What’s a biro? Britishisms in Harry ebook ‘Spare,’ defined

It’s typically stated that England and America are two nations divided by a typical language.

If you happen to’re one of many many readers on this aspect of the pond to choose up a replica of “Spare,” you might be possible engrossed by Prince Harry’s poignant but incessantly salacious account of life contained in the royal bubble. As you learn with fascination in regards to the grief he struggled with after his mom, Princess Diana, died in 1997, or the racist media protection of his spouse, Meghan Markle, you may additionally end up questioning about extra mundane issues.

Like: What on earth is a biro?

To assist American readers navigate the Duke of Sussex’s tell-all — which is dense with British cultural references at the same time as its gushing, confessional high quality defies the nationwide perception in sustaining a “stiff upper lip” — we’ve compiled a number of the extra peculiarly British folks, locations and issues and tried to elucidate them in a fashion accessible to Yanks (and different commoners).


The royal household’s property in Scotland and the location of a number of the most dramatic moments in “Spare.” It’s the place Queen Elizabeth II died final 12 months (shortly earlier than Harry arrived — he wasn’t invited on the household airplane). It’s additionally the place Harry and his brother, Prince William, discovered their mom, Princess Diana, had been killed in a automobile accident in 1997. Harry describes the citadel in vivid element, together with the brownish faucet water — “filtered and sweetened by the Scottish peat” — and the similar doorways, which made all of it too straightforward to barge in by accident on his father doing headstands in his boxers.

Membership H

A bomb shelter turned windowless celebration lair at Highgrove, Charles’ nation property, the place teenage Harry and Will consumed vodka and Pink Bull with buddies named Badger, Casper, Chimp and Skippy. Membership H was positioned deep within the bowels of the property, past a wine cellar “wherein Camilla kept her fanciest bottles,” and a storage room containing “absurd gifts from foreign governments” that couldn’t be regifted or donated. “When I wanted peace, Club H provided.”

Eton Faculty

The uber-posh boarding college Harry and William attended was based by King Henry VI in 1440 and has an advanced lexicon of its personal (lecturers are often known as “beaks,” courses as “divs”). College students gown in funereal black tailcoats and pinstriped trousers as a result of “we were supposed to be in perpetual mourning for old Henry VI,” writes Harry, who felt misplaced at such an elite place of studying regardless of his royal lineage: “Heaven for brilliant boys, it could thus only be purgatory for one very unbrilliant boy.”

Prince Harry arrives within the gardens of Buckingham Palace in London, January 2020.

(Related Press)


A time period for a typical ballpoint pen, just like a Bic. Harry remembers receiving a Biro — wrapped, for some purpose, in a tiny rubber fish — as a gift one Christmas from Princess Margaret, a.okay.a. Aunt Margo, a lady he didn’t know nicely however who, he writes, “could kill a houseplant with one scowl.”

On the time, the reward struck Harry as “cold-blooded,” and he doesn’t provide a lot perception into what she might have supposed with the weird current. However his opinion of the queen’s long-suffering youthful sister — the spare to an earlier inheritor — appears to have softened over time: “Now and then, as I grew older, it struck me that Aunt Margo and I should be friends.”

Darling boy

Charles’ most well-liked time period of endearment for Harry, used to relay tough information in a delicate method (e.g. “Darling boy, mummy’s been in a car crash”) but additionally to dismiss his youthful son’s considerations patronizingly (e.g. “Don’t read it, darling boy,” referring to faulty tabloid protection of the household).

Fancy gown

What British folks name costumes, for some purpose. As in, “Harry claims that William and Kate encouraged him to wear a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party in 2005.” It shouldn’t be confused with fancy clothes, like these Harry says Kate preferred to put on, in distinction with Meghan, a barefoot-in-ripped-jeans kinda woman.

