As he sits in splendid isolation in Frogmore Cottage, Harry could be forgiven if his head is spinning.
The lavishly restored period property into which he and Meghan moved just 24 months ago, and dreamed of making their home, now houses his cousin Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack and their baby. The tenants are still there, and the owner is holed up in what was once intended as Doria Ragland’s (Meghan Markle’s mom) self-contained apartment, The Daily Beast understands.
He is literally just a few miles away from Windsor Castle, but if he has spoken to his father or the queen, no-one is saying so. And this despite the fact that, bizarrely, Her Majesty carried out an official duty Tuesday, overseeing the retirement of one of her senior aides, recorded thus by the official court circular: “The Earl Peel had an audience of The Queen today, delivered up his Wand and Insignia.” (Was Earl Peel was ordered to leave his wand on the desk on the way out?).
We do know, courtesy of the Telegraph’s well-briefed correspondent Camilla Tominey, that Harry has spoken to his brother Prince William on the phone since he landed back in the U.K.
This hardly seems like a great triumph in the arena of conflict resolution.
We already know from Gayle King that other phone calls between Harry and his brother and father have taken place. King said they were regarded as “not productive.”
There is, frankly, no suggestion from royal aides that being in the same time zone has helped mend fences, no sense of joyous white smoke going up from Frogmore or 140 miles north at Anmer Hall, where William and Kate are rather pointedly spending the last days of the Easter holidays with their children, rather than waving at Harry from the garden of Frogmore Cottage like some of us might be inclined to do.
Tominey touts Kate as taking on the role of fraternal peacemaker, quoting a source as saying, “Being so close to her own siblings, Pippa and James, and having witnessed first-hand the special bond between William and Harry, [Kate] has found the whole situation difficult and upsetting.”
But while hopes of a major reconciliation between Harry and his family are being talked up by commentators, the reality on the ground is that expectations are at rock bottom. Emotions are strained and the wounds inflicted by Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey are still raw.
The media may have moved on; the family will never forget what, as they see it, was Harry’s betrayal of them. There are also the unanswered questions over the identity of the royal family member who allegedly questioned the color of the then-unborn Archie’s skin, and who allegedly stopped Meghan being able to access help when she was feeling suicidal.
There has been much wishful thinking this week that the death of their grandfather will bring the brothers together. Physically, of course, it will. They will walk side by side behind Philip’s coffin, recreating the tragic cortege they formed behind their mother’s coffin in 1997.
This was, coincidentally, at Philip’s urging. The brothers were said to be reluctant to walk behind their mother’s coffin at her funeral but Philip took charge telling them, “I’ll walk if you walk.” Harry said years later that he was grateful for his grandfather’s guidance.
But piecing together the tatters of Harry’s relationship with the royal family will be no easy task. Many of the 29 other royals attending the funeral on Saturday will feel the same way as one friend of the family who, The Daily Beast reported, said this week: “Philip was already seriously ill when the interview screened. He was 99, so the fact that he has died is of course very sad, but hardly surprising. His death may put things into perspective, but I’m not sure it really changes anything.”
The logistical constraints imposed by the pandemic are unlikely to help; if they are remotely like any other family, one imagines the brothers need to have a frank, face to face discussion at a certain level of decibels to clear the air. But having arrived back in the U.K. on Sunday afternoon, Harry is not likely to be allowed to exit quarantine until the day of the funeral. Harry’s people have made it clear he will be following Covid quarantine rules to the letter.
If Harry doesn’t already feel like he has gone through the looking glass, the curious apparent rehabilitation of Prince Andrew should do it.
The first sign of this development came when Andrew, who has failed to make himself available to the American authorities for questioning over his links to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, winkled his way back on to TV screens at the weekend.
He told a camera outside church that his mother was feeling a “huge void” in her life; it still hasn’t been established if his intervention was authorized. It seems hard to believe even Andrew would be stupid enough to do something like that if it wasn’t, as some briefing has suggested.
Dan Wootton, the journalist who broke the news that Harry and Meghan were leaving the U.K., reported in the Daily Mail that sources had told him: “Prince Andrew might hope that this sad situation changes things, but Prince Charles is adamant there is no way back while allegations hang over him. He spoke on camera in a private capacity because this is a family event. No one can stop him doing that.”
Neither the palace nor an advisory firm retained by Prince Andrew responded to inquiries from The Daily Beast on that question.
Until today it looked as if Andrew was set to be allowed to wear military uniform to the funeral, the only question being whether he would be in the garb of a three-star vice admiral (his current rank, which was never removed from him when he was fired from the family as a working royal), or actually be promoted by his mother to a four star admiral, an elevation that was due to take place last year but was put on hold. The Daily Mail reported that he was lobbying hard to be awarded his overdue promotion.
Harry is the only male member of the family not technically serving, so was thought to be the only male royal attending the funeral not in military uniform. There is nothing more integral to the royal family’s sense of its own legitimacy than its military associations, and Harry’s happiest days were spent in the army. Harry was forced to give up his captaincy of the Royal Marines along with all other military associations when he stepped back from life as a working royal, a defenestration that he has made clear he considers utterly unfair.
According to The Sun on Wednesday, to spare Harry's blushes—and lots of embarrassing questions about Andrew—the queen has stipulated that no royals should wear military uniform at Philip’s funeral.
A military source told The Sun: “It’s the most eloquent solution to the problem.” Another source confirmed that “current thinking is no uniforms.”
Buckingham Palace and the Sussexes declined to comment to The Daily Beast for this article.