"At long last, I was bringing the girl of my dreams home to meet mum," the Duke of Sussex wrote in 'Spare'
Princess Diana died at age 36 on Aug. 31, 1997, following a car crash in Paris, and 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of her death. In his groundbreaking memoir, published in January, Prince Harry recalled the emotional experience of bringing his wife to his mother’s gravesite for the first time in 2022.
The previous Princess of Wales is buried at Althorp, the Spencer family’s ancestral home in Northamptonshire, England. Diana was laid to rest on an island at the center of the ornamental lake known as The Round Oval within Althorp Park's Pleasure Garden, and her gravesite is off-limits to the public.
Following a “little shove” from his uncle Charles Spencer through some stubborn mud, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex rowed out on a boat to the island.
“No visit to this place was ever easy, but this one… twenty-fifth anniversary,” Prince Harry wrote in Spare. “And Meg’s first time. At long last, I was bringing the girl of my dreams home to meet mum.”
“We hesitated, hugging, and then I went first. I placed flowers on the grave. Meg gave me a moment, and I spoke to my mother in my head, told her I missed her, asked her for guidance and clarity,” he continued. “Feeling that Meg might also want a moment, I went around the hedge, scanned the pond. When I came back, Meg was kneeling, eyes shut, palms against the stone.”
“I asked, as we walked back to the boat, what she’d prayed for,” Prince Harry added. “Clarity, she said. And guidance.”
Around that time, Prince Harry and Meghan had traveled to Europe from the California home (where they relocated in 2020 after stepping back as senior members of the royal family) for a series of engagements with some of their longstanding charities. A week after the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, Queen Elizabeth died at age 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, hours after her doctors announced they were “concerned” for her health.
Prince Harry, now 38, and Meghan, now 42, stayed abroad until the funeral and traveled back to Montecito soon after, reuniting with their son Prince Archie, now 4, and daughter Princess Lilibet, now 2, who was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth's childhood nickname.
In a conversation with PEOPLE surrounding the release of Spare, Prince Harry said he put pen to paper to share his story in his own words and kept it open-ended when asked what he hoped his family's takeaway might be.
"I don't want to tell anyone what to think of it and that includes my family. This book and its truths are in many ways a continuation of my own mental health journey. It's a raw account of my life — the good, the bad and everything in between,” Prince Harry told PEOPLE.
A bright moment shared elsewhere in Spare was a sweet anecdote about how Prince Harry and Meghan serendipitously connected for the first time on Princess Diana’s birthday. The Duke of Sussex wrote about how he was struck by Meghan’s beauty when he saw her photo for the first time in his Instagram feed. The then-Suits star playfully posed for a selfie with a friend named Violet, and Harry reached out to the mutual pal for her contact info on July 1, 2016 — his late mother's birthday.
Prince Harry said that Meghan messaged him first on the social media site, and they immediately connected over a shared love of Africa, as his feed was filled with photos from the country (a revelation the couple first made in Harry & Meghan, which debuted on Netflix in December 2022).
"Eventually, we exchanged phone numbers, and mitigated the conversation over to text, going late into the night," Harry wrote in Spare, adding that he was "texting like a teenager" through the following day.
"It occurred to me how uncanny, how surreal, how bizarre, that this marathon conversation should have begun on July 1, 2016. My mother's fifty-fifth birthday," he added.
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The Duke of Sussex revealed another royal birthday coincidence later in his memoir, writing about how King Charles was charmed when it came up that Meghan was born on the same day — Aug. 4 — as Charles’ beloved grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Harry said the realization came when he and his wife visited his father in Scotland at the Castle of Mey during the summer of 2018, a few months after their royal wedding.
“The bond between Meg and Pa, always strong, grew even stronger during that weekend," Harry wrote. "One night, over pre-dinner cocktails, Fred Astaire playing in the background, it emerged that Meg shared a birthdate with Pa’s favorite person: Gan-Gan."
“ ’Amazing,’ Pa said with a smile,” he added of his dad’s reaction.
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