‘Spare’: Prince Harry successfully banned the Royal Rota from his wedding

In Spare, Prince Harry writes extensively about his disdain for many tabloid editors and royal-rota hacks. He’s kept track of many of them throughout their careers, and he has a classic Virgo’s long memory for grudges. That’s a huge part of Spare and it makes me feel seen: Harry’s Virgo ability to recall who screwed him over, who did him dirty, who wrote something false about him, who was tracking his girlfriend, who was listening to his voicemail messages. Harry was repeatedly encouraged to play the game, the same game his father and stepmother played, of cozying up to their media abusers and enthusiastically participating in the Invisible Contract. Harry wrote about this in a particular section of Spare, in the lead-up to his 2018 wedding, when the British tabloids were writing about wedding “Portaloos.”

That spring, however, the press was quieter. Keener about breaking news of wedding details than inventing new libels… Above all, we hoped the royal correspondents would continue to write about poo instead of trying to stir it up.

So when the Palace encouraged us to feed more wedding details to those correspondents, known as the Royal Rota, we obeyed. At the same time, I told the Palace that on the Big Day, the happiest day of our lives, I didn’t want to see one single royal correspondent inside that chapel, unless Murdoch himself apologized for phone hacking.

The Palace scoffed. It would be all-out war, the courtiers warned, to bar the Royal Rota from the wedding. Then let’s go to war.

I’d had it with the Royal Rota, both the individuals and the system, which was more outdated than the horse and cart. It had been devised some forty years earlier, to give British print and broadcast reporters first crack at the Royal Family, and it stank to high heaven. It discouraged fair competition, engendered cronyism, encouraged a small mob of hacks to feel entitled.

After weeks of wrangling, it was agreed: The Royal Rota wouldn’t be allowed in the chapel, but they could gather outside. A small win, which I hugely celebrated.

[From Spare by Prince Harry]

What I keep thinking about is that part in Netflix’s Harry & Meghan, when the British expert (I forget her name, I’m sorry) spoke about how Harry and William were the first heir-and-spare born into the invisible contract system and the royal rota system. Harry and William didn’t negotiate that deal as children or adults, the deal was in place when they were born and they grew up caged within that tragic system. William chose to lean into it, and he learned from his father how to brief against members of his family, how to smear his brother and sister-in-law, how to protect his own ass at all costs. Harry chose a different path – to pick a fight, to try to dismantle a broken system, to call out the Rota.

Photos courtesy of Cover Images, Avalon Red.

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59 Responses to “‘Spare’: Prince Harry successfully banned the Royal Rota from his wedding”

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  1. Brit says:

    I remember an article about people complaining about this. Arthur Edwards was pissed off. The statement, this, coupled with Archie’s birth really drove the press to the edge. You can tell this was bound to happen. Harry, the royal and BM were a simmering explosion waiting to happen. Meghan was the catalyst and she didn’t even know it.

    • Chloe says:

      I really do wonder how this will play out in the future with George Charlotte and Louis. Will william really be like his father and sell his children out? Or will he be protective over them and make sure that none of that petty competitiveness will be among his own children? Will he teach them to function like a team? Seems unlikely since both william and kate are reportedly fiercely competitive.

      Still selling your brother out is not the same as selling out your own kids.

      • Lila says:

        That’s a good question! I wish they’d have all their kids backs equally, but given the favoritism that is already being shown to George, I don’t see that happening. I think the spares would get better guidance from Uncle Harry than from their parents.

      • Lady D says:

        William is incredibly selfish, not a trait conducive with good parenting. William will throw George under a bus before George is 15 years old. I do believe however, that Louis will get the worst of it. I wonder just how badly Willie will screw up (’cause you know it’s coming) to need to sacrifice his first born. He is after all a carbon copy of Charles.

