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William and Harry: divided in grief

William and Harry: divided in grief

Princes William and Harry have stood side-by-side to remember their grandmother, the Queen. Will their public displays of solidarity lead to an improvement in their relationship?


In the Queen’s final hours her family travelled to Balmoral in Scotland to be by her side.

Her grandson Prince William, her sons Princes Andrew and Edward, and Edward’s wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, flew on the same plane to Aberdeen.

They didn’t make it in time to see the Queen before she died, but her eldest children – Charles and Anne – were with her.

William’s brother Prince Harry was still on the way there when the news came.

“A few moments ago Buckingham Palace announced the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. The palace has just issued this statement. It says, ‘The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.’”

Huw Edwards, BBC News

That night the family were all on the estate, but writing in the Daily Mail, royal expert Richard Kay reported that Charles, who was now King, went to his Birkhall home with William. Harry stayed at Balmoral Castle with his other relatives.

Richard Kay quoted a source as saying: “Two dinners were being hosted on the royal estate that night and there was a clear divide. One was for the new king and his heir, the other was for the rest of the family.”

That private moment, if true, would suggest that relations between Prince Harry and his immediate family remain frosty.

But what happened in public suggests a thawing.

The falling out of two brothers who had been seen as the modern face of the monarchy was public and poisonous.

It was sparked by William’s apparent concern about the fast developing romance between Harry and Meghan Markle ahead of their wedding in 2018.

“This nation is still buzzing about this couple and also the wedding, which was as much a celebration of love as it was a celebration of change.”

CBS Mornings

William and Harry’s relationship didn’t recover and it’s thought that Meghan, now the Duchess of Sussex, became increasingly uncomfortable with royal life.

In 2020, after crisis talks with senior members of her family, the Queen agreed to let Harry and Meghan step down as senior royals and divide their time between the U.K. and Canada during a “period of transition.”

A year later, with Harry and Meghan now living in California, Buckingham Palace issued this statement:

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of The Royal Family.” 

It went on:

“The honorary military appointments and Royal patronages held by The Duke and Duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of The Royal Family.”

A month after they confirmed their decision to step back, the couple gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey, during which Prince Harry claimed that his brother was “trapped” in the royal system.

So it was perhaps a surprise to many when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex appeared alongside Prince William and his wife Katherine, at Windsor, to view tributes to the late Queen.

“There is a chance tonight that the Queen achieved in death something even she could not manage in life. On the long walk in Windsor two brothers who have barely spoken a word in the last couple of years, but William and Harry, with their wives, decided now was the right moment to do this.”

ITV News

The Daily Mail reported that William, who is now the Prince of Wales, extended a last minute olive branch to his brother by inviting him and Meghan to join the walkabout.

Dressed all in black, the two couples looked nervous as they arrived together in the same car before spending 40 minutes chatting to the crowds. 

A source told the paper it was “remarkable really”.

And then, a few days later, the brothers appeared together again.

William and Harry walked side-by-side, behind the gun carriage carrying the Queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall.

“The last time we saw them walk behind a coffin, side-by-side, it was their mother Diana 25 years ago. And at that time William was just 15 years old. Harry was just 12 years old.”

CBS News

The decision to greet the crowds at Windsor and walk together down the Mall suggest a rekindling of their relationship.

But there was also a stark visual representation of their differences. Prince William wore military uniform but like his disgraced uncle Andrew, Prince Harry didn’t, even though he served in Afghanistan.  

And in many ways the death of their grandmother means their worlds and experiences are now even further apart.

Prince William is first in line to the throne and one day will become King.

As well as becoming the Prince of Wales he also inherits the Duchy of Cornwall, which makes him one of the biggest landowners in Britain and gives him a new annual income of at least £21 million.

In contrast, Prince Harry remains the Duke of Sussex, is fifth in line and a private citizen, so William’s inheritance has the potential to put further strain on their relationship.

Biographer Sally Bedell Smith said the Duchy let Charles “enjoy a level of luxury unequalled by his siblings” and set him apart from them. It will give William the kind of permanent financial cushion Harry can only dream of.

Today’s episode was written and mixed by Lewis Vickers.