Bookshops opened early on Tuesday as the Duke of Sussex’s controversial memoir hit the shelves – but queues were sparse following days of leaks ahead of the book’s publication.
Just one person was waiting outside Waterstones’ flagship branch in Piccadilly in central London when it opened at 8am.
Other royal fans had queued for midnight store openings, with a handful waiting outside WH Smith in London’s Victoria station to be one of the first to buy a copy.
Spare, which was sold early by some bookshops in Spain, contains a string of bombshell revelations and private details about Harry’s life and family, and has sparked a furore over his claims that William physically attacked him and that he killed 25 Taliban members during the Afghanistan war.
Caroline Lennon was the only one waiting to buy a copy at Waterstones in Piccadilly – Europe’s largest bookshop – after she walked two miles from Bethnal Green in the East End to arrive at 6am.
The 59-year-old told the PA news agency: “I don’t care what anybody says. People will criticise me and say ‘What an idiot for liking Harry. What an idiot for queuing up’, but I don’t care what anyone says.
“My personal feeling with Harry and William is they should connect. There’s no love between them, there’s no love with that family. He and William need to get their heads together and make up, for God’s sake. Life is too short.”
Ms Lennon recalled queuing to buy Andrew Morton’s biography of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1992, saying: “It was mad. Everyone was grabbing the books. But today I am the only one!”
She posed for photographers as she left the shop with her copy, saying: “I’m looking forward to listening to the audiobook straight away.”
Staff had piled hardback copies of the memoir on a circular display table in the middle of the shop, having taken delivery of them last Thursday.
Promotional posters dubbed the autobiography, which was being sold at half-price – £14 – “the memoir everybody is talking about”.
But only two other customers bought the book in the first hour of the shop’s opening.
James Bradley, 61, from Hammersmith in west London, picked up a copy on his way in to work to read when he goes on holiday with friends on Wednesday.
He said: “He is obviously very controversial and this book has done, I think, a lot of damage to Harry. I thought it would be a great holiday gift as everyone can discuss the book.”
Mr Bradley said the royal family will not be damaged by the book’s revelations, adding: “We’ve had decades of this.”
“It’s fine. It’s just more of the same,” he said. “They just have to shrug it off and carry on being the royal family.
“After the Queen’s death, the royal family’s stock has never been higher in my lifetime and this will just bounce off. In six months’ time we won’t be talking about this.
“It’s a good distraction from strikes and all the problems we’re having in this horrible winter. It’s a bit of light entertainment.”
Mr Bradley added that he does not think Harry should have included his claims about killing 25 Taliban members during his two tours with the British Army in Afghanistan.
“No soldier should ever talk about what he does in wars, particularly killing other human beings and calling them chess pieces,” he said.
“The armed forces are going to have to distance themselves from him and I think he will be hurt by that.”
Fiona Leviny, a 61-year-old farmer from Queensland, Australia, who was visiting London on holiday, said she bought Spare to “hear Harry’s story”.
“Harry and Meghan’s personal life has been put out there without their permission and I think now it is his time to tell his story. Everyone else has been writing about him, except for him,” she said.
“I find it extraordinary that so much is written about Harry and Meghan, and I want to know the truth, so that’s why I bought it and why I’m going to read it.
“I love the drama. I have to read it. I have to know the truth.”
Mrs Leviny added that the Prince of Wales should not comment on anything within the book for the sake of the monarchy.
“William is heir to the throne and I believe, whether it is old-fashioned or not, that, given we have a monarch, he has done the right thing by staying quiet,” she said.
Waterstones has said Spare was one of its biggest pre-order titles of the last decade, while the book also reached number one in the UK Amazon bestseller charts on Tuesday and was listed as a bestseller on the company’s audiobook arm Audible.
At WH Smith in Victoria station, staff opened the doors at midnight to a swarm of reporters and customers who gathered around stacks of the book, which were sitting on a table wrapped in sealed black packaging.
The first customers were handed copies as photographers captured the moment before staff started putting half-price stickers on to copies and stacking them on specially-designed shelving units near the front of the shop.
Waiting outside the shop, bartender Sasha Pursell, 27, who has moved to London from Melbourne, Australia, said: “I’m just intrigued. I’ve heard so much press about the book and it’s also just a bit exciting – I’ve never been to a midnight release.”
Asked about the criticism surrounding the book, she said: “Yes, it can be seen as a betrayal to the royal family, but, at the same time, I feel like a lot of lies have been spewed about him.
“It can go both ways. I don’t think either party is in the right or the wrong.”
Sarah Nakana, 46, a surveyor from Dulwich, south-east London, said she had already downloaded the audiobook as she picked up a copy, saying she wanted to try to “get ahead of the British press and their narratives”.