Bruising of a brotherly bond: Diana begged her boys to look out for each other for life but, as RICHARD KAY reveals, the whole family are worried about a widening rift between William and Harry
- Their affection for one another on the most public of stages was compelling
- How utterly tragic less than 18 months after the wedding all the talk now is of rift
- Stories of bad blood circulated for months but Harry gave credence to rumours
Their affection and mutual support for one another on the most public of stages, yet most personal of occasions, was both poignant and compelling.
How utterly tragic then that less than 18 months after that joyous day at Windsor Castle, all the talk now is of rift and division between the two princes.
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No picture says more about the natural bonding of brothers than that taken of Princes Harry and William at Harry's wedding last year (pictured during Harry's wedding in May last year)
How utterly tragic then that less than 18 months after that joyous day at Windsor Castle, all the talk now is of rift and division between the two princes (pictured together in July 2018)
Stories of bad blood had been circulating for months but, with one extraordinary intervention, Prince Harry has given credence to the rumours by admitting there have been tensions between the pair.
While a family row of this nature is by no means as constitutionally dangerous as the upheavals over the Abdication and the Duke of Windsor, the implications could be just as damaging, not least because the monarchy is arguably more vulnerable to criticism than it was in the Thirties. The early signs are not encouraging.
Within hours of Harry's candid interview in an ITV documentary, during which he said he and his brother are travelling on 'different paths', William was concerned enough to permit aides to speak of his worries about Harry's and Meghan's welfare.
According to a Kensington Palace source quoted by the BBC, William had expressed the hope that his brother and sister-in-law 'are all right'.
It is highly unusual for officials to voice such personal views on a private family matter. But I understand the 'Sussex problem', as Harry and Meghan are referred to within royal circles, has dominated family discussions in recent days.
There is no disguising that the views articulated by William are shared right across the Royal Family. While sympathy for a couple struggling to adjust to royal life under a media spotlight does still exist, it is draining away.
Prince Harry has given credence to the rumours by admitting there have been tensions between the brothers (pictured, the Cambridges and Sussexes together for a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March)
But the family are desperate not to be seen driving a deeper wedge between them and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Certainly, the Queen and Prince Charles had hoped that the challenges of fatherhood following the birth of baby Archie would have overcome the differences that existed between Harry and William. The Princes are acutely aware of the importance that their late mother placed on them looking out for each other — something she wanted them to do all their lives.
Of course, it didn't help that stories of differences first began to emerge during Meghan's pregnancy.
What was being said was that William had earlier questioned the haste with which his younger brother was wanting to marry the American actress.
William, of course, dated Kate Middleton for eight years before giving her an engagement ring.
Harry, on the other hand, had made up his mind almost immediately after being introduced to the star of the American TV legal drama Suits — a divorced woman three years his senior — at a London dinner party in 2016.
To William, advising caution was common sense. But Harry, ever sensitive, is understood to have interpreted his brother's words, as well as those from others in his circle, as an implied criticism of his choice of bride.
He also apparently accused his older brother of failing to offer support, while Kate was said to be struggling to get on with Meghan. To some extent, this explains Harry's touchiness in the run-up to his wedding, which included a row over Meghan's tiara.
The brothers played polo against each other in Wokingham in July this year. The last time they were pictured together
But after the wedding came two further shocks. One was the announcement that the Sussexes were decamping from Kensington Palace where they lived next door to William and Kate, and moving to Windsor.
The other was that the two brothers, whose public lives had been so entwined, were splitting their joint household, with Harry setting his up separately in Buckingham Palace.
It then emerged that they were also parting ways over their charity work with Harry and Meghan set to launch their own royal foundation next year.
But if these were the highly public examples of Harry's march towards princely independence, there were other, equally significant moves behind the scenes. Throughout his troubled 20s Harry had a close network of reliable friends.
But after the wedding came two further shocks. One was the announcement that the Sussexes (pictured, Harry and Meghan in the garden of the High Commissioner's Residence in Johannesburg during their Africa trip on October 2) were decamping from Kensington Palace where they lived next door to William and Kate, and moving to Windsor
Many of them are no longer part of his magic circle. They include school friends, vital support after Princess Diana's death, whose services are apparently no longer required. Many have been left hurt and baffled. The father of one told me: 'Harry has stayed in our house and been a very welcome guest over many years, then one day calls went unanswered.