      • Mary Pester says:

        Not only do I wonder how this is going to play out in the future, I wonder what on earth is going on behind closed doors at the moment! Where did little Louis learn that it’s OK to put his hand over his mother’s mouth to make her be quiet? Children we are told, learn by example! That does not bode well for HIS future. George looks exhausted all the time and trussed up like the Christmas turkey and Charlotte has taken to crossing her fingers, as we all saw at the colour coordinated Christmas service. I laughed out loud at the British press today, all this William and Kate are carrying on with their duties, so brave 😂😂 they visited a hospital where hard WORKING staff were hauled of wards to pose for the cameras, ie rent a crowd for them to pose with and to hell with the patients who needed them. Plus a lot of those staff will be on strike next week as they can’t afford to live on their pay. But never mind serfs, we need you to make us look good and tomorrow you can use the food bank! It’s disgusting

      • Chloe says:

        @lila @lady D: maybe he will be just like his father but let’s not forget that unlike his father, william technically doesn’t have a major scandal that he needs rehabilitating from. For now, the only way i can see him use his kids is to play the whole family dad card. Which won’t hurt his kids perse. But i do wonder how that will play out when they start overshadowing him. Or worse when they get a boyfriend/girlfriend and that starts overshadowing him.

      • Lady D says:

        I hope you’re right, Chloe. I also think that William had a chance to fall head over heels for his son when he was born.(other than the first six months when Willie was nowhere to be found) Hopefully that will protect George, but growing up in a home with a parent who possesses a mean and vicious temper makes for a terrifying childhood, whether that temper is directed at you or not. What happens to one child will absolutely affect the rest.

      • Becks1 says:

        I think he’s going to sell his kids out, or when they’re older, he may encourage George to sell out his younger siblings. He’s part of the toxic abusive cycle that is the British Royal Family.

        One of my big takeaways from reading this book – I said this the other day – is how much William buys into the Heir and Spare narrative. He is the Heir therefore he is entitled to everything and he thinks that is right and proper. He thinks its his right to lie about his brother being a slob and snoring in an interview. He thinks its right and proper that Harry’s mistakes – real AND imagined – were plastered on the front pages of the papers while his were mostly covered up. He thinks its perfectly fine that Charles told Harry he has no money for him and Meghan and Meghan should keep working while Kate buys bespoke coatdress after bespoke coatdress. It’s clear from the beginning when William tells Harry that he has no idea why he left.

        Harry is the spare, arguing against two heirs and neither William nor Charles see any reason why Harry should not have been content with his role.

        William clearly thinks that Charles was wrong for leaking stories about the boys, or for letting some stories run to benefit his own image, but he doesn’t think he was that wrong bc William now operates from the same playbook.

        In their eyes, you protect the monarchy at all costs. And the monarchy is the monarch and the heir. So Charles, William, and George.

      • windyriver says:

        I think jealous, competitive Kate will not react well to Charlotte getting older and starting to draw significant attention of her own, as Kate moves further into her 40’s.

      • Beverley says:

        Ditto Windyriver. I believe that Khate is so emotionally immature that the moment Charlotte begins to turn heads as a lovely teenager, Kkkhate will react poorly. Her looks are already gone. She’ll look like Death warmed over in ten years. Already she is so unattractive and her “treatments” aren’t doing much. The fresh-faced Charlotte will undoubtedly bring Khate’s envy and bitterness even more into the spotlight.

        I do feel for Charlotte. The Royal Family has already repeatedly demonstrated that the spare is the official scapegoat.

      • Rnot says:

        I think William has limited exposure to teamwork or good parenting. Maybe he teaches his kids to treat their siblings well but I don’t know where he’d have learned it.

  2. Becks1 says:

    I, too, am enjoying Harry’s grudges. I also love how he rarely says a reporter’s or editor’s name but makes it clear that if you spend 30 seconds googling, you’ll be able to figure it out.

    Why would the rota need to be in the chapel for the wedding? as guests? or as journalists? The whole thing was streamed live, I don’t see why you would need additional press in there. The rest of the world’s press was fine being stationed outside.

    • Eurydice says:

      They needed to be in the chapel the same way Piers Morgan needed an invitation to the wedding. Their worth as experts as power brokers is measured by how close they are to the RF.

