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Prince Harry claims senior royals are 'obsessed' with who does the most charity work

TOPSHOT - Britain's King Charles III and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex walk behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, adorned with a Royal Standard and the Imperial State Crown and pulled by a Gun Carriage of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, during a procession from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, in London on September 14, 2022. - Queen Elizabeth II will lie in state in Westminster Hall inside the Palace of Westminster, from Wednesday until a few hours before her funeral on Monday, with huge queues expected to file past her coffin to pay their respects. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)
The last time Harry was with his father Charles and the rest of the royals was at the Queen's funeral in September 2022, but his memoir Spare provides new insight into their estrangement. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry's memoir Spare was full of revelations, but one claim that seems to have flown under the radar so far concerns the "court circular".

The court circular is the official track record of how many engagements each member of the Royal Family has taken part in.

However, what might appear to be a seemingly innocuous list of ribbon-cutting events is actually the source of an "obsessive" competitiveness among his own family – according to Harry, at least.

What is the court circular?

The court circular is an annual record of the engagements undertaken by the royals, detailing when, where and what they did.

The records go back to 1997, and each year often leads to coverage in the press over which member of the House of Windsor has completed the most — or least — engagements.

Last year, it was Princess Anne who was dubbed the "hardest working royal", tallying 214 engagements, with Charles coming in second at 181. Of the 'senior royals' Kate came in last, undertaking 90 engagements.

What did Prince Harry say about the court circular?

Prince Harry has alleged in Spare that those of his family who are 'working royals' are "obsessed" with who can claim to have done the most charity work.

He explains that this was amplified by the court circular, something he calls a "sinister document". He also claims that it played into a "fear of the public" that the royals suffer from.

Harry writes in his memoir: "The Court Circular, that annual record of "official engagements" done by each member of the Royal Family in the preceding calendar year. Sinister document.

"At the end of the year, when all the numbers got tallied, comparisons would be made in the press. Ah, this one's busier than that one. Ah, this one's a lazy shit."

Harry claims that this has "weaponised" a pre-existing competitive atmosphere within in the House of Windsor, even though family members don't necessary reference the court circular in conversation.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales, check food baskets during a visit to the Windsor Foodshare on January 26, 2023 in WIndsor, England. The Prince and Princess of Wales visited the charity to learn about their work providing food parcels to those who are struggling financially. (Photo by Alastair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
William and Kate at an engagement at Foodshare, budget for these engagements is decided by the monarch according to Harry. (Getty Images)

"The Court Circular was an ancient document, but it had lately morphed into a circular firing squad. It didn't create the feelings of competitiveness that ran in my family, but it amplified them, weaponised them", he wrote.

"Though none of us ever spoke about the Court Circular directly, or mentioned it by name, that only created more tension under the surface, which built invisibly as the last day of the calendar year approached."

The Duke of Sussex claims that the Court Circular made some of his relatives "obsessed" with increasing their number of "self-reported" engagements, even leading them to include things that he and his brother William wouldn't have perceived to count.

He writes: "Certain family members had become obsessed, feverishly striving to have the highest number of official engagements recorded in the Circular each year, no matter what, and they'd succeeded largely by including things that weren't, strictly speaking, engagements, recording public interactions that were mere blips, the kinds of things Willy and I wouldn’t dream of including."

Harry also notes in Spare that the amount of engagements each royal undertook was fundamentally a financial decision made either by the late Queen or, in Harry and William's case their father Charles.

TAUNTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 25:  Princess Anne, Princess Royal officially opens the UK Hydrographic Office headquarters on April 25, 2019 in Taunton, England. As the UKHO enters its next chapter and continues to be an important, data-led geospatial organisation for the UK, the new headquarters will provide a creative working environment for its 850 staff. The state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly building replaces the existing buildings on the site in Admiralty Way, Taunton. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Princess Anne has long been seen as one of the 'hardest working' royals, here seen opening an office in Taunton in 2019. (Getty Images)

"The main reason the Court Circular was a joke, a scam, was that none of us was deciding in a vacuum how much work to do. Granny or Pa decided, by way of how much support (money) they allocated to our work. Money determined all."

Equally, Harry acknowledges that the stress and competition that led to the royals obsession with the Court Circular was part of a greater context of fear the royals have — of modernity, rapid social change, and the public itself.

"Maybe the stress around all this stuff stemmed from the overarching stress about the monarchy itself. The family was feeling the tremors of global change, hearing the cries of critics who said the monarchy was outdated, costly," he writes.

"The family tolerated, even leaned into, the nonsense of the Court Circular for the same reason it accepted the ravages and depredations of the press – fear. Fear of the public. Fear of the future. Fear of the day the nation would say: OK, shut it down."

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