The Royal Family is now officially at war with itself, with the rival courts of Princes William and Harry engaged in an ever more vituperative war of words after Sunday night's explosive ITV documentary which aired Harry and Meghan Markle's many grievances with the press and their royal life.
In a fresh salvo fired today, a source described as being “close to” Harry and Meghan suggested to CNN that the newlyweds had “single-handedly modernized” the British royal family, and were not getting appropriate recognition or support, and were surrounded by “inexperienced and fearful” staff.
The comments make sense of the fact that for much of the past year, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have bypassed their own press officers and advisors as they have taken a series of unprecedented decisions and shifted much of their communications to Instagram.
Now we know why; they think that the Buckingham Palace establishment are doing a bad job when it comes to maximizing their image and impact.
On Tuesday night, Meghan again stole the headlines, making a solo appearance in London at the One Young World Summit in a stunning purple long-sleeved ‘Babaton Maxwell’ dress by Aritzia. She wore her hair down, and she looked happy.
Meghan’s public appearance came after William let it be known that he was concerned for his “fragile” brother in the wake of the ITV documentary in which Harry and Meghan spoke at length about their unhappiness—and after an extraordinary attack by the couple’s court on Tuesday on the establishment at Buckingham Palace, accusing them of failing to properly “harness” the value of Meghan and Harry. The source also claimed they had “single-handedly” modernized the monarchy.
A source described as being “close to” the Sussexes, and widely assumed to be a senior figure in their office speaking with authorization, made the comments to CNN reporter Max Foster.
Foster said that his source “added that the institution around the British royal family is full of people afraid of and inexperienced at how to best help harness and deploy the value of the royal couple who, they said, have single-handedly modernized the monarchy.”
A spokesperson for Harry and Meghan told The Daily Beast the couple had no comment to make about the reported comments—which, far from a ringing denial of them, might rather be seen a tacit rubber-stamp of their veracity.
The war of words and briefings is a far cry from about 20 years ago when Prince Charles acquired a run down 900-acre estate near the border of England and Wales, which it was widely rumored, was intended as a base for his second son.
Charles planted forests for shooting, rebuilt the big house, and restored the walled garden, dreaming of the day his “darling Harry” would settle down to the life of a country gentleman.
However, after Sunday night’s extraordinary documentary, in which Meghan suggested the royal family had abandoned her and Harry spoke freely about the distance that had opened up between him and his brother, saying they had “difficult days”, it now seems more certain than ever that, despite the two decades of heartache and bucketloads of cash Charles has spent bringing Harewood Park back to its former glory, it will not be for the benefit of his son.
Harry and Meghan have made it clear they have zero interest in conforming to any vision that any one else might have for their future.
Many observers now believe they have burnt so many bridges both inside and outside the family (in an ominous rebuff, reminiscent of the dark days of counter-briefing against Princess Diana in the War of the Waleses, courtiers at Kensington Palace told the BBC that William and Kate were worried about the “fragile” Sussexes) that it is just a matter of time until an announcement arrives into the inbox of royal correspondents announcing they are leaving British shores.
But where to? Although it was Africa that was mentioned in the documentary (by Harry) as a potential future home for them, reports that the couple may be planning to take six weeks off work (a “well-earned break,” as palace sources describe it) and spend much of it near Meghan’s mom in Los Angeles have rekindled suggestions that ultimately the Sussexes might be heading west.
Meghan never gave up her passport, and therefore could easily apply for dual citizenship for Archie, smoothing the transition.
And their recent move to engage an American PR company, Sunshine Sachs, has been interpreted as the laying of foundations to construct an American power base.
For Prince Charles, the departure of Harry and Meghan threatens a serious disruption of his vision for the future of the royal family.
Having spent much of the past decade ruthlessly cutting back dead wood, having long thought that a bloated royal family living off the public purse represented a mortal threat to the continued existence of the Monarchy, Charles might now regret the haste with which he pensioned off Her Majesty’s grandchildren, Eugenie and Beatrice.
They were horrified when they were first informed by Charles’ office that they would henceforth have no public role or funding and that their police protection was also to be withdrawn.
However, after the initial shock, both have adjusted well to life in the outside world. They both got jobs while continuing with their charity work, Eugenie married last year and Beatrice is now engaged. When the Daily Mail runs stories about how many vacations they have been on, they can shrug them off, arguing that they are now private citizens entitled to do whatever they want with their time.
It seems unlikely they would want to go back to more public roles, but Harry and Meghan’s one-hour film has blown Charles’ succession plans sky high.
Meghan and Harry’s friend, the journalist Tom Bradby, appeared to question whether or not Harry and Meghan would ultimately carry on being full time royals in the closing seconds of the film.
He would not have made these comments without the consent of his most valuable contacts.
One can’t help wondering, therefore, whether Harry and Meghan intended the remark to be a veiled threat to William and Charles; start treating us nice, or we will walk away, causing unimaginable instability at the very heart of your beloved institution.
Of course, the Sussexes may genuinely feel they will have little choice but to put clear blue water between themselves and the Monarchy.
Harry confirmed that relations are not good between him and William now; so how will that play out when William becomes king in, say 20 years (if Charles lives to 90)?
William has many qualities, but forbearance is not one of them.
Harry may be able to get away with undercutting and overshadowing his big brother at the moment, with the queen, weakened by age and her astonishing indulgence, unable to stop him.
The writer Lady Colin Campbell, a friend of Princess Diana, her biographer and the author of a new book, People of Color And the Royals, says: “When the two boys were very young the queen was concerned that their mother allowed them too much freedom and did not discipline them to the extent that she thought they should be disciplined.
“William she was able to take under her influence, as an apprentice, and this has had a very positive influence on him. He understands and accepts and performs true to the constraints required of a responsible monarch in waiting. Harry on the other hand has not had the benefit of this nurturing. Such nurturing as he had was from a mother who used to tell him, ‘Do whatever you want and as long as you don’t get caught it’s fine.’”
The queen may not be up for a fight with Harry, but the idea that William would tolerate a documentary like this without reprisals if he was actually king beggars belief.
The comparison with Prince Andrew is interesting. Andrew has felt for a long time that being part of the British royal family has negatively impacted his life, but his relative penury has left him with few options. He has to toe the line to continue receiving the handouts that sustain his lifestyle.
Harry is in a very different situation. He is independently wealthy; thanks to Diana’s financial legacy he is estimated to have private investments and wealth totalling well over £30m.
But, what’s he really getting out of being a royal at this stage? Mental health problems and abuse.
His financial firepower makes his threat to walk away entirely credible, and it will be fascinating to see if they use the six week vacation to play at being a non-royal couple.
Harry and Meghan’s office have not responded to requests for an official comment on their rumored break, but the suspicion is growing that this may be more than just a holiday.
It could be a trial run for a more permanent arrangement.