    • Chloe says:

      Well the whole point of the rota system is that you get special privileges over other news stations/ reporters in turn for favorable press. To then get a backseat with the rest of the world has got to sting. I mean camilla Tominey was even invited to pippa’s wedding and she isn’t a royal.

    • diANNa says:

      There is video footage of youngster Harry in the company of Diana and he sticks his tongue out at the paparazzi. It seems that he has continued to do this with more and more finesse and to ever-growing outrage.
      Although that outrage surely has to have already reached a crescendo?

  3. SomeChick says:

    “Then let’s go to war.” Harry’s been to war. he means it.

    I was recently chatting with someone who served in Afghanistan (American.) I told him I was reading Harry’s book and he said he met Harry there and that he is just as warm as he seems. “best guy you could ever meet.”

  4. Hyperbolme says:

    Among the biggest revelations to me was the realization that the royals are all actively reading the tabloids! I knew they were playing PR games against each other with briefs and leaks but genuinely thought they heard reports from others, which created bizarre retellings that led to weird responses that became the next level of leaks. It’s so twisted it couldn’t be that they are all 200% aware and intentional. Nope. It’s clear everyone is working with first hand information and is fully caught up on the tabloid lies from inside the palace.

    • Eurydice says:

      This surprised me, too. It’s hard to imagine such a weird existence – claustrophobic, narcissistic, obsessed with what other people are thinking and saying about you.

    • Jais says:

      The tabloid reading is wild. Harry obviously reads the tabloids as he makes his burn list. But the rest of the family reading tabloids every morning in all seriousness was not on my bingo card. The RF tries to project itself as classy but reading tabs is just so

      • SarahCS says:

        It’s like when the queen was ‘exposed’ as having the breakfast cereals kept in tupperware containers. They’re just like the peasants!

  5. A.B says:

    I love and support H&M, but I sometimes feel like Harry used Meghan as a bodyshield in his vengeance against the royal rota! Like she had nothing to do with it, but because he wasn’t alone anymore, he decide to go to war with these people to her detriment. Knowing or not knowing she would be the one to catch heat as the married in.

    • Snuffles says:

      Wow, that’s a very harsh, jaded take. Maybe Harry felt like he had something/someone to protect from a system he already despised. He wanted his happily ever after, and he wasn’t about to let them ruin it.

    • equality says:

      Why would you think Meghan wouldn’t agree? Why would she want people who printed racist, misogynistic content about her at her wedding?

    • C says:


    • mtos says:

      I think that even if Meghan had not come into his life he would have gone to war with the BM at some point. Harry was done. He could clearly see what his family is and the unfair treatment between him and Wills. The rota writing the things they did about his gf, then fiance, and then wife was the boiling point. This was always going to happen. Harry was done.

    • Travelin123 says:

      What a terrible way to interpret things.

      The press attacked Meghan and the coverage was horribly racist from the very beginning. Harry didn’t use her as a shield! He was fighting the papers because he was appalled by what they were writing, the lies and the vitriol being spread about her. She was being stalked and chased. Everyone she knew were being surrounded and offered enormous sums of money for pictures or stories. Didn’t matter if they were true. One of her neighbors was paid to set up a livestream camera feed showing her backyard.

      He didn’t use her as a shield. He was trying to protect her. His family wanted him to play along. To allow these people who are stalking her and making life miserable into your home and hope and pray they write nice things? And then they would leave them alone? As if!

      Also, Harry standing up and fighting for Meghan made the other men in the family look bad. After all they refused to help their wives and children. Harry caring about what was happening to Meghan made the others look selfish and heartless. Or rather it showed their true selves. Can’t have that!

      • lanne says:

        That’s what makes Harry a better man than his father, brother, and uncles in my book. He’s willing to stand up for what is right, and he’ll take the consequences. My biggest measure of character is whether a person can take what they dish out, and if they can accept the consequences of their own actions. The Windsor men all fail that standard, except Harry. Harry’s the only real mensch among the rest of them, who are sniveling weasels.

