The row erupted at Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London in 2019, with the Duke of Sussex alleging that his sibling had arrived “piping hot” to confront him about his marriage to the American actress Meghan Markle and their running battles with the British press, according to The Guardian.
The Duke of Sussex writes in the extract that his brother, now heir to the British throne, complained about Ms Markle’s conduct and called her “difficult”, “rude” and “abrasive”, prompting Harry to accuse William of “parrot[ing of] the press narrative” about his wife.
The pair allegedly continued to argue about the situation, with William claiming he was trying to help his younger brother.
“Are you serious? Help me? Sorry – is that what you call this? Helping me?” Harry reportedly replied.
Harry is said to claim that his brother became angry and swore at him and because he was scared, the former retreated to the kitchen, with William following him.
Hoping to calm his brother down, the younger prince then handed him a glass of water and said: “Willy, I can’t speak to you when you’re like this.”
Harry then proceeds to detail the alleged attack, writing: “He set down the water, called me another name, then came at me. It all happened so fast. So very fast. He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog’s bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out.”
William allegedly then demanded that Harry fight back but he refused and the former left, returning soon after “looking regretful, and apologised”.
Harry claims in the book that the episode left him with visible “scrapes and bruises” on his back, which his wife noticed but “wasn’t that surprised, and wasn’t all that angry… She was terribly sad.”
The casual use of affectionate childhood nicknames – Willy and Harold – in the extract is a poignant detail, underlining how close the brothers once were.
Harry first indicated that a rift had emerged between them in the aftermath of his wedding to Ms Markle, which took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in May 2018.
Speaking to ITV journalist Tom Bradby in October 2019, Harry addressed the matter candidly, saying the pair were currently on “different paths”.
“Part of this role, part of this job, this family, being under the pressure which it’s under, inevitably stuff happens. But we are brothers. We will always be brothers,” he said.
“We are certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him, and as I know he will always be there for me. We don’t see each other as much as we used to as we are so busy.”
Ms Markle reportedly endured a frosty relationship with William’s wife, Kate Middleton, and addressed that, among many other points of contention with the royal family, during the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021 and in their recent Netflix series Harry & Meghan.
Nicknames appear to be common among the royals, with Meghan referring to her husband as both “H” and “Haz” in their Netflix series, with him in turn calling her “M” or “Meg”.
The late Queen Elizabeth II was known as “Lilibet” and, rather more ironically, as “Brenda”, in reference to an old Private Eye joke concerning the 1969 BBC documentary The Royal Family, which attempted to portray the monarchs as not so very different from the subjects they ruled. It inspired the magazine to give them typical “working class” names such as “Keith” for the Duke of Edinburgh, “Brian” for the Prince of Wales and “Yvonne” for Princess Margaret.
According to Hello! magazine, King Charles and the Queen Consort refer to each other as “Fred” and “Gladys” in honour of a Goon Show radio sketch fondly remembered by His Majesty, whose love for the programme did not stop Spike Milligan famously labelling him a “grovelling bastard”.
Kate, the Princess of Wales, has also been known as “Squeak”, after a pet guinea pig, the magazine reports, while the late Princess Diana affectionately labelled William as “Wombat” after encountering the animals on a visit to Australia.
He was also known by the codename “Steve” during his days as a student at St Andrews University to discourage unwanted attention.
Their children also have their own nicknames, with Princess Charlotte more commonly known as “Lottie”.