Inside the Cold War Between Prince Charles and William and Harry
‘They are very different people and just don’t get on. They rarely see each other outside of official business,’ a palace source told The Daily Beast of Charles and his two sons.
Of course, it would be unsurprising—considering their father’s appalling behavior towards their mother Princess Diana—if there were a complete absence of resentment from the younger men towards their father.
As has been well documented, Charles was having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles while engaged to Diana, and continued it right throughout their troubled marriage.
The transgressions were blatant and egregious—one tiny example: Two weeks before their marriage, Charles sent Camilla a bracelet engraved with his pet name for her, which Diana found.
Publicly, Harry and William have never directly allowed that there is as much as a cigarette paper of distance between them and their father.
Shrewdly, they have never openly spoken of anything other than their untold admiration and respect for him.
However the Daily Beast has been told by a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, that it is well known in the intimate circles of the higher echelons of the royal family that the two boys’ relationship with their father is “strained.”
“They are very different people and they just don’t get on. It’s as simple as that. They rarely see each other outside of official business,” the source said.
The source also added that Charles "hates" William and Harry’s public "emoting" which has seen them discuss, in heartbreaking detail, the psychological troubles they endured following the loss of their mother, as part of their efforts to reduce the stigma around discussing mental health issues.
The public declarations of vulnerability by the princes reached a height around the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death last year, from which Charles was completely airbrushed.
The closest Harry came to expressing what many believe to be his deep-seated anger towards his father was in a an interview to mark her death when he said: “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Although Charles was not mentioned by name it’s hard to see how Harry could have had anyone in mind but his father.
William and Harry spent much more time with Diana than they did with Charles after their parents' divorce, and so were exposed to Diana's loathing and contempt for 'that woman' from an early age—and the relationship with Camilla has not been easy for them to accept.
Another figure who appears at many key moments in this story is Prince Charles's former adviser, Mark Bolland.
Bolland ran a ruthless media operation after Diana's death aimed at getting the public and the media to accept Camilla. Under Bolland's influence, Prince Charles sanctioned gross violations of his sons' privacy in return for positive media coverage.
As the Daily Beast has previously reported, in 1998, a 16-year-old William agreed for the first time to meet Camilla. Every moment of that traumatic first meeting was subsequently described in vivid detail in the Sun newspaper. William was furious, and demanded to know how the story had got out.
The Sun's royal editor of the time, Charlie Rae, told the BBC documentary Reinventing The Royals, "Apart from Camilla and William telling us, you couldn’t have got it from a better source… It was Mark Bolland." Bolland denied being the Sun's source.
Bolland also used Harry to make Charles look good. After the News of the World got hold of a story that Harry had smoked weed, the palace agreed to confirm the story if the paper ran an item saying that Charles had taken him to a drug rehab centre to guide him in the dangers of drugs. In fact, the visit to the drug rehab had happened months earlier.
Harry was furious and felt betrayed.
Richard Kay, a veteran Daily Mail journalist told the BBC documentary that William's anger at being manipulated by his father's staff "explained a lot about what happened in subsequent years when he decided to break away from his father’s people.”
The Daily Beast understands that, generally, the very different, more informal way of doing things beloved by the younger royals is another cause of irritation to Charles, who considers it inappropriate for the royals.
For instance, William, Kate, Meghan and Harry all call staff by their first names, a studied rejection of Charles’s high-handed interpersonal communication style.
Harry regularly brings in coffee from Starbucks to his staff at Kensington Palace, one insider previously told the Daily Beast, popping out to the street in just a baseball cap pulled low for disguise.
The writer Christopher Andersen told the Daily Beast that tension has also been brewing between Charles and William owing to disagreements over William and Kate’s work schedule.
“William loves his father and is tremendously loyal to him, but from the beginning he has said he is his own man and hates being told what to do. So whenever he's pressured by Charles' aides at St. James's Palace to take on some royal assignment he isn't interested in, William complains bitterly.
“William is also unhappy with Charles's camp for promulgating the notion that the Cambridges aren't pulling their weight. In fairness, they have three young children and there is no reasonable way they can be expected to match the hundreds of tree-plantings, plaque-unveilings, ribbon-cuttings, hospital visits, and walkabouts Charles and Camilla perform each year.”
These fresh suggestions of strained relationships—unexpectedly, perhaps, Harry is said to be more willing to compromise with Charles than William in the cause of keeping the peace—fit with other stories that have been doing the rounds, some of them for many years.
One of the most assiduous chroniclers of these stories has been the investigative journalist Tom Bower.
In his new book, Rebel Prince, Bower claimed that Charles sees far less of his grandchildren than do the Middletons, and is annoyed by the important role Kate's family has been given in the rearing of the future king.
Bower also suggested that the geographical distance between Prince Charles’s house at Highgrove and the Cambridges' base at Sandringham was part of the reason William and Kate chose to be based there.
Diana famously claimed Charles was jealous of the attention she received, and Charles allegedly feels similarly aggrieved by the attention William and Kate have received, Bower suggests.
“Charles saw Kate and William as the new stars and feared he’d be in trouble,” the late Robert Higdon, a friend of Charles’ who looked after the interests of his charities in America, told Bower for his book.
Andersen makes a similar point: “People don't fully realize the extent to which Charles is jealous of anyone who gets more attention than he does. Charles was incredibly jealous of Diana for swallowing up all the attention, and the fact that polls routinely show that two-thirds of Britons would rather have William and Kate as their king and queen than Charles and Camilla has always been a source of tension between the two camps.”
The palace almost never comments on the personal lives and relations of its principal characters, and the palace declined to comment on a detailed email request for this story sent by the Daily Beast.