Prince Harry has denied boasting about killing 25 Taliban while serving as a soldier in Afghanistan in his memoir, branding it as a “dangerous lie”.
The controversial book Spare, which on Tuesday (10 January) became the UK’s fastest selling non-fiction book, sparked uproar after Harry wrote he had engaged in “the taking of human lives”.
“So, my number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me,” he wrote. The Duke of Sussex said he did not think of them as “people”, but instead as "chess pieces" that had been taken off the board.
In an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night in the US, the 38-year-old said it had been “hurtful and challenging” watching the reactions following the book’s publication.
He said: “Without a doubt, the most dangerous lie that they have told is that I somehow boasted about the number of people that I killed in Afghanistan.”
The duke noted the context in which the reference appeared in the book, before saying: “I should say, if I heard any one boasting about that kind of thing, I would be angry. But it’s a lie. And hopefully now that the book is out, people will be able to see the context, and it is - it’s really troubling and very disturbing that they can get away with it.
“Because they had the context. It wasn’t like ‘here’s just one line’ - they had the whole section, they ripped it away and just said ‘here it is, he’s boasting on this’. When as you say, you’ve read it and hopefully everyone else will be able to have the chance to read it, and that’s dangerous.
“My words are not dangerous, but the spin of my words are very dangerous.”
Harry said he was driven to discuss his kills by the goal of reducing veteran suicides, adding: “I made a choice to share it because having spent nearly two decades working with veterans all around the world, I think the most important thing is to be honest and to give space to others to be able to share their experiences without any shame. And my whole goal, my attempt with sharing that detail, is to reduce the number of suicides.”
Admiral Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, had previously called the duke “very stupid” for giving details of his Taliban kills. The retired admiral told the Sunday Mirror that the Invictus Games – due to be held in Dusseldorf in 2023 – will be a prime target for those wanting revenge and will have “serious security issues” because of their direct connection to Harry.
He said: “The Taliban will be reading (Harry’s claims about killing fighters and) thinking there’s this prince calling us all chess pieces and is quite happy about killing us. And there will be a lot of people, I am sure, in Islamic State and other terrorist organisations, who will think this is something which should be avenged.”
Harry accuses royals of trying to ‘undermine’ his book
Colbert asked the duke if he believed there was an “active campaign by the rest of your family, by the royal house… to undermine this book”, to which he replied: “Of course, mainly by the British press.”
Asked again if it was “aided and abetted by the palace”, Harry replied: “Yes, again, of course. This is the other side of the story.”
In another part of the interview, Harry said he believed press and public fascination with him and his wife was a way to make Meghan Markle leave the UK and to “break her”. He told Colbert: “We moved to California and for 12 months during lockdown where we said literally nothing – it was relentless.
“They always knew my wife was going to leave (the UK) because of the way they were abusing her.”
Harry then joked with the audience that the interview felt like “group therapy” after being asked whether the press fascination was designed to make Meghan leave the UK or break her. Eventually, he said he felt like it was “both”.