        Harry has emasculated them. They know it. That’s why they hate him so much. He’s even emasculated the lunkhead Tindall, who is nothing but a bully.

    • Maxine Branch says:

      I think Harry was already at war with the tabloid culture there but from what I have observed through his actions a red line was crossed once when he was young and could not help his mom and once he sensed the same happening to his wife, he has been doing everything he can to protect her and I applaud him.

    • Amy Bee says:

      @AB: Are you new here? The tabloids never gave Meghan a chance. They were calling her a gangster and porn star the moment it was known that she was dating Harry. Things were so bad Harry had to release a statement condemning the racism and misogny a week after. She was on the same page as Harry.

      • mtos says:

        Omg yes. They were disgustingly awful to her. To both of them. Like they couldn’t hide the racism oozing out of them.

      • QuiteContrary says:

        They’re doing the same to Doria this week (don’t want to threadjack, but it’s appalling). I loathe the British tabloids. And I have nothing but respect for Harry for the ferocity he’s shown in battling the rota and in defending his wife.

    • Tan says:

      Ah yes the sweet innocent rota that called her from Compton, called their son a chimp, wrote actively false stories on her spending, tried to get an ex co worker or hers who happened to be a porn star, to say he slept with her for $70,000 – those sweet and misunderstood lambs – yes it’s all Harry’s fault. Go lick the feet of the DM while ur at it

    • Sonia jarvis says:

      Why would you say this. From the start, Harry could see what the bm intended to do to his wife. He had to put out a statement warning them about their racist coverage. It was disgusting and disheartening to witness their coverage of the couple’s romance and engagement. I think that Harry had no option . I do believe that Meghan would have agreed with him. They know that this is a long game but both are morally upright, strong people and I strongly believe that God is on their side and watching over them. We truly need people like them, especially for the times we are living through.

  6. Snuffles says:

    So, 40 years ago would be the late 70s. I wonder why they suddenly felt the need to institute this system when they felt no need to before. This would be in the middle of Charle’s swinging bachelor days. And if I recall correctly, the royals popularity was at an all time low and there was probably a lot of political and economic strife happening.

    And lord knows what kind of shenanigans Charles was getting up to because not long after they were pushing Charles to stop fooling around and find a wife.

    • Guildish says:

      Charles was doing the unthinkable … He was seriously involved with a very married Camilla Parker-Bowles and the Palace freaked out. They did not want that scandal coming out so they pushed him to marry the eligible, young, naive teenager Lady Diana Spencer

      The bump that 1981 marriage provided to Britain’s economy and popularity saved Britain for the ensuing 50 years.

      • Tessa says:

        Charles was dating others besides Diana. He was serious about Anna Wallace and Amanda knatchbull
        Both turned him down
        He was serious about d a v I n a Sheffield but dropped her when her ex came forward revealing they had lived together. Today that would not be an issue. He had another married mistress dale tryon. And had an on and off relationship with Janet Jenkins
        Camilla was not the only one he was seeing

  7. mtos says:

    I don’t understand the royals at all. Tabloids are so tacky. Why on earth would they ever want to be associated with them. I know they like to control the stories and all that but wouldn’t ignoring the tabloid stories and speaking to or granting access to actual reporters be classier?

    • Eurydice says:

      Maybe it’s that most of what the RF does isn’t worth reporting in a legitimate newspaper. They went here or there, they wore this or that, they shook somebody’s hand – not front page material for anything other than tabloids.

    • K8erade says:

      These are British royals. Gossip is their birthright. British Royal courts from time immemorial have functioned on gossip. From Henrys II-VIII to Queen Victoria to today. Tabloids are just the modernized weapon of the royal Court since it’s not right to behead someone based on a rumor. But instead of being kept in Court, it’s now considered mainstream media.

    • SarahCS says:

      They have nothing better to do. While technically they are still ‘necessary’ for the ruling of Britain (giving ‘permission’ to dissolve parliament, etc.), they are in practice purely ornamental while simultaneously telling themselves that they are ordained by god to ‘rule’. Talk about some cognitive dissonance. And in the meantime they have a ton of time on their hands to manage all the palace intrigues, half of which play out in the tabloids. The more you think about it the weirder it gets.