'It was always pretty much on his terms. He was the one who usually got in touch, but there was no explanation, just silence.' Other friends say Harry complains they don't understand him.
Of course, he won't be the first married man to find new companions after taking a wife. Closer to home, I am told Harry left family members puzzled after changing telephone numbers without immediately telling them.
If this sounds familiar it is because we have been here before — with Diana. She regularly changed mobile numbers as an effective way of dumping friends she no longer wanted. Within the family, however, there has been growing anxiety. Harry's failure to spend time with the Queen at Balmoral during the summer was a strategic mistake.
Family business is usually taken care of during the long summer break in Scotland, and countless intractable conundrums have been resolved in the civilising atmosphere of Royal Deeside.
However, despite his absence from Balmoral I understand the Queen has spoken to Harry in the past month and offered to help.
Courtiers, meanwhile, were uneasy about the timing of Harry's television cri de coeur in the documentary broadcast on Sunday.
Not only did the advance publicity for it last week threaten to upstage the final part of William and Kate's highly successful trip to Pakistan, it also overshadowed a moving visit by the Countess of Wessex to Kosovo, where she met survivors of sexual violence.
'It is the reason why royal diaries are so carefully co-ordinated, to avoid the risk of clashes between the various households,' says an aide. 'Quite simply, you don't rain on someone else's parade.'
Sunday's broadcast also revealed Harry's wish for the couple to be seen as hard-working members of the Royal Family. So it was hardly helped by his announcement that they now plan a six-week holiday.
So what about William? He is certainly perplexed by his brother's behaviour and believes he has handled some of the issues unwisely. He, too, has had some difficult moments in the media spotlight, including Kate being photographed topless before they married and the ensuing legal fight with the paparazzi.
'He dealt with these matters in a mature and considered way,' says a friend. 'He didn't allow them to become psychodramas in the way Harry seems to.'
The fact is, William is the same figure who looked out for his younger brother at school. And as uncomfortable as he has clearly found Harry's outburst, he will always be there for him.
Not long before she died, Diana talked to William about the kind of woman he might marry. She told him that the most important thing was that they should be best friends.
Not long before she died, Diana talked to William about the kind of woman he might marry. She told him that the most important thing was that they should be best friends (pictured, Princess Diana with William and Harry at home in Kensington Palace)
The tragedy of her own marriage, she said, was that she and Prince Charles barely knew one another, and had they been friends first, they would never have separated.
Diana later said that William 'got' this. According to one of the Princess's circle, William's concern about Harry marrying Meghan so quickly was probably because of that maternal advice about marrying someone you know well.
But then there is also the contrast in the way the brothers are going about their royal lives. While Harry has been criticised for using private jets while preaching about climate change, William and Kate have been seen carrying their own bags onto a budget airline flight to Aberdeen.
Instead of criticising the media as Harry did during his tour to southern Africa, William stopped to speak to them during his trip to Pakistan.
And while he protects his children from publicity, he also knows when to relax — and to be seen relaxing with them — as he did at an Aston Villa football match recently with Kate, George and Charlotte.
There is, of course, sympathy from the royals for Meghan's difficulty in adjusting to her new status, and because of her relationship with her father and other dysfunctional family members. No one more so, perhaps than Harry's own father, the Prince of Wales. But while he can offer help — and he has — Harry has not been inclined to accept it.
It is a shame. For the Duchess of Cornwall — Harry's stepmother — is familiar with the dramas of royal life. No one endured more criticism than Camilla, yet she has built a remarkable relationship with the public who admire her quiet contribution to public life at Charles's side.
For the Queen, 94 next birthday, this is no ordinary distraction which can be dismissed as mere gossip. Harry has seen to that by addressing it directly on camera. Indeed, it is a family drama that many close to the royals fear could unravel with further damaging revelations.
Dear Harry and Meghan: I feel for you... but sometimes a stiff upper lip IS the best cure, writes LIBBY PURVES in an open letter to the Sussexes
Let me start by saying that there was much to admire in Sunday night's ITV documentary about your African tour (pictured) and the causes you support there
Dear Harry and Meghan,
Let me start by saying that there was much to admire in Sunday night's ITV documentary about your African tour and the causes you support there.
