Seven key revelations from the ghostwriter of Prince Harry’s memoir Spare
It’s the fastest non-selling nonfiction book of all time — filled with candid accounts of Prince Harry’s frostbitten penis, losing his virginity and altercations between his brother, the future King of England, Prince William. Now the inside story behind the Duke of Sussex’s memoir Spare has been revealed by its ghostwriter JR Moehringer in a personal essay for The New Yorker.
Published on Monday, the 5,000 word piece recounts how the book came to be, the two-year writing process and the huge media blow back upon its release. From being stalked by reporters at his son’s pre-school to camping out at the Sussex’s Montecito home, below are the seven key bombshells from the viral tell-all.
The pair bonded over their shared grief
As the ghostwriter behind Nike founder Phil Knight’s and tennis star Andre Agssi, Moehringer is understandably in high demand. However what made him agree to write Prince Harry’s book was their immediate chemistry that came from an unfortunate shared experience.
“I wondered if we’d have any chemistry. We did, and there was, I think, a surprising reason. Diana, Princess of Wales, had died 23 years before our first conversation, and my mother, Dorothy Moehringer, had just died, and our griefs felt equally fresh,” he wrote. “I think I selfishly welcomed the idea of being able to speak with someone, an expert, about that never-ending feeling of wishing you could call your mom.”
“Empathy is thin gruel compared with the marrow of experience. One morning of what Harry had endured since birth made me desperate to take another crack at the pages in “Spare” that talk about the media
JR Moehringer’s privacy invasion by the paparazzi
The media attention upon its publication was nothing short of a frenzy, with Moehringer finding himself a tabloid target. In fact, he became such a person of interest that reporters started stalking him outside his son’s preschool and at his home.
“[…] I looked up to see a woman’s face at my window. As if in a dream, I walked to the window and asked, ‘Who are you?’ Through the glass, she whispered, ‘I’m from the Mail on Sunday’. He wrote of a journalist who hounded him at his desk.
Moehringer confided in Harry over the experiences, which he described as “like telling Taylor Swift about a bad breakup” or “singing “Hallelujah” to Leonard Cohen”. He also revealed that Harry, “asked if my family was O.K., asked for physical descriptions of the people harassing us, promised to make some calls, see if anything could be done,” even though both of them knew nothing could be done.
However what it did do was further bond the pair, with Moehringer explaining that why he’d worked hard to understand the ordeals of Prince Harry, he now saw that he understood nothing. “Empathy is thin gruel compared with the marrow of experience. One morning of what Harry had endured since birth made me desperate to take another crack at the pages in “Spare” that talk about the media.”
He wasn’t meant to be named
Of course, Moehringer preempted that the book would cause quite the stir, and even had a clause in his contract that gave him the right to remain unidentified. However when someone leaked news of the upcoming book, the perpetrator also divulged Moehringer’s name to the press.
“Along with pretty much anyone who has had anything to do with Harry, I woke one morning to find myself squinting into a gigantic searchlight. Every hour, another piece would drop, each one wrong. My fee was wrong, my bio was wrong, even my name,” he wrote in The New Yorker. The press also misreported on the genesis of the two’s relationship, stating that they had been introduced by George Clooney (Moehringer has still to this day never met the actor).
On bemoaning of being misconstrued by the press, Prince Harry replied: “Welcome to my world, dude”.
They wrote the book largely over Zoom
Work on the book began in 2020 during lockdown, so the two largely worked over Zoom and on “round the clock” text messaging. When travel restriction eased, Moehringer went to stay at a guesthouse on Harry and Meghan’s ranch in Montecito, California, where “Meghan and Archie would visit me on their afternoon walks. Meghan, knowing I was missing my family, was forever bringing trays of food and sweets.” He also went once with his wife and children, with Harry befriending his daughter Gracie via their shared love of the Disney film Moana. Though it wasn’t all rosy, at one point the pair were wrestling over whether an anecdote that referenced his mother should be included: “For months Harry had been pleading for it to go back in. Now he wasn’t pleading, he was insisting, and it was 2 a.m., and I was starting to lose it. I said, “‘Dude, we’ve been over this.’”
On Prince Harry’s true intention for publishing Spare
Many critics and readers wondered why Prince Harry would publish such an intimate, detailed and at times shockingly revealing book. "While I always emphasised storytelling and scenes, Harry couldn’t escape the wish that Spare might be a rebuttal to every lie ever published about him," Moehringer explained. "He knew, of course, that some people would be aghast at first. ‘Why on earth would Harry talk about that?’ But he had faith that they would soon see: because someone else already talked about it, and got it wrong."
The infamous “mount” quote was a mistranslation
However Moehringer reiterated that many “innocent passages” were “hyped into outrages”. He credits this to the book being leaked a week before its official publishing date after a Madrid bookshop put embargoed copies of the Spanish version on its shelves “by accident”.
“In no time, Fleet Street had assembled crews of translators to reverse-engineer the book from Spanish to English, and with so many translators working on tight deadlines the results read like bad Borat,” he writes. “One example among many was the passage about Harry losing his virginity. Per the British press, Harry recounts, ‘I mounted her quickly . . .’ But of course he doesn’t. I can assert with one-hundred-per-cent confidence that no one gets ‘mounted,’ quickly or otherwise, in Spare.”
Even when the book was officially released, Moehringer explains that the bad translations didn’t stop and that facts were “wrenched out of context, complex emotions were reduced to cartoonish idiocy”. For example, one newspaper made up that Prince Harry’s army instructor said a in Spare was “complete fantasy” to which the instructor posted a lengthy comment beneath the article, swearing that those words, “complete fantasy,” never came out of his mouth.
The media campaign against Spare falsely hinged on it being rife with errors
Although the memoir was rigorously fact-checked, there were never-ending headlines that Spare was riddled with inconsistencies and flat out lies. “I can’t think of anything that rankles quite like being called sloppy by people who routinely trample facts in pursuit of their royal prey,” explains Moehringer, “and this now happens every few minutes to Harry and, by extension, to me.”
He namechecks one particular incident with TK Maxx to illustrate this. In the book, Harry reveals that he used to live for the yearly sales at the discount clothing chain. “Not so fast, said the monarchists at TK Maxx corporate,” he writes. “who rushed out a statement declaring that TK Maxx never has sales, just great savings all the time!”