  8. equality says:

    Why should they have been at the ceremony? None of them are H or M’s friends or even close acquaintances. Who would want someone who printed vitriol about them at their wedding?

    • mtos says:

      Exactly. It’s gross that anyone would expect the rota get an invite. They were horrible to H&M. Why on earth would they expect to get invited to their wedding of all things. Just unreal. The entitlement.

  9. MyCatLovesTV says:

    While I keep reading about the British tabloid press, I get a picture in my mind of The National Enquirer, The Globe & that one that always has “I had lunch with an alien” or some such on its cover being placed with care on President Biden’s desk every morning. WTF???

    • LynnInTx says:

      News of the World! That one was my favorite. Completely bonkers, outlandish, obviously crackpot made up stories. I once (years and years ago) read an article written by someone who interned there and ended up in a photoshoot for the cover story. It’s was exactly as bizarre as you’d expect.

      I stopped buying and reading the tabloids after Diana’s death. I didn’t want to feed into that anymore. In my high school, the next school day after, pretty much every class had something to say about her death. In my journalism class, one of my teacher’s ‘assignments’ the week before was to go buy a tabloid to criticize the stories. She went on a huge rant about the lengths they would go to to get a story (and this is even before we knew about the phone hacking), and how they would intentionally twist things. Then I went from there to my biology class, where my teacher went on a huge rant about the tabloid press and how any one who bought them essentially contributed to Diana’s death. And I’m American, and was living at that time in a small deep East Texas town.

      All this to say that I’m not surprised Harry has a deep seeded, long running hatred of the rota, the tabloid culture, and all that makes it up. I’m not surprised he was willing to ‘go to war’ to keep them out of his wedding. The agreement between the Palace and the tabloid press is awful.

    • QuiteContrary says:

      The British tabloids are really regarded differently than how Americans view the National Enquirer and other tabs here. They’re seen as real newspapers. People grab copies of the tabloids as they’re boarding the buses or Underground in the morning — and then grab the afternoon tabloids at the end of the day.

      When I lived in London, I used to marvel at the crap the British tabs were shoveling, and that people were accepting as fact. They cover just enough serious news to be seen as credible by readers, but they’re filled with made-up crap, too. They’re horribly xenophobic and racist.

  10. Amy Bee says:

    Inviting the press to your wedding is just weird. There was no need for them to be there.

    • Dee says:

      The expectation of an invite was there, though. The rota think they’ve “earned” that closeness and then could use it against them. How could we be such bad, evil reporters if we were invited to his wedding? And no invite means they will come for you with knives out.
      Harry knew it was a lose/lose, but chose to keep them out, which was the brave and correct choice.

  11. Em says:

    LOL at Kate in that wedding image. I am always so amused at how sour and hard she looked at Harry and Meghan’s wedding. I don’t think she cracked a smile once.

    • QuiteContrary says:

      Aside from wearing white, which was bad enough, Kate’s outfit was just so dull.

      • Julia K says:

        Photos from inside the church shows dress and hat pale yellow.

      • Dee says:

        The flower in Kate’s hat is yellow. Her dress is white with a very pale yellowish tinge. It definitely photographed white. She was wearing a pure white dress underneath it, which can be seen in some photos. Even Oprah had her dress redone because the pale pink photographed white. Kate knew what she was doing.

  12. AmelieOriginal says:

    Well he didn’t successfully ban them from the wedding altogether, they were still allowed outside at the church. But it was nice he got to ban them from inside the church though there was still media in the church I believe, just not royal rota media.

  13. blunt talker says:

    It was their wedding -the shitstain UK media had already started their racist articles before they got married-so Meghan knew how they were operating when it comes to her-but she still hoped at some point they would be fair when reporting on her and Harry-never happened and got worse after their tour in Australia-has been going on since they left salty isle