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The three loyal Van Straubenzee brothers featured in Spare

Loyal brothers stuck between the warring Windsors: The Van Straubenzee siblings play a prominent role in Spare – from William’s ‘REAL best man’ Thomas to Prince Harry’s usher Charlie and late friend ‘Henners’

  • The Van Straubenzee siblings were classmates of Princes William and Harry 
  • They attended Ludgrove School together and remain close friends
  • Brothers Thomas, 40, Charlie, 34, and the late Henry, all are mentioned in Spare 
  • READ: Hospital worker is overwhelmed with emotion after meeting the Prince and Princess of Wales as eager royal fans queue in their hundreds for selfies

Prince Harry’s explosive memoir mentions Royal Family members, beloved relatives and mentors, as well as new and old friends.

Among those referenced is a set of three brothers – the Van Straubenzee siblings who were classmates of Prince William, 40, and the Duke of Sussex, 38, when at Ludgrove School together.

They have remained close friends throughout their lives and the brothers, Thomas, 40, Charlie, 34, and the late Henry, all are mentioned several times in Harry’s explosive book Spare, which was released worldwide on Tuesday.

One of the most controversial revelations involving the siblings was the Duke’s startling claim that his brother’s ‘real’ best men at his wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011 were his friends James Meade and Thomas Van Straubenzee.

Among those mentioned in Spare is a set of three brothers – the Van Straubenzee siblings who were classmates of Prince William, 40, and the Duke of Sussex, 38, when at Ludgrove School together. Pictured, William and Thomas in 2014

The Duke revealed his rift with his older sibling meant ‘Willy didn’t want me giving a best man’s speech’.

In an extraordinarily personal revelation, Harry claims he was forced to go along with his brother’s ‘bare-faced lie’ and act out the role of best man to spare the blushes of William’s two closest friends, who gave the traditional speech at the reception.

The Duke was officially considered his brother’s best man at the nuptial and even travelled with his father and future King to Westminster Abbey in a Bentley that day.

In Spare, Harry also revealed that he picked his ‘old friend’ Charlie Van Straubenzee to be his best man, despite claims William was fulfilling the role.

They have remained close friends throughout their lives and the brothers, Thomas, 40, Charlie (pictured with Harry in 2015), 34, and the late Henry, all are mentioned several times in Harry’s explosive book Spare, which was released worldwide on Tuesday

Elsewhere in his memoir, Harry mentioned his close friend, Henry van Straubenzee, nicknamed ‘Henners’, who died aged 18 in a car crash in 2002

He suggested that William changed plans made to spend the night together with friends at the Coworth Park Hotel ahead of Harry’s 2018 wedding to Meghan Markle.

The Duke claimed that his older brother cancelled at the last minute, citing that he needed to stay with the Princess of Wales and their children instead. 

After Harry tried to persuade him further, he eventually agreed to come and have dinner with him, but still refused to stay the night, the memoir recalled.

‘Was he resentful that he wasn’t my best man?,’ questioned Harry. ‘That I’d asked my old friend Charlie? (The Palace had published that Willy was my best man like I had been when Kate and he got married).’

Thomas Van Straubenzee (pictured at a charity polo match in Cirencester in 2018) gave a speech at Prince William’s wedding reception

Mr van Straubenzee has known William since prep school, with his family being known as one of the royal family’s closest and most loyal allies. He is pictured (left) riding in a carriage with the Queen at Ascot in 2017

Thomas tied the knot with Lucy Lanigan-O’Keeffe, 32, a teacher at Charlotte and Prince George’s former school, Thomas’s Battersea, in 2020

Elsewhere in his memoir, Harry mentioned his close friend, Henry van Straubenzee, nicknamed ‘Henners’, who died aged 18 in a car crash in 2002. 

The Duke said hearing the news of his friend’s death took him back to the moment in 1997 when his father, then Prince Charles, told him Princess Diana had died.  

