Painful memories. Prince Harry recalled King Charles making “sadistic” jokes about not being his “real father” amid public rumors that his “actual father” was one of Princess Diana’s “former lovers” in his book, Spare.

“Pa liked telling stories, and this was one of the best in his repertoire. He’d always end with a burst of philosophizing … Who knows if I’m really the Prince of Wales? Who knows if I’m even your real father?” the redheaded royal writes in his memoir, per quotes from Page Six.

Harry said his father would “laugh and laugh” at his own “unfunny joke,” explaining, “the rumor circulating just then that my actual father was one of Mummy’s former lovers: Major James Hewitt.”

Princess Dianan Major James Hewitt
Ron Dadswell/Shutterstock

Harry noted that he and Charles never spoke directly about Major Hewitt, but it was widely known that Diana engaged in a five-year affair with the military man after they met at a dinner party in 1986. Considering Harry was born in 1984, the rumors are not factual, but he theorized why it became such a popular headline.

“Maybe it made them feel better about their lives that a young prince’s life was laughable,” his memoir continued. “Never mind that my mother didn’t meet Major Hewitt until long after I was born.”

The military man has also adamantly denied being Harry’s birth father, previously saying that the rumors “sell papers.” For her part, Diana was reportedly distraught over the speculation.

“A simple comparison of dates proves it is impossible for Hewitt to be Harry’s father. Only once did I ever discuss it with her, and Diana was in tears about it,” James’ former personal protection officer and confidant, Ken Wharfe, wrote in his book Diana: Closely Guarded Secret.

After Diana and James’ affair ended in 1991, the major became a controversial figure in the U.K. when he began capitalizing on his former relationship with the royal, who died during a car accident in August 1997. He not only released private love letters between the two, but he cowrote the 1994 book Princess in Love with Anna Pasternak and released another memoir, Love and War, in 1999.

In her own words, Diana addressed the affair during a 1995 interview with the BBC. “Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down,” she said, referencing James’ dalliances in the media.

Prince Harry brought up Hewitt during his phone hacking case against the Mirror Group Newspapers Limited on June 6, 2023.

In a written statement obtained by The New York Times, the Duke of Sussex claimed several of the company’s publications perpetuated the rumor that Hewitt was his father. In particular, Harry took issue with an article in The People titled, “Plot to Rob the DNA of Harry,” which was originally published on December 15, 2002.

“At the time, when I was 18 years old and had lost my mother [Princess Diana] just six years earlier, stories such as this felt very damaging and very real to me,” Harry said.

“They were hurtful, mean and cruel,” he continued. “I was always left questioning the motives behind the stories. Were the newspapers keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so that I might be ousted from the royal family?”

Harry accused the article’s author, Dean Rousewell, of “unlawful information gathering techniques,” claiming he wrote about a “plot” to steal the duke’s hair to test his “parentage,” even though Rousewell was aware that the timeline of Hewitt’s affair with Princess Diana was after Harry’s September 1984 birth.

“At the time of this article and others similar to it, I wasn’t actually aware that my mother hadn’t met Major Hewitt until after I was born,” Harry wrote. “The timeline is something I only learnt of in around 2014, although I now understand this was common knowledge amongst the Defendants’ journalists.”

The Mirror Group Newspaper Limited has denied any wrongdoing.

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