The Lives of ‘the Heir and the Spare,’ With and Without Diana


On the night Princess Diana died in a Paris car crash, her then 15-year-old son, Prince William, had a premonition of doom. He tossed and turned in bed at the royal family’s country retreat in Scotland.

“I knew something was wrong,” he would later say. “I kept waking up all night.”

After Diana’s death, her younger son, Prince Harry, then 12, had nightmares about the gruesome way his “mummy” died, and a protective Wills, as the older prince is called, did not want to leave his side. On Harry’s 13th birthday two weeks later, he received a present from his mother that seemed to come from beyond the grave. It was a coveted Sony PlayStation Diana had purchased for him during that final trip to Paris.


Months later, William and Harry went together to the home they shared with Diana at Kensington Palace and chose keepsakes to remember her by. William picked a silver figurine he’d made for her in a metal workshop at school and a Cartier watch that had been given to Diana by her father. Harry took the carpet from his bedroom and several of his mother’s stuffed animals.

These moving scenes are described in a new book by bestselling American author Christopher Andersen: “Diana’s Boys: William and Harry and the Mother They Loved” (William Morrow). The 300-plus-page book is not a coffee table tome, but a story of the young men’s lives. The 70 pictures are in black and white on just 32 pages.

The publication is pegged to the princes’ coming of age--William is now 19 and set to enter university, as the Brits say, in Scotland. Harry is 16 and has shot up to 6 feet tall, just a few inches shy of his older brother.

While on the other side of the pond the press is still delicately handling the boys--there’s been a voluntary embargo on tailing them since Diana’s death--on this side of the Atlantic there’s never been any such pact. In fact, the boys, whom Diana called “my one splendid achievement,” are appearing this month on the covers of a number of American magazines.

The royals, of course, have no comment. “We haven’t read the book,” said a St. James’ Palace spokeswoman who represents princes Charles, William and Harry.

Besides the scenes after Diana’s death, the book details funny and lighthearted times during the lives of the boys known as “the heir and the spare.” It tells of how a young William once dangled Harry by his ankles outside of a palace window. It describes how Diana had a birthday cake for the teenage William decorated with pictures of topless models.

It delves into Wills’ love life: a romantic cyber-exchange with model Lauren Bush, niece of president George W., and his interest in other women, including British society girl Emilia d’Erlanger, who will be attending the same college as William, the University of St. Andrews.

The book notes that William has become the target of death threats from various terrorist groups, including the “Real IRA,” a hard-core breakaway group from the mainstream IRA. It details how William drinks socially and chain smokes but avoids the illegal drugs that a variety of his friends use.

And it tells of how Camilla Parker-Bowles, Prince Charles’ companion, has promised the boys she will not marry their father without their blessing, which, though they reportedly like her, she has not yet received.

Andersen’s last book about the royal family--the bestselling “The Day Diana Died”--was denounced by the crown for its portrayal of Queen Elizabeth’s callous behavior immediately after Princess Diana’s death four years ago this month. It seemed only natural for Andersen to go on to write a book on the princes, as he’d already done so much of the groundwork.

“I obviously had a leg up on the subject,” Andersen said in an interview in his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “It occurred to me that nobody had really done the boys, had done a full and thorough and comprehensive biography of the boys.”

Still, there’s no doubt that Diana plays a central role in this book as well. One need only glance at the cover to know it: She is pictured far bigger than her sons, and her name is twice the size of theirs. And although the first chapter describes the day she died, it then goes in chronological order from William’s birth, and Diana doesn’t exit the book again until page 224.

Andersen is quick to say that he doesn’t really think William and Harry are “Charles’ boys,” despite the fact that the Prince of Wales has risen to the occasion and become a more involved father since Diana’s death. “They make a connection with normal and average people,” Andersen said of the young princes.

“It’s because I think Diana was the first royal to actually connect with her children.”

Andersen describes those children this way: They are both nice guys. Harry is an “open-faced sandwich” who is easy to read, wears his heart on his sleeve, and is less complex and more happy-go-lucky than William. He has adjusted well to his role as supporter to his king-in-waiting brother.

William is introspective and a deep thinker, and headstrong. He has adopted Diana’s compassion, choosing to spend part of his British “gap year”--the year before heading to university--in Chile, working with the underprivileged in a tiny village where he and the other volunteers shared a single working toilet.

“I think it worked out just perfectly,” Andersen said of the birth order that deems William will take the throne. “William is just the kind of person you want in that position.”

Andersen never met Diana and has not met the boys, but that doesn’t matter, he said. An authorized biography would have meant approval from the palace, which he didn’t want. Writers often can learn more about a subject from the people around them, he said. “Often the subject is the last to know the real story or the last to be the most insightful about it,” Andersen said.