He wrote: ‘The news must have come in the form of a phone call, though I only dimly recall holding the phone, hearing the words. 

‘Henners and another boy, leaving a party near Ludgrove, drove into a tree. Though the call’s a blur, I vividly remember my reaction. Same as when Pa told me about Mummy. 

‘Right… so Henners was in an accident. But he’s in hospital, right? He’s going to be OK? No, he wasn’t.’

Prince William has known Mr Van Straubenzee since childhood where he attended Ludgrove School in Berkshire. They are pictured with Kate in 2016 at Ascot Racecourse

In December 2022, Princes William and Harry joined forces in a rare show of unity for charity to remember their late friend ‘Henners’. 

A joint letter, penned for a carol concert for the Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund at St Luke’s Church, Chelsea on December 1, featured both their names. 

It went on to pay tribute to ‘Henners’, using ‘we’ and ‘us’ as the royals presented a unified voice. It is understood to be the first time in at least a year they had put out a statement together. 

The royal brothers are patrons of the charity – which was set up by Henry’s parents Alex and Claire – and have been attendees along with their wives Kate and Meghan at the festive event in previous years. 

Daisy Jenks, Charlie van Straubenzee and Thomas van Straubenzee attend the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel on October 12, 2018 in Windsor

The heartfelt letter read: ‘We believe everyone here tonight will agree that what Claire and Alex have achieved since 2009 with The Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund, is nothing short of extraordinary.’

The charity supports schools and helps construct, restore and improve buildings, enabling children to have better and properly-equipped classrooms and facilities like restrooms.

‘As you gather together under this roof tonight, the charity is supporting 51 nursery, primary and secondary schools in rural Uganda, where 1700 projects have been completed and over 35,000 children, each year, are benefitting by receiving education they wouldn’t have otherwise,’ said the letter.

Princes Harry and William remain close friends with Thomas and Charlie van Straubenzee.

Thomas is the global head of the private office of estate agent Knight Frank, and accompanied the Prince to New Zealand on his gap year.

He is also godfather to the Prince and Princess of Wales’ daughter Princess Charlotte.

The businessman and property consultant, whose parents are Captain Alexander van Straubenzee and Claire Fenwick, used to holiday with William in Cornwall when they were children.

Before his marriage to Charlotte’s former teacher from St Thomas’s Battersea Lucy Lanigan-O’Keeffe, 32, in 2020, he had a reputation for loving a night out. The couple share a young son, Albert. 

His family’s royal links go back decades — old family friends of Princess Diana, she was even the nanny of Thomas Van Straubenzee’s cousin briefly and was also said to have dated his uncle, Willie, after divorcing Prince Charles. 

Thomas Van Straubenzee is said to be interested in music, wildlife and conservation. 

His friendship with the princes made headlines in 2011, when he was mugged at knifepoint in Battersea while talking on the phone to Harry, and the concerned Prince drove across town to check on him.

In 2013, Van Straubenzee married Lady Melissa Percy, the Duke of Northumberland’s daughter, at her family’s ancestral home Alnwick Castle, which doubles as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Princes William and Harry were among the guests. 

The couple divorced three years later in 2016, with Thomas’ disputed ‘unreasonable behaviour’ allegedly cited as the reason for the relationship breakdown.

Read more: 

  • Smiling Prince William tells adoring crowds he will ‘keep going’ as he and Princess of Wales visit Liverpool in wake of Harry’s searing attacks on royal family – as couple appear to ignore questions about Duke of Sussex’s bombshell memoir 
  • ‘This is a Freudian nightmare’: Audiobook listeners left horrified as Prince Harry says he felt like his ‘mother was right there in the room’ as he applied the Elizabeth Arden cream she loved to his frostbitten penis
  • A united fashion front! Princess of Wales recycles Holland Cooper coat to match her husband’s green and navy outfit as they step out for the first time since Spare – and wears Diana’s earrings for good measure 

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