Relations between King Charles and his estranged son Prince Harry have descended to fresh lows owing to Harry’s attacks on Charles’ wife, Queen Camilla, and friends of the royals now suspect the two will never be reconciled.
While many inside the royal circle of trust have long discounted the possibility of Prince William and Harry ever setting aside their differences, there is now similar pessimism in some quarters about the relationship between Harry and his father, the king, who has been left dismayed by Harry’s brutal criticism of Camilla in his memoir, Spare.
Friends say that Charles was particularly hurt by the assault his son mounted on the character of Camilla in his book. He characterized her as single-mindedly determined to become queen, accused her of “sacrificing” him on “her personal PR altar” and told one interviewer she was “dangerous” and was prepared to leave “bodies in the street” in her quest to be queen.
A longstanding friend of the queen told The Daily Beast: “How does she get past that? It’s one thing to call your stepmother a bitch privately or in a family argument. But to put it in a book which is catching up with the Bible on sales? I think Harry knew exactly what he was doing, and the result is predictable. Charles loves Camilla. He made her queen. He doesn’t react very well to criticism of her.”
Asked if they were saying that the attacks on Camilla, specifically, had generated a harder attitude towards his son from Charles, the friend of Camilla said: “It is a huge part of it. Charles has made it very clear that he loves both his sons so the door will never be bolted shut. But they are a very obstinate family and nobody is about to be the first to apologize. Charles certainly doesn’t believe he has anything to apologize for.”
The other problem, beyond the memoir itself, seems to be an obstinate refusal on both sides to make the first move in apologizing, or, indeed, accepting there is anything to apologize for.
One friend of the king and queen told The Daily Beast: “There is no plan for Harry and Charles to meet. There might have been a chance of reconciliation had it not been for the book. But Charles was dismayed and deeply hurt by what Harry said about him and about Camilla in his book.
“Personal feelings aside, Charles has to prioritize the job of being king. He can’t start having meetings with Harry now, it would be a distraction and very destabilizing.”
A bereaved friend of the late Queen Elizabeth recently told The Daily Beast that friends of Her Majesty, and the wider circle of royals, remain horrified by what they see as Harry’s disregard for and cruelty towards his grandmother by remorselessly attacking the institution she headed as she was suffering with painful terminal bone cancer in her final years. It is understood Charles was one of those who was left aghast by Harry’s timing.
The friend of the late queen’s previously told The Daily Beast: “By the time of the Platinum Jubilee (June 2022), she couldn’t see very much, she couldn’t hear very much, and she was easily confused. She barely moved from her apartments in Windsor Castle. Appearing on the balcony at the jubilee required a titanic effort. [Harry and Meghan] produced this unending stream of incredibly hurtful films and interviews attacking her life’s work. For Harry to announce he was writing a memoir when his grandmother was not just recently widowed but actually dying herself, as he must have known she was—well, the cruelty of it takes the breath away.”
Harry’s book was originally scheduled for the fall of 2022, but was then delayed and was ultimately not published until after the queen died. An intriguing report by the London Times’ royal reporter Valentine Low claimed that Harry told his publishers, to their dismay, that he was going to cancel the book after his trip back to the U.K. for the jubilee—but then changed his mind back again.
Charles was generally considered to have been more understanding of his younger son’s desire to speak out publicly, having done the same thing himself when he was interviewed by Jonathan Dimbleby in 1994, when he was in his forties.
However, while Dimbleby’s accompanying authorized biography of Charles contained some criticism of his parents—for example he accused his mother of being emotionally distant—it was as nothing compared to the furious attacks Harry unleashed on Charles himself, whom he painted as weak, vacillating, vain, and self-interested.
There is now a sense that Charles is becoming increasingly open about admitting, to his trusted inner circle at least, that the relationship with Harry is utterly broken. In a recent Sunday Times article, for example, a source in the king’s camp was quoted by the paper’s royal reporter, Roya Nikkhah, as saying: “The king brings Harry up every time I see him. I don’t think we’ve moved past sad and bewildered, but there’s a bit more frustration at his behavior, because it just keeps going.”
The comments echoed the most explicit, on the record remarks about the affair made to date, by the king’s oldest friend, Sir Nicholas Soames, who gave an apparently authorized interview to Times Radio just before the coronation.
Although not explicitly identified as a surrogate for the king, Soames had likely been authorized to speak by the king’s office, and appeared to have a talking point that Harry’s behavior, in publishing a memoir and giving interviews that have attacked the family, had deeply wounded and upset the king.
Soames told Times Radio, in the course of a 30-minute interview praising the king, “In respect of Prince Harry, I just think it’s the most tragic. I mean, I can’t put myself in the position where my own son, if he did something like that to me, it would just be the cruelest… and one would mind.”
Soames was asked later in the interview how Queen Camilla felt about Harry but dodged the question saying he hadn’t discussed it with her, returning instead to how Harry’s public attacks on the family had affected Charles, saying, “Of course it was hurtful, you could see it, written all over his face. Put oneself in his position. It was just painful beyond words.”
Camilla’s chief “companion”—the role she has chosen to replace that of ladies-in-waiting—the Marchioness of Lansdowne is the only person to to have publicly spoken out on the record on Camilla’s behalf after Harry’s book was published, saying that while it had “hurt” Camilla, she wasn’t the type of person to make a fuss, believing that “least said soonest mended.”
On this, as on so much else, Charles and Camila are likely to be united: Charles will want to spend as little time as possible talking about the destroyed relationship with Harry over the coming months and years—and that might just mean cutting him loose entirely.
The offices of Prince Harry and King Charles did not respond to requests for comment on the state of their relationship.