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‘Spare’ Is Not Even CLOSE to ‘the Weirdest Book Ever Written by a Royal’

Some of the things his ancestor's wrote make it look quite tame

Prince Harry's chin with a ginger beard, his neck and the caption "Spare" in capitalised white print

According to the BBC Prince Harry’s autobiography, Spare is the “weirdest book ever written by a royal” but we’re here to inform you that no, no it’s not. In fact, it’s not even close to the weirdest.

Given Prince Harry apparently dedicates a fair share of the book to talking about his (frost bitten!) penis you might be forgiven thinking this, if you were unaware of the broader catalogue of royal weirdness that’s been published over the years. Because while of the contents of Spare might be a little odd for an autobiography it doesn’t even begin to plumb the weirdness of his family’s broader publishing history.

For quite a few Twitter users the obvious contender for “Weirdest Royal Book Out There” is Budgie the Little Helicopter, a children’s picture book series adapted into a cartoon that featured a helpful, sentient child-helicopter, rescuing people in danger while trying to avoid taking a bath. Other “Royal Weird” aficionados on Twitter, arguing that the popularity of helpful sentient vehicles in children’s media makes Budgie anything but weird, proclaimed Prince Charles’ The Legend of Lochnagar the champion. A picture book (made into a film, stage musical and a ballet!) about an old man, his bag pipe playing toilet and all the strange fairy creatures he’s friends with, The Legend of Lochnagar definitely seems like a contender for the top spot.

However for the historians of Twitter, in the stakes of strange royal publications, there could only be one winner. James I & VI (yes he was one James, it’s complicated)’s 16th-century guide to finding, “testing” (read, torturing), and punishing witches, his Daemonologie.

A key source for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in both his depiction of witches and their connection to the Scottish crown, James I&VI’s Daemonologie was an Ancient Greek style philosophical treatise on the nature of necromancy, presented in the form of a dialogue between two fictional philosophers. With an entire section dedicated to blaming traditional Scottish fortune telling methods on the devil, and also serving as an anti-Catholic screed, the book goes on to carefully categorise different types of magic and demons, like a D&D manual written by a fevered misogynist with a persecution complex. Which, given the horrific witch trials James I & VI kicked off on his arrival in Scotland, isn’t far from the truth.

Unfortunately, despite being featured in a Dr. Who episode, the Daemonologie is widely regarded as boring in addition to its many other sins, so if you’re looking for an entertaining rather than depressingly weird royal read you’d probably have better luck with one of the strange royal children’s books that have come out over the years. For complete, utter detachment from reality weird however, James “the witch obsessed’s” treatise on magic and how to murder the people you suspect of it wins hands down – the frost bitten sexcapades of Prince Harry’s Spare can’t compete.

(Image: Blackwells)

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