I loved the warmth, the dancing, the laughter, the genuine connection you both have with people.
And, like all parents, I appreciated the excellent piece of luck when baby Archie chose to grin at Archbishop Desmond Tutu, rather than yowling.
But the film wasn't just about the tour, was it? With your co-operation, it also became about certain hardships and griefs in your current situation that you want us to understand.
For some, that has proved provocative to say the least.
They point out that none of your hardships — yes, even childhood bereavement and family estrangement — look particularly overwhelming next to the poverty, loss, maimings and uncertainties of life for millions on the African continent.
They wonder, too, why it didn't occur to either of you that airing your feelings may have distracted and detracted from theirs.
Surely the fact that so many in those communities you visited literally dance in the face of so many challenges should have given you pause for thought.
As might the fact that, back home, many of those watching are themselves victims of loss and uncertainty, soldiering on without applause or complaint.
Many also consider that a life cushioned by taxpayers is a fair swap for the privacy you crave and feel is being abused.
Your critics will tell you that royals should put up with whatever comes their way, like the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the magnificently tough Princess Anne. There is a case for saying that if you're a royal you should 'never complain, never explain'; that is, carry on, smile when you're on duty and treat prying lenses and impertinent writers with a contemptuous shrug.
Your critics will tell you that royals should put up with whatever comes their way, like the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured with prince Charles and Camilla in 2013) and the magnificently tough Princess Anne
However, you have both made it clear that the pain of being looked at all the time is genuinely stressful. I do get that.
No half-normal people, apart from the most narcissistic celebrities, enjoy being stared at by millions of eyeballs and judged for every wardrobe change or slip of the tongue.
And yes, I accept that the additional stress may have tainted the joys of marriage and motherhood. No new mother is 100 per cent confident.
So I cheered when presenter Tom Bradby asked you, Meghan: 'Can you manage it, can you continue . . . and what happens if you can't?' and you replied: 'It's not enough to just survive something. That's not the point of life. You've got to thrive and feel happy. I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried.'
Then, disappointingly, you added that such an attitude 'is probably really damaging'.
You said you hadn't expected things to be easy, but you had expected them to be 'fair'.
But, Meghan, life isn't fair! Cancer and road accidents, disability, lightning strikes, flash floods, inheriting fat legs — none of it's fair.
But, Meghan, life isn't fair! Cancer and road accidents, disability, lightning strikes, flash floods, inheriting fat legs — none of it's fair, writes Libby Purves (pictured)
That's why the British invented the stiff upper lip: not just for other people's sakes but because it does make you feel better.
It was not only the pressure of the scrutiny you are under, Harry, that ran through this documentary, but your deeper sorrow about losing a parent. How could it not, when you were filmed walking in your mother Diana's footsteps through an Angolan minefield?
I really wish, though, that Bradby hadn't introduced the dangerous idea of 'a wound that festers' when speaking of the impact of her death.
When you agreed, Harry, I winced. Because if there is one thing I know from my own greatest loss — of a son — it's that you can't allow festering to happen. So in all humility and friendship, let me pass on a useful metaphor to you both.
A friend whose wife was murdered told me that he was helped in his grief by remembering that in the trenches of World War I, most men died not of their wounds, but of the dirt that got into them and caused infection.
Whenever emotions such as resentment, unfairness or self-pity crept into his thoughts, he'd say to himself: 'Clean wound!'
I have used that clean-wound metaphor often. If some detail — like the click of a camera shutter, for you Harry, — reminds you of some awfulness, you face it down. You don't let it win.
Keep the wound clean. Keep the good memories fresh. Private pain — or, as we often label it, 'poor mental health' — is real. Especially in grief. But we can control it.
Twelve years ago, Harry, you made a speech at a memorial service to mark the tenth anniversary of your mother's death. It was perfect.
'She made us and so many other people happy,' you said. 'May this be the way that she is remembered.'
Not in resentment, not in fear and not as a 'festering wound'.
If the stiff upper lip fails you, you both have other things on which to rely. For one of you, it's the resilience of Army training and Army humour. For the other, a can-do American pioneer toughness. Work on those.