It’s quite unusual these days to find the royal households of Wales, Cambridge, and Sussex in near-complete agreement on anything.
But speaking to friends of the royals and those in their circles in recent days, the general feeling on all sides is that despite a show of civility after Prince Philip’s funeral, very little of substance has been changed by Harry’s lightning trip back to the U.K last week.
The relationship between Harry and Meghan and his family back in the U.K. remains, sources say, deeply fractured and stressed.
The royals, in particular William and Charles, still feel just as furious, hurt and betrayed as they did immediately after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. There is a practical desire to make up, sources say, but question marks over how that can happen when everyone feels wronged.
William is said to still be particularly devastated by the treatment meted out to his wife. Meghan told Oprah that Kate made her cry in the run up to the wedding, not the other way around, and that Kate would not help her rebut what she claimed was the false version of the story.
“To have a go at William is one thing,” said Penny Junor, the royal biographer with close links to Charles who has written biographies of several family members with their cooperation, “But the reality is that although they said they wouldn’t name the person who allegedly asked racist questions about their children’s skin color, Meghan had no compunction throwing Kate under the bus. William is very, very protective of Kate and he is likely to be more upset about attacks on her than he is by the attacks on him. The hurt is so deep it cannot be fixed by a walk.”
Someone in Harry and Meghan’s camp, meanwhile, appears to have briefed sympathetic biographer Omid Scobie that nothing of substance was discussed last weekend relating to the controversial allegations made in the Oprah interview or the ensuing fallout.
“This trip was to honor the life of his grandfather and support his grandmother and relatives,” a source close to Harry told Scobie. “It was very much a family-focused period of time. Saturday broke the ice for future conversations but outstanding issues have not been addressed at any great length. The family simply put their issues to one side to focus on what mattered.”
The source took the trouble to add that a tabloid report claiming that Harry wrote a “deeply personal” letter for his father before the funeral was “also false.”
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s official spokesperson told The Daily Beast they would not be commenting on Scobie’s report.
Similarly spokespeople for Prince Charles and Prince William also declined to comment to The Daily Beast for this article, although some British newspapers appear to have been briefed that there was no attempt to excavate either side’s grievances when Charles, William, and Harry gathered in the hours after the funeral. The Daily Mail said that Charles insisted on meeting Harry with William present so the conversation could not subsequently be misrepresented.
One source with good contacts in the royal establishment told The Daily Beast: “Harry knows how much goodwill there is towards him, how upset Charles and William are, how little they trust him and how much they want to reconcile. And how betrayed they feel.
“Harry may have been able to hide or not consider these things when stewing away with Meghan in his Montecito mansion; he can't now. He was trying to own the ‘hurt’ status. He has been dissuaded of that privilege—everyone has been hurt.
“I think he has been forced to confront the other side as it were. I imagine he is in turmoil now. Confronted with all the magnificence and dignity of royalty, out of military uniform and having given that interview while his grandfather lay dying.”
In many ways, the royals were handed three very convenient alibis for the lack of any meaningful progress on resolving their argument last week: Meghan’s pregnancy meant she could not travel, the fact that this was a funeral bestowed on all parties a duty to put on a united front and not dishonor it with renewed arguments, and COVID regulations effectively forbade any in-depth sit down of the type that might be needed to significantly work through a complicated series of resentments.
It is likely no such fig leaves will be available to hide behind on the occasion of Harry’s next trip to the U.K., scheduled to take place before July 1, when he and William will unveil a statue of their mother.
Duncan Larcombe, former royal correspondent at The Sun and author of Prince Harry: The Inside Story told The Daily Beast: “There is a real reluctance to get too carried away with what was a good first step. The next real sign we will get of whether the thaw is continuing will come with the birth of Meghan’s daughter. How William and Kate respond to the birth is critical. That will be when the olive branches come out.
“Because of the event on July 1, Harry has a vested interest in taking any proffered olive branch. The next few weeks are very delicate, but I believe the signs are good.”
Larcombe also sees some cause for optimism in a report on people.com that Meghan spoke to Queen Elizabeth in person before the funeral.
“If Meghan really has spoken privately to the queen, then that is the biggest development of all,” he said.
Sources were unable to confirm to The Daily Beast if a private call between Meghan and the queen had taken place, although one insider said it was not impossible. The palace declined to comment.
While Larcombe’s point that direct conversation between Meghan and H.M. would represent significant forward movement is certainly correct, there is a risk that the palace might take umbrage, ironically enough, if people.com’s report is correct. Scobie’s report in Harper’s Bazaar which also included a detail that Harry met the queen privately twice could also irritate some senior courtiers. The leaks could be interpreted to suggest that Meghan and Harry are briefing journalists about private conversations with the queen to make themselves look good.
Such are the challenges of dealing with the world’s most obsessively private public family. An increasing sensitivity to those peculiarities on Meghan and Harry’s part may go some way to explaining the oddly congruent, downbeat messaging emerging from all three camps that not much has changed—yet.