Ginger Spice

Nom de guerre of Geri Halliwell, a member of the Nineties pop group the Spice Women. As recounted in “Spare,” Harry met the Spice Women at a live performance in South Africa shortly after his mom’s demise. Ginger was “the only Spice with whom I felt any connection,” he writes, due to her pink hair, clearly, but additionally her fondness for the Union Jack, the flag draped over Diana’s coffin. Who knew the Spice Women might be so poignant? (Harry additionally quotes a surprisingly profound verse from their hit single “Wannabe”: “If you want my future, forget my past.”)

What Prince William calls Harry, whose identify is definitely Henry.

Ludgrove matrons

Ludgrove is a boarding college for boys between the ages of 8 and 13, positioned in Berkshire. Harry was enrolled at Ludgrove when his mom, Princess Diana, died. In one of many ebook’s most charged Freudian moments, Harry remembers the ladies who labored as “matrons” on the college and, like surrogate moms, bathed prepubescent college students in an elaborate and moderately creepy ritual.

“I can still see the long row of white baths, each with a boy reclining like a pharaoh, awaiting his personalized hair-washing,” he writes. “The matrons came down the row of tubs with stiff brushes, bars of floral soap. Every boy had his own towel, embossed with his school number. Mine was 116. After shampooing a boy the matron would ease back his head, give him a slow and luxurious rinse. Confusing as hell.”


The identify for the one bed room shared by William and Harry at Balmoral, the place the royal pecking order was apparent. “My half of the room was smaller, far less luxurious,” Harry writes. “I never asked why. I didn’t care. But I also didn’t need to ask. Two years older than me, Willy was the heir, whereas I was the spare.”

Opal Fruits

Chewy fruit-flavored candies Harry preferred to eat in huge portions through the Ludgrove ritual often known as “Grub Day,” when college students would line up after lunch and gorge themselves on sweet piled excessive on a desk. The model later modified its identify to Starburst — a transfer Harry deems “pure heresy.”

A royal family sitting on a picnic rug outside a large castle.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with their kids, Prince Andrew (middle), Princess Anne (left) and Charles, Prince of Wales, sitting on a picnic rug outdoors Balmoral Fort, 1960.

(Bettmann / Bettmann Archive)

Rehabber Kooks

The derisive anagram Harry makes use of all through “Spare” to seek advice from his nemesis, Rebekah Brooks, the infamous media govt and newspaper editor who was behind a number of the most egregious tabloid tales about Harry (together with a 2002 report that he was going to rehab for drug abuse). Brooks was publicly disgraced practically a decade later for her function within the Information of the World phone-hacking scandal, but she continues to be certainly one of Rupert Murdoch’s strongest allies.

Roundheads versus Cavaliers

Phrases utilized by college students at Ludgrove to tell apart college students who had been circumcised (like Harry) from those that weren’t. It’s additionally a nod to the English Civil Conflict: The royalist cavaliers, who supported King Charles I and had been recognized for his or her flowing hair and elaborate garb, had been pitted towards the pro-Parliament roundheads, who sported intently cropped hair and less complicated clothes.


The royal household’s 20,000-acre nation property in Norfolk, the place Queen Elizabeth II loved spending Christmas and capturing partridges. To not be confused with Balmoral, the royal household’s 50,000-acre county property in Scotland, the place Elizabeth loved spending summers and capturing deer. Harry, who will get overheated simply, like his father, compares the stifling eating room at Sandringham to Dante’s “Inferno,” including that his grandmother’s corgis would typically betray him when he’d secretly crack open a window at dinner. Sandringham can be the place Charles, William and the queen met in January 2020 to dealer the phrases of the Sussexes’ departure from royal life — an occasion that was dubbed the “Sandringham Summit” and was fastened prematurely by the queen’s advisors, in keeping with Harry.


A nickname Harry acquired throughout his hole 12 months in Australia, after posing with an echidna (like a cross between an anteater and a hedgehog) named Spike. A household good friend determined that Harry, whose hair had grown again in messily after his Eton classmates shaved it off as a prank, bore an uncanny resemblance to the egg-laying mammal. The moniker quickly caught on along with his buddies again house, and joined an already lengthy record of formal titles and casual nicknames (Haz, Baz, Prince Jackaroo, Scrawny).


