing no one, until nine a.m. sharp, when the piper began to play outside.
[From Spare, by Prince Harry]
Charles just… left him there. For hours. Alone. The whole family let a 12-year-old boy sit alone for hours after his mother died. I made this point on Twitter yesterday and I’ll make it again here: I know very well that there was no “right thing” or perfect way to handle this situation. God knows, Charles was probably in shock as well (although…). But for no one in the family to simply come sit with him or hold his hand or try to get him to talk, that broke my heart. It doesn’t sound like anyone did that the entire week. Then, when his mother’s coffin went into the ground at Althorp, Harry broke down in tears… and no one comforted him at Althorp either. He had to comfort himself:
When the hearse finally got to Althorp the coffin was removed again and carried across the pond, over a green iron bridge hastily positioned by military engineers, to a little island, and there it was placed upon a platform. Willy and I walked across the same bridge to the island. It was reported that Mummy’s hands were folded across her chest and between them was placed a photo of me and Willy, possibly the only two men who ever truly loved her. Certainly the two who loved her most. For all eternity we’d be smiling at her in the darkness, and maybe it was this image, as the flag came off and the coffin descended to the bottom of the hole, that finally broke me. My body convulsed and my chin fell and I began to sob uncontrollably into my hands.
I felt ashamed of violating the family ethos, but I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
It’s OK, I reassured myself, it’s OK. There aren’t any cameras around.
Besides, I wasn’t crying because I believed my mother was in that hole. Or in that coffin. I promised myself I’d never believe that, no matter what anyone said. No, I was crying at the mere idea. It would just be so unbearably tragic, I thought, if it was actually true.
[From Spare, by Prince Harry]
NO ONE REASSURED HIM. No one held him. No one put a supportive hand on his shoulder. He had to reassure himself. The consistent references in his early years to this magical thinking, his mother’s “disappearance,” his mum “hiding,” that kept breaking my heart too. The fact that Harry even has empathy for his father being terrible at parenting too – Jesus Christ.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.