Prince Harry and Prince William: The sentence that started the feud
Toward the end of his and wife Meghan’s tell-all with Oprah, Prince Harry confirmed that his relationship with his brother, Prince William, isn’t what it used to be.
As recently as 2019, their bond was described as “incredibly intimate”.
“Nobody apart from each other knows exactly – not even their father – what’s gone on in their heads and their hearts for the last 20-odd years,” Princess Diana’s biographer Andrew Morton wrote in the November edition of Royals Monthly.
“They both experienced the loss of their mother. The only people that they could trust to talk about it in a candid way was each of them.”
But in the hours-long interview with Oprah, the younger of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s two sons hinted – not for the first time – at distance between the pair.
In the 2019 documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, the 36-year-old addressed rumours of a rift, telling Tom Bradby that “part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it’s under, inevitably stuff happens”.
“We’re certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him as I know he’ll always be there for me,” Harry said, before moving to downplay the speculation.
“The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing, but as brothers it’s just as I said – you have good days, you have bad days.”
Among the other devastating revelations the Sussexes made in their chat with Oprah, though, was Harry implying that the space between him and his brother had only grown.
“I love William to bits. He’s my brother. We’ve been through hell together. I mean, we have a shared experience,” he said.
“But we – you know, we’re on – we’re on different paths.”
The word that currently defines their relationship, he told Oprah, is “space”.
As for what caused it, according to last year’s Sussex biography Finding Freedom, it took a six-word warning from William to Harry regarding his relationship with Meghan that set their feud in motion: “Don’t feel you need to rush this.”
“Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl,” William, who supposedly had “reservations about Meghan from the very beginning” told Harry, according to royal reporters (and biography authors) Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.
The phrase “this girl”, Scobie and Durand wrote, immediately angered Harry, who couldn’t believe “that his brother would ask such a thing”.
“In those last two words ‘this girl’ Harry heard the tone of the snobbishness that was anathema to his approach to the world,” the two wrote.
“During his 10-year career in the military, outside the royal bubble, he had learnt not to make snap judgments of people based on their accent, education, ethnicity class or profession.”
What also “made it very hurtful for Harry”, a “source exceptionally close to William” told Vanity Fair in 2019, “is that he has always given Harry his full support particularly with Kate”.
“Not everyone adored Kate Middleton in the beginning. Some of William’s friends were snobbish about Kate, but Harry gave her the thumbs up from the outset and he expected the same loyalty back from William,” they said.
And yet William – as evidenced by Meghan’s remarks in her Oprah interview, particularly about how poorly prepared she felt for life as a royal – and his warning were somewhat right, his words ringing with “a sad irony”, royal expert Katie Nicholl wrote on Wednesday for Vanity Fair.
“What he reportedly said was condescending and understandably rankled a brother who was already falling in love, but it’s also hard not to imagine how things might have turned out better if everyone had taken just a little more time,” Nicholl said.
While Meghan revealed that Harry had shown her the ropes at record speed – saying she “didn’t fully understand what the job was” and that she “went into it very naively” – the family welcomed and received her “far better than I expected”, Harry said.
On the couple’s tour of Australia and the South Pacific in 2018 – when they announced they were expecting their first child – the family were shown, he added, “how incredible she was at the job”.
The outcome of the visit wasn’t all positive though, marking a “turning point”, Harry said, in his relationship with his family, implying that Meghan’s positive reception “brought back memories” for certain members (likely his father).
Last January, following Harry and Meghan’s bombshell departure as senior royals, William revealed his “sadness” over the brothers’ tense relationship, saying he hoped one day everyone would “play on the team again”.
“I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more,” the 38-year-old said, according to The Sunday Times.
“We’re separate entities. I’m sad about that. All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope that the time comes when we’re all singing from the same page.”
In the wake of the Oprah interview, William is said to be “devastated”, while other sources declared he’s “fuming” over his brother’s allegations, including Harry’s comments that both William and Prince Charles are “trapped” in the royal institution.
But the tie between the two, as Harry said in the interview, is eternal.
“Harry is due to be by his brother’s side for the unveiling of a statue of Princess Diana in London this summer, and we can all hope that will happen,” Nicholl wrote.
“Perhaps hindsight will one day allow them all to acknowledge that William’s words, poorly chosen as they were, predicted the trouble that lay ahead.”
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