Although Harry incessantly discusses stalking in unfavourable phrases — as within the paparazzi who stalked his mom — it’s additionally one of many favourite pastimes of the royal household when staying at Balmoral. Harry writes a couple of stalking initiation. When he was about 15, a information named Sandy shoved his face contained in the still-warm carcass of a freshly killed stag and held it there till Harry went limp. “After a minute, I couldn’t smell anything, because I couldn’t breathe. My nose and mouth were full of blood, guts and a deep, upsetting warmth.”

It’s certainly one of a number of menacing, symbolically potent anecdotes in “Spare” involving lifeless animals and members of the royal household that Peter Morgan is little question submitting away in a folder marked “Heavy-handed Metaphors To Use In ‘The Crown.” (See also: the moment Harry nervously asks Queen Elizabeth for permission to marry Meghan while gathering dead birds at Sandringham.)


Harry and William’s beloved nanny, who was really named Alexandra Shân Legge-Bourke however, within the curious custom of the British higher courses, glided by a goofy nickname seemingly extra appropriate for a Yorkshire terrier than a grown lady. Despised by Diana, who perceived her as a maternal rival, Tiggy was both fun-loving or reckless, relying in your perspective: In “Spare,” the prince remembers Tiggy providing him swigs of sloe gin throughout looking journeys in his adolescence. He additionally describes a “blooding” ceremony, wherein Tiggy “tenderly” smeared his cheeks, nostril and brow in rabbit blood after he made his first kill. As you do.

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex walking hand-in-hand while the former waves.

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, go away after visiting Canada Home in London on January 2020, the day earlier than they introduced they’d “step back” from royal duties and go away city.

(Frank Augstein / Related Press)

T.Okay. Maxx

A reduction retailer the place Harry, when he was a bachelor with little curiosity in vogue, most well-liked to buy informal put on. (It’s a part of the identical firm as T.J. Maxx, however goes by a unique identify in Europe to keep away from confusion with the retailer T.J. Hughes.) He was particularly keen on hitting up their annual sale, grabbing a pink bucket and making his method from the highest ground downward, by no means fussing over colour or bothering to attempt issues on correctly. “With two hundred quid you could look like a fashion plate,” he says.


British slang for penis. In 2011, Harry returned from an expedition to the North Pole to attend his brother’s marriage ceremony and was alarmed to find that his todger was frostbitten — an unlucky medical mishap that gives “Spare” with certainly one of its most potent metaphors: “What was the universe out to prove by taking my penis at the same moment it took my brother?” Harry writes. In an much more fraught twist — one more in a litany of Freudian moments — a good friend suggested him to deal with the broken organ with Elizabeth Arden cream, the identical stuff his late mom as soon as used on her lips. Ultimately, Harry sought the help of a discrete dermatologist, who advised him time would heal the harm. Presumably, he was right.


A famously bougie grocery chain in the UK which provides an array of upscale meals, from strawberry-and-pink-champagne preserves to celeriac remoulade. Like so many aspects of British life, the place you store for meat n’ veg is laden with class connotations. And on this advanced grocery store hierarchy, Waitrose is decidedly posh. (Prince William’s sister-in-law, Pippa Middleton, as soon as wrote a life-style column for his or her in-house journal.)

It’s additionally the place Harry and Meghan went grocery procuring early of their romance after spontaneously deciding to have a couple of buddies over for dinner. Since their relationship wasn’t recognized publicly, the couple divvied up the record and prowled the Waitrose aisles individually, speaking by way of textual content. (“What the F is parchment paper?” a befuddled Harry requested Meghan, who was making ready salmon from a recipe she present in Meals & Wine.)


It’s possible you’ll assume that is one other phrase for “todger,” but it surely’s really what Harry calls his older brother. (Hey, a minimum of it’s higher than Badger.)